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Hidden by a Krama

I'm going to share with you a secret. A place in the centre of bustling Phnom Penh that exudes a peace and clarity. A street that seems to run at a slower pace than the rest of the city. Even their playlist seems to cover familiar songs in slow motion.

Krama Coffee on Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3). A tiny cafe with six tables and a menu carrying about the same number of items. We have been twice, both times allowing ourselves to be enveloped by the stillness and slowness of the sanctuary. Our little secret spot to read, to write, to drink sweet milky coffee, and eat a $2 lunch.

Indulging in the stillness we sipped coffee and read for over an hour today. A lone tuktuk driver sat outside hoping we would soon emerge and ask for a ride. His dedication was sweet, but it was a high stakes risk. The last thing we felt like doing after leaving Krama was re-associating with the hustle of the traffic of Phnom Penh.

Instead we took a walk along the riverside, our good moods carried by the breeze.

One of the dragon boats, with ~70 people onboard! Photo © Lee Nutter.

A pair of dragon boats were practicing for the water festival next month. Seventy people on one boat, about twenty on another. Two rows, left and right oars. How do you arrange 90 people to train at the same time?

Locals and a handful of tourist gathered on the shore. The colours of the boats highlighted by the oarsman's t-shirts, the friendly chants, tooting whistles, and cheery competition adding to the vibrancy of the afternoon.

We watched children who watched older men fish, their rods twice or three times their size. A group of boys gathered at a cluster of reeds and emerged with a plastic bag of small fish, their own successful catch.

Fishing boats from villages are docked giving rest and shade to their family occupants. A small child, maybe eighteen months old, sits in a squat playing with bucket of water on the deck of a boat. Her tiny playground on her tiny house, on the expanse of their enormous home of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers.

We stop for a while and watch a husband and wife retrieve fish from the store of their boat. A few nets holding all kinds of fish, flapping as they are pulled to the surface. After sorting a sample, big and small, they pour the fish into a woven basket. The man takes the basket off the boat and walks through the shallows to the riverside stairs and hands it to another man on the shore. The basket is placed at the feet of his moto, no time wasted as he takes off into the traffic to continue the delivery.

Walking on Lee and I pass more boats. A few touts are selling ferry trips and we smile as we decline politely, "day aukon". Children play soccer along the pavement, joyfully calling "hello" as we catch their gaze. Our replies of "suesday" always met with smiles and giggles.

The sun is now too hot to walk on so we take refuge in the side streets that wind back towards the city. We pass Wat Phnom but cannot enter as I am wearing shorts, but its shady green gardens look incredibly inviting.

The locals in this space haggle us less. It's welcoming to be able to continue our wandering without interruption. A seller's stash of chillies and crabs catch my eye as the glossy red glistens in the sun.

Winding our way back to the riverside Lee and I are sure of our general direction, and soon come across the back of the Night Market. It's pleasing to meander and feel comfortable enough to get a little lost and then find our way. A little bit of clarity and a little bit of adventure. Knowing and not knowing.

And now you know our secret.


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