I like mornings; not only in general but specifically Phnom Penh mornings. Quite often I wake up to bright sunshine (I have yet to witness the actual sunrise but imagine it is spectacular) and regardless, there is a freshness and coolness to the air that quickly disappears when the heat of the day kicks in.
I have adopted Sophat as my personal TukTuk driver. Every day at 7.40am he meets me outside the guesthouse (still as pink as ever) with a cheery hello, a huge grin and a girly pink bike helmet that never ceases to make me giggle, and off we go.
Whilst I adopted Sophat only as a tuktuk driver, I have in fact also gained a tour guide. Each day on my journey to work he takes me on a different route pointing out, in very good English, great food places, interesting buildings etc. Whilst I find his additional service both interesting and helpful, I have to admit to wishing he’d actually look at the road ahead while driving at full pelt (which in fairness isn’t that fast, but neverthe less…) rather than at me.
We continue to weave our way through the streets as Phnom Penh wakes up, there’s a really lovely breeze, which is only occasionally punctuated by noxious fumes when Sophat fails to thread his tuktuk through the eye of a needle and has to pause for 10 or more scooters to bomb across in front of us.
En route, we see locals and expats alike crowding around food hawkers and piling into restaurants to sample the breakfast delights on offer. Thanks to an ongoing dicky tum I have been having a simple bread based breakfast in my room but look forward to the day when I can sample some of these delights too.
The last leg of the journey involves a precarious u turn in the middle of one of the major roads in the city (it has four official lanes on each side I think, but this is hard to tell as 17 cars, bikes and tuk tuks hurtle towards us) so that Sophat can drop me directly at the entrance to the Administration.
Having paid my dues ($2.5) I bid Sophat a cheery thank you (in Khmer) and goodbye (in English as I still fail miserably to remember how to say it in Khmer) and walk in to my workplace.
I’m greeted at the gate by a very smiley guard and over the last 3 days we’ve progressed from waving at a distance, to a tentative hello how are you? (in Khmer), to today having a conversation which involved me asking his name (Huon), me telling him mine, Huon writing it down in beautiful Khmer script and me and my new best buddy Huon taking a selfie inside his gatehouse.
I have the dubious pleasure of being located on the 2nd floor (3rd if you’re not British) of the building and so I plod slowly up the ridiculously shallow stairs to my office. The building is usually deserted when I arrive, despite me being told very clearly I must report for work at 8am each day.
Once in my office I sweat! I crank up the AC to full pelt, reluctantly pull the curtains to stop the sun pouring in and stand and sweat. After a short while I sit and continue to sweat and then after about 10 minutes or so I finally stop sweating and get on with my day.
Next week my morning routine will change as I hope to move to my new apartment at the weekend. Whilst this is a good thing, I will sad to no longer have my daily adventure with Sophat to look forward to as my apartment is only a 5 minute walk from the office.
Luckily, at the end of that 5 minutes Huon will still be there to greet me with a huge smile and a cheery hello.