In Lao we had put the flesh on the bones of Vientiane and felt quite at home by the time we left. Arriving in Phnom Penh felt a bit daunting. Given that the main reason for arriving there had been to find the customs office to legalise our car, we had not planned to stay long, as our focus was on reaching Siem Reap.
Phnom Penh was a much bigger city than Vientiane and had more modern buildings and a big city feel. We realised quite quickly that we would probably only zero in on a few visitor friendly sites in a couple of days and then move on.
In town we had booked a cheap hotel and it was adequate but we were not going to recreate the feel of Moonlight Champa.
To our eyes, these busy capital cities were teeming with life and had many visitors providing income to the Tuctuc drivers, the many rest houses, cafes and restaurants. The main attractions such as the fabulous antiquities Museum and the opulent Cambodian style Palace, attracted a handful of coaches and there were busy tuctuc drivers dropping off visitors all day long.
While tourists and office workers lent a busy feel to proceedings, older people took life at a more leisurely pace.
Other tuctuc drivers were less busy and I wondered if they actually lived on the streets, using their vehicles as their homes?
Visitors, old and young, ambled along the cracked, uneven, heat shimmering pavements, dodging the sun, seeking the shade of the many old trees before scuttling into the relative cool of the attractions.
In my case, because we had walked, I had to recover under a cool fan in the lobby of the museum for at least twenty minutes before I felt up to looking at statues!
The streets in PP were not clean in spite of the overloaded refuse vehicles which had their work cut out. The sometime stench of rotting food in the street was overpowering in places, on account of the piles of rotting leavings arising from the discardings of the many street food vendors
A loverly bunch of coconuts
Municipal operatives were literally shovelling heaps of rotting food and decaying full plastic bags in the streets into the rear of the refuse lorries. In spite of this, the town had an award for cleanliness! Give the person who organised this a prize.
The majority of the customers for these food offerings were local and every spare open space was dotted with low plastic tables and chairs where ad hoc open air eating was permitted and office workers and visitors in town ate locally prepared food from plastic or polystyrene plates. This led to more lunchtime discardings.
Needless to say, much of this looked better at night when less was visible.
An evening stroll to the Correspondents Club through a central square in the fading light revealed lovers walking their dogs, people picnicking on benches and a sort of break dancing style open air exercise class attracting old and young in t-shirts following a young rapping exercise dancer making shapes.
Most of the tuctuc drivers were now awake and it was tempting to climb aboard, if mainly to avoid the perils of crossing the busy roads (where traffic light systems worked in more of an advisory fashion) and avoiding the uncovered or wobbly drains and general detritus on the badly maintained pavements.
We had been warned too about frequent bag snatchings from Tuctucs trapped in traffic in Phnom Penh, but fortunately we kept our precious belongings close and escaped unscathed.
From the relative calm of the Correspondents Club, elevated above the river, the town took on a more peaceful romantic hue, while the hectic scurrying on the grubby streets carried on beneath.
To be fair to Phnom Penh, we were not there long enough to begin to love the many cafes and to find our own favourite spots as we had in Vientiane, aided and abetted by Bella and Brad. It probably would have revealed itself to us as a real place if we had stayed there longer.