Thoughts Living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I’ve been hanging out in many bars and cafes, watching the world go by. I’ve been walking down garbage filled streets that are equally filled to the brim with life. From the critters in the garbage to the few dogs you see, everyone and everything is just “going about their lives”.

I think as humans we’re kinda screwed, we’re almost too smart for the game of life which should be so simple. You see many people here, from all walks of life and all countries. Living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is an interesting place where you will meet people from around the world.

Life here is easy, very easy and reasonably cheap. It’s not cheap if you hang out in a nice part of town with many affluent Khmer people and expats. Still cheap compared to anywhere I’ve ever lived, might I add. People around here eat $5 breakfasts, drink ~$2-4 for a beer but hang out in impressive venues.

I’ve met many expats and a wide range of occupations including but not limited to: Lawyer, Communications Managers, Teachers, Brew Masters, Reporters, Hoteliers and Entrepreneurs.

At night, in front of this monument I don’t know the name of but may have been told, great light show. This occurred last night, a Saturday night. There was this massive fountain with music like this song I should know which is really epic and involves canons or invokes the imagery of cannons being shot at pirate boats from gents with white wigs and yellow teeth. The jets were turned on and off in accordance with the music, classy stuff.

Tuk Tuk drivers or motobikers will slowly approach you from behind and say “tuk tuk or moto”. You look back say no thanks… They keep following you (not in a creepy way) and you turn around and start laughing (in a friendly way) “No, no tuk tuk” and they start a true from the core of your gut laugh back and drive off looking back one last time, JUST in case you changed your mind. I love that stuff.

Walking down the roads, you’ll be asked for many rides from many characters. If you sit in one of the countless cafes River side you will be accosted by children trying to sell you books and see some weird people. If you venture to Lake Side, you will be in the backpacker hang out. Supposedly it’ s going to have the lake filled to build condos and whatnot, may be end of an era.

If you go out at night, there are countless bars to go to. Most are within a ~$1-3 tuk tuk / cheaper for a moto. If you have lots of people in a tuk tuk, he’ll want more, it’s all about the gas consumption with these guys, time is irrelevant (within reason), I’m digressing. Pontoon was great and had a very mixed crowd of Khmer and expats from everywhere, everywhere. The bar setting was different, floating on Mekong, long walk way to get there. There is security who will search you at the front, more of a “pat down” really.

Not many dogs in this city but lots of cats, not even that many cats really. I have a few guesses why but I’m not sure. Also, there has to be plenty of rats but I have yet to see one, I’ve seen some movement but that’s it. In Kuala Lumpur I saw armies of them and even bigger armies of cockroaches.

Not much street food out and about right now and the carts are much inferior to say Thailand, also the wares look much less appealing. Lots of mini stores though, sadly, this place is very poor.

You see people selling old fruits and what not, sitting in a slightly shaded area off a main street. There children are in a makeshift hammock attached to an electricity pole and a grid iron fence. In contrast to this, you see some of the nicest cars in Asia, driving around in abundance. Lots of Benz’s here and I’m not talking C or E series. I’d say 70% of all the mercs on the road are higher end of the S class.

Lots of interesting monuments in the middle of major arteries and interesting architecture. Lots of barbwire and gated fences everywhere, of course. Also I do believe that “security is one of the big employers here. The traffic here is so “whatever” that most places even have an attendant simply to stop traffic for patrons to get out of fancy boutiques or other places of business from say a law office to a restaurant.

If you ever were to give money to someone in one of these countries, I’d give it to a kid who picks up cans. They are already starting a trade. Even more importantly, they aren’t begging. They aren’t scared to work and took the best opportunity they could. I know it’s not a lucrative one but there isn’t a lot of money circulating here, lots of money but not much circulating if that makes sense to you.

Lots of NGO’s here, tones tones tones. Maybe I should start one… PCS4People? You organize with like minded individuals who control different aspects of the operation and get all those old gov and institutional PC’s and send them here. Then hire people to teach them basic computer usage. Once that skill is in place it opens a door for so many possible occupations from data entry to programming.

Lots of gambling here, it’s really big, like almost everyone does it. You always see people sitting on online gaming sites. Sometimes, go into a cafe later at night and like 5-10 local dudes all playing next to each other. Many expats play as well.

There is a strong sense of disorder which oddly enough mutates into a new form of order. I’m not sure which form of order is best in the short or long term. I will note that I believe North America babies their citizens like they are total morons. So many restrictions on so many things that there really shouldn’t be.

It’s 11:32, I need to check out by noon and catch a 1Pm bus to Ho Chi Minh city. That said, if I go tomorrow it’s no big deal. Every day I spend here, I feel like leaving in the afternoon but keen to stay in the morning. Each day something new which is interesting occurs.

Tips hat,

P.S: My ipod is dead, gone. My digi cam has a lens error and my pc’s battery is dead. This sucks.

5 Comments

  1. Hannah@GettingStamped

    March 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Great write up! We spent about 6 nights in Phnom Penh in January, and we actually like it. I wasnt sure what to expect but it exceeded it by far. The children selling things on the river is sad, and the never ending Tuk-tuk drivers. We still joke about all the Range Rovers in Cambodia, no other country have we ever seen that many. We are in Sapa now, you headed to Hanoi anytime soon?

    • Rob

      March 17, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Super old post but do enjoy Sapa; I LOVED IT! :D

  2. Skins

    May 28, 2014 at 6:02 am

    Great post. I’m glad I found your blog. You paint a good picture of this city. I’ve been here a while and I’m itching to run back to Thailand. Check out my post about Phnom Penh!

    • Rob

      May 29, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Thanks and keep enjoying your travels, good sir.

      • Skins

        June 8, 2014 at 11:24 am

        Just got back to Bangkok after traveling around Cambodia. I wrote a post about Thailand vs Cambodia. I’d like your opinion. Just don’t visit my site if you’re easily offended. CHEERS!

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