Balcony life in Phnom Penh

What we say: 3.5 stars

For the average Phnom Penher, space is at a premium. Those fortunate enough to live in a villa get a garden, but for the rest of the city’s residents, a balcony is the only private outdoor space available. In true resourceful Khmer style, a balcony is a meeting point, dining room, laundry and window onto the world, all rolled into one. Walking around Phnom Penh, it’s easy to miss the life going on just above your head, but balconies are fascinating places.

Where's Juliet?

Where’s Juliet?

Despite the endless construction projects, Phnom Penh still has plenty of colonial buildings with upper decks that are straight out of the last century.



Ingenious designs mean that everyone gets a couple of metres to call their own.

Balcony bonanza.

Balcony bonanza.

Vann Molyvann, Cambodia’s greatest living architect, designed the White Building in Tonle Bassac for high-density housing. It was left unfinished in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. The building is now occupied by poor families who have made their own modifications, but they still appreciate the outdoor space.

Hanging out.

Hanging out.

And if you don’t have a balcony, a stairwell will do.

Hello down there!

Hello down there!

Balconies are free television — all the drama but without the adverts. No day is complete without some time spent watching the world pass beneath your feet…

…even if you do have to share space with the washing.

Watching the world go by.

Watching the world go by.

Monks are not immune to the lure of the balcony — monk accommodation at pagodas usually includes plenty of shady outdoor space.

Monk balcony

A monk. Saffron robe. Stunning architecture. Snap.

Although balconies are the perfect place to relax, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for unwanted visitors.

A bit of monkey business ...

A bit of monkey business …

Have we piqued your interest? Khmer Architecture Tours run regular explorations around Phnom Penh’s buildings. Or you could just settle into a cyclo and look up at the life of balconies above.

Last updated: 13th April, 2015

About the author:
Abigail has been stoned by villagers in India, become an honorary Kenyan tribeswoman, sweet talked border guards and had close encounters with black mambas. Her motto is: “Live to tell the tale.”
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