Cambo Life: December 2019 Wrap-Up

Mall trains, school breaks, a toddler-free day, a long-anticipated move-out, and some long-awaited down time. Recapping a memorable end to an eventful year.

31 December 2019

December was an eventful, yet relatively relaxing month. We signed a lease on long-term housing in late November, and weren’t due to move in until early January.

We spent the month of September packing out our life in Laos and getting ready for our trip to Malaysia and subsequent move to Cambodia.

Most of October was spent traveling with the kids to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, with a week in Vientiane, followed by our move to Phnom Penh.

November was devoted to finding housing in Cambodia and getting settled.

After three busy months full of To-Do lists and travel, we’ve been able to relax a bit more and enjoy ourselves and our new city.

Lori had a work holiday on the 10th, which the boys did not have. As we had just spent three weeks together as a family not too long ago, and were planning another week over New Years at the beach together, we thought we’d spend this day sans kiddos, ticking some things we’ve really been wanting to do that just didn’t sound much fun with two toddlers in tow.

At the top of the list was touring the Royal Palace.

Throne Hall of the Royal Palace

Unsurprisingly for this time of year, the weather was gorgeous — almost springlike.

The only sightseeing we managed during our first visit to Phnom Penh in 2012 were visits to Tuol Sleng prison and the Killing Fields. We were looking forward to some lighter tourist draws on the docket for the day.



The Royal Palace is arguably the centerpiece of Phnom Penh, stretching 175,000 square meters across the heart of the city. About half of that, including the Silver Pagoda and the Throne Hall, are open to the public.

Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot, or the Silver Pagoda, named for its silver floor tiles.


We headed to nearby Futures Factory and ordered up a couple of cappuccinos and a treat and sat in the courtyard enjoying the perfect weather and being able to complete a thought without a wee one interjecting a need or want.

Sure, we do a lot of date nights with the two of us, but rarely do we get to be out and about without the kids during daylight hours. These days don’t come along very often, but when they do, we seize them.

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Next was a leisurely stroll around the National Museum. Lori and I have determined that, generally speaking, we’re not really museum people. True, some museums have blown us away, but those are the exception rather than the norm. Not cheap (US$10 each), but we’re glad we toured it once.

After a rough morning of hoofing it around town, we arrive at Aroha Spa — our first traditional Khmer massage experience.

So, how does it compare to a Lao massage? Solely based on this one place alone, Khmer massage seems to be quite a bit more intense, with a lot more thumbs and the stopping of blood flow, which I don’t particularly enjoy.

That’s not to say that Lao massages didn’t vary widely across the half dozen massage parlors we tried in Lao over many many dozens of massages.

For the money, however, Aroha near the National Museum seems hard to beat, especially given that most of the Western-catering spas in town charge four times as much!

We picked Aroha from the high number and percentage of excellent reviews and the location and would recommend it to others looking to get a traditional Khmer massage for a reasonable price.

Afterwards, it was a late lunch at Mister Mediterranean before picking up the boys. We’re excited that Phnom has a legit Turkish cafe in town. Vientiane was definitely lacking in the Mediterranean food department.

Now, on to some sad news. The original Java Cafe across from the King Norodom statue suddenly closed up shop the other day. I showed up to grab a coffee and get some work done and was greeted by a sign on the front doors and this view through the window.

While their upper level remains open, discovering their ground floor cafe in 2012 was one of the enduring memories of our first time in Phnom Penh. It was also where we ate breakfast on our first day after moving here a couple months ago, and it was one of the few places in the area with a play space, which Noe really enjoyed.

It’ll be interesting to see what goes in here, but I’m certain it won’t be anything as remotely good as what was there before.

Apparently, somebody ordered a giant statue of Confucius at this condo complex. The thing was so big and heavy, it required a crane to hoist up to the lobby level (apparently too large to fit in the elevator).

And now, story time with the boys. A cherished time of day of winding down and spending quality time with the ones you love…

…or a head-butting, screaming, fuss-fest, where I’m lucky to get through three pages before Lori comes and removes someone from the equation.

Noe’s school is on break for two weeks for the Christmas holiday, which means Noe-daddy time and lots of it. Riley and mommy still have another week before their time off begins, so it’s off to work/school for the two of them. Don’t work too hard, Riley!

