The Sounds of Cambodia: Not Quite Music to the Ears

Cambodia is full of sounds. All day and all night there is something happening in this country that rises early and stays up late.
the chaotic traffic in one of the cities in Cambodia

People often wonder what it’s like moving to an exotic destination like Cambodia, without really having to make the move themselves. The number of would-be expats is much higher than the number of actual expats. Most people just live the dream in their minds but can’t commit in real life. They won’t take the leap.

Maybe it’s fear holding them back? Or something more delicate, like finances. It could be because of family, friends, or any number of things that keep a person on the well-trod road. The point is, many people love articles that give them a feeling of what it’s like living in another country without actually having to do it themselves.

Most writers and international living publications would lead you to believe that living abroad is all rainbows and puppy dogs and Mai Tai’s on a beach; that life is beautiful as an expat and you’ll never think twice about your decision. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. While I love my life here in Cambodia, there are often things that make me wonder why I would have ever wanted to leave the relative ease and convenience of the United States.

Today, the particular thing causing me to wonder this is none other than noise. More specifically, the shrieking that jolted me awake at 6:45 am.


Cambodia in the Morning

The local kids are playing in the paved area in front of my apartment building; they have started decidedly earlier than the usual 8:00 am this morning. Why did I have to move into the only building in the area with a large, flat paved area? Surely, I should have realized it would turn into the neighborhood playground.

Due to the aforementioned shrieking, I start my day early. After a quick shower, I grab my laptop and it’s off to the local French bakery to have a cappuccino and start my work. While you might think the local bakery is a peaceful and relaxing place to work, it’s anything but. They have been working on the buildings across the street for the last 10 months. Anytime they aren’t sawing and hacking, an altogether different pounding and banging can be heard from whatever is going on around the corner.

Why go work there? You might ask.

My answer? Because it’s all the same.

Any city you go to in Cambodia is constantly under construction. I do live near a beautiful beach, and I could try to work from there, but I know from experience that I would be disturbed by the touts trying to sell me boat tickets, bracelets, or day trips. I still look like a tourist to them.

Besides, after living in Cambodia for a year, I barely notice the banging and the food is better at the downtown cafés.


The Afternoon Sounds of Cambodia

Throughout the rest of the day, the air around me is filled with the sounds of motos and cars zooming by. Horns are honked at regular intervals and there is a constant shouting of tuk tuk or moto drivers vying for customers.

Other days are filled with the sounds of the three-day long weddings that are so common here in Cambodia. Weddings start around 9 am and go until the evening time. I’ve come to expect lots of overly loud chanting and blaring music from these frequent celebratory occasions.

In the evening time, I sit on the balcony enjoying a drink as the sun sets and I take pleasure in listening to my Cambodian neighbors laugh and joke. They are enjoying themselves while listening to traditional Khmer music, a particular delight of mine.


Ending my Day in Cambodia

As I end my day and lay my head down to rest for the night, I hear the sounds of the bar next door as they watch sports late into the night. It’s the World Cup and the games will be played and broadcast until at least 1 am. I guess they feel the whole neighborhood should be up watching these games with them, as they are blaring the volume loud enough to wake the dead.

I used to live in a quieter neighborhood just a few minutes out of town, but as the surrounding houses filled up, along came the noise. Cambodia is full of sounds. All day and all night there is something happening. This is a country that rises early and stays up late.

Startled awake at 2 am by the sounds of a dog fight in the streets, I begin to wonder all over again.


Author’s Favorite Travel Gear



Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask and Earplugs: As much as I’ve gotten used to the sounds of Cambodia, I still require a good night’s sleep. This sleep combo helps me block out the noise …for a few hours, at least. It’s also a great little kit for travel, especially on a red-eye.

Bullfrog Sunscreen with Mosquito Repellant: You’re definitely going to want sunscreen in Cambodia, and you’re definitely going to want mosquito repellant (they can be a bit of a pain). This 2-in-1 gives me all the protection I need, and one less thing to pack.

Laptop Backpack with USB Charging Port: As an expat who works remotely, my laptop goes pretty much everywhere with me. I really like this backpack as it not only includes a theft-proof lock system, but I can also charge my phone on the go, with its built in USB charging port.

Brett Dvoretz

A long time traveler and recent expat, Brett wandered through over 25 countries before he decided to settle in the little beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. After struggling through the process of setting up a new life abroad, he decided to start Expats and Aliens to help other expats find the info they need before making the leap.

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