Tag Archives: cambodia

Photo of the Week #14- Tomb Raider’s Ta Prohm

15 Jun

Where- Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia

When I was a kid I love Lara Croft. I had all of the Tomb Raider games and was very disappointed to find out that being a tomb raider wasn’t a particularly realistic career choice in this day and age. For many years I wanted to see Angkor Wat and was most excited about the Ta Prohm temple complex. Sure the obvious Tomb Raider connection was a key draw card but the idea of an overgrown, half ruined temple was even more exciting. This place is amazing to explore especially if you manage to escape some of the crowds which flock to it. There is some work on to restore the temples but I really hope they leave them mostly as they are now as that is what is particularly enticing about them.

What to read before going to… Cambodia

28 Mar

Title- First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Author- Loung Ung

The Plot- This autobiography follows the story of Loung, a young  Cambodian girl, the daughter of a military official, from the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the next 4 years under the Khmer Rouge and suffering from illness, hunger and constant fear of execution in numerous work camps.

I read this book after it was recommended to me by a friend who I travelled to Cambodia with. Unfortunately the Khmer Rouge is an unavoidable part of travelling to that beautiful part of the world and this book truly is a raw account of one Cambodian’s journey through years of oppression. The most difficult part when reading it is remembering that this is a child’s story. The book is so well written that the age of the main protagonist is so easy to forget. Loung was only 6 when she was forced to leave her home in Phnom Penh and shifted from work camps to eventually become a child soldier. What were you doing when you were 6? It’s a story that puts life into perspective for you. It’s not an easy book to read because of the theme but it’s also a book that is hard to put down.

The tragic thing is that when you actually visit Cambodia, most people over the age of 40 will have very similar stories to tell. I had a man tell me about how his parents and siblings died and he spent years under the Khmer Rouge standing in a field as a scarecrow, so many childhoods were lost in 4 years. This is a truly great story of survival and one that everyone should read!

 

Eating my way through Southeast Asia

9 Mar

Food glorious food. The first time I went to Vietnam it was because I’d watched far too much of Luke Nguyen’s cooking show and had been inspired to go and explore the country and more importantly try these foods first hand. Eating is possibly one of my favourite parts of traveling particularly the opportunity to try local foods they rarely disappoint (except when I went to the Philippines). We’re quite spoilt in Canberra to have a wide selection of foods but nothing compares to trying them at the source. In this blog I’ll highlight some of my favourite Southeast Asian meals that I’ve had and over the next few months attempt to make them myself and share the results with you lovely people. So to kick us off…

Thailand

Thailand has a wonderful freshness to it with its chilli and basil. My top picks in Thailand are

Green Curry- It’s a bit of a staple with its spicy flavours and creamy sauce. A bit of jasmine rice (perhaps shaped like a turtle?) and an icy Singha to wash it down and your good to go.

Green Curry and Turtle Rice in Bangkok

Pad Thai- Oh I love Pad Thai so much. A friend of mine makes a version which rivals some of those I’d had in Thailand. Tamarind and delicious rice noodles. Whether you get your 2am fix from a stall on Khao San Road or have it in a restaurant it’s rather satisfying.

Or if that’s not your style you could eat some bugs…

Cambodia

I ate a lot of really delicious food in Cambodia which sort of felt like a clash between Thai and Vietnamese cuisine with lots of fresh flavours and brilliant curries. There is one thing that stood out for me though.

Sihanoukville BBQ- Super cheap, big, delicious meals on the beach accompanied by even cheaper cocktails. Heaps of options from all kinds of meats and seafood the standouts for me were the huge tiger prawns and the Coca-Cola pork ribs. I’m a fan of ribs so may have to give these ones a shot.

Indonesia

Indonesia has a lot of food that I really enjoy and a lot that I can’t stand. Also a lot of it I’ve tried cooking in the past and it’s proven too hard so I don’t really bother it anymore. While it’s probably wrong to put Indomie on this list (but I’ll show you how to make it better) a few of my favourites over here at the moment are,

One of my favourite Mie Ayam Warungs in Jogja

Mie Ayam- Chicken Noodles in soup. It’s oh so simple but tasty and refreshing and has Asian greens in it which I particularly enjoy. Best eaten on the side of the road sitting on the ground.

Nasi Goreng- People often ask me what my favourite food is and laugh when I say nasi goreng. Sure fried rice is incredibly simple but it’s super reliable and you never have two which are alike.