December was also an eventful month owing to this:

Yep! Our Little Mister is officially a biped!

Riley took his first steps early in the month and has been a walking fool ever since. Just like brother, after a week of splitting his time between walking and crawling, Riley seems to have sworn off crawling for good and is eager to show off his new skill any chance he gets.



I was a bit skeptical of the Black Panther, thinking with packaging like that it had to be some sort of weird beer and energy drink combo. But it’s turned out to be a pretty tasty local stout, for cheap too.

Speaking of beer, we returned a few times to Hops beer garden in the month of December. It’s one of Noe’s favorite places for its “little people house”…

…and, one of my favorite places for the craft beer and setting.

Noe and I had some time to spare before mommy and Riley were due home on one of our daddy afternoons, so we went on a walk around the neighborhood.

It didn’t take long before Noe and I decided we’d like to try out the Teahouse. Noe peeked his head in and with an emphatic nod, said, “Yes, daddy. I like this place.” What can I say, the kid has good taste.




Not exactly a baby proof place. Which reminds me, time to go pick up Riley!

We’ve been taking advantage of the cooler weather to hit up some of the city’s playgrounds. This one across the street from Wat Phnom was perfectly age appropriate…and the vendors at the front gate certainly know their target demographic…


Walking the streets of Phnom Penh’s French Quarter.

Didn’t expect to see this at the local supermarket. And yes, they came all the way from Oregon (Salem, in fact. Hence the US$6 price tag!).

You know who you are.

Smoothie time!

I’ve been telling Noe all week that if he was a really good boy, we’d get to go swimming in the pool in our apartment complex. Noe had indeed been a very good boy all week, so after nap we took the elevator down to the ground floor.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t done my homework and scouted out the pool without Noe earlier that morning. The pool is in an uncovered area with lots of pigeons and trees overhead, and the condition of the water is hit or miss.

Today, it was a big fat miss — the bottom was slimy with all sorts of nastiness on the surface from the birds and tree sap, and no net or staff around.

This was absolutely devastating to Noe. I haven’t seen him like this in a very long time and felt horrible for getting his hopes up. It was too late in the day to go find a different pool, so we were stuck in a rough situation.

Noe doesn’t really throw tantrums, but he lost it on this one. I somehow managed to coax him back up to the apartment, but he still was in rough shape. After running out of ideas, I got Lori on the phone to talk to him, but she wasn’t able to do any better.

Then, Lori had an idea. She suggested I fill the mixing bowl up with water and have him play in the shower. I thought it was a long shot (certainly a poor substitute for a pool), but didn’t have any better ideas.

So, I brought out the bowl and cups, set them up in the shower and called over Noe.

Suddenly, his face lit up, he giggled with excitement and went straight to it. It’s crazy with a three-year-old how one minute the entire world is crashing down, and the next minute all is right in the world.

He happily played with those cups and the that bowl of water on the shower floor for the next hour.


A nice and peaceful moment with one of my sons.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the living room…

Our freight arrived in Cambodia at the beginning of December, but it seems it’s going to take a while to clear customs. A lot of our kitchen supplies on in those footlockers, among other things, forcing us to get creative.

Somehow, the top of my martini shaker made it into one of our suitcases, while the bottom remains with the rest of our kitchenware. Not a problem! It’s almost as if Riley’s sippy cup was made for the lid.

Riley, signing off on his final day at his temporary nursery school. Starting in January, he’ll be attending Noe’s school, as the minimum age there is 15 months and will be very close to where we’ll be living.

On one of our daddy days not too long ago, Noe and I ducked into the mall to cool off and saw this.

Of course, it was all Noe talked about for the rest of the evening. The train wasn’t running at the time we were there, so I told him we’d come back with mommy and Riley soon.

And, today’s finally the day!

Riley couldn’t have cared less, but Noe was all smiles, as we slowly rolled by the mall’s escalator-dotted vistas and highest-priced shops.

A week ago, this was the Christmas section. Make way for Chinese (Lunar) New Year!

