Since I arrived in Phnom Penh a few weeks ago, I feel like the city is becoming home now. I’ve been doing some sightseeing and exploring, and dining out. We’ve been down to the Killing Fields (horrific but a must and they have a fantastic audio tour), the Royal Palace, the National Museum and their evening dance show, lots of walking around and Wat Phnom – a lady called Penh founded the temple that’s on the summit of the Phnom (hill) which is where the name Phnom Penh comes from.
There is a great restaurant scene here and there is loads of choice so I’ve made a list and we are working out way through it! An old favourite is the FCC, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club. It’s legendary here and a great happy hour spot. There is a lot of nightlife at the ‘riverside’, on the banks of the Mekong, but there is also an area where I work called BKK, (expat-central) packed with places too.
I live in the northern part of town on St 112. All the streets are numbered but that doesn’t mean things are orderly! In fact, as the city has expanded, sections have been stuck on the sides so, for example, you would think street 293 is next to street 294 – wrong! They are about 3 miles apart.
Luckily I’ve got my driver Vuthy to take me everywhere. Vuthy is a driving legend. He’s got a motorbike and is constantly weaving, ducking and diving, cutting corners and jumping lights to get me to my destination. Sounds dangerous but due to the volume of traffic, it all happens at 20 miles per hour so more funny than scary.
At home we have a cook to look after us too. Rath is a really good cook and every night we have lovely Khmer food. On special occasions we have banana rolls (deep fried spring rolls with soft banana) rolled in sugar – they are AMAZING! Rath doesn’t speak much English but she still manages to be hilarious. Every evening after dinner she watches her favourite soap opera, an overly dramatic Hindi programme dubbed in Khmer. Sometimes I watch it with her and you can tell who are the goodies and the badies because every 5 minutes she gasps, puts her hands of her cheeks in horror and makes a little crying sound. It’s dreadful television but it reminds me of India and makes me laugh.
I have a roommate, an Australian girl, which I thought was going to be difficult as I am used to having a whole flat to myself but actually it’s turned out quite well. We are in and out at different times so there is no arguing over bathroom times etc and our room is big enough to spread out a bit. One thing that does make our 14 age gap obvious is our approach to tidiness. Let’s just say she takes more of a Cambodian approach to littering and I am on the the opposite end of the scale…
Our street is what my colleagues think is absolutely miles away from the city centre but it’s actually only 20 minutes from the riverside. Despite being suburban, it’s definitely got plenty going on. On the corner is the Library Cafe, (nothing library related whatsoever) where we can get free WiFi and Heng Heng restaurant opposite with a sign saying no guns or grenades and a load of ‘hostesses’ outside – not a restaurant I will be visit I think! There is also a karaoke place next to Library Cafe that looks like it’s someone’s living room but night after night there is someone on the microphone wailing. Khmer people love drinking (or perhaps that’s just my neighbourhood?) so there is a party atmosphere most nights.
At work we’ve been busy getting the December issue of the magazine ready (Southeast Asia Globe). I’ve written a couple of articles and some news stories so that’s been great and my colleagues are English and German so communication is thankfully very easy. It’s been really interesting to read some much local news and it’s a great way to get to know the region. You can read my first article online, about an endangered deer/antelope called a Saola (pronounced Sow-la) that was spotted in Vietnam. Very different to my normal subject matter!