Friday, September 19, 2014

An Average Day in Phnom Penh

Here's a typical day in Phnom Penh for me.

I wake up anytime from 8 to 9. I have a room next to the street, so it all depends on how loud it gets. Most days, I'm awoken by food carts blaring a song that sounds almost exactly like Keyboard Cat. As I happen to adore that YouTube gift-to-the-world, there is no way I can get angry with them for waking me from my beauty sleep.

That's a great tune to start the day with.

I walk to a nearby (well, about a mile away) coffee shop. It's a nice walk and at this time, the city is firing on all cylinders. Tuk-tuks line each side of the street and I get waved and hollered at every few steps. I've been here a little while now, so some wave and greet me with "Ah, it's the Walking American. Always walking!" I dart through the open-air market because it's already pushing past 90 degrees with the sun. The market is wild. Live chickens squawk about, exotic fish I've never seen before squirm in flatbed containers, and the smell of fresh (and not so fresh) poultry and fruit hang like a fog (durians are everywhere and they are as powerful and EVIL as ever). There are people and motorcycles and bikes and machines that can't be described in words and old and young people and the rhythm and the flow of the crowd is a run-on sentence so erratic and long and insane that it's quite honestly an adventure in itself navigating this eclectic maze. The 100's of umbrellas that poke out from the stands and guard against the sun and the torrential downpours are much too low for my height. I walk like Quasimodo, exit, and make it to the coffee shop in one single piece. I'm already sweating like I have just finished a marathon, and I bless the A/C once again. Best invention ever.

I've found this a great place to write, so I'm here for quite a long time. The shop is high up, and sitting outside (underneath an army of fans), gives a great view of the riverside and a long strip of boardwalk. In the early mornings/afternoons like this, I can hear Buddhist chants echoing off the river from the other side. It's magnificent and hauntingly beautiful.

I usually end up somewhere cool and/or massively touristy by this time. Either it's a Japanese super-mall called Aeon Mall or...actually, let me pause here. I went and saw Into the Storm the other day at said mall. It's an absolutely horrendous movie. It's a Twister clone, minus Bill "Game Over Man!" Paxton and plus that Freddie kid from iCarly. The thing is, when I saw it at this 4D movie theater (the first US location opened in June in LA, but apparently they are huge everywhere else in the world), this disaster (of a) movie was suddenly amazing. Oscar-winning even! The seats vibrate and crash side to side and forwards and backwards during action scenes or car chases! There are strobe lights with every lightning strike! Water shoots out when it rains! And get this: the heavenly seats even inject the air with a breakfast smell when the characters are eating their bacon and eggs! That. Is. Amazing. It's cheesy and great and I think everyone should experience this once in their life. If you don't live near one, take a road trip there. Do it. I watched the whole movie with a (admittedly, probably a little creepy) smile plastered across my face.

Or I go to a tourist trap. Or a museum. Or, as mundane as it sounds, sometimes I just go shopping at the local market. Since this is long-term travel, I'm doing my best not to rush things. I'm taking it all in.

Off to lunch somewhere cool and different each day. Sometimes I hit up the same restaurant down the street, where they are doing their best to teach me Khmer...but I'm a horrible student and forget the moment I walk out of the restaurant. Side-note: this is a dangerous time of the day, because beer is sometimes (always) cheaper than water (.50 cent beer and buy one get one free deals. Oh man...) and it's hard not to overindulge. The day thus splits into two options.

a) I take full advantage of this great deal and thus crash on my bed for the rest of the afternoon. This is exactly my response during and after taking this option.

b) I am responsible (what this actually means though is that I only take a little advantage of this fantastic price).

Lounging around. Usually doing my laundry in my sink. Or reading at the waterfront. Very exciting. Unless, I choose option b above. Then this time frame is full of regret.

Watching Cambodia's "2nd most popular band" Cambodia Space Project
Dinner, then off bar hopping (much thanks Tom for being my insanely great guide here). This is easily one of the best parts of the day. I meet a ton of new friends this way from everywhere around the world. I see cool bands play in tiny venues. I get destroyed at pool. I eat great food in fancy, and not so fancy, places. And hopefully I get back before a decent time. I never do.

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