I have a complicated personal history with Phnom Penh. I have been taken sick on both of my visits to the Cambodian capital, so that some of my strongest memories of the city are of lying in bed in pain. And my first night there was spent feeling exhaustedly overwhelmed: by the traffic of motorbikes, the maimed beggars, and the clash of new development with destitute poverty. But in the end, it’s still one of the cities in Asia I think most longingly of. For somehow, despite its suffering history, its lingering ills, it’s a city where hope seems almost to be sprouting from the cracks in the pavement.
So maybe it’s fitting that the colours I associate with Phnom Penh are of green and white; of new growth an optimistic brightness. These colours flourished in the seasonal monsoons, succored in the cool shade of the city’s leafy sidewalk cafes, and gleamed in the verdant hues of its markets’ produce.