Strolling through Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh sits on the West bank of the Tonlé Sap right where it merges into the Mekong. There are no mountains nearby and the the whole area is protected from the various rivers by levees and interconnected with bridges and ferries. When I arrived in late February the weather was hot and steamy leaving you pretty much incapacitated in the middle part of the day. Many tourists skip Phnom Penh and beeline it to Angkor Wat — the famous temple city near Siem Reap another 300 km further into the country, but I had talked to my motorcycle travel buddy Dylan about meeting up here to join forces and explore Cambodia with our bikes. Dylan was still in Thailand wrapping up some repairs to his Suzuki, and would have to take the long road to Phnom Penh due to a recently flared border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia. I decided to relax and take in the scene.
The vibe in this city is much different than Saigon where I was just before. Even though there are several modern buildings including some skyscraper-like, things don’t look as clean and organized on the whole. The older district is full of overpacked dirty streets with coffee houses and markets. The Cyclo taxi is still in use by the locals (unlike Vietnam where it primarily is used for carting tourists) which speaks to the different economic situation in the two countries. The market photos I shot primarily at the Kandal market — a very picturesque place and busy with locals buying goods around dusk. I’m posting a lot of the Cyclo photos because I think they are fun, and it is neat they are still in use.
Many of the streets in the old district reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans with similar architecture of overhanging wrought iron balconies and terraces where one can enjoy a sweet cold ice coffee. I bought a counterfeit copy of The Quiet American from a street peddler and spend several afternoons watching the world go by and being a flâneur along the bank of the Tonlé Sap and finally feeling like I had found the Indochina of old.