Still aglow after experiencing the hospitality of Phi-lay's family, I boarded a comfortable mid-morning bus to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. I was able to fully appreciate the scenic drive for two reasons – the paved roads and the arrival at the city's outskirts an hour ahead of schedule. My bus buddy for the trip was a Cambodian who commuted to the capital every weekend to complete his Master's. His English was great, so I made sure to spend some time chit-chatting.
I made a conscious decision to stay by the riverfront, which is a little more expensive and centrally located than the traditional haven for backpackers by a lake. After my first choice hotel was booked, I stumbled upon an available room above Rory's Irish Pub. At $14 a night, I was a block from the central riverfront area, a few blocks from The Royal Palace, and surrounded by tons of restaurants (everything from the local eateries to The Foreign Correspondent's Club). My view from the pub looked out over an open park filled with children playing every afternoon.