Life in Phnom Penh

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Where I stayed
Street 136 Riverside

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

My street sounds like pink squeaky toys, distorted megaphone crackles, drumming motorbike engines and the whining of brakes begging to be oiled.

There's the odd beep. A far cry from the maddening and never ending tooting of Vietnam and if you listen closely sometime between 2am and 4am, you might just catch a glimpse of silence. Or not.

The squeaky man squeaks a plastic toy wandering from street to street pushing a big trolley of empty bottles and cans for recycling. If you’re up on the 8th floor or so, you’ve gotta be quick if you think you’re getting down those stairs before he disappears into the distance. Your best bet is to lower down a bucket on a rope with your empties inside, a technique that comes in handy when ordering home delivery of foods. I'm on the second floor, so I can throw mine down and am usually thanked with a polite dip of the hat and a broad toothy grin.

The crackled megaphones play the same phrases over and over again. One sells big fat green coconuts to drink and the other, duck foetuses. Yes, duck eggs ready to hatch that have been roasted over coals. Crunchy munchy duck beak and chewy feathers are all the rage over here....So there's squeaky man, coconut man and duck foetus man. All of which I hear a mile before I see them.

I live on the corner of street 136 and street 5. 

136 is one of the most famous girlie bar streets in Phnom Penh, I live above the 'Horny Bar’. Street 5 is only one street back from the Tonle Sap (The Tonle River). 
All odd numbered streets run parallel to the Tonle Sap, the even horizontally. As far as logical organisation goes, that’s it. The streets are numbered haphazardly and the house numbers even more so. Some house numbers are used a few times in the same street just for fun. 
Learning your numbers in Khmer comes in handy when catching a tuk tuk or moto, unless you really know where you are going and can give directions, in that case you only need to know left and right….although negotiating a price when the driver doesn’t know your actual destination is rather hit and miss.

Most moto rides cost between 50c and $1 to anywhere.  A tuk tuk is often around $2 across town or $6 to the airport, which is about 45 mins away.  Loading 6 or more people into a tuk tuk is quite acceptable if you are willing to pay more.

Anything is possible if you are willing to pay.

My back alley, which leads to my front door, is gated. Apparently the tuk tuk drivers in the area used to use it as a toilet so they put a big gate up to stop them. At the entrance to my alley there lies another girlie bar. The Red Bar seems to have the dregs of the elite bars. Badly dressed girls mill around the quiet entrance. I was surprised to see a group of monks exiting there a few days ago until I noticed the flower petals scattered upon the ground and realised that they had been blessing the business. An odd thought in itself.

In the mornings my streets are speckled with sienna robes as bare footed monks tread the dusty streets. One arm carefully nursing the bowl for the alms the other gripping a pale orange umbrella shielding the sun. They shuffle from cafés to noodle shops and markets to mobile phone stores collecting offerings and in turn chanting Buddhist blessings in return.  
This daily event never ceases to bring a smile to my face.  

Click on the slideshow below to see more pictures....

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