Vietnam

Fresh Spring Rolls- Definitely one of my favourite entrees and they’ll make you never want to eat their deep fried cousins ever again. Creating the perfectly balanced dipping sauce is hard but they a very versatile with fillings ranging from duck, pork and prawns or even a personal version of mine with kangaroo for a slight Australian fusion. Often a go to quick meal for me I’ll show you a few versions.

Pho- Possibly my all time favourite food and one that I have scoured Canberra trying to find a good version of it. Beef or Chicken is standard (although veggie and seafood versions exist) personally I prefer the beef. My mouth waters when I think of some of the pho I had in Vietnam and while it is super hard to cook from scratch (It took me 10 hours to get the broth ok) you can cheat and get pho seasoning cubes as I’ll show you.

Chowing down on some cricket at Khao San Road

So that’s it for now. Now to decide which of these delicious offering to cook first or you can let me know below and I’ll post the recipes and photos of the results (although it should be noted that I’m no masterchef )

What are some of your favourite countries to eat in and favourite dishes?

 

Photo of the Week #4- Angkor Wat Sunrise

1 Mar

Where- Angkor Wat, Cambodia

It really is a truly iconic sight and as we tripped over the cobblestone path in the pitch black darkness at 4:30am we didn’t know what to expect. Sunrise is always slow when you are excited and as the sun came up we started to doubt how spectacular this would actually be. Then it happened. There was just the right amount of light and the view was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. Amazing place.

Photo of the Week #1- Kids of Cambodia

9 Feb

Where- Siem Reap, Cambodia

When- January 2011

This was my first day in Cambodia. We had arrived in Siem Reap after the long bus trip from Bangkok and visited this slum on the outskirts of town, the kids here were the poorest of the poor but as I traveled through that beautiful country they started to encapsulate everything I saw in Cambodia.

They are poor and the stories you hear about their families are horrific. On top of the struggle of finding food for their families, their parents face the threat of being maimed by mines or forced into prostitution to try to provide a better life for their kids. The children have to go into the tourist areas of town to beg or hawk souvenirs. When we visited this school that had been set up by a charity in this area the children swarmed out, they wanted to play, cuddle or try out our cameras. They laughed and smiled it was truly beautiful. My friend threw this kid up in the air only for them to crash to the ground… Did they cry? No. That’s true resilience.

That’s what I see in Cambodia. Resilience. Despite the horrors the country has been through they continue to pick themselves up and carry on in a way that instills great hope in those who see it.

Cambodia- A reflection

7 Jan

After crossing the border over into Vietnam today and deciding to have an early night in Chau Doc following last night’s 3 hours of sleep I thought it best to write a quick reflection on Cambodia.

I have a habit of falling in love with Southeast Asian countries. I’ve already fallen victim to Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and of course my second home Indonesia and Cambodia can be added to that list. While my time there was short, I found it to be a rollercoaster ride of contrasts and emotions. From incredible Angkor Wat to the tragedy of Phnom Penh and the chilled out vibe of Sihanoukville, the country had it all. We drove across the entire country in only a week. By bus, van, tuk-tuk and boat we made it and while it was a really tough slog we all pulled through in one piece.

One thing that really got to me however was the poverty. I’m no stranger to poverty in these countries but it was very evident in Cambodia. This combined with other issues like the landmines really causes a feeling of helplessness and how can we help them? Hearing stories about the hardship of peoples’ lives and particularly stories of life under the Khmer Rouge are incredible. Cambodians truly are sharing and willing to share stories and even just have you join in what they are doing. Hearing about people like Aki Ra and Chun Mey the S-21 survivor is inspiring.

The other thing that has to be mentioned is of course the genocide. I think a lot of us had moments where we struggled seeing this up close. The scale of it is hard to grasp and the idea of 3 million people out of a  tiny nation being systematically wiped out without any intervention makes the situation even more difficult to comprehend (without delving into geopolitics and the like) it’s mind blowing to see it in a way which is so raw and so personal.

