Saturday, October 15, 2011

Out For a Walk

Jeff, Alexa, and I just returned home from my first real foray into the streets of Cambodia. I walked down to the convenience store yesterday—a story in itself—but that doesn’t really count because it’s only two or three doors down. This afternoon we went for a real walk.

We had two main goals for this expedition: locate the interdenominational English-language church that, according to its address, is nearby; and get lunch. We left our house around noon, planning to find a restaurant on the way to the church.
Along one of the larger streets

We walked a few blocks before we started seeing anything that looked like restaurants. The first one I spotted … well, we aren’t certain whether it was a restaurant or a produce shop. The name and the pictures outside could work for either one. We decided to skip it; even if it was a restaurant, it looked like a salad place, and that isn’t really what we had in mind today.

We stopped at the second restaurant we saw. I don’t recall the name of the place, but it was nice. From the outside, it was clear that it catered to westerners. We had to cross the street to get to it, and one of the employees ran out into the street with a sign to stop the cars (it wasn’t necessary, but it was a nice touch). Another employee opened the door, and a third led us to a table and presented us with menus. Jeff and I ordered sandwiches, and we ordered chicken kebabs for Alexa. Everything was tasty and reasonably priced, and Jeff particularly appreciated the free wifi, which he was able to use with his phone.

After lunch, we continued on our way to the church, which we found with no problem. On the way, I tried to take in the atmosphere of Phnom Penh. In many ways, it reminded me of Maadi, the wealthy Cairo suburb where we lived until earlier this year. There was trash on the streets, though nowhere near as much as in Egypt. In places, there was a decidedly unpleasant aroma of unknown origin that reminded me of the worst air quality days in Egypt—although it couldn’t have been from the same cause, as it wasn’t all over here and there isn’t anywhere near as much pollution. There were lots of trees, broken sidewalks, and rough roads, just like in Maadi. I even saw one building where I recognized the squiggly lines as Arabic calligraphy rather than the Khmer script that adorns most buildings and signs. Egyptian taxi drivers trying to get our attention were replaced by Cambodian tuk-tuk drivers, who smiled more and acted friendlier than their Egyptian counterparts.

Pretty balconies on a Phnom Penh building
Phnom Penh is different from Cairo in many ways, aside from tuk-tuks and their friendly drivers. The architecture is different, though still foreign, and some of it is beautiful to my American eyes. Traffic was very light, presumably because it’s a weekend. The only time traffic was ever that light in Egypt was on Friday morning. There are traffic lights at the major intersections here, rather than police directing traffic. For the most part, drivers even obey the lights—they fudge some when the counters near zero, indicating that the light is about to change, but overall, they stop when it’s red and go when it’s green. I noticed on Thursday that even during the week, the traffic is nowhere near as heavy as it was in Egypt. Those are the obvious differences that I’ve noticed so far. I’m sure there are others that will become apparent later.

But now it’s time to be off. We’re going to the supermarket to stock up on groceries.

Written Saturday, 8 October 2011.

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