Paolo Conte in his lectio magistralis for his laurea ad honorem suggests an interesting exercise: to imagine the time of the day drawn in a painting. What time is it in the Dance of Matisse? And what about the scream of Munch? Or the Mona lisa?
I think it is interesting to apply the same idea to cities. When is a certain city splendid, interesting, charming, unique? At what hour?
While working a little bit around different cities i realize that in my memories what i recall in urban space is not so much its feature but a specific moment.
These moments are often evenings because darkness increase intimacy not only towards people but also toward our surroundings.
For Tokyo, I remember walking back home through small similar irregular alleys. These formed a labyrinth that probably Borges would have liked. There, for the first and only time in my life, i completed an involuntary circle and after 2 h found my self in the same exact spot, confused and speechless.
Beijing, despite all the destruction that was made in the last 30 years, has a specific moment in which it is splendid. It is around 1 am during winter nights. Inside the second ring road. At that moment, with a dark bright sky, one can see the shadow of the hutongs on both side of the alley. The branches of a tree will extend above the roofline. Silent and naked. The moon is shining above. Silence all around and a thick cold air.
Phnom Penh has change a lot. Probably, according to most, in the better but I still remember that in 2010 most of the streets at nights were dark. That darkness was different. That darkness showed abandon. That darkness was a scar but it also showed possibility and hope. It always reminded me of the first scene of the movie Sur.
And one more tip: you might consider to hire personal bodyguard to feel safe.