A date night out in Tuol Tom Pong. I think we enjoy making the trip down here on date nights because it feels foreign and novel to us. It’s a 10-15 minute tuk tuk ride from the area of town we spend most of our days in, and we rarely bring the kids down here.

Every haunt is PACKED with barang (almost disturbingly so), which only reinforces our decision not to live down here (we certainly have nothing against Westerners (we are two, after all), but if we were yearning to surround ourselves with hipsters, Americans, or both, we would have stayed in Portland instead of moving across the globe — just personal preference).

But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy visiting. Tuol Tom Pong’s got a lot going for it, and a very different nighttime vibe than what we’ve grown accustomed to in and around Independence Monument. The streets are pretty quiet at night down here and good for strolling, but you need to make reservations at a lot of places on Saturday nights — whereas around where we live its the opposite on both accounts.

We enjoyed our Malay fusion dinner at Intégrité. Highly recommended.

And the upstairs bathroom may just be the narrowest restaurant bathroom we’ve seen!

December couldn’t pass without a visit or two to Farm to Table. In October and November, Riley was content to watch from the sidelines. This month, he wants to do everything big brother does. Literally overnight he’s gone from infant to toddler.


…and troublemaker.

But there’s still plenty Riley can’t do yet that Noe can do.

It won’t always be that way, but Noe’s enjoying it while he can.


We were due to move out of our apartment AND head to the beach on New Years Eve, which landed on a Tuesday this year.

On Monday, the boys were home and Lori was at work. They didn’t nap as long as expected, so I had some time to fill. They were itching to get outside and it was a particularly nice afternoon.

I thought it might be nice to take a tuk tuk to the river and walk along the water with the boys for an hour, then meet Lori after work.

The tuk tuk dropped us off near the ferry landing. We made it about ten feet up the riverfront path before Noe demanded we stop and look at the boats. I found a shaded area along the railing expecting to squeeze no more than five minutes out of ferry-watching before the boys got antsy.

Instead, we were there for forty. Neither boy made a peep the entire time. I was amazed.

In their defense, it is pretty cool to watch, and there’s a lot of constant action to take in. Unfortunately, standing in one place for so long wearing Riley took a bit of a toll on the old man’s shoulders and knees. I wouldn’t mind some afternoon sitting on the flat and shaded section of the concrete levee with the boys with a beer and doing this again, though.


The view out our back balcony on our last night in the apartment.

We have some good memories from our 2.5 months here (it’s where Riley took his first steps, after all!), but we’re very much looking forward to settling into our long[er]-term residence.

Riley took the move the hardest…

…actually, that’s a funny little thing he’s been doing lately. When he doesn’t get his way, he collapses to the floor, pins one arm behind his back, and rocks back and forth — often (but not always) accompanied by a strategically placed little whimper.

One time, Noe thought he’d be funny and imitate his little brother, nearly dislocating his own arm in the process. Riley, of course, found this hilarious.

New Years Eve is move-out day! We’re aiming to be fed, packed out, and checked out by 9:30am, our bags on a tuk tuk to the new place at 10am, and back to the apartment to hand in keys and meet up with the driver at 11am. Then, it’s off to Kep for [what we hope will be] five relaxing and fun-filled days at the beach.

I love my boys, but packing and moving out is never fun with little ones. We should know! This is the EIGHTH residence we’ve done so with babies in the past 3.5 years. I’ll be very happy not to do this for a while.

Fortunately, this move was just down the street. We hired a remorque instead of a tuk tuk because they’re quite a bit roomier. However, our stuff was still just a bit much for one remorque, so we called a second…

Off to our new home!

…feeling a tad bit like the Clampetts. Careful of them bumps, pardner. We got booze below. Yeehaw!

The view from Riley and Lori’s remorque (above)…

…and the view from Noe and my remorque (below)…

With our stuff safely stowed in our new digs and a jam-packed morning in the can, it’s time to party! Kep Beach, here we come!!!

31 Dec 2019

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Debbie BaxterGrampsJANICE M FULLERTON Recent comment authors
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Debbie Baxter
Debbie Baxter

I love these pictures! Makes me miss all my boys even more.


Two dudes taking a nap as they’re heading to the beach, what a sight! Almost as good as a toddler with one arm. Love your posting David. Keep them coming.