Cambodia will now always be synonymous with crab for me, having gorged on it during my stay there. Starting in Siem Reap (so named as to remind us that Siam [Thailand] destroyed the ancient Angkor city there) I had dinner with a couple of Kiwi chaps who I met on the flight from Vientiane. We found a local seafood place which – amazingly – was only just off the beaten path, but had no other tourists in.
We got stuck into some crab, steamed fish and grilled prawns. As former coastal-dwelling divers and massive seafood fans, they didn’t leave any prisoners, my favourite quote of the night being – after being encouraged to suck the crab shell dry – was “get into it mate, there’s nothin’ wrong with a bit of crabanus, Robbo!” (this is inexplicably hilarious in a kiwi accent) We pretty much ate our bodyweight in fish and looked a bit like this…
I also spent a few days cycling around the Wats (temples) and saw the sunrise at Angkor Wat with my Scottish pal Lynsey as well as getting involved with yet another cooking course, amusingly named “cooks in tuk tuks”. Amusingly, because “tuk tuk?” is the perpetual question asked by lines of charming Cambodian guys along the streets, everywhere you go.
The cooking course taught us few new things, including how to make Amork – the traditional Cambodian curry soup – banana leaf salad and a simple Hibiscus tea. Amork is made with a fairly gentle masssuman-like curry paste and a loose water/coconut milk mix, so it’s a bit soupy.
After a few nights in Siem Reap I headed down to Phnom Penh where at the central market they have excellent seafood, including prawns the size of lobsters, which I went to town on over lunch!
It was very sobering to visit the S21 detention centre – one of the epicentres of the Khymer Rouge regime’s genocide. The trial of some of Pol Pot’s senior staff is currently underway [http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jun/27/truth-khmer-rouge-court-case] over 30 years on, so in light of having very recently learned about the disgusting torture inflicted on so many people, it’s fascinating and saddening to see this piece of history being addressed and its perpetrators put to justice.
During the Phnom Penh stage, there was time for a trip down to Kep (on the coast) which seems to be a holidaying spot for Cambodians with means and it’s famous for its pepper crab. This allowed for a few days just chilling, dipping in the pool and quaffing seafood, which was a very relaxing way to end the SE Asia portion of my adventure. It’s a lovely area, but there are still a lot of deserted buildings from the genocide era which is a tad spooky.
Finally before I left Cambodia for Aussieland, there was time to drop back into Phnom Penh and had a great meal at ‘Friends’, a Friends International [link] project that helps people off the streets and into the hospitality sector. The food and service were amazing and it was a great way to see out the end of my SE Asia and Cambodian adventures.
Next stop, Perth and South West Australia’s Margaret River wine region 🙂