MY PHNOM PENH: Lance Thomas

Lance Thomas, 33, is the founder of Zenh Kombucha, Cambodia’s only purveyor of kombucha
Lance Thomas, 33, is the founder of Zenh Kombucha, Cambodia’s only purveyor of kombucha

MY PHNOM PENH: Lance Thomas

Lance Thomas, 33, is the founder of Zenh Kombucha, Cambodia’s only purveyor of kombucha, a fermented probiotic tea. The jovial, bearded Texan is also a skilled engineer. At his apartment – littered with half-cut glass bottles, screws and tools that he turns into all kinds of creations – he gave Brent Crane a rundown of all his favourite Phnom Penh spots

Mama’s New York Deli

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The Mama of Mama’s New York Deli is an old lady from here who moved to New York, came back and now makes really good burgers and chicken sandwiches, New York style. I’ve known her for a long time.

She’s awesome. She always gives me free pickles. Works every day like I do. She never stops working. I think Mama’s been there for at least five or six years.

I order just as much protein as I can get onto a burger, usually beef, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, some tofu thing on there – just a big injection of protein. I don’t really like to sit down and eat – I just need the fuel.

The high dive at the Olympic Stadium pool

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High diving at the Olympic Stadium is like a meditation type thing, just to relax. At the top of the professional diving board, there’s a little platform up there, big enough to look out over the city.

Nice to hang out. And of course you can jump off. It’s high. Maybe 40 or 50 feet up. It’s up there. It’s scary when it’s time to jump, but it’s really exhilarating.

Friends come visit and that’s a good place to take them. We’ll go all day long, try to outdo each other with crazy moves. If there’s a guard, it’s like a dollar or less to get in. If there’s no dude then it’s free.

O’Russey Market

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electronics section They have a lot of old broken hard drives, broken electronics. I go there and just look at what they got. I can buy a lot of cheap broken stuff and bring it back here and fix it and turn it into other things.

That’s another thing I’m working on: recycling E-waste and turning it into new things. For instance, if there’s a broken washing machine, I can get a lot of magnets.

Every washing machine has very strong magnets in them. If you have a broken tablet, there’s quite a bit of gold and platinum.

You can build a quadcopter by taking the motherboards from broken electronics, things out of a printer, a washing machine – just enough of the right things to put together a badass new gadget.

Construction site near Russian Market

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They seem to have a lot of glass going on. I get 80 per cent of my glass from there. I’ve been going for the past six months. They’re throwing away sheet glass that’s worth $30 in the US. Nobody picks them up.

I go there maybe three or four times a week. There’s always new glass. They use some of that “interrogation” glass where you can see in one side and not the other.

I transport the glass by bicycle and backpacks, one on my front and back. I’ll grab maybe 30 sheets at a time. But it’s not like I’m taking their product.

The trash men refuse to pick it up unless they get paid extra to pick it up. It’s a lot of work and consumes a lot of space in their trucks. Also, nobody knows how to use it. It’ll just stay there forever.

Hardware store on Street 63

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I spend a lot of time in there. They’re just really cool people. I get most of my stuff from them, a husband, wife and daughter, really friendly. They’ve got all the stuff I need for my glass projects.

They order stuff. They always hit me up with discounts. I’ve got a tab there if I need it. It’s been there for a long time as well. Before, I was hitting up all these hardware stores kind of far away.

I thought it was going to be expensive there because it’s in BKK, but their prices were actually cheaper than some of the other places I’d gone to. I went in, started talking with the staff, ended up becoming friends.

The last thing I bought from them was some door stoppers, but only to extract the magnets. And more sandpaper. I bought some electrodes for welding.


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