Our second swing by of Phnom Penh, and we are this time on our backpacker budget staying in a £8 a night room, as opposed to our Christmas treat accommodation which weighed in at over three times this rate.
I find Phnom Penh to be an engaging city with a youthful energy and a sense of self that says it is a city on the move.
The traffic is heavy and there are more 2-wheelers as a proportion of the overall flow than any other place we have so far visited.
The city still retains a distinct French influence in terms of its catering, doing the small things well and offering for sale far more baguettes than anywhere I’ve ever seen, including France.
What is also noticeable is the number of monks walking the city.
The monks’ dress in a uniform of orange or saffron robe set against broad yellow parasols. The shades reflect brightly in the morning sun as the shaven haired monks venture from their temples to undertake the ritual alms rounds.
In a simple trade, the monks accept money and foods in exchange for a prayer, whereas the donator becomes the recipient of “merit”.
The concept of merit roughly translates as a kind of Buddhist credit system available to be cashed in on reincarnation or ascension to Nirvana.
For a young Cambodian, the monkhood offers a means to education and as in Thailand, there are many such novices also to be seen both on the streets and in more holy locations.
Our cultural endeavours involve a visit to the Royal Palace where we explore its impressive throne hall as well as a building known as The Silver Pagoda.
With the boy in a stroppy mood, refusing to do as he was told and insistent on throwing his sun-hat in a puddle, we sped around the complex with the sun beating down on us and a sense of déjà vu creating a lack of concentration, the site recalling as it did the Royal Palace in Bangkok.
We decided that a much better idea would be a sunset drink and a stroll on the nearby riverfront.
Phnom Penh is located at the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers. A short distance downstream, the waters broaden to in excess of a kilometre as they flow seawards toward the Mekong Delta in deepest Vietnam.
The well-developed promenade acts as a magnet for local youths and families as well as offering an opportunity for hawkers and beggars to hassle tourists.
“The Boy” at one point even tried to upstage a local dance crew, busting his best moves to the booming rhythms they were grooving to, and then got involved in an impromptu game of futsal, skinning several locals and turning on a sixpence before rounding the keeper and slotting home effortlessly.
His motor skills are coming on well, though we have both commented that he displays an instinct to mince when running excitedly around a table.
Given the intense management his physical exertions now require, it’s probably fortunate we will be truncating our trip and ending our route part way through Vietnam.
In mid February, I return home for a couple of weeks before flying back to SE Asia to roll the dice and begin a paid life in Kuala Lumpur.
Yes, you read it right, I’m going back to work.
The fun was always going to end sometime, and at least this way there’s financial security at the end of the trip.
I’ll miss the ability to change itinerary on a whim, but now need to begin planning where to take my holidays…