I write regularly about my doings in
So to recap: after six years in
I’d been to quite a few places in
It’s also close enough to
I also made a commitment to the area by buying land: actually I have a 50 year, renewable lease; non-citizens cannot own land here. It’s a sweet little piece of
Buying land here is a bit of a gamble, but I’m hardly alone, lots of expats are doing it.
It wasn’t a whole lot of money so losing it through instability or other unknowable events wouldn’t be a big deal. I paid $14,000 for 3/4 of an acre, two miles from town. Ironically enough, I purchased at the same time was I counseling others to hold off buying property saying prices were going to go down. In the event, they have gone down. I’ve heard of people offering land at much lower prices (as well as some who are still clinging to the sky high prices of the past) but Kampot is an up-and-coming place. It’s
One thing that will certainly help to raise its value is the planned upgrading of my access road. It is now a dirt track, which gets very muddy in rainy season and, for my Camry, impassible. It’s 2 maybe 300 meters from the highway so I’ve been able to bring plants and tools there quite easily.
Once the road is done I can theoretically build a house there. My latest plan is for a modest 1 1/2 story octagonal house of about 60 square meters – 660 square feet – which would cost 8 to 10,000 dollars. Typical ceilings here are nearly four meters – 12 to 13 feet - so they leave lots of room for interesting mezzanine levels. Windows would be an inexpensive type but all the floors would be in ceramic tiles. That cost estimate also includes all wiring and plumbing – third world style, of course – and a full bathroom - and accompanying septic tank - with the wall tiled up to at least shoulder height.
Alternatively I could build a wooden shack for a couple grand, with another grand for a separate toilet. Problem is, I’m not ready to live there full time and anything less requires hiring a caretaker; if not, everything not firmly safeguarded will get ripped off. Not long after I put up a barbed wire fence one of the neighbors cut it to bring cows in to graze. Ripe fruit also disappears very fast. Having a caretaker also means building a shack for him.
In addition to neighbor problems is the simple idea of taking care of an ‘estate’. Maintaining property is a chore under the best circumstances. Here the task is made a might easier because of the very low wages one is able to pay for help but made much more difficult from the language barrier. I am in a very lazy lifestyle mode at present so I wonder if living out at the land is what I really want to do.
Every time I go I visualize great things that can happen there but I still have my doubts. From my rental house at the edge of Kampot everything is an easy bike ride; out there, I’d tend to use the car. Owning property ordinarily affords a lot more security but not if you suddenly become persona non grata. I think
The other great irony is that Kampot is at sea level and we all know what global warming does to sea levels. The land wouldn’t be directly affected, but with the town under water everything would change.
I have absolutely no interest in living in the states at this point (nor could I afford to if I wanted) and I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be than
I am, however, going to have to make a major lifestyle change before too long since my finances are not going to allow me to continue maintaining two residences without going back to work teaching. Problem is, there’s no work in Kampot so I’d be teaching in the capitol and visiting the small town only on weekends, holidays and term breaks.
I haven’t taught in two years and part of me would dread going back, but it isn’t that hard a job and I would manage. There are parts of it that I like. (I am however getting a little spacey lately; doing a crossword recently I spelled humid with a t and raging without the second g …)
The alternative would be to stay full-time in my green little heaven but be poor and only visit the big city on occasion. Also a painful prospect. I feel totally at ease there but would get bored silly, not to mention a little despondent, without my night-life friends.
Editing work is a possibility; I like it and I can do it from anywhere. However, I’ve tried several times to get steady work but haven’t had a lot of luck. Alternatively, Y3K may suddenly start to sell: small miracles do happen. It’s up in the air: I’ll keep you posted.
On a related note, I’ve got to mention two recent surveys done by the Economist Intelligence Unit, an arm of the Economist magazine. I’ve read the magazine occasionally and have a lot of respect for it. I also have some respect for these types of assessments in general, but their recent ratings of
Last March they published a survey of all the world’s countries for being at-risk for political instability in the wake of the financial crisis. I’m not sure how the dynamic would change if the qualifier of the financial crisis weren’t added. At any rate, a cursory few days on the ground in
On that March assessment
Contrast that with
More recently they came up with another survey, this time ranking cities for livability which put
Phnom Penh has no public transportation, but you can hop on a motorbike taxi and get just about anywhere in town in 15 minutes; just a little more in peak hour. Contrast that with
In spite of rising rents you can still get a comfortable apartment in the center of town for less than $200 per month, and ceilings are nearly always at least 10 feet – 3 meters – high which gives a spacious feeling and is ideal for the tropics. It’s a low rise, human scale city that feels comfortable to be in with a population that’s generally friendly and easy to get along with. It doesn’t have the cultural offerings of those bigger cities, but it’s definitely improving.
Health care is not so great; for anything serious you need to go to
There are many things the city lacks but it’s still one of the most livable cities in this part of the world and the Economist’s surveyors would have seen that very easily if they’d bothered to come. Problem is, how would they rate subjective responses?