Cambo Life 1-19 July 2020: The Countdown Begins

With less than a month left in Cambodia (we think!?), ramping up efforts to tick off our short list and trying not to lose the boys to the dark side.

18 July 2020

It looks like we’ve settled into one of the more predictable periods in the Indochina monsoon each year.

Our days begin bright and clear with abundant sunshine and low humidity. Throughout the morning the temperature and humidity rises until it just about feels unbearable.

Noe’s picked up on this. Once the temperature rises about 90 and the humidity gets to be around 80%, Noe will say, “Daddy, I think it’s going to storm this afternoon.” 9 out of 10 times, he’s right.

Then again, 9 out of 10 days, we have an afternoon storm.

But it’s still cool to see him put the pieces together.

By mid-afternoon, the clouds have gathered and rumbling can be heard in the distance, culminating in a dramatic (yet, relatively short-lived) thunderstorm.

If I had to choose my favorite part of the rainy season in this part of the world, it’s this time — when the weather follows a somewhat predictable cycle and outdoor activity is still enjoyable in the morning and evening hours.

By August, the rains generally settle in for days at a time, making leaving the house way more of an ordeal than it ever should be.

Here in mid-July, we’re still working on getting our departure date confirmed by Lori’s work and the travel agent. At this point, however, we’re 90% sure we’ll be leaving Cambodia some time in early August, actual date TBD.

That means that the countdown has begun. Less than 30 days left in Cambodia for us.

A six-month hiring, on-boarding, and pack-out process from Laos, then three months in temp housing in Phnom Penh, two months of settling in and normalcy, promptly followed by four months of COVID isolation.

That’s 15 months of packing/unpacking and paperwork and visas and signing/breaking leases and closing/opening/closing bank accounts, goodbyes/hellos/goodbyes, and our lives being up in the air in general — 3/4 of Riley’s entire life.

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To put that in perspective, we spent 20 months of Noe’s first two years comfortably settled in one house, in one neighborhood, in one city.

I’m not saying we’d rather be settled down in one place indefinitely. With little ones, 2-3 years in one place seems to be our sweet spot and preference with this type of work and lifestyle.

But even nomads have their limits, particularly those with a one-year-old and a four-year-old. Moving four times in 10 months is way past ours.

And, now, less than 30 days left in Cambo.

Crazy.

I’m thinking it’s time to move onto a boat.

But change is inevitable. A short stroll anywhere in this city is a stark reminder of that.

This is Street 282 a couple blocks away from our house a few years back.

And today…

 

Another one bites the dust. Here today, gone tomorrow.

The alley we’ve called home for the past six months. Who knows what it will look like in another five years.

Both boys like to sit outside and watch the rain these days. Noe, in particular, has gravitated to the calm and stillness in these hectic days and weeks.

Working on Our Restaurant Short List

We’ve suddenly found ourselves with less than a month left here to get through our “Want to Go” list that was intended to be slowly completed over the course of three years.

Obviously, we’ll need to prioritize and make some tough decisions.

This particular date night, we’ve decided to try out two top Phnom Penh places: The Exchange and the Elephant Bar.

The Exchange is housed in a historic French colonial villa and bills itself as a steakhouse. For the vibe, prices were fairly reasonable and the food was great.

But what I was really looking forward to was getting a cocktail at the world-famous Elephant Bar at Raffles Hotel Le Royal.

Taken by itself, the Elephant Bar is the type of colonial over-the-top places I’ve missed in our travels. It’s not the kind of place we’d frequent by any means, but it’s nice to dress up and try to get a sense of another time, when things weren’t exactly better, but different.

But the story behind Elephant Bar and Hotel Le Royal is much more complex and intriguing than that of a renovated colonial stalwart in Southeast Asia. This was the last refuge for dozens of foreign correspondents when the ruthless Khmer Rouge took power in 1975.

The stately hotel was subsequently abandoned for the next two decades until it re-opened in 1997.

The hotel and bar take centerstage in the 1984 film, The Killing Fields, which was nominated for best picture, though another hotel stands in for Le Royal in the film.

 

As you might imagine, drinks aren’t cheap at the ol’ Elephant Bar. You’re largely paying for the experience (though our drinks were superb). I will say I was very tempted to take home an Elephant Bar Negroni bottle as a souvenir. But I remembered our baggage allowance and thought better of it.

 

Mealea Restaurant at Palace Gate Hotel was another one on our list.

Lori took a vacation day to catch up on some things, so we both took the morning off to relax and catch our breath. It was no coincidence that we made sure the sitter was free this morning to watch the kids.

With less than a month here in Cambodia, we’re trying to take full advantage of that aspect of our lives here.

 

Food was delicious, atmosphere was really cool (covered, open air veranda, surrounded by lush vegetation on a historic property), and the company was hard to beat.

These bicycles are actually made of bamboo. Kind of the hot thing here at the moment.

What Have the Boys Been Up to, You Ask?

