Archive for November, 2015

Room at the top


I arrived in Phnom Penh on 17th September and was booked into the hotel, I wrote about earlier, (pictured below) for two weeks. First I had to get a working phone,  which took longer than it should, then I talked with people at 20150927_111908_21559712779_owork and got contact details for a couple of estate agents they had dealt with when finding where they lived. I phoned them and only one replied and I arranged to meet him in the lobby of my hotel at 14:00 on Saturday 26th September, little more than a week after arriving,

I had been warned by people I had talked to about finding somewhere to live. Be careful if somewhere there is building going on as there could be building work with concomitant noise all day, not too good on days not working, or where you don’t start until later in the day and want to sleep in. I was also advised to check the place out at night as there might be a club or some other source of noise which you would not recognise as such in the daytime. All sensible advice. However, I was not to get to have to put it into practice that day as my Mr Big of the Phnom Penh based realtor community texted me “Can we meet tomorrow instead? Coz i have to finish my housework first. Sorry” Not being a man to keep a man from his housework I arranged to meet the next day and included details of some properties I fancied seeing from the website in the text.

My requirements were somewhere between where I had been staying in the hotel and my workplace to the north of it. Anyway, his housework must have been finished the next morning, so we met, he hired a moto* from the hotel and we headed off south. I expected the old estate agent trick of the ones he wanted to rent me bookmarked by two totally wrong places. I was not wrong about the first place we went. First floor on a main through road in a place which had not been modernised since the 1970’s. I was also shown a studio flat in the same block that was not facing the road but, whilst around the amount I want to pay, I did not want a studio in a flashback to the seventies. Back onto the moto and it seemed quite a long journey to the next flat. (Although I now know it was just around the corner, did we follow a straightforward route between them?)

We parked the moto on the front of the property and the landlord was wpid-20151001_102414.jpgthere (an extra episode of calling a few times before getting through to check he was there from the first place, but is not worth retelling in any detail.) and he went through his place to open a door at the side we accessed by going down an alley. Up 10 flights of stairs of varying sizes, including some challengingly large ones. There seems to be a competition to see who can be more artistic with the variation in size of steps. At work it is more subtle with the odd larger or smaller on thrown in just to trip you up. A colleague tripped up in her flat because of the size of the steps in her apartment.

We went in and there was a quite sparely furnished room (pictured above) with a white desksheeted bed, an empty brown table, a grey fridge and dark brown wardrobe in a space with a light cream tiled floor, white walls and ceiling with silver blue curtains. It might be my version of the room pictured on the reverse of Leonard Cohen’s second album.(A more recent picture of which is left) I was sold. My room at the top~, a roof top garret. The artistry which would follow was guaranteed by the room.

But even better, out through the white metal and glass door, was a seating wpid-20151001_110820.jpgand cooking area without walls under the roof. (pictured right) I would go from living in a dark long corridor with rooms off in Strasbourg to a tiled floored outdoor room in the sunshine. That was me sold. Obviously I did not let on that I had fallen in love with the place to the chap showing me round and we went onto the next place.

This was even further south and a journey to get to work every day, it was also on the ground floor so the doors and windows were barred. They could be opened but it was a very dark studio room. After the symphony in light this seemed like a funeral dirge. I think he was getting worried about not getting any commission from me as he worked much harder at selling this one to me. We left and were heading to another closer to where I worked but I just told him to go back to the hotel. He was distraught at first thinking he had lost the possibility of his commission. But then was really made up when I told him that I would take the middle one. We went back to the hotel and I paid a deposit and arranged to sign the contract on Thursday, 1st October, and move most of my things in then.

I’ve been in almost two months and have no regrets. I heard once more from the chap, “Hi value customer, how are you? How about your transportation? Have bike/bicycle yet? Mr BXXX”

*Moto – a generic reference to any tow wheeled vehicle whether a scooter, moped or motor-bike.

~Room at the Top. A book then film from the 1950’s. The new WordPress seems to not let me put it up as I did but here is a link to it.


War by other means


Work is concentrated on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when I am in work almost 12 hours from 8 in the morning, and Saturday when I work P1140099five hours from 8. As a result I work two and a half hours each on Tuesday and Thursday from 17:30. This allows me to take it easier during the week and get things done in the week when other people are working.

