Thursday 26 December 2019

New decade. New life.


Christmas night. Battambang. 32 deg celsius. A vindaloo settling - aye, there's an Indian here! Sat in my new apartment mulling over the last 3 months of retirement. Feels like a lot has happened since quitting the last spirit-crushing-teaching-job in Chiang Mai. I had $4,300 in a Thai bank on PDR (pay-day-runner) day. I now have $2,500 in a Cambodian bank. So $1,800 spent. Or $600/month. However, much of that was on unavoidable expenses. Let's take a look:

Visa/Flight stuff ($510):
$60: Thai visa extension (1 month)
$120: CNX to PNH flights
$330: Cambodian visa (13 months)

Rooms ($430):
Chiang Mai (October) - paid in September while working.
Bangkok (3 nights) - friend covered it via an online offer.
$80: Phnom Penh Guesthouse (12 nights)
$210: Battambang Guesthouse (38 nights)
$140: Battambang Apartment (7 nights and deposit)

Misc ($160):
$70: Bicycle
$30: webcam/mic
$60: Bank fees

Total above: $1,100
Total discretionary: $700

$700 in three months. Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Battambang. Food, haircuts, gyms, bus tickets, coffee, toiletries etc. That's under $8/day. Going forward I'll have a budget of $550/month. Accommodation (incl utilities) is $130. Leaves $420. Or $14/day. Almost double what I've been doing. Piece of piss.

Admittedly, I've been budgeting carefully. Spent $0 on alcohol, cigarettes, motorbikes, petrol or women. If I can supplement the $550 with some part-time income (online?) .... I'm laughing. Although there's no need to bother with that at all. I'm very happy to while away the time learning Khmer, working out in gyms and chatting in cafes. I'm left wanting for nowt.

I set a target of making the $4,300 last 8 months. This means I wouldn't need to sell any stock and can continue reinvesting dividends until June. Looks like I'm on track. It's all good.


The new apartment is mint. Has a little bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge. I've been staying in bed-n-bog rooms since 2006 so this is a shock. Feels massive. The lounge is like an aircraft hanger. Best place I've stayed in SEA.

Behind the Royal Palace.


There's a KaoGeng place (pots and pans style) near my room where they speak Thai - so I've been going there a lot as they've helped dampen the culture shock. Luckily, for me, there are a few Khmer here who've worked in Thailand.

For $1 you get pork/veg on rice with a freshly squeezed glass of sugar cane juice.

I get to chat with this fella who speaks Khmer, Vietnamese, Thai and even a smidgen of Mandarin. His Thai's better than mine. He rarely smiles.

However, this is my favourite place. The 3km cycle is worth it for the $2 Chicken Caeser Salad.

You can see my blue bicycle parked to the right. Love riding it. Love the basket.

The $0.50 mugs of Khmer coffee go down a treat, though Welsh Dave prefers the $0.50 beer.

He was the first Barang I met here - I find him fascinating:

Degree in mathematics from Cambridge University? Check.
Fluent in Khmer? Check.
Occupation? Teaching 9hrs/week in a shit school for $7/hr.

To put that in perspective, the national minimum wage in the UK is $10.60/hr. Therefore, a semi-retarded teenager on the checkouts at Asda earns a whopping 50% more than Oxbridge Graduate Welsh Dave. The best thing about it is he DGAF.

I really enjoy hanging out with him - we discuss all manner of topics from general expat shit to nuanced mathematical/scientific concepts. Mostly we enjoy dissecting the Thai and Khmer languages - my Thai ability is broadly equivalent to his Khmer. He's helping me with the alphabet.


កាកិកីកឹកឺ ខាខិខីខឹខឺ តាតិតីតឹតឺ ចាចិចីចឹចឺ ឆាឆិឆីឆឹឆឺ

That's as far as I've gotten with reading and writing. 5 consonants (there are 33) and 5 vowels (there are 35). Enjoying it but dragging me feet. Although there are similarities between the Khmer and Thai alphabets I think most would agree Khmer is more difficult. It has complex consonant clusters (that Thai doesn't) and more vowels that change sound depending on which class of consonant they follow.


Any advantages? Well, it's not tonal.

Exploring the possibility of a few hours of maths tuition. Met some people.

Trouble is I can't be arsed.

Battambang Bliss

So what's it like here? In a word: Great. I'm glad I came. Waking up late. Sipping coffees. Out on the bike for breakfast. Maybe go to the gym. Sit with Dave as he sinks beers at the scenic Riverside Bar. Cycle to evening eats. It's all good.

I've met a few canny expats. There's a smattering of tourists given that we're currently in high season, but not too many. They'll be gone in a month or two. It's a very chilled, laid back town. Big enough to have everything but small enough to be charming. No traffic jams. The locals are warm and friendly. Very happy to be here.


A mixed year looking back. Worked in Hat Yai for 6 months. Quit. Visited Geordieland after 14 years away. Rode the CBR500 from Hat Yai to Chiang Mai. Chilled for a month. Taught for two months. Quit. Retired. Chilled for a month. Moved to Battambang. Chilled for two months.

A personal goal was to go through 2019 dry. Teetotal for a whole year. I managed it and feel fantastic. Very proud of myself. Feel healthy. The grey matter feels sharp. It's all good.

Looking ahead to 2020 and the next decade ..... I'd like to stay here. Seems like I've found a little bit of paradise.


  1. Always a pleasure to read your updates! Good on you for staying dry in the land of 50cent beers. You look good/healthy.

    Great that you were able to find a way to retire so soon after what happened! Look forward to more updates!

  2. HNY Ol Fella.. Glad to hear ya doing well.....