Wednesday, June 8, 2011


When I inked that paper, in early October last year, the current tenant still had two weeks in which to move out.

I had met her husband, an American journalist, in the bar late a few evenings when he was looking after shop on his own. He was a personable enough man and had been willing to stay open late once or twice to humour myself and some friends.

The place had been closed for some time before I took a contract so, when I saw it open a few days after I went inside and saw Mr S (as I shall call him) I called him over and explained that I would be taking over the premises and was possibly interested in purchasing the bar stools and tables when they were finished with them. He gave me his wife's telephone number and said she would probably like to talk about that.

I called her the next day and met her at the bar, where some younger family members of hers were staying, and I struck a deal with her for close on twenty chairs and a number of tables. If I recall we settled on $275 – and I also bought a classic Honda cub her little brother had for $250.

I buggered off for what I knew would be my last jaunt around the country for a few months as, when I returned, I had to re-furbish this hole and make it my hole.

I left during Pchum Ben and went to Mondulkiri and through the jungle to Rattankiri on what turned out to be the wettest day of the year – but that's a whole other story in it's own right.

I returned on the 20th and the next day I phoned Mrs S and went down the bar to pay her for the furniture. I met her, made small talk and then we turned to the business of paying for the furniture. . .

So – “Where are the rest of the chairs?” - I asked as I could only see nine.

“Oh, my sister asked me for them so I sold them”

“I see, but we had a deal for all the furniture”

“Yes, but my sister wanted them”

“Can you get them back, as I want matching furniture”

“No, but I will give you a better price”

“Look, you need to get them back or I will go and buy all new”

“You better buy new furniture then”

I left, cursing under my breath.

When I took the keys two days later and came back to begin decorating I discovered that the building had been stripped of all lights, wiring and fuse-boards.

Charming. I wonder if it were her or her little brother?
A hole-in the-wall speaks.


My name is Q and I own a hole in the wall type establishment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It's a very small premises which measures roughly 5m x 15m and I sell the usual fare of beers, top shelf whiskys and some food.

This location was not my first choice – I had shook hands with an Australian man in Battambong to take over a wonderful, fully decorated, bar and cafe named “Pulp” - it also came with a massive kitchen, a music library and a book selection and two full apartments above for only $400 p/m.

Of course it had to be too good to be true for jut 4K – and , sure enough, when I traveled down there again to meet the lease-holder's landlord and change the business over to me they began playing silly bastards and wanted to jack up the rent, keep the guy's deposit, have me pay a double deposit and take time off the contract.

When all of this began to unravel, I decided I didn't want any part of a contract with these people and walked away. The lease-holder (Nick, I believe) told me later that they wound up just signing it over, lock, stock and barrel to some NGO or another. In retrospect, I should have just given them $2k and taken all that kitchen equipment, sound systems, furniture, books etc. . .

After that I resolved not to rush into anything and came back to Phnom Penh and checked into a guesthouse on St 172 run by a Swedish man. I planned on staying a week but – after I managed to stab myself in the instep with a broken bathroom sink- stayed closer to a month.

After that I moved to the opposite bank of the Tonle Sap where I had a wonderful home over the water – and for a time I entertained the notion of opening up over there with chairs and tables under parasols on my large deck area outdoors and food and cocktails indoors and a projector in the space beneath the house for movie and sport viewing. However, I ultimately felt that distance from the main drags of the city would outweigh the undisputed novelty and attraction of such a venue. So that remained just my home.

A ton of people were offloading lakeside places at the time and I entertained the notion of one or two places there for a VERY short time before dismissing them as hopeless.

There had been a small cafe/bar on St 172 up for sale for over five months for under $4k – but when I called I was told the lease was finished in two months. That made it easy for me as all I had to do then was wait those two months and contact the landlady directly to make a new contract and score the premises for my signature and a small deposit.

Things were on the move. . .