Tag Archives: Phnom Penh

Last of Cambodia and a rice wine welcome to Vietnam!

Once we returned from Angkor Wat, I had just a short time before I was to depart for my next stop.

He are some random shots I took as I walked the streets of Phnom Penh. I wasn’t looking for anything specific, just moving about with my eyes open (and realizing… You just don’t see these things every day).

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Last edible surprise dishes turn out to be sweet treats. The first is what looks like pomegranate seeds (they were squishy, not crunchy) with jelly noodles, a soft grain in coconut milk with ice. As refreshing as it sounds, it was fairly tasteless. The following is some type of sea noodle-like items with pumpkin and coconut milk. I prefer the darker noodle bowl as it was warm, savory and sweet!

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I return to work on my last night with all of the lovely ladies that have made home away from home. Popcorn toss, a party hat and great conversation was the perfect way to end my time here.

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What’s this? An adorable detailed list of suggestions from Mel in regards to my next destination… Vietnam! Thank you sweet girl, the time and effort that went into this puts the lonely planet book to shame!

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With that said, here is me, Mel and Semhal on the day of my departure. Miss you already girls!

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No way! It’s our buddy in the pink tuk tuk again! “Lady lady!” He says. I smile like a little school girl (and probably squealed like one too). Off I go to the airport… In style.

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A quick flight and hour drive sends me to Hanoi, Vietnam. The hostel of choice was Tony’s Hotel due to its prime location and quirky description of the hospitality. Sure enough, I arrive to be greeted into a game of cards complemented with the local beverage of choice, rice wine. Side note, it has no similarities to wine… at all.

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What do you get when you mix rice wine and a group of backpackers? A Japanese guy arm wrestling a local Vietnamese, refereed by a German while being viewed by the Spanish and captured on camera by an American girl. Gotta love the hostel life!

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With only a few days here, tomorrow will bring a day on foot getting lost through the city!

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Angkor Children’s Hospital… All starts with a pink tuk tuk!

Northwest of Phnom Penh is another popular city that’s the gateway to the sacred temples of Angkor Wat. Semhal and I decided to take a weekend jaunt in that direction to explore the fascinating sights of Siem Reap. In addition to everything this historical city has to offer, it’s also home to the Angkor Children’s Hospital, a very special place that was introduced to me by a fellow traveler. (Ill describe that farther in the post). For now, lets get out of town!

7:15am – Semhal and I discuss what would be the best option to get to the bus station, a motorbike or… Wait, what’s this? A pink tuk tuk with a matching scarf around the drivers neck? Sold! What a perfect unique handstand shot! I cant dedide what I like more, his tuk tuk or that he’s holding up the hand signal for “Rock on” or “I love you”!

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The bus providing us with the 6 hour journey is clean, comfortable and $13 per person.

8:45- Departure!

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The first leg of the trip offers up some photos that capture the daily routine of the locals that live in nearby villages.

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11:15- Our first pit stop allows for a 10 min leg stretch, bathroom break and quick snack. There was fruit, baked goods, fried plantains and a variety of spiders, crickets, and beetles… or were they worms? I’m not really sure, but either way, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to partake in this local delight!

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A young local who didn’t speak English took it upon himself to show us through example, that the bugs weren’t only edible, but tasty too. Can’t you just see it in my face?

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11:30- We pulled away and now have turned our focus on the bag of bugs in my lap. Since Semhal is a vegetarian (good excuse for not trying eight legged creatures) it was all on me to embrace this unique tasting.

Cricket, gross. Grasshopper, same. Bumpy worm thing, worse. Tarantula, like teriyaki jerky? Wait for it… Oh, nope… Gross.

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We had to work for the other surprise snack as it was a bamboo stick that was properly packed with tightly bound leaves. Once unsealed, we found sticky rice and beans that seemed to be flavored with a touch of coconut milk.

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1:20- Honestly nothing much, I just wanted to post this picture because I think it’s beautiful!

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2:00- Our last break for lunch captures my eye for another handstand shot, it’s not everyday I get to kick up next to these beasts.

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3:58- We arrived at the Siem Reap bus station and were quickly greeted by an adorable tuk tuk driver that led us to our hostel. We had him put a rush on it due to the fact that the hospital was closing at 5p and we still needed time to check in and donate blood.

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4:32- When we arrived to the hostel we just put our bags behind the counter to save time as we took off for the Children’s center. Showered by the rain, we ran in mud covered flip flops in search of the green sign that would lead us to our donations.

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4:52- As we eagerly entered, they welcomed us with a smile and a direct guide to the donation room.

I’d like to pause here for a minute and personally thank Sabrina, the backpacker I met in Spain last year who is the mind behind encouraging me to check this place out. Her sincerity towards the children and passion for helping them was more than enough to send me on my way.

