I arrived in Phnom Penh on 17th September and was booked into the hotel, I wrote about earlier, (pictured below) for two weeks. First I had to get a working phone, which took longer than it should, then I talked with people at work and got contact details for a couple of estate agents they had dealt with when finding where they lived. I phoned them and only one replied and I arranged to meet him in the lobby of my hotel at 14:00 on Saturday 26th September, little more than a week after arriving,
I had been warned by people I had talked to about finding somewhere to live. Be careful if somewhere there is building going on as there could be building work with concomitant noise all day, not too good on days not working, or where you don’t start until later in the day and want to sleep in. I was also advised to check the place out at night as there might be a club or some other source of noise which you would not recognise as such in the daytime. All sensible advice. However, I was not to get to have to put it into practice that day as my Mr Big of the Phnom Penh based realtor community texted me “Can we meet tomorrow instead? Coz i have to finish my housework first. Sorry” Not being a man to keep a man from his housework I arranged to meet the next day and included details of some properties I fancied seeing from the website in the text.
My requirements were somewhere between where I had been staying in the hotel and my workplace to the north of it. Anyway, his housework must have been finished the next morning, so we met, he hired a moto* from the hotel and we headed off south. I expected the old estate agent trick of the ones he wanted to rent me bookmarked by two totally wrong places. I was not wrong about the first place we went. First floor on a main through road in a place which had not been modernised since the 1970’s. I was also shown a studio flat in the same block that was not facing the road but, whilst around the amount I want to pay, I did not want a studio in a flashback to the seventies. Back onto the moto and it seemed quite a long journey to the next flat. (Although I now know it was just around the corner, did we follow a straightforward route between them?)
We parked the moto on the front of the property and the landlord was there (an extra episode of calling a few times before getting through to check he was there from the first place, but is not worth retelling in any detail.) and he went through his place to open a door at the side we accessed by going down an alley. Up 10 flights of stairs of varying sizes, including some challengingly large ones. There seems to be a competition to see who can be more artistic with the variation in size of steps. At work it is more subtle with the odd larger or smaller on thrown in just to trip you up. A colleague tripped up in her flat because of the size of the steps in her apartment.
We went in and there was a quite sparely furnished room (pictured above) with a white sheeted bed, an empty brown table, a grey fridge and dark brown wardrobe in a space with a light cream tiled floor, white walls and ceiling with silver blue curtains. It might be my version of the room pictured on the reverse of Leonard Cohen’s second album.(A more recent picture of which is left) I was sold. My room at the top~, a roof top garret. The artistry which would follow was guaranteed by the room.
But even better, out through the white metal and glass door, was a seating and cooking area without walls under the roof. (pictured right) I would go from living in a dark long corridor with rooms off in Strasbourg to a tiled floored outdoor room in the sunshine. That was me sold. Obviously I did not let on that I had fallen in love with the place to the chap showing me round and we went onto the next place.
This was even further south and a journey to get to work every day, it was also on the ground floor so the doors and windows were barred. They could be opened but it was a very dark studio room. After the symphony in light this seemed like a funeral dirge. I think he was getting worried about not getting any commission from me as he worked much harder at selling this one to me. We left and were heading to another closer to where I worked but I just told him to go back to the hotel. He was distraught at first thinking he had lost the possibility of his commission. But then was really made up when I told him that I would take the middle one. We went back to the hotel and I paid a deposit and arranged to sign the contract on Thursday, 1st October, and move most of my things in then.
I’ve been in almost two months and have no regrets. I heard once more from the chap, “Hi value customer, how are you? How about your transportation? Have bike/bicycle yet? Mr BXXX”
*Moto – a generic reference to any tow wheeled vehicle whether a scooter, moped or motor-bike.
~Room at the Top. A book then film from the 1950’s. The new WordPress seems to not let me put it up as I did but here is a link to it.