Dutch national Victor Koppe is the co-lawyer for the defence of Nuon Chea at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. A full-time Phnom Penh resident for two and a half years, this week he spoke to Harriet Fitch Little about his favourite things about the city
Whenever I have guests, I always like to take them for an hour or so to this David Lynch kind of place.
When I say that, they always look at me strangely, but when they see it they always agree with me.
A David Lynch kind of place means a really weird place that when you’re there you’re thinking: “Oh, where am I for God’s sake.” And you think that some tragedy could happen, but of course it doesn’t.
I’ve been to Darlin Darlin like 20 or 30 times already because of that.
It’s the night club at NagaWorld. We’ll go there for an hour and a half and see it and then go back to town, and have a drink at Zeppelin Bar, which I also really love.
I’ll usually ask the Taiwanese owner to play one of my favorite songs.
I’m not sure why, but for some reason I always ask him to play Time Waits For No One from the Rolling Stones.
Maybe that’s because time in Phnom Penh really seems to wait for no one.
I wake up at 4:30am or 5am, have breakfast, then walk my dogs during the very quiet part of the day, when the sun is just about to go up.
I’ve got two Cambodian dogs that I got a year ago as puppies.
They’re from the northern part of the country, in Anlong Veng, and belonged to some general up there who was an acquaintance of my national counterpart at the court, Son Arun.
They’re called Phim and Nhim. Walking them then, around Russian Market where I live, it is my favourite time of day.
You see people doing their exercises, the sun rising and the city slowly waking up.
Everyone looks a bit strangely at me because no one does that here, or hardly ever.
Tuk-tuks at night
The first time I saw Phnom Penh was in October 2007, when I came to talk to Nuon Chea, my client, for the first time.
I had an instant love affair with the city at the time.
Now that I’ve lived in Phnom Penh permanently for two and a half years, I still like it very much but perhaps not that same feeling as in the beginning – just too many cars and too much nondescript construction going on right now.
The city of Vann Molyvann is slowly losing its beauty, and it’s heartbreaking.
But I still get that feeling when I’m riding home in a tuk-tuk after a long night – especially on the big boulevards, with the wind in your hair and on your face. It’s calm and quiet, and there’s still that tropical, sensual feel.
I think that is always and will always be the number one for me.
Blue Dragon, that’s one of my favourite spots, it’s been open for quite a while. It’s a tiny, French-owned bar right across from the Royal Palace.
You can sit there in the early evening and watch Phnom Penh slowly go to sleep.
Next door, there’s this little family who make street food for $1.50.
They’re great noodles that you can take next door to eat at the Blue Dragon.
Whenever I take somebody to the museum, I always head there afterwards or just go to have dinner there myself.
It’s a lovely place to eat. Otherwise for dinner, I like the nice French restaurants, like Chez Gaston for example.
I do go out, but not as frequently as I did before.
When I do, I always end the night in Pontoon Pulse – that’s not Pontoon, but the other part of the club on the left hand side as you go in.
I’m a dedicated house music fan for many years, and they’re one of the very few places that actually have proper techno and house music, and really good DJs.
I’ll go over to have a look at the other side as well, but I’ll usually come running back quickly.
Katie Peri’s Peri Peri Pizza is always the last stop of a night out.
They have without a doubt the best pizza in town.
I met one of the owners already in 2007 when he was still working at a place called Elsewhere, which doesn’t exist anymore.
He’s made an extraordinary business out of selling pizza from a wood-oven constructed in a tuk-tuk.