Cambo Life: Moving In & Up

After four nights at the beach in Kep, it’s time to head back to PP. And, move into our new home.

We’ve already moved the bulk of our things over from our previous place, so it’s now just a matter of unpacking… and getting the housewares we need around town… and keeping the boys out of it all.

Oh… and there’s still our 13 parcels of freight we’re waiting on from Laos. Yep, 13.

Packing up a five-bedroom villa in a country where it’s really hard (or expensive) to get things like quality cookware, kids clothes, and certain toiletries made us hesitant to get rid of much of it.

Fortunately, our house in Laos was furnished, Lori’s employer had supplied us with a lot of the basics, and we were able to easily liquidate the bulk of our additional furnishings and home appliances.

But neither knowing what type of housing we’d end up in in Cambodia nor how difficult/expensive it would be to find certain things compelled us to utilize Lori’s freight benefit to the max. At the time, it seemed like a no brainer.

Yet, the place we ended up in here is significantly smaller than our previous place with minimal storage, so we already know we’ll be getting rid of a number of things.

But much of what is in those 13 parcels is hand-me-down kids clothes for the future, board books and wooden toys — stuff that’s pretty hard to get here that the boys will definitely use in the near future. So, we’ll need to get creative about where it will all live.

We’ll also have to figure out how we’re going to get all of that up to our place, which is up at the top of that black metal stairwell structure.

And, of course, we’ll be carting the boys up and down these stairs on a daily basis. On the bright side, we won’t be needing a gym membership.


…and up…

…and up…

…and up!

Noe, mommy, and daddy have a few more stairs to climb to get to our bedrooms.

We’ve got the top two levels of a recently updated Khmer shophouse. Riley’s room is on the first floor, which will also double as the boys’ play room (though Noe’s “big boy” toys will stay in Noe’s room upstairs where Riley can’t eat them).

Traditional shophouses in Phnom Penh were built as three-story structures. The street facing section of the ground level can serve as a garage, store (hence the term shophouse), living room, or all three, with the rear housing the kitchen and dining area.

The next level up is generally the sleeping quarters, with 1-3 bedrooms (but usually two) and a bathroom. And the top level is often nothing more than a covered terrace, generally used for washing/drying clothes and hosting large family gatherings.

Our particular building is a creative remodel, turning what was a three-level, single-family row house into a five-level, four-unit rental. The unit we’re renting comprises the top two floors (referred to as a “duplex” in Cambodia).

Our first floor was converted from the roof terrace and includes our kitchen, dining area, living room, ground floor bedroom, two bathrooms, and a washing deck.

On the second level, there are two more bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a front-facing balcony.

Our view from the master bedroom balcony looking both ways.

The lower rear deck where we wash and dry laundry.

I was concerned that things might not dry as quickly without direct sunlight. But between the steady breeze whipping through here, the morning and afternoon sun, and the AC exterior units blasting hot air (when AC is on), our laundry gets plenty dry.

Sunset from the laundry terrace.

That’s all on the house for now. More pics to come once we’re moved in a bit more.

One of the best things about our place is the location. Yeah, we’ve got a ton of great restaurants, coffee shops, and bars within a minute’s walk or so. But we’ve also got this huge baby store (Baby Outlet) a five minute walk away.

Best prices in town for diapers, wipes, and a boatload of baby crap that we don’t need (but are tempted to buy because it’s so damn convenient).

On our first evening in our new place, we had dinner at this happening pizza joint down the street. It’ll take a while for it to sink in that we can have really good pizza for really good prices any time we’d like. Heck, it takes longer to get down all those stairs to our place than it does to actually walk to a lot of these places.

The busy intersection of Street 308, Street 29, and Bassac Lane, still decked out for Christmas.

On our first date night in the neighborhood, we thought we’d stay close. After we signed our lease, we intentionally avoided hitting up places in this neighborhood knowing we’d be living so close.

We loved Privet (the Russian restaurant down the street from us in Vientiane) and were excited to see a Russian restaurant even closer to us than before. Irina did not disappoint.

The holidays are over and it’s back to school for the boys. Before New Years, Riley was too young to attend Noe’s school, so we had him at a nursery school close to Lori’s office.

Now, both boys are attending the same school together. This is Riley’s first day and he can’t be more excited.

We’ve rarely had issues with the kids crying or having separation anxiety on their first days of nursery school. More often than not, they can’t say goodbye to mommy and daddy fast enough.

I’m not sure what that says about Lori and me as parents, but I’d like to chock it up to the boys’ personalities and upbringing. Yes, personalities and upbringing, that’s why they have no problem leaving mommy and daddy in the dust…every time… Would it kill you, Riley, to shed a tear — just one tear — every once in a while when we leave you with new people?

