I had been to Cambodia a few times before I moved here in 2016. Cambodia, is well-known for its tourism; places like Angkor Wat and the islands off the south coast draw in hordes of tourists every year. Phnom Penh, the capital of this amazing country, is where I called home. Many people chose to skip it or just pass through, and I can understand why. Tourism wise, it doesn’t have the allure that you get from Angkor Wat or from the metropolis of Bangkok. However, if you stay a while, you’ll realise it’s one of the easiest and most fun places you could ever live.
The people, both Cambodian and expat, are beyond cool. For a city of some 3 million (which by Asia standards is miniscule) it really packs a punch. The nightlife is seriously awesome, with new bars opening constantly and prices that turn any dirt-poor backpacker into a high roller. The general atmosphere of the city, even as I write this is intensely peaceful. Sitting back with a beer for $0.50 while monks go passed and soft tones of local music play in the background, is just, well, magical.
At $0.50, can you afford not to drink one?
Being an expat in Asia for a while makes you realise that creature comforts from home are important. Living in China taught me that those comforts are stupidly expensive at best. Cambodia on the other hand makes cheese and bread (one good thing to come from French colonialism) which is great to quench those homesickness cravings. With that being said, local food is super good and even cheaper. If you’re really on a budget living in the ‘pearl of the orient’ then eating local is the way to go. Pork rice (Cambodian staple) for breakfast will set you back about $0.75, lunch a dollar or two, dinner the same. Honestly, what is there not to like about this place so far?
Every place, even an urban paradise such as this, can have its downside with regards to being an expat. I’m originally from Perth, Australia, and as glorious as life can be there, it kind of sucks in cold months and can be downright boring. Phnom Penh, while having oppressively hot weather all year round is always good fun. However, the one downside is infrastructure. If it rains too much, you’ve got to deal with flooding. Power cuts are not unheard of, things can be dirty and toilets can be bleak. But, I see it as a small price to pay to live like a king. Also, if you really need to escape, Vietnam and Thailand are both a stone’s throw away.
If you were going to pick any city in Asia to live, Phnom Penh will always be my first recommendation. For those who are considering giving it a miss because it lacks the bells and whistles of a “wonder city” I say go! Stay a few days, a week, a month and just absorb all the city throws at you.