11 years in Cambodia

I rarely write personal posts, but will make an exception this time since yesterday was the day I came to stay and marks 11 years in Cambodia. I thought I was going to stay just a few years, but things turned out differently and I’m still quite happy here. I happened to have arrived on the day after my birthday and Sopheak threw a party for me at the hotel where we were staying. Last year I was going to have a party, too, but ended up going to Sonya Kill Memorial Hospital in Kampot to have my appendix taken out. I made up for it this year with a lovely party on the beach.

Cambodian guests at my beach birthday party

It was my 70th birthday, so I came here the day after my 59th birthday. I was a lot fitter then, but had to spend a few years adapting to life in Cambodia. It seems normal now and I can’t imagine moving back to Australia. I have a family here and a good life. In Australia every day would be a struggle because it is so expensive there. Here I spend about US$3.00 to $6.00 a week on petrol for my motorbike and my dinners cost around $3.00 or if I go to a fancy restaurant, they might cost up to $6.00. In Australia, I would probably have to take public transportation and that would cost more than my weekly petrol budget for just one trip.

The one thing I’m a little disappointed by here is the growth of Sihanoukville. Apartments, high rises and casinos are springing up everywhere: mostly Chinese investments. It wasn’t that way just a couple of years ago, but the growth is phenomenal now. That’s why we’re moving to a more rural location on the fringes of Klang Leu. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the road that takes us to our land and another 10 or 15 minutes to get to the land on a fairly decent dirt road. The land overlooks a lake and you can only see green hills in the distance.

Sunset at my beach birthday party

I guess I’m looking back on 11 years in Cambodia. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been enjoyable. That may seem like a paradoxical statement, but it’s true. We’ve had our hiccoughs, but we’ve always pulled through and life doesn’t always go smoothly anywhere you live. That’s true whether you’re rich or poor. I know, everyone in the west thinks being rich will solve all your problems, but I’ve seen too many photos of rich men who look unhappy to believe that. In my opinion, happiness is a state of mind, not a matter of wealth versus poverty. I’ve seen well-off retirees here who always look miserable. I’m still working, but I like my work as a freelance writer and it gives me something to do.

A rare selfie with kids at my birthday party

Anyway, I don’t plan on leaving here any time soon. It will take some adapting to on our new land, but I’ve lived in rural areas before and liked it. I was young then and got bored and moved to San Francisco and then Australia, where I rediscovered surfing. When things were good in Australia our little beach town was like heaven to me. At my age, I’d have trouble finding a job in Australia and the pension they offer would barely cover my basic expenses. Here my income allows me to do almost anything I want. I’m happy here and don’t intend to go anywhere else. Now that I’m older, I’m fairly content doing whatever comes up or doing nothing at all. Turning 70 has its perks.

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About Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider is a writer based in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he has lived since 2006.

12 Responses to 11 years in Cambodia

  1. Nicholas says:

    Any update on the visa situation, yet? I.e. how to renew for a year if you’re a freelance writer?

    Hope all is well!

    Also, I remember you said something about the school in Sihanoukville being less than $100 for the kids. Can you point me in the right direction to speak with that school? I can only find the French school online and it seems a bit more expensive.


    • Unfortunately, the price is higher now. I pay around $800 a year for two children. That’s not bad compared to a school nearby that charges $1000 per student. Public schools are less expensive and a friend of mine is happy with the school his daughter goes to.

  2. Rodney says:

    I am trying out an online business that’s very suitable for us older mature ages. Let you know how it goes.
    Happy NewYear 2018!

  3. Rodney says:

    Yes. Lots of Pension Rules changes. Lots of people got Invalid Pensions and living outside Australia so they stopped that, can only go out for 3 weeks. Pension age has been raised depending on your birth date. Current pay is $738 every 2 weeks. But, the draconian rule brought in 2016 is that expats had to be back in Oz a year before their pension age birthday. Every month less than a year back before pension age reduced their pension. I’m on the dole, as I said, and I got a tiny bit less than the pension as I get a high amount of rent assistance. If people are ok about the rules it’s a good deal. But they could come with more rules/restrictions and likely will and eventually cut it out, altogether. So it was good lurk while it lasted. You are better off without it if you can be. You are independent so that’s the best. Well done! Hope to be so myself, this year. Happy New Year!

  4. Michel Lavergne says:

    Joyeux Anniversaire Rob and wishing you a pleasant and happy new year.
    Bien a vous,

  5. Peter BURKE says:

    Hi Rob

    Happy Birthday to you too.

    I really enjoy reading your blogs so keep up the good work

    Yes Sihanoukville is changing fast but that was always inevitable looking at how beautiful its beaches and people are and it’s proximity to China and other parts of Asia.

    On the good side you can see the jobs being created and the economic growth of its people.

    While growth per se is not always positive sometimes we see this through western eyes and perhaps the best judges are the khmers themselves.

    Poverty is not idillic either.

    Enjoy the move when it happens.

  6. Barry Gallant says:

    A happy belated birthday! I am glad you had a good tme. It is also nice to hear from someone who is content with life. All the best living in your new spot. Will you build a house or is there one there already? I helped a family build one outside PP a few years ago. It was an experience!

    Take care.


  7. Rodney says:

    I live in Australia. I’m 63 and I can save money on the dole so it’s pretty good. I have car too. The pension is twice the dole so you can live quite comfortably on that. You can go live in Cambodia on the Australian pension too.
    I was in Cambodia for 3 months in 2009. I left because I couldn’t get a decent job, but I still miss it. I have friend here who holidays there every years 2 to 3 times and his stories make me very envious.
    What I liked the most about Cambodia is the honesty of the people, and country people so friendly too. I used to go to Snooky often and found I only had to get out of town 5 to 10km and met honest and friendly people every where. I lived in China for 10 years and found the same as Cambodian country people, but Chinese, out of China are different. Plus it’s almost impossible to live there as an expat as you do in Cambodia.

    Hope to see you there when I get the Aussie Pension and can get it overseas. The rule now is that you have to stay in Australia for 2 years, after the pension commences, to get it overseas. Then you can get it anywhere.

    Congrats on your birthday and move out into the further country areas. I live on the side of a mountain on a community out in South Queensland near the ocean area. Currently the loudest noise is the annual Cicada breeding. Usually it’s birds that are noisy by day and possums at night. There’s nothing here like the social life you have there, but it’s, fpr Australia, a superb nature location.

    • I didn’t know that about the pension. I thought you could only stay out of Australia for 3 months. I migrated to Australia in 1985 from the US. I looked up the pension I could get and it wasn’t very much. Anyway, I’m comfortable here and don’t want to wait two years to come back. I’d worry too much about the kids. Of course, things can change and then I might consider returning.

  8. Doug Bowen says:

    For your birthday I wish you good luck, good health, much happiness and much wealth.

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