In other news, Lori asked me to get more tofu when I went grocery shopping this past week, because our crazy boys love to eat tofu.

Um…Lori…I’m going to need some help here.

In the amount of time it took us to move out of the old place and into the new place, they put up a swanky new Brown Coffee. Brown Coffee is like the Starbucks of Cambodia (though they do have Starbucks as well).

That bar, above, is solely devoted to cold brew and pour over. They have another bar counter solely devoted to espresso, and another one with their baked products. This place is just a couple of blocks away from our new place and, best of all, one of the cheapest coffee shops in town to get cold brew and freshly-baked pastries.

A colleague of Lori’s recommended we check out Mama Wong’s on Street 308. So we did. In addition to munching on some delicious dim sum, we had some nice exchanges with several motorists from our seats.

I’m not sure who in their right mind sits on the street-side stools. But they’re there.

When living in a place like Cambodia, you sometimes have to get creative. Riley picked up a nice little worm in his leg from playing in sand somewhere. We’re not going to say Kep, because quite frankly, he plays in a lot of sand boxes. But Kep Beach after New Years Eve wouldn’t surprise me.

For his issue, treatment is pretty straightforward — albendazole cream for the baby. Unfortunately, you can’t seem to get the cream here to save your life. Only the tablets, which aren’t really recommended for babies and require a long, drawn out treatment.

Not to worry, Lori found a medical journal outlining how to make albendazole ointment at home, and voila!

Three 400-mg tablets of albendazole (crushed) in 12 g of petroleum jelly applied three times daily for ten days. Pretty straightforward.

And the result? No more worm!

This year, Lori’s birthday fell on the day we were due to return from Kep and move into our new place. With just a few small items of business competing for our attention on her special day, we opted to postpone a week until we were more settled.

We arranged a sitter, then embarked on the longest date night we’ve had in Cambodia. Lori’s worth it, of course!

The evening started with traditional Khmer massages at our favorite little local place in Riverside, Aroha Spa (which we’ve visited exactly one other time in the past 2.5 months — not quite the frequency we enjoyed in Laos, but we’re thankful to still have access to affordable Southeast Asian massage).

Afterwards, it was off to Sora Sky Bar, one of the highest perches in the city, and a pretty distinctive one at that.

That’s Vattanac Capital Tower above, and ledge sticking straight out is the sky bar.

And, that’s the view from the ledge looking south.

We arrived just after sunset (our massages ran a bit longer than expected), and all the choice seating along the railing was occupied. Shortly after we took our seats, the wind kicked up — umbrellas whipped around and napkins, leaves, and utensils were flying everywhere.

We took all of the above as a good signal to move indoors, where we had the whole bar to ourselves (and an equally impressive view, if behind glass).

Dinner was sushi at SaKaNa Lab hidden deep in the nameless tangle of alleyways on the eastern edge of BKK1. I called ahead to reserve an outdoor table on the upper veranda (which I highly recommend).

This place manages to have great ambience, get awesome reviews, and serve up fresh, masterful sushi for a fraction of the price of comparable places in the States. And the actual food was amazing.

Next, we walked a short distance through the back alleyways to Battbong. I’d read phenomenal things about this place and was excited for our visit. The only problem was, we couldn’t find the place! I had the Google pin, but there didn’t seem to be anything there. Just a soda vending machine.

I pulled out my phone and read over the reviews again. I don’t understand. It’s supposed to be here. Suddenly, I stumbled on the missing piece of the puzzle.

The vending machine is the door. We gave it a nice little shove, and it swung open, revealing…

…one of the coolest bars I’ve been to. Dark and mysterious, yet packed with in-the-know locals — like a secret society of sorts. And the drink menu could easily rival anything in North America’s most cosmopolitan cities.

Another problem. There isn’t anywhere to sit. But we knew better. In Southeast Asia, all you have to do is ask. And we did. The best seat in the house (a corner booth with a view of the entire place) was reserved. At 10pm. It was 9pm. We were ushered over and seated, provided we vacated within the hour.

Finally, our evening ended next door at Bistro Langka for dessert before calling it a night.

5 thoughts on “Cambo Life: Moving In & Up”

  1. Christina Homami

    Looks like a very cool place! Enjoy your new home and town. The boys are so adorable.


    Happy birthday, Lori! So glad you were able to have a date night to celebrate!!

  3. Shirley Northcraft

    We look forward to seeing your place first-hand in the future. Can’t wait to try the restaurants and spas, too.

  4. Laura Courtney Headley

    Happy Birthday to Lori! So glad you found a place that works for you! Beautiful! XO

  5. What a location with all of the eating, drinking and tofu opportunities within a short walk and a steep hill climb from your new home. Good find and explanation of a “shophouse”. Thanks for the posting and photos!


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