All posts filed under: Cambodia

Nama saya Maria

I think T thought he was off the hook for Valentine’s day, given we had the best present of travel and freedom from Boston blizzard #452. It was another travel day, and getting to Phnom Penh Airport was a bit like frogger as the car darted around dogs, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and trucks. I saw what looked like a ten year old boy out cruising on a motorscooter with his six year old bro hanging on. And a lot of trucks with chickens and pigs headed to market. At Phnom Penh airport, I had a small DQ blizzard. That or the number of juices could explain my weight gain. Hopefully Malaysia would be healthier, but one of the main attractions is food! We had our fastest transit time yet. From landing at Kuala Lumpur airport to walking into our hotel room was an hour. We were getting more efficient, but Malaysia also required no visa and had an express monorail which made it possible. We picked up our fifth currency in almost as many weeks (we …

Kepapeake

Crab palooza! Kep is another small town on the coast of Cambodia, as close to Vietnam as we will get. We spent three mellow days exploring here, and ate crab and pepper by the pound most days. When in Rome… Kep has been a seaside refuge of the elites in the past, and seems to be coming back. Aside ruined homes are emerging hotels and businesses, and the main road which is painfully small now is being expanded to a four lane boulevard. The crab market is one hub, serving up crab fresh from the back door – almost literally except there is no door. We learned in a tour of the pepper farm that the addictive green pepper on the vine is only good for 2-3 days which is perhaps why it hasn’t made a US debut. But dried, it is expo as black pepper. Red pepper is green ripened and dried with the skins on, but peeled becomes white pepper. Who knew? Rabbit Island was another stop from Kep, a 20 minute boat …

Kampot

Transit days are action-packed, emphasized by 007 films playing on the bus. We were leaving the big city for costal connections. First stop- Kampot. We didn’t know much about it, and I’m guessing its new to you. So here’s what we learned: – Kampot is famous for pepper (mostly green but also black and red) – Pepper is so plentiful here they add it to dishes by the vineful which is strangely not overwhelming but very flavorful. I didn’t hear much sneezing at meals. – Where there is pepper, here there is salt. Mined in salt flats! – There is a large community of Muslims here in southern Cambodia. Known as the Chams, this group is originally of Vietnamese origin but ethnically affiliated with Indonesia. They were one of multiple minorities persecuted under Pol Pot’s regime. – Though TripAdvisors ratings can be bizarre, when they are right, they are really right! We stayed at the number one hotel in Kampot and loved it. The number one restaurant was a one-man wonder and I don’t know …

The good, the bad and the Brooklyn

We’ve seen a lot of markets and malls, but they say Phnom Penh’s is not to be missed. The largest in Asia when it was first built in 1937, it was updated in after having been bombed in the Fraco-Thai war and then again in 1992. It is a spoke and wheel environment, so the center archway shows glittering gold and gems, then down one side is clothing, another produce and food, another school books and papers. One of the most interesting sections for us involved jeweler stands polishing, designing and crafting for clients who seemed to be getting the Chinese New Year holidays. No new bling for me, but lots of entertainment. We went for pulled noodles for lunch which was delicious and settled my stomach a bit from its morning mutiny. Then we opted for unsettling in an afternoon viewing of The Killing Fields. I’d remembered my mom talking about it, but neither T nor I had seen it. Conveniently, it shows all over Cambodia to generations of travelers like me who only …

You down with PP?

Our first of two full days in the Cambodian Capitol of Phnom Penh was on. We missed the morning aerobics in the park; one needed to be up at 5 am for that. Our walking tour started at a more reasonable hour, and included a coffee break. Turns out that two coffees here are about US$6. This lead T to muse about what the size and salaries of the expat community here might be like. We saw a few monuments, temples and the Supreme Court. We ended the am tour back at the Banh Mi shop, where there was fresh bread and a kind Vietnamese owner with a northern Cali attitude, thanks to his time in the Bay area. The pool was the best spot to conquer the midday heat, and catch up on our neighbor’s FaceTime home to England. She reports a lovely tour and her father has paid all her latest bills. I was willing to pay for a headset, or ask her dad to sponsor my noise canceling headphones. The evening in …

For the Kingdom

A last morning in Siem Reap. We largely spent our time plotting next moves. To compensate for a rushed timeline in Laos, we’d decided to slow down in Cambodia. But as each action has a reaction, this meant Vietnam would be the dream deferred. Most of our family and friends seemed most curious about Vietnam, and our detour is not just about being dissidents. It is quite likely we will come back to Asia and be able to dedicate more than 5 days to Vietnam. Plus, our Chiang Mai experience of pollution in towns with limited public transport made us wonder whether Ho Chi Minh/Saigon will be less hectic by 2018 when a metro will theoretically be functioning. But on to food. Our farewell Siem Reap lunch was at the booked-up Haven Restaurant. Known as a training ground for future chefs, wait staff and support staff, Haven would make Chef Ramsey proud. In addition to being a well-oiled machine, the food was delicious. Cambodian food has been a highlight, and we have done a lot …

Good marketing

We had one day left in our three-day pass to Angkor Wat, so we set out for the more distant temples and ruins in hope there would be more carvings than cameras. We arrived at a well curated Banteay Srei, known as the Citadel of Women or Beauty and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Supported by Swiss aid, the ruins have a cloak room, restaurants and shops which are missing at larger sites near Angkor – for better and worse. For better, Banteay Srei has conservation lands surrounding it, with local farmers, water buffalo, chickens and the like which make it a peaceful setting. Aside from this good marketing, the children here have better skills. Two girls selling postcards glued themselves to T, and when their first sales tactic didn’t work, they went with this: That’s right – Hey, Mr Handsome Man!   We also went to the Cambodian Landmine museum, to show respect for more recent history. As my dad had pointed out prior, the US was responsible for intensive air bombing campaigns …