Step one: Check to see if our hemoglobin number is high enough in the “donating zone”. Unfortunately Semhal’s was too low, so she got served a dose of iron pills (and dietary-nutritional advice from me) to boost her levels with the hope to donate next month. I was in the clear, so I snuck a bite of our handy rice bamboo stick (we hadn’t eaten in awhile) and now I’m feeling ready!

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Step two: Lay down and let the process begin!

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Step three: Trade in the awkward sack he put on your lap for a goody bag full of sugar crackers, a coke and a t-shirt!

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If you ever get the chance to visit this city, I highly suggest going to the Angkor Children’s Hospital and giving 20 minutes of your time for a life enhancing experience. You get to meet the families that are directly affected by your energy and its a guaranteed spirit lifting event!

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Serious side note: It’s becoming such an issue that they suggest, “If you’re taken to the hospital and you may need blood… bring a friend”. For more information on the need for supply in Cambodia, here’s a link that was just posted this month in regards to the shortage.

Cook like a Cambodian!

The Cambodian cooking class is another version of the Peruvian cooking experience I enjoyed last year in Puno. Considering the kitchen is one of my favorite spots of the house, I didn’t hesitate to sign up and join in!

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When you arrive, you’re greeted with a smile and a tuk tuk waiting to whisk the group off to the local market to collect the ingredients for our menu of the day. If you’d like to see the market in more detail check out the last post, “Food is meant for sharing and every human deserves to eat”.

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Our kitchen? A rooftop terrace with an open view, several working stations and a lounge area. (Yes, I’m taking in notes for when I grow up and have a kitchen of my own).

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Ingredients set, aprons on and it’s time to start. Generally how the class flows is by the instructor telling us what the next step is and why its necessary. We then either pitch in to complete it or in some cases, have to do it on our own for a single dish. First up, spring rolls with authentic dressing! Creating this tasty snack included a lot of shredding, massaging, squeezing, pinching and rolling… Almost sounds like a day at the spa.

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We hand rolled each one before sliding it into the hot oil. While our appetizer was taking a blistering bath, we all pitched in to make the homemade sweet and sour dipping sauce.

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Time to enjoy!

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Next up we have a dish that I’ve been patiently waiting to try as its popular here in Cambodia and right up my alley! Fresh fish and herbs steamed in a banana leaf, sign me up!

Now, when I mention that we prepped the herbs from scratch, I mean we took these beautiful raw ingredients and pounded them in a traditional molcajete for at least 15 minutes. I will say it was neat watching them transform into a powdery paste.

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Once our garden had been pulverized into a powder, we combined coconut milk, salt, sugar and local spices to the fish. Chili pepper to taste and now we have the base for fish Amok!

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Hmmm, what will we ever pour this sweet fusion of flavors into? A banana boat of course! Heat the leaf, stack, bend, pin and viola… A bowl! Carefully pour in your saucy goodness and place it in the steamer.

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What do we do for the next 20 minutes? Get to know a little more about the fellow chefs! Joining me around the table we have Australia, England, Germany, Switzerland, a couple from Lake Tahoe (an hour from my home town).

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The fish is cooked thoroughly in our little bowl-o-banana leaf and now it’s time to eat!

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For recipes and more information, please check out their website at www.cambodia-cooking-class.com.

“Food is meant for sharing, and every human deserves to eat”.

It was a year ago, the night before flying out of Malaysia and I found myself in a position of hunger as I had consumed all of my “emergency food stash” knowing my trip was coming to an end and I didn’t want to purchase more than I could eat. With no cash due to a broken ATM and no cards accepted anywhere, I walked the night market with faith that a few “samples” could hold me over.
With a rumbling tummy and a light head, I smiled my way through, stopping occasionally to drool over some tasty looking items… now that I write about it, kind of sounds like self torture! Anyway, I paused in front of a vendor to observe the options of beans, greens and soy when a gentle presence made his way to my left. With aged eyes and a frail looking body, he spoke in broken English and said, (to the best of my memory) “You should have some, it’s very good for you”. I politely declined with “Oh, I’m just looking but I’ll keep it mind, thank you”.

With the slightest head nod, he ordered two different options and turned directly to me and (very clearly in my memory) said these words:
“Food is meant for sharing and every human deserves to eat.”

He handed me a spoon and with a happy lump in my throat and a tear on my cheek, we stood there in silence sharing dinner. He smiled as he handed me the remaining and said, “Please finish… god bless”. He walked away into the crowd and left me standing there with gratitude and a new appreciation for food and mankind. After that day, my previous eagerness to share, give and enjoy with others has continuously expanded to a beautiful place in my life. Thank you peaceful stranger at the night market in Malaysia.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to share the story above, but either way it’s done and now lets move on to the scrumptious world of edibles in Cambodia!

Hello, my name is Erika… and I love food.

