Friday, 30 December 2011

Bosch, Phnom Penh

The location of this painted sign will tell you why I didn't post anything over the past three weeks. Indeed I was travelling in Cambodia, where I came across a few painted signs. Most were modern ones, painted on metal sheets to signal repair shops, hairdresser saloons and the like. More interesting, from a historical perspective, were the very faded signs of businesses and shops painted on the façades of unrestored colonial buildings. These were written either in French or in Chinese (in the 18th and 19th centuries many Chinese migrated to Cambodia, where, until the Khmers Rouges seized power, they played an important role in commerce, banking and transport). Needless to say, given the destructive madness of the Khmers Rouges, there aren't many left. Those that survived were certainly already barely legible in 1975.
Yet today's sign is of a different nature and, actually, it is the only advert for a product painted on a wall I saw in three weeks. I spotted it while on my way from the train station to Psar Thmei, the Central Market (both are lovely Art Deco buildings). It promotes Bosch's thermo-elastic spark plug and was painted there certainly because many motorbikes, remorks (the local version of Thailand's tuk-tuks), taxis, and buses congregate around Psar Thmei.

The company founded by Robert Bosch in 1886 in Stuttgart patented the first spark plug in 1902. The particular model advertised here was launched in 1976.
According to the company's documents, Bosch first ventured in Cambodia via its power tools business division in 2004. The automotive aftermarket and security systems divisions followed one year later. Then in 2010 Bosch opened its first representative business in Phnom Penh. Was this sign painted in or after 2005? Parts of it do look relatively recent and given the high humidity levels in the capital for most of the year, one could expect it to look older than it actually is. However Bosch may have had a small presence in Cambodia for some years through its Thai subsidiary (Bosch has been present in Thailand since 1923).


Note the words "Bosch / Germany" on the body of the spark plug.

A few words in Khmer are written above the drawing but I really don't know what they say.

The lower part of the sign includes drawings of a boat engine as well as a whole series of road vehicles that could require Bosch's Thermo-elastic spark plug.

To conclude, I should mention that this painted sign also includes four Chinese characters, arranged vertically to the left of the spark and visible on the second picture. Judging by their darker colour and state of preservation, it seems they were painted at a later stage. Why they are so small is strange since there was quite a bit of space available.

Location: Street 118, Phnom Penh / Pictures taken in December 2011


Sam Roberts said...

You should have told me you were coming to Cambodia, I'm collecting hand painted signs while I'm here, although mostly on standing boards. I'll see if I can get the Khmer script translated for you...

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Hi Sam. I didn't know you were still in Cambodia. Some of these hand painted signs are quite nice. The "Clean Moto - Cut Hair" one along the road from Kampot to Kep is priceless. Unfortunately it was getting too dark to take a picture of it when I passed there with a tuk-tuk. Never mind. I photographed others.
Good luck with your 'hunt.'

Sam Roberts said...

The second part of the Khmer text is very difficult to make out but the first part is apparently an invitation to do whatever the second part says. If you have some software that can make the second part clearer then email it to me and I'll share with my colleagues. PS. We're here until this time next year so more snapping to be done!

Sam Roberts said...

Do you have any theory about the date of this one? If the model advertised was not launched until 1976 then that would certainly place it after the rule of the Khmer Rouge, probably a lot later than 1979 as I doubt many big brands moved into the country for some time. When I first saw it I assumed it was pre-Khmer Rouge but I want to double check as I'm going to mention it in my book.

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Sam, I've updated the text of the post to include some info about a possible date for this sign.