City of wonders


Tash and Roo by the fountainLast Friday night as Roo paid for our drinks at an ambient little bar in Phnom Penh run by a British anarchist, I struck up a conversation with a bright-eyed eight-year-old called Heng about his favourite dinosaurs. That is, he mentioned dinosaurs and I asked him what was his favourite.

‘Can I tell you my favourite sea monster?’ he said.

‘Sure,’ I said.

‘My favourite sea monster is the pliosaur.’

‘Hmm,’ I nodded, hoping my ignorance didn’t show.

‘And can I tell you my favourite land mammal?’ he said.

Tash and Ang by the fountain‘Absolutely.’

‘The one I like the best is the T-Rex.’

Not strictly speaking a mammal but it was nearly 11 o’clock at night and English was his second language so I wasn’t about to split hairs.

‘Actually, no,’ Heng corrected himself. ‘I think I like raptors better.’

‘Good choice,’ I said.

‘And my favourite flying dinosaur?’

‘Yes please.’ I was rivetted.

‘My favourite flying dinosaur is the pterosaur.’

Someone handed him a whole dried fish, tough and flat like a scrap of leather. Heng ripped off a piece with his teeth.

‘Ugh, too many bones!’

He spat and took another bite.


I left him to his dinner.

The memory of this encounter makes me smile, not least of all because Phnom Penh is the sort of place where such a conversation doesn’t seem at all out of the ordinary. I could write every day and barely begin to describe all the wonders of this city, good and bad. The attached photos capture something of this spirit, taken Sunday night as we joined the locals in a promenade at dusk around the Independence Monument.

Roo plans to write a guest blog in the next couple of days with more about Phnom Penh. Meanwhile, in a situation also not out of the ordinary, there has been a stuff-up with my Cambodian visa. While Tash and Roo were issued with business visas on arrival that can be extended for six months, I ended up with a tourist visa that requires me to leave the country. I’m going to treat it as an opportunity to spend a night in Bangkok next week to do research for my novel and try not to think too much about being a whole other country away from my beloved partner and daughter.



One Response to “City of wonders”

  1. sooz Says:

    Live it up! I quite fancy a night or two in BKK without family…love the surreal photos. The neon bright fountain is hilarious. Look forward to some guest blogging from the voice of roo.

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