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Life in Phnom Penh    

By Ken Silver About Asia
3424 Views | 0 Comments | 2/3/2011 2:03:42 PM

You can meet a lot of beggars in Phnom Penh.
Polio victims, cripples, amputees, land mine victims, the blind. All of them a lot more cheerful and accepting than you, dear reader, you self pitying, full of excuses pile of elephant dung!
Whoops! Sorry about that!
And after all, those beggars can “afford” to be cheerful. Their revenue is up as more and more tourists discover what a beautiful city Phnom Penn really is.
Bangkok has the temples and the exotic vibes. Kuala Lumpur has the comfortable western layout. Phnom Penn has both.
Broad, airy streets and giant boulevards. Any particular street, with its charming if aging buildings, might be mistaken for the streets of an old French town. No surprise there; it was the colonial French who designed and built a lot of this city. Walking around, you never feel closed in as in Bangkok. Mao Tse Tung Boulevard looks a lot like the Champs Elysees, minus that Arc.
There is also a very nice, very walk able waterfront, Sisowath Quay. Three of Asia’s rivers come to a confluence here, with good scenic results. This is where most tourists try to stay, it is officially the “safest part” of town; though I’ve been out in some dark parts of the city at night - never mind why -and never had any problems. Street kids like schools of fish work the travelers enjoying café life by the rivers; you can tell them to get lost or buy photocopied bestsellers from them for pennies on the dollar.
Of course, you might literally turn up your nose at the other side of Phnom Penh - the not yet uncollected piles of garbage, the unpaved streets, the raw chunks of meat in the markets, the constant requests by moto drivers that you use their services. It’s a typical 3rd world story -lots of labor, not so many jobs, no money to make it look pretty. Well, take that moto ride and see PP at your leisure. Six dollars should get you hours worth of touring. And, when you can stay in a comfortable hotel near the riverfront for $15 or less a night, why rock the moto by complaining?
Want to buy property here? Good luck. I was here five years ago, prices have skyrocketed since then. Ah, those pesky global rich! (Sure I bought! Bought a tacky elephant sculpture! ). In the cool season, this city can seem downright European. As a matter of fact, I suspect the Global Finance crowd will start to migrate from Bangkok to this more pleasant city; what with Thailand’s political tensions and all.
How is PP for us Global Short End of the Stick? Well, you can still hotel cheap, and short/long term rent even cheaper. Food prices are higher than Thailand as it is more difficult to eat at native joints. Plus, sanitation levels can be suspect in Cambodia street stalls. How my soul yearns to eat duck! But my mind warns me away, cause their little cooked corpses have been in the hot, bacteria growing sun for hours. The tendency in PP is for yuppie cafes and Western franchises to crowd out the native eateries. Crowd them out by a suspicious fire or two, if necessary. Work the myriad Happy Hours for best savings.
I used to recommend Thailand for the first time Asia traveler; now I’m beginning to wonder if the Cambodian triad of Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, and Angkor Wat isn’t the way to go. Cambodia is “rougher” and more third world than Thailand, sure; but just as entertaining and at times even more spectacular.

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