I am really glad that we went to Cambodia…we made some really great memories and got to spend some quality time with our dear friend Zach (who is moving to Jeffrey’s Bay on January 31!!)…it was a whirlwind…I wouldn’t say it was super relaxing…we definitely weren’t spoiled with fancy hotel rooms (they don’t have Holiday Inn so we couldn’t use our points!)…and our stomachs didn’t really agree with some of the food there BUT Cambodia is a beautiful country with beautiful people…incredible suffering and injustice, but incredible warmth and love.
We started our trip with a night in the Capitol-Phnom Penh…it is a crazy crazy city…picture and ant pile…but instead of ants, small motorbikes with three or four people packed on them. That is what the street looks like. There is no “right” side of the road, there is no side”walk” because people drive ON them…there is NO yield to pedestrians law…it was crazy, and hot, and dusty…after one night, we were ready to see a new part of the country! The next morning, we got up early and hopped on a bus to Sihanoukville, a small beach town about 4 hours South…when we arrived, we were really happy with what we found! It was a far cry from the madness of Phnom Penh…it was gorgeous, slow paced, so fun!
The beaches were full of locals selling food, jewelry, pedicures, threading (the eyebrow plucking technique you see in malls here), you could pretty much buy anything on the beach…one Cambodian “dish” being sold put my century old egg to shame…they sell FERTILIZED EGGS to EAT…yes, little chicken fetuses! You crack the egg open, pour some sauces in, and then eat the little birdie with a spoon. Don’t worry- I did not feel compelled to try this (but I did stand and stare in amazement as a 6 year old little girl devoured one!)
After a short but lovely stay at the beach, we took another overnight bus to Siem Reap! Siem Reap is in Northwestern Cambodia and it has a rich history…it is home to the Angkor Temples. But, before we went to see the temples, we needed a day to rest and refuel…so we headed to The Blue Pumpkin (Zach had been to Siem Reap before and couldn’t stop talking about this place…and their mango danishes, so we had to try them!) Try them we did…and we went back every day for danishes and what I would consider the only half way descent cup of coffee that you can find in the entire country of Cambodia! I don’t know what they put in their coffee but I could literally barely swallow it…kind of the combination of coffee and mud!
After breakfast, we headed to the Farmers Market to look at all of the unique Cambodian foods…
Then, we decided to take another cooking class, to learn about Cambodian cooking and Khmer culture. This class was really different…not nearly as detailed as Yui’s, but it was a really fun way to spend the afternoon! We each got to pick an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert to make. I chose to make spicy shrimp salad…a mixture of shredded carrots, shredded cucumber, basil, mint, cilantro, red pepper, onion and a sweet sauce. We topped it with steamed shrimp and crushed peanuts.
Gavin and Zach opted for soup…Gavin made potato and Zach made Pumpkin.
For the main dishes, Zach and I both made Chiken Amok and Gavin made beef Lok Lak. Chicken Amok is Cambodia’s version of curry. The curry paste is made by grinding lemon grass, garlic, shallots, tumeric, finger root and ginger root in a mortar and pestle…to make the dish, coconut milk, broccoli leaves (the part that normally gets thrown away before the broccoli even makes it to the grocery store!) and chicken get simmered together. It is served with steamed rice. Lok Lak is a combination of Oyster sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar and chicken bouillon and beef. You simply stir fry it together and serve it with rice.
The food was ok…not something I really care to ever make or eat again, but the class was a fun way to spend the afternoon! The next day, the real fun of Siem Reap began…Angkor! We started our day at 4:30am with a bike ride about 10K outside of the city to try to make sunrise at Ankgor Wat (a beautiful temple built in the 12th century). Now, I am really not one for waking up at 4:30 am…but this was TOTALLY worth it! Starting the morning with a brisk bike ride, and then getting to watch an unbelievably beautiful sunrise was amazing.
A full day of bike riding and exploring temples left us very very hungry…which was perfect, because on the way home from the temples, we found what turned out to be, by far, the best thing that we ate in Cambodia…bonchaio. It’s kind of like a crepe…and a lettuce wrap…and a taco mixed together. The foundation is a very thin mixture of rice flour, water and eggs that is poured into an extremely hot wok. It is cooked and filled with ground pork and shrimp, and then folded like a big taco. To eat it, you grab a leaf of romaine lettuce, fill it with herbs and tear off a piece of the taco. Wrap it up and then dip it in an awesome sauce made of sugar, limes, garlic and peanuts. YUM!