Noe’s shown a renewed interest in our Lonely Planet books. I think he’s reading up on where he wants to move to next.

And Riley…?

Just one of those days, I guess. Life is so hard for the baby…

Dinner time! Tonight, spaghetti!

 

The climbing gym in Tuol Tompoung reopened. There isn’t a ton for the kids to do these days in Phnom Penh, but they can climb!

Tom Cruise showed up at the last minute to coach Noe. At this rate, I’m sure he’ll be free-climbing Monument Valley by the age of six.

Returning to Hops after a four-month hiatus. Noe’s been asking about this place for months for obvious reasons.

 

Nothing better than a craft beer flight on a nice day while the kids get some healthy outdoor play in.

Riley, in particular, has really been perfecting his…

…uh oh… not again…

Lori, where the heck does he keep getting these knives!? Every single time, man. Seriously, the kid is kind of a thug. Should we be worried?

Oh well, guess we don’t have to hire someone to slaughter our goats for us anymore.

 

We were in the mood for a rooftop drink and ended up at Aquarius. That’s the side view of the swimming pool in the middle of the bar, cause that’s what I want to see while I sipping cocktails — the lower two-thirds of my fellow patrons doggy-paddling on by.

“Your participation will contribute to the global efforts in the control and prevention of the spread of the epidemic…”

Them were the days.

Sorry, Noe. That ship has sailed.

Business is pretty slow these days for the tuk tuk.

Mall Rats

I had the boys on a particularly hot and steamy morning. It had been five months since we did a trip to the mall, so why not.

In truth, there are few better places to escape the Cambodian heat in the time of Covid than AEON mall just after opening. We basically had the run of the place, and there was no shortage of things for the kids to see.

Like COVID sales…

And more sales…

In fact, it seemed that every store had discounted their stock 50-70%. Obviously, sad for the staff, but just another sign of the times.

In celebration of the mall’s 6th anniversary, displays had been put up throughout the mall depicting happier (and less socially-distant) days of mass consumption and excess.

You can rent a baby mobile for a price, or do like I do and just push the kid around in an empty shopping cart which are permitted anywhere in the four-story mall.

Just steer clear of the escalators, Noe.

A rare bit of screen time. Soak it up, you two.

And, and even rarer treat. American fast-food!

Have you even had a burger before, Noe? Chances are, probably not. Just do what daddy does.

That’s what ‘Merica tastes like, kid.

Nummy!

Looks like the project next door is coming along. We’ll check back in a few days.

Early this month, Naga World got the green light to reopen their casino operations, five months ahead of public schools. That’s just messed up.

If you can’t build out, build up!

 

Put yourself in the mind of a baby (more specifically, this kid) and you’ll know exactly what he’s fixated on.

…the whole building?

Watching…

…construction sites!

Washing dishes. There are two things he begs us to do these days: wash dishes and fold clothes. He seriously can’t get enough of either.

Sorry, Noe. School’s still closed.

We enjoyed our night out with Noe so much last month for his birthday that we decided to do it again.

 

 

The neighborhood’s looking much more lively these days. Long term plans for Street 308 include doubling the number of bars and clubs and adding nightly outdoor live music.

Probably a good thing we’re leaving now if we hope to sleep next year.

Bassac Lane showing signs of life in mid-July, but still definitely on the quiet side. With two toddlers back at home, you won’t hear me complaining about quiet any time soon.

We tried Vehaa sky bar in Tonle Bassac for a drink and a view. Fortunately, there’s a DJ on duty, spinning the vinyl…

…with the help of his trusty Victrola.

Now that’s old skool.

Fitting, but perhaps I’ll pass. A “classic” already?

Kampong pepper Bloody Mary. Now you’re talking.

An Ill-Fated Journey to Dinosaurs Alive!

After breakfast at J’Adore (above), formerly JOMA, we hop on a tuk tuk and settle in for a 20-minute journey up and over the Japanese Bridge to check out Phnom Penh’s newest kids attraction: Dinosaurs Alive! theme park…

…only to find it closed. Funny thing about these new places here in Phnom Penh is that, every grand opening should be treated as a soft opening, with no guarantee that the place will open any time soon.

A coworker of Lori’s visited the previous weekend and said it was worth the trip. We used the place as a carrot for Noe to be a ‘really good boy’ for most of the week, only to arrive to a locked up theme park.

Oh well, guess, we’ll just have to play around the dinosaurs in the parking lot.

…which lasted a full ten minutes.

Back to town for [yet another] walk along the river.

 

 

 

 

Nine months on and the historic FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) is no closer to reopening. It was the most memorable restaurant/bar we visited here in 2012 and had good memories of drinking up the history (and local beer) and staring out at the Mekong.

Despite giving it nine months, looks like it just isn’t meant to be this “visit.”

 

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Shirley
Shirley

Thank you for sharing a tour of your daily lives with our grandsons. The pictures and descriptions are superb!