In the age where instant gratification is the norm, no one can put a price on convenience – and nothing can beat the convenience of being able to get a refreshing pick-me-up in the middle of the day without the risk of getting drenched by the downpour or parched by the heat of the midday sun. For years, Phnom Penhers have relied on makeshift stalls to meet their needs for an icy cold beverage – may it be a cup of coffee, sugary energy drink, sodas or smoothies – but as land prices continue to rise, the cost of renting or opening up a permanent stall can be prohibitive to the point of unfeasibility.
As the old adage goes, where there is will, there is a way – and enterprising residents have managed to circumvent this cost limitation by setting up semi-permanent, even mobile stalls that reflects the extents of Cambodian ingenuity in times of need. While older, rickety stalls hitched on the sidewalk, or welded atop of a motorbike continue to dominate the streetscape of the city’s capital, more and more stalls are popping up across Phnom Penh – each with their own offerings and designs that are a far-cry from their grimy predecessors.
From micro-cafes with astroturfed lawns, to mobile energy drink carts crafted out of plastic fibres – the range of designs are ever expanding, adding more colour to the already-vibrant streets of the Kingdom. Generally speaking, the nicer the stall, the higher the premium. However, for indiscriminate drinkers who are only looking for a quick drink to go, fret not – as for the time being, cheaper stalls and mobile carts can still be seen all across the city, offering a much-needed relief without commanding higher prices like their more aesthetically-pleasing competitors.
That said, as the government continues to jack up its efforts to clean up Phnom Penh’s image these stalls and carts may soon be a relic of the past, as evidenced by the recent eviction of vendors around Wat Botom Park. Perhaps in the near future, thirsty residents and tourists alike will have to rely on mini markets and brick-and-mortar stores to get their fix – a victory for hygiene, a loss for convenience.