After completing his Masters and PhD in Turkey, Sok Udom Deth began his academic career as a lecturer in political science at Zaman University, with a focus on Thai-Cambodian relations. He spoke with Vandy Muong about his favourite Phnom Penh haunts.
The Sleuk Rith Institute
I’ve given guest lectures there in the past. My background is more political science with foreign affairs and sociology and, because of the nature of my academic background, I tend to associate with those places that have research archives or study resources along those lines. Also, the institute is a nice place. It’s part of DC-Cam [the Documentation Center of Cambodia], and it’s located inside the Anuwat School at the National Education Training centre near Independence Monument. Sometimes I go to listen to other guests who give lectures, or to watch movies.
Other research centres
Although I can’t visit them as much as I’d like, there are a few research centres that I try to follow, and I appreciate their work. These include the Center for Khmer Studies. It is a quiet place that has a small library and collection. I go just to look at their publications, because they have published a lot related to Khmer culture and society – so anyone interested in these kinds of things should check it out. They also have magazines that are published by CKS. Then, the Bophana Center (pictured right); I come for research but also when invited to talk because of my research. It also has an audio-visual archive. Sometimes, if I want to listen to old films or things related to Cambodian history, they can assist me there.
TK Avenue is the major shopping centre in Tuol Kork. There aren’t many good shops just outside the Zaman campus, but TK Avenue is walking distance and I can find most of the things I’m looking for there – and they are of good quality. I like buying cheesecake at Breadtalk, for instance, or going for coffee. Normally, I don’t like crowded places but this isn’t so crowded that you can’t walk. That said, I don’t hang out there if there are too many people. I think outsiders would find TK Avenue a place where it can be hard to find parking, but if I’m walking from campus that’s not an issue.
One More and Andart Rorm restaurants
One More restaurant is in Tuol Kork, and when we have guests at the university we like to go there. It offers a variety of Khmer food with a modern twist. The space is suitable for hosting guests who come from local and international universities, particularly at lunch. It’s also close to campus, presentable, stylish and gives guests a sense of Khmerness in terms of the food. If we’re eating out at night and guests don’t have seafood allergies, we often go to Andart Rorm seafood restaurant (pictured above) on Pasteur  Street. I sometimes eat there with friends and family, too. They specialise in good quality seafood. The atmosphere is pleasant, but you need to find a quiet spot.
The Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers
We get a lot of guests coming to Zaman from overseas and it’s important to show them the sights. Generally, I take them to places as an informal guide, and I tell them about Cambodia’s history and culture. We often go to the Royal Palace, the National Museum, S-21 and the Killing Fields site [at Chhoeung Ek]. And sometimes, we’ll take a boat trip along the river. The main purpose of the cruise is to relax, but it’s also a pleasant way to see Phnom Penh from a different perspective. From the river, you can see Sisowath Quay, the Royal Palace and all the other buildings along the river. Being out there also allows me to tell them about the intersection of the rivers and the unique elements: that it’s the only place in the world where the river reverses its flow [with the change of seasons], and that’s really interesting. Basically, I get to explain the geography of the Mekong River, so the experience provides a combination of relaxing and learning about Phnom Penh and Cambodia.