Ok, it’s an apartment, and it’s actually toward the end of the street. Sorry about that.
We’ve talked about our apartment a little already, but now that we’ve been here a month, we’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on what else is happening in our building and on our street.
First, our apartment building is a little unique in that it has a mix of locals and expats. It seems many apartments mostly cater to expats, and many locals prefer to live in a Khmer-style house rather than an apartment building. We have two Khmer families, some French expats, some from Japan and India and Australia, and several who we haven’t really met yet. They’ve all been very friendly — especially the kids!
At one corner of the close end of our street, we have a little restaurant. This place serves up a few dishes, but we’ve been ordering some grilled meat sandwiches that are very similar to Banh Mi. They’re very tasty, and an easy affordable way to run out and grab a meal with protein if we have forgotten to defrost something. (That never happens.)
The opposite corner is a convenience store. They have most of the necessities — toiletries, packaged foods, rice. This is also where we exchange our water jugs. The water here in Phnom Penh has improved a lot over the last years, and it’s definitely safe for washing veggies, brushing your teeth, all of that. But if only out of habit, nobody really uses it for drinking water. So we have a few 5 gallon jugs of purified water that we can exchange here when we need a refill. With our flights of stairs, it also makes a good little workout!
Just across from our apartment is a traditional Khmer house that holds a whole family — at least 4 generations worth. Like many Khmer homes, the lower level is open to the street along the full width (they close it up with a metal fence at night). They do a lot of things during the day that are fun to watch — the biggest is that they dry out pork rinds on giant tarps. Every once in a while, one drops to the street — Geordi and the other dogs don’t seem to mind that at all.
Next on that side of the street is our bakery. I don’t know how many baguettes they make each day — but it’s a lot! From about 4AM until 6 or 7 they have a line of motos outside the front, many of which load up these gigantic baskets full of baguette for delivery to restaurants and other shops around the city. We often stop in and grab 3 or 4 to eat over the next few days.
And next to that is the construction site. They appear to be building a 8 or 10-story apartment building. It’s been really handy to have such a front-row seat and understand how construction is done in this part of the world. The big difference is that in the US, material is cheap and labor expensive. So in the US, we tend to design things that go together fast, even if it wastes a little material. Here (and in much of the world), the opposite is true, so material is expensive and labor is cheap. So they’ll tend to work hard to save a little steel or concrete.
We have a long street — I’m not even going to go into the music academy, the soup factory, the spa, the auto shop, or the other houses farther down. (Maybe a future blog post?). For now, let’s just say there’s a lot to explore!