Cambodia, the land of duel currencies, French colonial architecture, good bread and road rules that seem to stop at 'smaller vehicles give way to larger vehicles'. Street food is ubiquitous and you can't walk more than a minute without being beeped by a tuktuk driver.
Phnom Penh was only planned as a one-night stopover after getting off the plane. I visited the city 11 years ago (you can read about it here), so I didn't plan on doing anything touristy this time. After arriving at the guesthouse late afternoon, I dumped my bags and hit the streets.
I didn't have the fondest memories of my previous trip to Phnom Penh (perhaps because I went to the horrific museums and monuments covering the atrocities that occurred in Cambodia, which would leave anyone feeling depressed), so my expectations weren't high. However, I was pleasantly surprised this time round. As I explored the quieter side streets, gazing around at the fusion of building styles, I felt a certain charm exuding the city . It wasn’t overwhelming like many Southeast Asian cities, but there was a buzz in the air as the locals went about their daily lives. I now wish I had dedicated more time here.
One of my favourite Thai street food snacks are chive cakes, or chive dumplings, and I was excited to find gigantic versions of them being cooked fresh at the first food cart I stopped at. Not having any idea how much they cost, I thrust a bunch of riel at the woman. She smiled and took the required payment, possibly with a tip for herself. I didn’t mind as I tried to quickly devour one, which naturally scalded my mouth. It was worth it.
My walk around the city ended at the busy Russian market. School children waved and shouted hello as I ducked and weaved through the scooters and food stalls. Opposite the market was a rooftop bar, which I never would have found except that I happened to see it marked on my map. There was no sign at the entrance, so I climbed the only set of stairs I could see to find a large, modern space with a variety of seating options. As I was the only patron, I could take my pick. I purchased a drink and sat on the balcony overlooking the market, watching the bustling scenes below.