Typically when I’m on the road, I search for the local ripe choices that Ive never seen before or the ones that are a rare find in the states. Take Jackfruit for example, this massive fruit is one of the largest tree borne and can weigh up to 60lbs! Like most, it’s packed with fiber and nutrients but Jackfruit is one of the rare ones that also holds B complex group of vitamins. (Ill stop myself there as I can get lost in the nutrition world of edible items).

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Although I’ve found it to be common in most third world countries, I still haven’t gathered total peace in purchasing from the vendors that have their raw chicken hanging above fresh fruit, or the stomach of random animals sharing the table with leafy greens. Clearly it doesn’t affect the locals, and ironically, thats what usually comes out together in a meal, but there’s something programmed in me that keeps my feet moving until I find the stand without blood next to the vegetables.

Meat and fish lovers may enjoy the following photos… Vegetarians, hold your breath and scroll quickly.

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In the photos below you might be able to see the blur of the fish as they flip around. I suppose that’s the freshest you can get next to fishing for it yourself.

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This puts a new meaning to a “fish stick”.

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If you get hungry while shopping around, there’s always several options to choose from. The most common are a variety of spiced soups, noodles and sautéed mixtures.

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My favorite Cambodian dish (so far) is the bean and taro tapioca bowl with warm coconut milk over the top, it reminds me of the rice with milk my grandma use to make. For dessert, I’ve fallen in food love with the pumpkin (the real vegetable, not the canned stuff) that has an egg custard filling topped with sweetened coconut milk and crushed ice. A homemade sweet pumpkin custard snow cone? Yes please! The most you’ll pay for either of these delights is .50 cents.
It’s also handy that you can sit down and enjoy or have it for take away in either a sealed container, plastic baggie, or to-go cup.

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Then there is the small quicker options like hard boiled eggs, dried fish and pre-cut fruit. If you’re still in a snacky mood on your way out, theres never a shortage of random carts that are always politely pushing there way through with finger food items.

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Along the way I spotted out this cart-o-curiosity that had been eyeballing me since I got there. What was in those silly roasted banana leaves!? Oh, a banana… Go figure. The stringy rice noodle texture surrounding the banana has me stumped, but either way, I usually prefer my bananas off the tree, straight to my hand.

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Walking through these aisles of goodness, I find myself nibbling on random snacks and/or never putting my poor camera down. I’m not going to post the other few hundred pictures from the day, but here are just a few more!

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So there you have the food portion of the incredible markets that are found in southern Cambodia. There will have to be a completely separate post describing the nonedible options that entertain the market seekers as well. Nail and hair salons, books and bags, construction tools to buttons and entire strips of what I would consider, a designers toy store. Look for the night market post coming soon!

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Take a walk through Phnom Penh

When strolling the streets of Phnom Penh your senses may send mixed signals to your brain. The aroma seems to change with every step, sometimes pleasant and other times well, disturbing. I suppose if you keep your eyes open and actually look around, you’ll understand why your nose and brain are constantly battling. It’s not uncommon to see a mechanic sharing a driveway with a fruit vendor or raw fish for sale outside of a hair salon. This is all in addition to the traffic smog of motor bikes, busses and cars that crowd the streets. Smelling passed the clutter, there’s never a dull moment for your eyes on a walk through Phnom Penh.

Realistic conversation:

“Does it smell like cat food to you?”
“No, I actually just got a whiff of nail polish remover.”
“That’s strange, oh wait… where is that teriyaki scent coming from?’
“I don’t know, but the car exhaust is killing me!”
“Oh well, how about a coffee? I can smell the beans roasting somewhere…”
“No thanks, it’s hard to drink coffee with the smell of fish around here.”

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A beautiful surprise placed itself in front of me when I turned the corner and found this push cart vendor with a few children that had just gotten out of school. Eager to practice their English, they greeted me with a smile and an offer that I didn’t want to refuse. A chance to interact with local kids combined with a mystery jelly-ball slushy made for a refreshing pit stop! They asked me which flavor I wanted and I said “I want to try your favorite”. Who would of thought giving these little guys the freedom to pick for me would bring so much joy to all of us.

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The East side of the city brings you to a strip of souvenir shops, trendy book stores and restaurants with a view of the river. I didn’t spend much time here, but definitely enjoyed the breath of fresh(er) air.

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I stumbled upon this gem on a side street near the river. The employees are given equal work opportunities and everything inside is handmade by Cambodians with disabilities.

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I didn’t plan on stopping in this bubble tea shop, but the enthusiasm from this young girl was magnetic.

“Hello hello!” She said as I smiled by. “How are you today?” She continued, “I’m learning English!”
My reaction was an about-face as I responded walking towards her, “I’m having a great day and you’re English is amazing! Keep it up!”

We spoke for a bit longer and departed with a hug.The glow in her eyes and hope for the future left me on a natural high. I wish she could comprehend the positive impact she made on my life today. Thank you sweet bubble tea girl.

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Here are a few creative pics along the way that ends your photo tour of the random sights you may see while walking the streets of Phnom Penh.

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Next up… The markets!

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