The Sharpie Shack

October 1, 2013

I have a friend here in Phnom Penh who is known as Dom the Legend. This is because he is, in actual fact, a complete, total and utter legend. He runs a school for gifted children, and spends most of his spare time running the awesome charity CamKids. I could go on and on about his legend status, but don’t want to embarrass him if he should ever read this.

A few months ago, Dom had an idea. He had discovered, in the commune of Preaek Thmei, near his school, an old floating shack. The shack was dilapidated, and listing badly. Many of the floorboards were rotting, the roof was rusting away, it had no power and it was filthy. So Dom, obviously, decided to buy it.

Fast forward a few months, and Dom is now the owner of the shack. I don’t know what he paid for it, but it can’t have been very much. You reach it down a long, partially flooded muddy passageway, and a bit of a scramble through ankle-deep river. There is no furniture of any description. But Dom has strengthened the metal frame, replaced many of the floorboards and put new flotation barrels in. And it is a truly sensational place.

After driving for half an hour south of Phnom Penh, you park in a local family’s mud-floored compound, and buy beer and ice from the family. Then you make your way on board the shack and sit and watch the turbid brown waters of the Bassac river flow quietly past, revelling in the cool breezes, and just be.

We went out on Sunday afternoon and drank beer and ate cheese and crackers and watched the glorious sunset while playing quiz games. It was simple and unglamorous, and entirely wonderful. The only downside was that Blossom couldn’t be there, being in Bali instead. But otherwise the afternoon was close to being perfect.

Some people don’t get the shack, and think it’s an act of ostentatious madness. But others do, and are queuing up to buy plastic chairs and cans of paint, beanbags and solar lights. They get it. And so does Dom. Because he’s a legend.

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