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Phnom Penh Impressions


Sateev
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This being our second trip to Cambodia this year, it is going to play into our final decision as to where we will settle.

The idea is to try to live like locals as much as is possible while staying in a guesthouse, and to see if we can find everything we might need if/when we move here.

Subjectively, I like the feel of the city - more like Bangkok was in the '80s, or, I suppose, even before. Sections remind me of Yaowarat and others of upper Sukhumvit, before there were tall buildings or Skytrains.

Other parts don't have any counterpart that I can remember in Thailand, although I only go back thirty or so years. The ambience is just different. The people are way nicer in an open kind of way that never existed behind the famous Thai smile. None of that narcissistic aloofness, and people seem to want to know about you and want you to know about them.

Don't get me wrong: I have always found charming and warm people in Thailand, but it seems rarer these days, and all but gone among the younger generations. Quite the opposite here. The young people all want to know about you, and to practice their English.

The French influence here makes it a rich and lush experience to walk down most streets. There is blight, to be sure, lots of it. But there are interesting buildings, street address signs, and food that you would spend a long time looking for in Thailand.

Earlier today, we went to look at an apartment (flat) that I spotted on the way from the airport. It was in a pretty busy area of St. 51 (Pasteur), and consisted of the two floors above a ground-floor shop. It had its own entrance on the side, which is unusual, the Khmer-style usually being access through (someone else's) ground floor shop or apartment.

It had minimal furniture, one aircon in the main bedroom, and a ladder-accessible second bedroom above the main one. Good-sized living room, and a wierd little kitchen, with the counter at about mid-thigh height, and a single Western toilet (looked new, as if they had a specific type of tenant in mind).

Generally, it was in terrible condition, with stained tile floors so bad in the kitchen that they were about to unroll some old, yellowed, linoleum to cover it. The owner (most likely the owner's daughter), a young woman in her maybe late twenties, seemed to think it was just about ready to rent, with a couple of light fixtures and fans to hang on the walls.

She seemed pretty firm on the price, $250/mo! 7500 baht for a crumbling shambles! They know we're here...

We'll keep looking.

We have several more objectives: see if there is a reasonably well-stocked pharmacy in town; check out a couple of Khmer language courses (there is a new place that uses the ALG method, of AUA Thai program fame); see about a PO box, etc.

But the biggest problem is how to get our stuff here without being bent over too badly. That is going to require some research and ground-pounding.

I'll post more after we have some answers and a better feel for things.

Please add to this if you're in the process of a similar decision.

Sent from my GT-P1000 using Thaivisa Connect App

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go live on the other side of the Tonle sap at the Mekong River tower, mekongviewtower.com/index.php new building, 2 bedroom apts start at $500/month!!!

I lived in PP in 2008-09 across the river an loved it. Am moving back next month, One thing i hate about Cambodia is the dismal choice in homes/apts unlike here in Thailand ( phuket especially)

i pay 12,000 baht.month for a great 2 bedroom place here in kamala an nothing like that anywhere in Cambodia and i have been all over the country except the far north east

I hate those box like 2nd floor shop house apts.

Plenty of Pharmacies around Central market that carry anything you might need ( although no really decent hospital)

as to ur stuff, fill up a pick up or car and drive it across, done that once before already and doing it again.

they never look in ur vehicle at the border leaving Thailand or entering Cambodia

Plenty of places to learn the langauge XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Edited by Rooo
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Best-regarded pharmacy by barangs is the Pharmacie de la Gare near the PP railway station.

You can get a PO box no problem. Parcels from overseas sometimes don't appear for 6 months, and occasionally not at all - but most do.

Crime is more of an issue in PP than in Thailand. Bag-snatchings from foreign females are common.

Other than that, standards are lower than Thailand - as you've seen with the flat. The thing I have most trouble with is getting a repairman to 1. Show up; 2. Fix my toliet/lightswitch/window competently. Invariably repeat visits are needed, even for something simple. (One guy showed up but forgot to bring his tools - stuff you wouldn't credit elsewhere.)

But Cambodia is cheaper & friendlier, for sure. Cambodians are more curious about foreigners than are Thais.

A big difference is the emphasis on virginity-till-marriage for women - a bit of a deal-breaker for many Western men.

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I lived there for five years and I love the place for many of the same reasons as the OP.

Living on the other side of the river is no good if you have to travel to the west side because of traffic.

Just go to the main P.O. in PP take your passport to get a PO Box.

Spend some time in the city first stay at a G/H until you find the apt you want there are plenty around.

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What kind of a budget would one be looking at regarding transportation? Obviously, it depends where you live, but how much do you spend on transportation in an average day/month?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to all who posted. Very helpful.

We're back now, and can only agree with most of what has been posted:

1 - really hate the shophouse-box apartments, and wonder why they want so much for them (aside from the white-boy tax). Most had stairways so narrow that it would be impossible to get furniture or appliances into the place. We looked in Tuol Kork, because we wanted to be near the Institute of Foreign Language at RUPP, to keep our transportation costs down for 4-5 days a week of Khmer study. Found only one ground and first floor place, which was dazzling white-tiled, and felt like we would be living in a WC. $230, no aircon, or much of anything else.

2 - found Pharmacy de la Gere, checked the three meds I need, and found them about 1/3 more expensive than Thailand - but at least they had them.

3 - confirmed post office box rental, at the main PO.

4 - transportation: how long is a string? I tried to use a $1/km top limit by tuk-tuk, with varying success, although, most times I was able to negotiate it for less. Any discussion of a 'transportation budget' would need a lot more details than the other poster provided.

