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Same same but different

By: Ali Jones Posted: November-12-2009 in
Cheeeeese - the one on the right there was a triple cream brie they were selling at my local farmer's market in Sydney. I wasn't
Ali Jones

I promised before I'd write a few notes on my thoughts about the differences between Australia and Cambodia...the kinds of small things that only really hit you when you've just gone from one to the other, the things you take for granted, that kind of stuff.

Well, I've kind of been too busy doing catch ups to really do justice to this topic, but for what its worth, here a few things off the top of my head that have come to mind... (please bear in mind the point score is tongue-in-cheek...I love both places...promise!)

Fruit: Sydney's bananas are bigger but have wayyyy less taste than Cambodian ones. Plus in cambodia you can get about 10 different types of banana starting for around 50 cents a bunch. I'll grant you that Australian mangoes are probably bigger and tastier (but much more expensive). I also saw a mangosteen for $2.50 at a fancy grocer in Surry Hills. I pay around 75 cents for a kilo of the same in Phnom Penh.
Point score: Cambodia +1, Australia - 0

Traffic: Its definitely nice to have an element of predictability and order, and the general sense of safety that comes with it (Australia +1), but it kind of sucks having to wait at red lights all the time in Australia. Sneaking a cheeky right hand turn, or just plain crossing a major intersection against the lights has become one of my naughtier-but-perfectly-acceptable-by-local-standards habits in Phnom Penh
Cambodia +1 point.

Coffee: I know you can get good stuff in some of the cafes of PP, but the general standard, and ability to order whatever milk/size/variety you want in Australia wins hands down. In fact, from my travels in Europe and South America (purported home of the coffee bean) I have to say, Sydney coffee still wins in my book.
Australia +1 point.

Transport: Sure, its nice to have a train, but I miss my $3 tuk tuk ride home at night and the door to door service of motodops in Phnom Penh. I've also been missing living in a place that's small enough to ride my bike to most places.
Cambodia +1 point.

Water: One obvious point to Australia for having drinkable tap water. They say the tap water in PP is drinkable, if you like the strong taste of chlorine. I don't know if I believe them though, maybe it is clean when it leaves the plant, but who's vouching for the condition of the pipes it goes through before it reaches your lips...(Australia +1 point). Australia does, however, suffer from drought, which means water usage restrictions (Cambodia +1 point). It is nice to have good water pressure on the hot tap in the shower, and actually, just to have a hot tap at all in the kitchen here in Aus (Australia +1 point).

Eating out: Sydney does have an amazing range of food available, but gees its expensive! I'll never complain about having to shell out $6 for a wood-fired pizza in Phnom Penh again, or the $11 all you can eat sushi. I know you really have to factor in the difference in Sydney wages vs Cambodian volunteer allowance, but still, these things are a relatively affordable 'treat' once in a while in Phnom Penh, and amazingly you can pretty much find any cuisine you want if you look hard enough. Plus, you can eat good food at the market for around $1 if you want to scrimp.
Cambodia +1 point.

Wine & Cheese: Considering the Cambodians call Prahok (fermented fish paste) 'Cambodian cheese', and more often drink rice wine than NZ Sav Blanc, there isn't really a contest for me here...Maybe its not really a fair one, but still....
Australia +1 point. But really, who needs wine when you can get a $3 cocktail in most bars in Phnom Penh...similar will cost upwards of $14 in Sydney
Cambodia +1 point

Parks: One of the nicest things about being home that I hadn't really thought about before arriving was simply the nice array of outdoor spaces Sydney has. I was particularly impressed with an old industrial area in Balmain that I visited with dad that had been converted into gorgeous parklands on the harbour complete with environmentally friendly facilities and modern sculpture. PP does have a couple of (very well used) public parks, but you're still not allowed to actually go on the grass. Plus, I think it will be a long time before you'll find a council opting to turn valuable land into a park in Phnom Penh - that's one of the more unfortunate aspects of 'development' - that every available space must be earmarked for something big, brash and 'modern'....
Australia +1.

The list could go on, but really, being home has just reminded me that there are things I love about both places. I love the freedom and spontaneity of Phnom Penh, the sense that anything and everything is possible there (both good and bad), but its hard to compete with the natural beauty of Sydney's harbour setting and all its comforts, at least for a holiday (when you're not slaving away and selling your soul to the corporation to earn enough to enjoy the place). Plus, you can't really put a value on family and friends (and pets), can you?

More of Ali's tales can be found on her blog - ali in asia


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