Category Archives: Cambodia

Cambodian Cuisine

10th August 2015

If you’re looking to adventure beyond your typical family dinner (no matter where you’re from) try your hand at Cambodian cuisine.  First step, ingredients.  Head to the local grocery store and pick up some crickets, tree ants, tarantulas, frogs, and…yes, rats.

If you’re still with me, you have an adventurous spirit.  In all honesty, I have no idea how to dish up Cambodian specialties like tree ant beef stir fry.  However, I tried as many of these dishes as I could, and I’d like to share those experiences.

Aubrey and I visited the well known Romdeng Restaurant in Phnom Penh for our first authentic meal.  We had a beef stir fry, smothered in a nice sauce full of tree ants.  It was the first time I’ve (intentionally) consumed ants, and to my surprise, they added a nice crunch and spice to the dish.

My second dish (which Aubrey decided not to partake in) was grilled rat from a roadside stand outside of Battambang.  Our tuk-tuk driver stopped to grab one for himself, and asked if I wanted to try grilled rat.  I was intrigued, but not immediately sold on the idea.  However, after learning that the stand’s proprietor kills them daily in the rice fields with bamboo dart guns, I knew I better not offend her, and decided to go for it.  For your information, it looks like chicken meat, but tastes like pork.

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Mr. Chan Jacky, our tuk-tuk driver and guide into the unknown world of Cambodian street food.

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Like choosing a good watermelon, there’s also a method for choosing a good grilled rat.

Crickets were next on my list.  They’re the potato chips of Cambodia, you can’t just have one.  Honestly, I think they taste like seaweed, and I just don’t happen to be a fan of seaweed.  We were just outside of a cave in Battambang, waiting for five million bats to make the daily spectacle of exiting the cave.  The bats weren’t running on time, so we waited with a group of locals who housed an entire colony of fried crickets while waiting for the bats.

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Just needs a little salt.

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The young man in the Batman shirt outside of the Bat Cave, serving up free crickets to queasy travelers.

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Just a few of the millions of bats flowing out of the cave.

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A few cows grazing in a field outside of the cave at sunset. Look closely and you’ll notice a ribbon of bats as they flutter through the sky.

The uniqueness of Cambodian food goes well beyond street food.  We treated ourselves to a couple of equally unique dinners at fancy restaurants in Siem Reap prior to leaving Cambodia.  I believe one of my favorite meals was an entree of chili crusted frog legs.  Delicious!

Although it might’ve been tough to allow myself to try some of the unique foods of Cambodia, I’m glad I did, and I believe those experiences have opened my tastebuds to new and delicious possibilities.  What’s the most interesting food you’ve had?

— Robbie

The Experience of Angkor Wat

8th August 2015

Cambodia was our last stop in Southeast Asia, so after visiting temple after temple throughout the region over the prior two months, I was expecting more of the same.  I was wrong.  The massive and ancient Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Center in Cambodia is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

At almost 400 square kilometers, Angkor is one of the largest operating archeological sites in the world.  It took us about three days to see a small fraction of Angkor, but in my opinion, it was some of the best spent time in Southeast Asia.

Angkor is located in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap, and was essentially, the center of the Khmer Kingdom from the 9th to 15th centuries.  It’s a daunting maze of temples, paths, hydraulic structures, and monuments, best navigated by an experienced tuk-tuk driver!

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One of the entrance gates to Angkor Thom.

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Water Buffalo grazing the moat outside of Angkor Thom.

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View from the top of Pre Rup.

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I found the elaborate carvings to be especially interesting and very well preserved, especially for being hundreds of years old.  Carvings cover almost every square inch of Angkor: bridges, doors, walls, handrails, you name it.  There is a particular temple, where it’s believed that women built and carved the entire temple.  The main theory of the feminine touch is that a man’s hands just simply can’t produce such intricate and detailed work. (This might’ve been Aubrey’s favorite temple).

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Carvings from Banteay Srey, said to be from the hands of women.

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This is an actual door at Banteay Srey, I couldn’t resist.

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Borderline inappropriate, but it’s art.

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The structural integrity of several temples has been under attack for centuries by trees that climb and spiral around the ancient stones.  Although it’s a significant threat to the temples, you can’t help but feel like Indiana Jones, exploring a wild and unknown ancient world.

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Entry gate at Ta Som. Are you having “Temple of Doom” flashbacks?

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Angkor is also a fully functioning community, with farms, schools and residences spread throughout.  My experiences with the locals weren’t unlike the encounters I’ve had with other Khmer people.  They were all friendly, welcoming, and genuinely happy to meet you during your visit to Cambodia.

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These guys were drafting off our tuk-tuk between temple visits.

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These monks were actually having a professional photo shoot, but were kind enough to let me take a few pictures and chat for a while outside of Baphuon temple.

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Our time at Angkor was one of the highlights of not only our visit to Cambodia, but Southeast Asia.  The history, nature, and especially the people of Angkor and Cambodia will have a lasting impact on me in the future.

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Proof that not even a monkey can chug an (almost full) coca-cola and not burp.

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— Robbie

Cambodia’s Painful Past

2nd August 2015

Behind the smiling faces of the Cambodian people lies a dark history.  It is hard to imagine the atrocities committed against the Khmer people; their kind and loving demeanor does not reveal the horrors of their past.

From April, 1975 to January, 1979, the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia.  During that time, millions of Cambodians lost their lives.  Today, the people of Cambodia choose to remember those who lost their lives by exposing what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime.  In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, there are two major sites that display the Khmer Rouge cruelty.  The first one Robbie and I visited was the Choeung Ek Killing Fields.

Before the Khmer Rouge, Choeung Ek was a peaceful place, it boasted an orchard with a lake nearby.  However, during the Khmer Rouge rule, this area was turned into a site where mass executions took place almost daily.  It is estimated that nearly 9,000 people were executed here.  Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial site, remembering those who were killed at the hands of the ruthless leaders of the Khmer Rouge.  At the center of the site is a Memorial Stupa, containing more than 8,000 unidentified skulls.  It is a sobering sight and one that I will never forget.

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After visiting the Killing Fields, we made our way to the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, also known as Security Prison 21 (S-21).  Before the Khmer Rouge, these buildings were the Tuol Svay Pray High School.  During their rule, the school was turned into a detention center, housing suspected traitors of the regime.  During their detention, prisoners were tortured, interrogated, and executed.  The museum depicts the horrendous crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.  It is a somber place but it tells the story of the Cambodian people and the horrific past they share.IMG_7469 IMG_7473 IMG_7474 IMG_7480 IMG_7488 IMG_7496 IMG_7493 IMG_7505

Although it was hard to visit these places, it is something that needs to be seen.  I found it very interesting that the Cambodian people are so open about their painful past.  I truly believe they want the world to see what happened to their people in an attempt to help prevent history from repeating itself, and to allow Cambodia to move towards a brighter future.

— Aubrey