This is about my very first real day in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Kinda what I did, how it went, what I saw. I arrived last night here a bit later than planned because the flight was delayed out of Saigon. All in all, the flight only took 35 minutes to get here so I don’t think it really mattered. The taxi service had the person standing outside arrivals with my name on a sign which made it easy to find.
The ride to the hotel was a bit complicated because the driver had to call the hotel first and be assured of the directions. I had a SIM card so I looked up the hotel as well on google maps and we kinda navigated together there. The hotel is called the La Lune hotel and I really like it. I spent $320 for 30 days and the room is very nice and comes with free wifi throughout the hotel as well as free breakfasts.
Today I decided to kind of get a sense of turns and streets and see what the city was like. I have to say the city is a dynamic, frenetic, and busy place. Motorbikes form a large enterprise both in sales and service. I saw entire blocks today that cater to repairs and maintenance. Other blocks are fresh markets with lots of produce and stuff. Street food stands are all over the place. So I walked around today to see all of this but also kinda feel grounded and get a sense of initial impressions of the small part of the city I saw. I had read a few things about safety here but I had seen the same things about safety in Hanoi and Saigon. There is a lot of information out there about robberies and mugging and scams. I saw a few scams in Vietnam and was never taken in. Here they are about the same. I think though a lot of things happen to travelers after they get tanked up in a bar and go staggering down the street and for some reason also carrying wallets and passports. Never once in 6 months in Vietnam was I asked for my passport besides at hotels. I bought an expensive camera and it was done with no passport. Here is Cambodia I was told by the hotel staff to not carry the passport whatsoever and that it will never be asked for when I’m out walking around or using facilities. I also will never carry my wallet with debit cards leaning out. Its best to carry $20 and some singles. Single dollars are good for small things like bottled water or snacks. A 1.5 liter bottle of water cost about $.40 and you change back in local currency. There are circle K markets here as well as other convenience stores.
So there I was out walking around and taking a few photographs of the busy daytimes in Phnom Penh. People walking and working. Lots of activities going on around me. Traffic about the same as in Vietnam. People drive motorbikes wherever they want to go. Wrong way, on sidewalks, etc. They will beep their horns a few times behind you to let you know they are there. The behavior of walking here is exactly the same as in Vietnam. You will see traffic lights that some observe and others don’t. Cars a lot of the times observe the lights while tuk tuks and motorbikes really don’t. I tend to cross with the light but if traffic has a pattern to it and I can cross against the light I’ll do that too.
So I walked in this kinda big square today around the locality of my hotel. It was an interesting outing since its a new country and city I have not been in. I love to walk through urban settings and take candid photos of the settings. At one point a few young Khymer guys offered beer smiling. Other people waved and said hello. To find my way, I have this approach with my iPhone that works well. I will never just take the phone out middle of the street even in a relatively safe place like Da Nang. I always wait until there is a building foyer or stairs and go stand by them numerous feet from the road. Then I check google maps for my location and I have my hotel marked as “home” on maps. Navigating this way is simple here in Phnom Penh. Streets are all numbered and are in grids for the most part. Some bigger arteries are more random but the vast majority of areas form squares which make navigation a breeze. I think it would be difficult without a data plan on my phone though. A paper map would be confusing because there is no real time “you are there” type thing.
Finally after a few hours of walking, I found the Main Street I was looking for that would let me cut back to the hotel I stay in. I wanted to see a bit of the area my hotel was in but that will wait to tomorrow. I got back and felt that I had a better understanding of this city and what to expect out there walking it. I did have the taxi and tuk tuk drivers occasionally offer rides. I’m used to that so refusing gently is right there for me.
Tonight I will go to this restaurant down the street and try it. Since I’m getting hungry, it will probably be by six PM or so. Hope this helps you understand a bit about this rather large and dynamic city with nice people, the usual traffic patterns, and how to get around. I observe the security precautions by carrying as little as possible with me. No backpack, no wallet, no passport and only limited funds. As I mentioned you should be able to get by with only carrying a $20 and a few singles for a few days of food and beer and water.
On to my second day tomorrow!