[Buddhist monks walk past a giant portrait of the Queen at the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh]
Phnom Penh wakes up early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with sweltering heat. Already 6 A.M and the people of Phnom Penh are rushing and bumping into each other on dusty, narrow side streets. Waiters and waitresses in the black-and-white uniforms swing open shop doors as the aroma of noodle soup greets waiting customers.Street vendors push food carts piled with steamed dumplings, smoked beek teriyaki sticks, and roasted peanuts along the sidewalk as they begin to set up for another day of business.Children in colourful t-shirts and shorts kick soccer balls barefoot ignoring the angry grunts of food cart owners. The wide French boulevards sing with the he buzz of motorcycle engines, squeaky bicycles, and small cars for those wealthy enough to afford them. By midday, as temperatures soar, the streets go quiet again. People rush home to seek the relief from the heat, have lunch, take cold showers and enjoy an afternoon siesta before returning to work at 2 p.m.
[Food-carts on the streets of Phnon Penh]
[Cyclos and other traffic outside Psar O Russei in Phnom Penh]
I'm staying on the first floor of the Hotel Renakse, a bright yellow neo-classical French building looking out at the Royal Palace. As you walk out you notice the streets of Phnom Penh do not have traffic signals; instead, uniformed policemen stand on raised metal boxes, in the intersection directing the sometimes chaotic flow of traffic. I've found my favorite way to travel in Phnom Penh is by cyclos. They're the opposite of cycle-rickshaw in India as they pretty much resemble a wide wheel chair attached to a cycle. You just take a seat and pay the driver to wheel around the city as you bounce and laugh as the driver pedals you the congested city streets.
This morning like mornings in Cambodia I've walked to my favourite noodle soup shop about a block away from my hotel. The tiny confines of the shop come alive to the sound of the clang and clatter of spoons against the bottom of their large bowls, the slurping of hot tea and soup, the smell of garlic, cilantro, ginger and beef broth in the air make my stomach rumble in anticipation. Across from me, a man uses chopsticks to shovel noodles into is mouth. Next to him, a girl dips chicken into a small saucer of housin sauce while her mother cleans her teeth with a toothpick.
[A man looks down at the crowded market scene below in Phnom Penh]
This is Phnom Penh in morning and it feels like home.
Also a big shout out to Tharum, Phatry, Geoff and Joe for making my stay in the city so much fun. Thanks guys !