The chaos of an Asian city is all around me, the dark markets, filled with slabs of meat and rows of greener than green vegetables. Next to the slabs of meat the fish still slither in red plastic containers. The drains are full of puddles, the air is humid.
The moment I hit daylight out of the market, the men call “Tuk Tuk?” or “Bike.” I have a standard hand signal to signify a no. I bend my arm at the elbow and raise and wave my hand into a low stop sign. Travel in Phnom Penh is super easy and cheap. In the hotter months it is difficult to even walk a couple of blocks. , so Tuk Tuks get a good workout, not so much the ex-pat.
The streets do not have even surfaces and I always have to pick my way through unexpected steps, rough concrete, pot holes and the ever present rows of motor bikes all lined up on what passes for a parking lot.
There are more restaurants in this city than you can imagine. The local population is food crazy, the local cafes are full at night, the night markets full of food stalls and the sounds and smells of sizzling food.
The smell of cooking is everywhere, every street corner has a café. Cafes that are literally holes in the wall and that is often next door to some swanky new restaurant.
Cambodia is fast becoming a leading food destination. Khmer food has its own unique flavors. The fruits are wondrous, the vegetable are prepared in a sauce often with a soup, always with rice, and a meat or chicken dish. The flavors are wondrous, wholesome and steeped in the concept of food as a medicine.
I had a viral flu so was not allowed to eat anything sweet until I stopped coughing. I missed the bananas baked in banana leaves and the glutinous cakes.
I still have some congestion and for two weeks now I have eaten almost no sugar, it gets easier every day. A delicate Jasmine tea, and a small bowl of food are causing the excesses of a western lifestyle to melt off me.
The monsoon rains have come, so often in the afternoon, the sky darkens and a sudden squall drops the temperature and the rain over the teeming roofs and gutters. The tuk tuk drivers quickly lower the plastic and canvas tarps over the side of the passengers and in plastic raincoats the traffic goes on. In the markets the rain drips in and the drains refill, the air is cooler and the rough roads stretched thin with deceptively deep potholes.