Thursday, April 24, 2014

giving birth in phnom penh

on february 1st at 15:55, lyra amaia was born in the capital of cambodia.

despite the opinion of many naysayers, we decided to go ahead and give birth in phnom penh. i understand there are not as many resources (incubators, blood transfusion facilities, etc) as, say, bangkok, but since i had a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and the baby was doing great, we decided to go ahead.

i have been wanting to write about my birthing experience here in cambodia, far from home, for a while, in the hope of providing others with more information. it took a long time for us to find and decide which doctor and clinic to go for and we would like to share our choices. many expats living here choose to fly back home or to a neighbouring country with better health practices. however, for some of us this is simply not financially feasible.

i gave birth in khema clinic, tuol kork. it is exceptionally clean and modern, with lovely rooms to labour in, including bath or shower, fridge and dining area. the delivery room is well equipped, including an incubator. it's one of the most expensive options in phnom penh - the package is around 2000$ for a natural birth and 2700$ for a c-section (more or less) but it includes 10 prenatal visits, blood tests, room for 3 days and epidural, 3 meals a day from the shop, etc. also, the clinic is small, so it feels very cozy. i was the only woman giving birth whilst there so i had the entire team to lean on. the night nurses and midwives were incredibly sweet and helpful, as was the rest of the staff. all in all, i could not have asked for a better experience.

my ob/gyn was dr. ty sovannaroth. she came recommended by several people on cpn and i cannot say enough good things about her. she is kind, attentive, open to suggestions (i.e. more natural choices) and happy to answer all the questions a first time expat mom had to ask. she studied in france, speaks both french and english fluently and was simply a fantastic doctor.

another doctor i highly recommend is dr. huot seng. we visited him for the ultrasounds. i believe he is also a gynecologist. he too studied in france and speaks excellent french (no english, although his assistant translates). he was the most thorough ultrasound technician we visited - out of three. the cost of ultrasounds at khema clinic is 50$ whereas dr. huot seng charges 15$.

regarding prenatal classes, we took them with krist'l, a dutch doula and midwife. she offers prenatal classes as well as prenatal yoga and massage, postnatal baby swimming and other classes. she played a huge role throughout my pregnancy by offering support and advice on natural labour (i ended up with a c-section but nevertheless). she has been working in phnom penh for many years and knows the who's who of the khmer birthing world. she recommended khema clinic to us and when we found out dr. ty practiced there, the decision was made.

contact information

dr. ty sovannaroth - request her at khema clinic. tel: (+855) 92 616 113. the clinic's website is dr. ty is not listed for some reason but does work there. the address is #18 St. 528 tuol kork.

dr. huot - tel: (+855) 12782210 the address is #113Eo St. 182 oressey II (near the olympic stadium).

krist'l - (+855) 12 341 730 and you can email her at krist'l also manages several facebook pages that could be useful to an expecting mom: pregnancy, birth and beyond and the mummy daddy club cambodia.

if you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to email me and ask! you can find me at

Sunday, July 28, 2013

khmer street art

going from living in a hut in a forest to an apartment in a rapidly growing capital city does leave me craving a bit of greenery and bird song.

luckily, on the narrow street that connects ours to norodom boulevard - a main artery running through phnom penh - an artist has taken it upon himself to bring nature alive on the concrete. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"i have always imagined that paradise...

... will be some sort of library" - jorge luis borges.

one of my earliest and favourite childhood memories is sitting on my little brother's bed, my mother between us, reading enid blyton and roald dahl.

from a tiny age we were both encouraged to read on our own and our house was crammed with bookshelves packed with wordy goodness. visiting family in the uk, we'd comb the local second-hand bookstores and bring back suitcases empty of clothes but full of literature. and marmite. and branston pickle.

packing up my home in barcelona was a nightmare - trying to choose which books to keep in storage, which to take with me and which to give away was tough. really tough.but luckily i've discovered another joy of travelling: hostel "libraries". as brandon chats to the owner of the guesthouse we've chosen to stay in, i'm on my knees in front of the pile of dusty books that invariably lies somewhere on a table, on the floor or higgly piggly on makeshift shelves.

