Not so long ago, Toul Kork was an undeveloped outlying suburb, with little to no appeal to expats. However, in line with the capital’s rapid development, times have quickly changed and Toul Kork has become a desirable location among affluent Khmers and expat families. Set slightly further away from the city centre – a factor that puts off most younger expats about the location – Toul Kork is roughly a 20- to 30-minute tuk tuk drive from the centre, depending on traffic.
Despite development picking up pace, with condos, office blocks, restaurants, clinics and private schools mushrooming, the area remains leafy, with wide boulevards housing a collection of pristine villas, which are much easier to find here than anywhere else in the city. The opening of TK Avenue – a small shopping mall with a multiplex cinema, supermarket and other entertainment options – made Toul Kork a much more attractive place to live.
Traditionally the expat quarter, a few decades ago BKK1 – or Boeung Keng Kang – was an upmarket leafy area that housed many of the country’s NGO headquarters. This also led to many expat families setting up their lives here, with BKK1 then home to many spacious villas. However, the capital’s rapid development has led to fast changes in this area of Phnom Penh. The majority of the villas have been torn down to pave the way for the towering modern condos that dominate the area today. Flashy hotels, international coffee shops and fast food joints and restaurants and bars are cropping up almost daily, and many expats argue the area has lost much of its charm.
Despite this, it remains popular with expats who tend to have a bit more cash to splash, or those seeking the comforts of the West. Many families still choose to set up shop or stay here because of its central location, convenience and proximity to all the amenities a family might need.
BKK’s development has led to spiraling rents and land prices, with many expats opting to move elsewhere. This has led to the rise of other areas, with neighboring Tonle Bassac benefitting. Again, development is never far away but Tonle Bassac is still home to a dwindling number of larger properties and villas that are perfect for families. It is also home to a large collection of restaurants, coffee shops, markets, shops, hotels and activities geared towards family life. Many local landlords have also created low apartment blocks that house well-converted flats that are up to Western standards.
While visiting families wouldn’t want to stay here because it’s way out of town, being almost at the airport, this area is becoming increasingly popular with expat families with kids at some of the capital’s top international schools. While Road 2004 has been home for one of the country’s best schools, Northbridge, for many years, the country’s growing number of top notch international schools have set up shop there. This has led to developers snapping up swathes of land to create mini villages and condo blocks to cater to the swelling crowd of families flocking there to be close to school.