A new Haircut in Cambodia?

manual hair trimmer - Cambodia

We are driving around the village with a scooter when a voice suddenly asks Tobi for a new haircut. The voice belongs to a man who looks out of a little shed – his hair salon.


Tobi doesn´t need to be asked twice. He parks and sits down on a chair which reminds me, Carolin, on a torture instrument from the early 19th century. The floor is covered with a „real hair carpet“, the colour is black, of course.


I make myself comfortable on a wooden bench under a tree on the village square with Max sleeping in my arms, observing the daily life of Cambodia.

Scooters are passing by, people do their shopping in the local shopping center, consisting out of little stalls and shacks combined in a rectangular concrete building. Behind us is a beauty salon, next to us a noisy construction site.


A beautiful Cambodian lady walks over and stops next to us to watch Max sleeping. She starts to pick her nose very patiently and thoroughly. When she finally finds the object of desire she flicks the bit of snot carelessly in our direction and walks away.


After that weird moment my attention wanders back to Tobi´s hair artists, who surround him in a highly concentrated manner. A woman makes the start. She uses a manual hair trimmer which let´s me rethink my understanding of the hair cutters profession as a craft guild. What the lady is doing is real craftsmanship on Tobi´s head. Somehow, it reminds me on shearing sheep in Mongolia. In this case, it´s Tobi´s head. The lower half of the trimmer looks like a cable clipper, but the upper part looks like an electrical shaver. Every time she presses the two handles together the sharp teeth interlock and hence, cut of a bit of hair. At least 20 at a time, if not even up to 50 pieces… that means by an average 100.000 hair per head, it takes a very, very long time to get the work done, not to mention that it´s far away from a precise haircut.


In the meantime Max is awake and so we change our position to sit next to Tobi. Behind him is a little baby who gets his head shorn. It´s literally screaming his mind to the heavens. Max gets afraid from his behaviour and starts to wriggle around anxiously on my lab.  


The salon is great. It even offers entertainment for the waiting customers, the curious bystanders and the bored trainees by offering Cambodian boxing on TV while Tobi gets his hair cut.


After the lady is done with her spadework the real master comes. He destroys her ambitious achievement within a few seconds with an electrical hair trimmer. He first masters the perfect style of the undercut before he concentrates on Tobi´s artful draped hairknot on the back of his head. He trims it skillfully. Freestyle – of course - that goes without saying. Just the Asians seem to have this talent. Cutting a queue without fussing around. Simply cut. The hair are hold together above the head, then they decide the length they want to trim and wham the hair are 20 cm shorter. A little bit of fine-tuning afterwards, shorten some hair here and cut some there and the new style is ready. The master himself gives Tobi a meaningful nod. His masterpiece is accomplished.  


To finish Tobi´s new look to perfection he offers a wet shave. Nothing unusual. However, noteworthy is the fact that he manages to reset Tobi´s ears. It sounds strange and it obviously feels also strange. One grip on the ear, one quick move and Tobi hears a cracking noise between his ear and the area of his sideburns. We will observe the changes in the next few days. After nearly an hour Tobi is ready and gets released with the – for Asian Barbers compulsory - 30 seconds loud-clapping head and neck massage.


An all-inclusive-treatment for 3 US-Dollars.


Luckily, Tobi decided to go to „The Best Hair Cut in Town“. God knows what result he would have gotten by the competitor „Rasi Hair Cut“, next door, who offers a good service accompanied by a massage at the end. Maybe as a compensation for a bad haircut? Actually, not a bad idea…



Maybe this would have helped Carolin after her miscut at a 1 US-Dollar barber in George Town when she returned totally upset about her spoilt hair, but this is a different story.

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