My friend Danny once said “Cambodia is 20 minutes outside of Phnom Penh,” and he couldn’t have been more right. These words have stuck with me for nearly 5 years and they continue to resonate – especially as Cambodia, ever the emerging economy, continues to make huge strides in economic development. So a new arrival to Phnom Penh is most likely to see the evidence of this – the ritzy bars, the nouveau riche, the Lexus SUVs, the groupings of expatriates who generally hang out together in specific enclaves of the city, and the massive infiltration of Chinese and other Asian tiger investment all around. The face of Cambodia changes each and every day at a relentless pace.
And you don’t really get to seriously explore Khmer culture unless you literally drive 20 minutes outside of the city. But sometimes, the country comes to you. Like this past week when I opened the gate to our flat, only to find a bull-drawn carriage outside, waiting to sell us clay pottery goods transported straight from Kampong Chhnang province. Or the kid riding atop a massive pile of garlic, on an equally massive cart being dragged by a tiny moto down our street. Those are the moments that make me seriously remember where I am. Love it.
On the other hand – there are the rolling power outages. Which makes working from home a bit of a headache, or cooking (and eating) the scrumptious dinner you just cooked…or trying to prepare for a night out…all in one day! But then, the power comes back on and you hear the neighbourhood cheer with joy. So despite the discomfort, these things come to be quite endearing.