5 - we stayed in a guesthouse on Sothearos, a bit south of the royal palace, and unlike our last trip, which was centered around the riverside, we found quite a few good places to eat, at reasonable prices. The big issue, however, is that Khmer food sucks almost as badly as Philippine food, if that's possible. We will be cooking if we move.

And thanks for the info about the reliability (or lack of reliability) of parcel delivery. One of my biggest concerns is that I won't be able to reliably get stuff in a timely fashion. I buy electronic components and motorcycle parts regularly in Thailand, have them shipped by USPS Express mail, which is delivered by EMS. It's mostly been great, with about a one-week turnaround. I'm wondering if EMS is reliable, at least at the Phnom Penh main post office.

Spoke to the guy at Lucky Lucky Motorcycles, and he said he could get my bike registered, if I could get it to Phnom Penh, quoted ~$300 for a 200cc 10 yr.old Suzuki, import tax, and registration included. Probably haul it to the border, and ride it in...

So, most likely, we'll spend New Year's in Phnom Penh - at least that's the working plan.

Thanks again to all.

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Forget Pharmacy de la Gere, they are a rip off. Vongs pharmacy on Sihanouk Blvd carry the same meds at about 1/2 the price of DeLa gare, shop around some of the pharmacy's near central market they are even cheaper.

Edited by OLDAUSSIE
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Thanks, Oldaussie, will have a look next time.

As for another trip, answer is: not until we are ready to move, meaning divested of everything we can't take with us (mostly car). We did find a place that we could live in in a fairly short day of searching, but couldn't make a commitment until we are ready to go. One possibility is the guesthouse where we stayed. They rent rooms for $300/month, and we could just move the essentials until we find a more permanent place, then make another trip for the main stuff.

My main hesitations revolve around health care, as I am getting toward that age, and the aforementioned availability of reliable parcel service. They may together be a show-stopper.

Whatever we end up doing, lightening up here in Thailand is going to have to happen. Too much stuff is like an albatross around your neck...

Like to hear more of others' experiences - and really appreciate those who have posted so far.

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Need to be wary of the quality at some pharmacies. (Correction: the majority.)

Don't even think about buying from any that are not air conditioned.

Did you by any chance ask for meds by a Thai brand name? Meds made in Thailand are, naturally, more expensive in Cambodia. but meds imported from elsewhere are much cheaper. There are certain meds I buy in PP to bring to Thailand because they are so much cheaper there.

The concern about health c are is legit. It is a worr, in fact I would say that is the single greatest drawback. . For anything serious or major you basically have to fly to Thailand or Singapore or VN. And in an emergency....

Be sure you have decent insurance that includes medivac.

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Need to be wary of the quality at some pharmacies. (Correction: the majority.)

Don't even think about buying from any that are not air conditioned.

Did you by any chance ask for meds by a Thai brand name? Meds made in Thailand are, naturally, more expensive in Cambodia. but meds imported from elsewhere are much cheaper. There are certain meds I buy in PP to bring to Thailand because they are so much cheaper there.

The concern about health c are is legit. It is a worr, in fact I would say that is the single greatest drawback. . For anything serious or major you basically have to fly to Thailand or Singapore or VN. And in an emergency....

Be sure you have decent insurance that includes medivac.

Thanks, Sheryl - good point about Thai brands. Actually, I'm not 100% sure where the brands I asked for are made, although at least one, Diovan, is a US brand. I will make a point of checking next time.

Pharmacy de la Gere was definitely air conditioned, and quite big. I wouldn't even consider the open-front streetside pharmacies that seem to be all over PP.

As for health care, in general - you're right, it's pretty close to a show-stopper. I guess it depends on the level of personal risk that can be tolerated. Can't live forever...

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is a sizeable farang music scene in PP.

...believe it or not..

Many frustrated musicians (ex thai) moved there.

You can perform live there with zero hassles (on a business visa) and many do.

There is even a site dedicated to the scene.. www.lengpleng.com

Thanks for that site! I was just wondering if such a thing existed....perfect!

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I thought I would want to live in PP once I stop working but after having visited now many times and having a vision how the city will develop, I have to say, it is not for me (despite my eye doctor and fabulous dentist being there). Just walking around on foot has always been a nuisance there and with increasing traffic and "power to those with the cash & connections" it's not going to get better. I need a smaller city, less opportunities for city amenities, I fully understand that but so be it.

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Just walking around on foot has always been a nuisance there and with increasing traffic and "power to those with the cash & connections" it's not going to get better. I need a smaller city, less opportunities for city amenities, I fully understand that but so be it.

I understand what you are saying. Sometimes development and improvements are not what some people want. PP really has been growing up and out over the past 5 years.

So would you be looking to a different country, or just a different city in Cambodia?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pharmacie de la Gare might be more expensive, as someone claimed above (I haven't shopped round), however it is airconditioned, & it does have a large range - especially of medicines barangs use. That puts it ahead of most pharmacies in PP. It also has a real, actual pharmacist. Today's Cambodian medical & pharmaceutical degrees are worthless, but the old guy running PDLG has a pre-Pol Pot degree.

However in his & any other case, don't deal with the counter staff where you need to rely on their knowledge. Most will sell you anything, & don't know the difference between an antibiotic and an antiseptic.

There's a thread on the local Cambodian forums on EMS - Expat Advisory I think. My only knowledge is that ordinary parcels to the PO can be 'lost' in the works there for 6 months or more.

Finally, I don't like PP much (crime, noise, dirt, traffic) & now live in Battambang in the north: much more quiet & ordered, though not the world's most exciting city for nightlife.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know for a fact you can get apartments cheaper than that. I stayed with a lady there and she said she paid $100/month for a simple bi-level apartment in Phnom Penh. No ac and a tiny crude kitchen but it was livable.

Search online for some Khmer classifieds. $100 a month is doable.

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