Cambodian Death Chanting
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
For the third morning in a row Tatiana and I have been ripped out of sleep before daybreak by some jerk with a loudspeaker, starting yet another day of ugly, endless chanting from his roof.
The two of us are staying in a non-air-conditioned room in the Pasar O Russei area of central Phnom Penh. It's quite comfortable at the Tat Guesthouse (US$5/night), but keeping the window open is a must (because of the heat). We haven't had any problems with mosquitoes thanks to the screen, but what we do have is the horrible amplified chanting of a tone-deaf Cambodian echoing off the concrete alley and into our room.
I started referring to it as "death chanting", as the owners of our hotel tried to explain (as best they could) that the noise pollution was because someone had died. I asked what religion this tradition was affiliated with, and was told that the poor Chinese Buddhists get on top of their buildings and amplify their chants so that as many people as possible know that their loved one is dead, whereas more prosperous Cambodians do something more quiet inside their homes. Clearly there was some animosity against the ethnic group going on here, and frankly, this guy wasn't putting any points in the win column in my book either.
Yesterday morning I was dreaming in a half-sleep, disrupted by the foul wailing. I had a vivid nightmare that an Muslim mosque had been built near Bangkok's Khaosan Road, and it was flooding the streets with annoying prayers to Allah. The tourists were fleeing, and the entire was empty and ruined. I awoke with a pounding heart.
The Tat Guesthouse owners have promised that today would be the last day of it—which it will be for us, one way or another. We're switching hotels if he starts up with his obnoxious chanting again tomorrow.