An excerpt from my travel journal, dated 2 February 2012:
I wake before the others and head out quietly to explore the streets before peak hour. I walk along the gutter, side-stepping piles of rubbish and sleeping dogs while listening for the beep of passing motorcycles and tuk tuks. The weekday’s humidity is yet to arrive and I am comfortable in my t-shirt and torn shorts, though the locals sport pants and collared shirts. It is clearly breakfast time. I pass a girl younger than myself barbecuing what smells like charcoal chicken. There is a boy cooking noodles in a huge silver pot of deliciously aromatic stock which he tops with nuts, coriander and bean shoots. There are road-side ‘restaurants’ along every street; coloured beach umbrellas over low tables laid with patterned fabrics, surrounded by primary coloured plastic stools. I smile at a beautifully wrinkled old woman whose entire face cracks when she smiles back at me. I continue to smile as my eyes squint towards the rising Cambodian sun, and my nostrils fill with the intense morning flavours of the city.