Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cambodian beauty shop

Cambodia's beauty shops range from the very simple, hole-in-the-wall kind, to more upmarket salons found in supermarket malls such as Lucky and in the main streets. In Phnom Penh, for instance, "London" and "Singapore" are well-known. A common joke is if anyone was going to London or Singapore that weekend.

For me though, I always go with my Khmer friends to the ones in a market, simply because it is cheaper - US$1 for a hairwash and $1 for a hair cut. I also like the service. The best hairwashes are done by the ladyboys because they are strong and passionate about their job. You can find them working at stalls in the Old Market.

My friends and I favour a small beauty shop in psar dum krolyiang (Krolyiang Tree Market) here in Siem Reap. It is a local market and not centrally located so tourists do not go there.


Here is the shop. You can see the ceiling is padded with cardboard boxes. I asked why and it is to keep the place cool since the shop, like all the others, has a tin roof. In front there is a plastic sheet to keep the rain off. The sheet is all green and mouldy.


The tiny fan. It looks like a toy fan. See the re-used cardboard boxes?


The shop is lit with a few fluorescent tubes. 


All simply connected.


These are the sockets. Could be disastrous if something goes wrong with the electrical wiring, I guess, since the shop is just a wooden shack. But they are careful as no one here has insurance.


Tin sheets make up one wall.


And wood the other. (Here the hairdresser is giving my friend a head massage).


Manicure. Also US$1.


Where we put our slippers, next to the hanging sachets of shampoo and creams. When I first arrived in Cambodia, I was dismayed to learn poor people had to buy sachets of shampoo for 500riels (US$0.125) each, for a tiny amount. They do not buy the bottles that we buy because these cost a few dollars. Many Cambodians do not have a few dollars to spend at one go, since many live hand-to-mouth. They make the sachets last a few days. As you know, usually when you buy in bulk, you save money cos the unit price ($/ml in this case) goes down. So buying in small quantities is another way the poor pays more. 

I was dismayed because I had just arrived from Singapore where magazines routinely give out free sachets of beauty products as samples. Some of those free sachets were bigger than what the Cambodians have to pay for. 

This is one of life's irony - the richer you are, and the more you can afford it, the more freebies you get. Just think of all those movie stars and what they get free. 

Where celebrities get free goodies because companies want to be associated with them, the middle-classes are given freebies as advertising. The hope is that we will spend our disposable incomes after trying out the products. 

As for the poor, since they have no disposable income, companies are not interested in enticing them - so no free stuff. 


The products, in a glass cabinet. Mostly cheap, unknown, brands from China or Thailand. But Dove (see the deodorant?) and Revlon (hair colour) are big here in Cambodia. Revlon, especially, has been marketing itself aggressively in this country. I am told MAC, which I used when I was working in Singapore, costs only US$3 here. Of course it is fake, from Thailand. But the Dove and Revlon are the genuine article.  



The rinse. Most market stall beauty shops are so tiny, there is no space to get a full length chair to stretch out. You always need to bend your knees. Here is my Cambodian friend getting her hair rinsed after the shampoo. There is no running water, no pipes, and no tap. So how to rinse?


With this! A giant 60 litre pail filled with water. The hairdresser scoops the water and pours it over your hair. (Yes, no warm rinses either. Only cold water). I thought it was great. Saves a lot of water this way. The water is bought from peddlers who go around the market (distilled water is cheap in this country - just $1 for 20 litres and one day I will show you why).

I have to point out the beauty shops in the Old Market in heart of Siem Reap do have pipes and therefore running water. Not all Cambodian beauty shops are as basic as this.

I know many friends who balk at the idea of getting their hair washed in this way, but I've never had any problems (no itchiness I mean).  Try it, the next time you're in Cambodia!

2 comments:

Mai said...

Hi, I enjoy reading your blog very much.

I recognized the same structure; when the farmers in Cambodia sell rice, they prefer selling the small amounts in several times. It is more profitable if they can sell the whole amount once a year when they can catch the highest price. But because they live hand-to-mouth as you mentioned, it is hardly possible for them to wait for a better chance. I am wondering how we can change this strucutre...

Thank you for inspiring me :)
Mai

Diana Saw said...

Hi Mai,

Thanks for the message. I'm glad you like my blog on Cambodia. I think food is a difficult one, because it has a shelf life. But you are quite right - linking farmers to the market is an important aspect of ensuring they get a fair price for their goods.

Best,
Diana

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