To pick a favourite place seems unfair but I’d be inclined to say Siem Reap. I’ve dreamt of seeing Angkor Wat for such a long time and Siem Reap offered that and so so much more. Would I go back to Cambodia? Yes. Without a doubt. I’d like to spend a few weeks there to really explore and see more of the country but when I’ll get the opportunity to go back? Who knows. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Also this was my first time trying to travel in a tour group and I have to say it has been a blast. Sure the time is rushed but it’s so simple and we have fit in so much sometimes having 16+ hour days. I’ve met great people from Australia and a number of other countries and I’m feeling a bit sad about having to say goodbye to them in less than 48 hours when I leave the country. Also our group leader was amazing and super helpful making sure this tour was really great.  I’ve already picked the next tour that I’m going to do so hopefully will be travelling with G again very soon.

That’s it for Cambodia. A wonderful country which didn’t fail to impress and offered more than I could ever imagine.

Crazy times in Sihanoukville

7 Jan

After a crazy few days it was time to relax so off to Sihanoukville we went. The town is located on the beach and was recently named one of the best beaches in the world. I’d be inclined to disagree as the beach was pretty much your stereotypical beach town but still a lot of fun. It kind of felt like how people talk about Bali 30 years ago. Very under developed and a massive party vibe. So after a 5 hour bus ride from PP we headed down to the beach to have lunch and a look around. You are constantly harassed by kids selling everything under the sun but mostly selling woven bracelets. They are real smart salespeople and sweet talkers but it is sad to see them exploited like this. They also all took a liking to how white my skin is which I found entertaining.

We headed back to our hotel and had drinks in the pool and a number of “challenges” of who could hold their breath longest before venturing out for dinner. There are barbeque places EVERYWHERE and they are amazing. On the first night I had some incredible coca cola pork ribs and on the second juicy fresh tiger prawns. All of this would set you back maybe $5 for dinIMG_5517ner and Happy Hour was every hour with us not paying more than $2.50 for a cocktail while we were there and one night buying beers for FIFTY CENTS. That’s cheaper than the water! We tried to have a quiet night the first night so I called it quits and came back and watched the Chelsea match on ESPN.

The second day we headed out to Ream National Park not knowing what to expect. We jumped in a long boat through mangroves for an hour and a half singing My Heart Will Go On and other classic songs and having an early morning beer on the insistence of our guide before arriving at a small fishing village. We were told it was an easy 30 minute walk to the beach and we could do it in flip flops. It wasn’t. The timing was right but it was 30 minutes of hard slog through thick jungle with all of us wishing we had hiking boots. The reward however was a nice clean beach to ourselves at the other side where we swam in the warm water and chilled out on the sand for a few hours. Absolute bliss. IMG_5533 We then began our trek back. We had asked the guide if there was any dangerous animals in the water and he said no only on the land near the path. We then asked about snakes and he said heaps of snakes Too Poisonous Die. We later found a flyer and found out the place was crawling with several types of Cobras and Russel’s Vipers and we were wearing flip flops! I had a close encounter of my own when we were walking along talking about snakes and I luckily looked as I put my foot down to see a metre long thin green snake of some variety. Both me and the person behind me screamed and I took off up the track at a rate of knots towards a clearing to tell the guide who was amazed I had seen one. This definitely got the adrenalin pumping. We also saw monkeys and a couple of gnarly looking spiders.

After a delicious lunch and us feeding a number of the mangy dogs our leftovers trying to teach them to sit we headed back up river on the longboats. A few of us went to the beach to watch the sunset at a bar where the waiter was keen to have joke around with us with amazing service (there were no seats next to the beach so they moved a table right onto the shoreline for us- we almost had wet feet) and then did a bit of last minute shopping before meeting the group for drinks and dinner (my delicious tiger prawns) and heading out.IMG_5518 We went to a few different bars and ended up at a cool club with lots of RNB and Hip Hop (although no dubstep as promised on the flyer) where we danced for hours before heading back at 2:30am where the Austrians on our tour decided we should have a sneaky but incredibly refreshing late night swim in our pool. All in all a fun night but not a particularly smart move with an early morning bumpy bus ride which is not very good for sleeping.

Two things I found interesting in Sihanoukville were- All the bars and hotels had westerners working there. Apparently it’s common for backpackers to hang around and work for a few months which sounds alright and secondly, more a Cambodia as a whole thing is they use US dollars. It’s strange to have American currency on you and they do also have local currency which you can use but due to political unrest it’s easier to use a currency not prone to fluctuation.

That’s it for now. I’m on the bus to the Vietnamese border as we speak so will soon be eating Pho and exploring the Mekong!

Courts xx