Football teams in Asia  are playing their qualification matches now for the Russia 2018 World Cup whilst European teams will not start until after the European Championships in France.

P1140097When people ask where I live here in Phnom Penh I tell them it is in a triangle featuring Independence Monument, the Genocide Museum and the Olympic Stadium. So, I did not have too far to walk when, as a result last Thursday I spent some of my time free off work to head to the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, site, I had been told of the box office for the Cambodian Football Federation. I entered by a car access and saw the the stadium was circled by offices of many of the P1140107different sports, like Taekwondo and Table Tennis etc. I walked around the stadium and took the picture of myself from the “Royal Box” (above left) which featured a plaque commemorating a visit of General De Gaulle. (Above right)

I walked around the site but could not find the box office so I went into the office for the National Olympic Athletics Committee to find out that the box office was where, if P1140112I’d thought about it first, it should be, on the main road out the front entrance to the stadium. There I got what I had come for, two VIP $10 tickets for the match between Cambodia and Japan  as part of the qualifiers for the World Cup. Success! (pictured above)

There only remained one thing to do. I needed to get a Cambodian shirt to show my support for the team. Across the road from the stadium was the less than pc “Sambo” sports shop. (Pictured right) Here I got my new shirt for the princely sum of $6 . So I am ready for the match and will write further about what happens.

No Through Road


Saturday morning is my earliest start at work. 8:00 for a four and a half hour shift, with breaks lasting until 13:00. 20151031_170728_22010392404_oThis week it also happened to be the day after our staff party so I was not at my most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and took long enough getting up that I did not have enough time for breakfast. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am subhuman early in the morning, if not up to midday and that breakfast is one thing which helps make me more human. So the last thing I 20151031_170654_22445236890_oneeded was something to throw things out of kilter.

So, I walk downstairs, open the gate, turn out of the flat and get in the tuk-tuk and see that the road is blocked off in front of us. (Picture top left)

Ahhhhh how will I get to work? I’ll be late, they’ll think I got so drunk at the staff do I couldn’t make it. Fortunately the panic did 20151031_134233_22617175782_onot last long as the driver turned the tuk-tuk round and we went another route around the road blockage. Actually it worked in my advantage as the changed route took us past the ABC Bakery and I was able to stop and get breakfast. So, things improved.

I did the shift and returned home to see the public notice telling people that the road was closed.(top right) Later on I paid my rent to my landlord and, chatting with his daughter whilst he was seeking change for me, I discovered that the road had been closed for a wedding, which was better than closing it for a funeral,  and that it would be closed for two days.(picture second left showing how effectively the road was closed) I also learnt that there would not be singing and dancing on Saturday evening but that it would take place on Sunday morning.

So Sunday morning I was up early and out 20151101_122112_22473843730_oon the balcony for my breakfast and I heard some quite haunting and beautiful music. Not exactly what I am used to but pleasant none the less. Later on, after midday, people started to leave for their cars. (picture second right) Though, in parenthesis I do know what the trucks were doing in the centre of the street blocking the car in. Earlier one of them had been piled high with bikes, clearance of a second-hand bike shop? Who knows what?

Well, Sunday afternoon I went to the The Flicks 1, self-described as a community movie house, (A room soundproofed with a projector, quadraphonic audio and scatter cushions and some seats i.e. not a conventional multiplex)  to see Beasts of No Nation about a child in an African country who loses his mother and sister and then sees his father and elder brother killed and 20151101_163857_22678703511_oends up fighting for a militia.

I returned home to see the street as clear as it had been before the tent was constructed, (last picture left) with maybe a bit extra rubbish by the side of the road but that would be gone by the morning and probably was nothing to do with the wedding but just the people whose houses were cut off during it, not having their rubbish collected whilst the street was blocked.

So just another day in Phnom Penh. The street was blocked. Some people got married and then it was clear again. People’s lives went on around it and walking around and talking to, admittedly only a few people, I did not detect any fuss or people expressing inconvenience.


This morning a new tent appeared on the street. Oh, it really is wedding season. But then people just went through it as if it wasn’t there. Tent there at 12:30 when I left for work and gone at 20:15 when I got home again and seemingly gone for some time so the tuk-tuk driver knew not to worry about taking another route to avoid it when going back home.

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