This is a wild guess, but they may have used two or three times as much wiring on Cambodia’s mains power than was needed to get the job done.
Actually, that guess could well be on the conservative side. Once you see the photographs below, you may agree?
I still remember how I felt the first time I saw the way the electricity cables are installed here. Part horrified, part amused.
I took photographs to capture the mind-boggling tangles that drape their way down the streets. I know I’m not the first.
Over the years since then as I’ve come back to visit Cambodia and other places in Asia with similarly-shambolic power grids, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to carefully frame my photos to avoid spoiling them with the bulky black wiring.
Apparently all of Cambodia’s electricity is imported from Vietnam. My expat friends tell me that this means that power is quite expensive here.
On the other hand, all evidence suggests that the cable that carries the power must be cheap.
Right across the city, street after street, corner after corner, dozens of cables hang in bunches, rolls and knots.
The visual this creates is so iconic, one enterprising local designer has even put it on a t-shirt to sell to tourists.
I would love to see someone try to create the electric wiring map for Phnom Penh. I’m presuming there isn’t one already. It would be hard to believe it was planned this way?
It’s another good example of things not being quite as you might expect in a developing country that’s rapidly modernising and doing its best to keep up with its infrastructure and systems.
The power cables do seem to be one of those things that mainly attract the attention of visitors. For locals and long-term expats it starts to blend into the backdrop. It’s just the way it is.
My own interest in this has brought some puzzled looks from locals as I’ve stood taking photos of power poles on corners.
Once I set out to get a few shots, I could have gathered hundreds.
The funny thing is that when I began to focus my camera on the wires, I started to see something artistic there.
Is that just me? See what you think.
Here are some photos that try to capture this phenomenon in all its black, curly, chaotic charm.