after having to leave most of our books - books i'd hand picked over the course of weeks - on the kuala lumpur international airport floor due to luggage overweight, i am desperate to rebuild my library again. this weekend we are going to buy two bookcases and it's my dream to have them bulging at the sides with literary heroes, biographies and non-fiction within a month. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

phnom penh

the riverside

hi, pleased to meet you.

i hope we'll become close friends and you will slowly reveal your secrets to me.

i already love your juxtaposition of old and new world charm, your hundreds of little cafe's and restaurants from every single corner of the world.

i love that lucky's supermarket sells marmite and doritos.

i love that i get to drive everywhere side saddle on a motorbike.

i love that you kept the french legacy of the baguette.

i love the sheer abundance of culture everywhere; live music, documentaries, workshops and galleries. you are exploding with colour.

i love my bright, warm and breezy home in the tonle bassac neighbourhood.

i love the constant math in my head converting riel and dollars into rupees and euros.

i love how true it is that the khmer people do.not.stop.smiling. EVER.

i love that we chose to come here.

and i love snaps like these:

french colonial mansion.

royal palace.

national museum.

our street.



Friday, May 3, 2013

for this sacred land, it has seen many hands

so now come sit down will you talk with me now let me see through your eyes where there is so much light we are biding our time for these myths to unwind for these changes we will confront 

in the sweltering tamil heat i sit in an internet shoppee and type. sweating, perched on the edge of a too-low plastic seat, hoping my korean friend was right when she said drinking piping hot tea cooled the body down.
obsessively researching and falling in love with the unknown: the pearl of asia. phnom penh.

a year ago tuesday my plane touched down in chaotic, colourful and grimy mumbai. india was to become my home for the following 365 days. the lessons she has taught me could fill volumes and it will take many hours of staring into space, into a foreign sky, to fully absorb and integrate them all. 

and on this anniversary, my journey takes a twist, an unexpected turn further east. 

i pause, my mind whirling with the fans and xavier rudd, watching the gecko across the pale turquoise room and practice mindfulness. emotion wells deep within when i realize i will soon be in a departures lounge, leaving a country that has given me so much and which has taken so much from me in turn. 

like the mekong rising up to meet the capital of the khmer people, my future there is rushing towards me, sweeping me up in a tide of excitement and expectation. and soon, i will see through new eyes.

phnom penh, i'm coming. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

back home.

after landing in cyclonic conditions - something i never want a repeat of in a tiny propeller plane - and after a bumpy ride in a 4x4-taxi through flooded motorways and obstacle-ridden dirt tracks complete with fallen down trees, roots and debris, i am home.

i arrived at midnight to find my community huddled in one of our main huts, sharing beds, as the winds howled, rattling the bamboo and keet roof. exhausted, i threw myself down on a makeshift bed and passed out. after almost 24h in local buses, three-wheelers, jets and taxis, tiredness took over and i lapsed into sleep.

as the sun slowly penetrated the clouds and the soaking curtains, i opened my eyes and sighed; home.

smiles and hugs followed. anouk, dimitar, dorian, raj, allan... being surrounded by friends as they welcomed me back was heart-warming, i am so grateful for every single one.

i'm home.

our hut

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

cyclone nilam

as one half of the world huddles up for comfort and protection against the raging storm of hurricane sandy, the other half watches as cyclone neelam fast approaches the indian continent, sweeping through sri lanka on its way to tamil nadu and andhra pradesh.

both hitting at the same time, bearing gifts of floods, destructive winds and fear.

since my flight back home to chennai is crossing the bay of bengal at the exact same time as cyclone nilam, i wonder if my spicejet flight will make it.

my thoughts and love go out to all who are at the mercy of the hurricane and the cyclone this week, wherever in the world you may be.

for more information, i visit india today.