Most people think of the Khmer Rouge when they think of Cambodia. Either that or they see it as a poor country run by a dictator. That’s not the Cambodia I know. Life in Cambodia has been good to me. I can’t imagine going back to Australia, where I would eke out a fairly unhappy life alone and unable to afford the small luxuries I have in Cambodia.
My life in Cambodia
The impetus for this post came after I wrote about my 7 top things about living in Sihanoukville for a magazine. The top one was how inexpensive it is here. I can go out for coffee and a pastry every day and go out for dinner most nights. The total cost is around US$6.00 for both. I also have a motorbike to get around on here. It costs me $6.00 a week at most and repairs are inexpensive, too. If I lived in Australia, I’d have to rely on public transportation, which would cost me around $6.00 every time I used it.
As a freelance writer, sometimes I make a little money each week and sometimes I make a lot. It’s always a dice roll, but I needn’t panic because even when I make less, I still get by. Sometimes I skip the pastry with my cappuccino, but that’s okay. I don’t really need it anyway.
Since I lost the cartilage in my right knee, swimming has become my main source of exercise. I’m lucky to live here because the water is always warm and I have a number of beaches to choose from. During the rainy season (May-October), I go to one beach that is sheltered from the prevailing winds at that time of year. During the dry season (November-April), I go to another beach that usually has calm water in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Both beaches have headlands I swim around. I love that because I can look at the rocks under the water while I swim and enjoy the greenery when I stop for breaks.
When I contemplate moving back to Australia, I realize how lucky I am to have found Sihanoukville. I have everything I want here and can afford to live here comfortably. In Australia, everything is expensive and I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a house. While I don’t actually own my house here, I’ve lived in it for 10 years and may stay longer, though we’re thinking of selling and moving some place quieter. The city has grown around us and there seem to be as many cars as motorbikes on the roads now. When I moved here, cars were a rare sight and the roads were empty most of the time.
Life isn’t always exciting here, but it’s always pleasant. I have just enough work to get by on and plenty of free time to enjoy swimming or just riding my motorbike. Life wouldn’t be exciting in Australia, either, but I wouldn’t be able to do anything because I couldn’t afford to do anything.
The Khmer Rouge era is long behind and Cambodians are largely happy people who don’t take life too seriously. As I look out my office window, I see a group of people playing cards. A lot of people kill time that way here. They play with small money, so no one goes home broke. I just need to do one thing: learn how to take life a day at a time like Cambodians do. That’s not easy for a westerner, but I’m learning from life in Cambodia.