A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia Cuisine

sunny 24 °C

This blog is dedicated to cuisine in Cambodia. Andy and I both admitted today that the Cambodia leg of our trip was the one we had the most doubts about. We were worried about transportation, standards of living, and mostly what we were going to have to eat...and now we have to eat our words. Cambodia does not have too many taxis, cars are mostly rented for long hauls but they have tuk-tuks. We had to say good-bye to our beloved tuk-tuk driver, Peron, today. He dropped us off at the airport in Phnom Penh this morning. Peron has been our only source of transportation since we got to Psquared. We also took a tuk-tuk today when we arrived in Siem Reap.

As far as hotels go, we have stayed at really awesome hotels in Cambodia. We had to splurge a little more in P2 because it was Xmas and it was hard to find a hotel at all but even at that it was cheaper than a hotel in Vegas, off the strip. In SR we are staying at a really nice hotel too. They greeted us with a fresh squeezed juice when we checked in...I could really get use to this....and it cost less than a motel 6 in San Diego.

Now for the food. Today we were discussing our visions of what Cambodia was like before we got here. The Khmer cuisine is really good. We have not been disappointed by any meal so far. It is very similar to Thai without the spice, but with a hint of chinese as well. The coconut steamed rice is divine and perfect for the curries and sauces. The fresh squeezed juices are very popular and very inexpensive. Today we gorged ourselves on fish amok (khmer curry), shrimp khymer soup ( lemongrass and galanga), and baked pumpkin. Add on 2 fresh apple juices and a tall beer and the total was only $15. We were in heaven just watching traffic go by as we ate out khmer delicacies.

Oh yeah, everyone in Cambodia takes dollars...USD. It's very strange. On our first day we tried to change a hundred dollar bill at the hotel, the cashier proceeded to hand andy back USDs in small bills. Confused, andy tried to explain that we wanted riels....the cashier laughed and asked if he was sure. He produced 2 very thick stacks of crisp 500 riels. He than said "This is $5, do you want more?" We were confused because we didn't know that Cambodia, like Vietnam, readily expected the US Dollar over their own currency. We have not been able to use those riels we exchanged 2 days ago...and everytime we use USDs our change is given back to us in Riels.

Today we are mainly meandering around town, saving energy for Angkor Wat tomorrow. We have bought a lot of trinkets, since they seem to be cheaper and better made in Cambodia. We finalized the rest of our trip and unfortunately Lao did not happen due to timing and money constraints. There were not as many flights to Luang Prabang from Siem Reap as we had hoped (sorry my pacific islander friend). You will have to tune into to see what we have planned for the rest of our trip.

We hope that everyone had a good Christmas. We ordered room service and took in a massage...not very Christmassy but very relaxing since both of us had never ordered room service before....maybe it will be a new xmas tradition.Picture_034.jpg

Posted by Garcia2008 02:22 Archived in Cambodia Tagged food Comments (0)

Xmas in Cambodia - Phnom Penh

sunny 24 °C

Well it is Xmas and we are in Cambodia. We made it safely through our 8hr bus ride that was suppose to be 6hrs. We left Vietnam on time and safely crossed over to the Cambodian boarder. We did run into a small complication right at the boarder, it had nothing to do with our passports it had more to do with our bus. Our bus was busted and with 3hrs to go in our journey to Phnom Penh we were in a bit of a pickle. The transmission on the bus failed and the bus driver was frantically trying to fix it, while the rest of us were breaking for lunch. The bus guide called in for another bus but he told us that it might take up to 1 hour for it to arrive. An hour in Vietnam or Cambodia could mean many hours. Luckly the driver was able to get a couple of gears to work and we were back in buisness. Limping through the hot road of Cambodia, Annie and I saw many rice fields and farm land. As we got closer to nearby towns we saw more people and markets. We even got to see a women vendor selling fried locus that were about 3in in length. It felt like we were in one of Andrew Zimmerman or Anthony Bordain's TV shows on the Travel Channel.

We reached one of the rivers that leads to Phnom Penh which is only crossable using a ferry boat. Our bus and all of the other vehicles boarded the ferry boat and we all crossed. It was pretty amazing how a small ferry boat can withstand so much weight and the river current and still manage to get to the otherside. Once we crossed we were about 2hrs away from our destination.

Our bus ride from hell finally arrived at Phnom Penh and it was up to us to figure out how we can get to our hotel. On the way to the city we did not see any Taxis or mini-bus that we could use to get to the hotel. We discovered a new way of travel. Cambodia is know for their motorcycle taxis which they call Tuk Tuk. We hired a Tuk Tuk driver that was able to get us to our hotel. It's a little bit more of an adventure in travel since we are riding in a small cart that is attached to a persons motocycle. With that in mind, picture riding in a cart going through traffic that comes from all sides. CRAZY!!!!

We arrived safely to our hotel (Sunway Hotel) and we called it a day.

Today we ventured out into Phnom Penh. We had lots to see and only one day to see it all. We hired the Tuk Tuk driver that transported us to our hotel yesterday, for the day. It is a great way to get around in Phnom Penh. We visited one of the most terrifying places in all the world, The Killing Fields. We were able to see the mass grave sites and some of the human skulls found during excavations. Some 8985 Cambodian people were tortured and murdered on this site. So much terror and horror occurred in this place between 1976 and 1979 during the Khmer Rouge regime. It was a very surreal place to visit because it was only 30yrs ago that this genocide occurred. To this day bones and articles of clothing from many of the Cambodians who were buried inside the graves rise from the ground after storms pass through. Annie and I were amazed and sadden by our visit.

After The Killing Fields, we made our way to Tuol Sleng. Tuol Sleng was formerly known as Khmer Rouge S-21 Prison. S-21 was a high school but during the KR regime it was enclosed and made into a prison. All classrooms of Tuol Sleng were converted into prison cells. Between 1975 and 1978 a total of 10,499 people mostly Cambodian were tortured and killed in S-21. This total does not include the 2000 children that were killed by the KR at S-21. It was eery being on the S-21 grounds. It was very quiet and the wind was blowning hard. The wind would cause the window shutters to slam all around the campus adding to the surreal feeling. It is a very educatinal site to visit but it is not for the faint of heart. All around the camp grounds are exhibit objects and articles that depict the horrors and atrocities that took place here not so long ago. We left S-21 feeling the same way we felt leaving the Killing Fields, sad. We thought to ourselves how the idea of one man can lead to so much pain and destruction. We both hope all types of genocide stop around the world because no one deserves such treatment.

We ended our day and our time here in Phnom Pehn on a much lighter note by visiting the Chatomuk Mongkul Royal Palace and the home of the Silver Pagoda.
Most of the buildings here include magnificent sculptures and are characterized by many tiered roofs and topped by towers which are symbols of prosperity. It is a beautiful palace to visit.

Overall, our time here in Phnom Pehn was very enjoyable. It was both educational and beautiful. Tomorrow we are off to Siem Reap home of Angkor Wat, the 8th wonder of the world (according to the Cambodians). Annie and I want wish all of our friends and espically our families a wonderful Xmas. We tried calling but no one was home. We both left messages. We love you guys.Picture_029.jpg

Posted by Garcia2008 01:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City

The last stop of our Vietnam Journey......

sunny 24 °C

Annie and I rode in this morning on our last train ride from Da nang- Hoi An to Saigon (HCMC). It was a long trip down to the very south of Vietnam. When we left Hoi An and Da Nang the warm sunny climate turned into a tropical down pour. During our 15hr train ride you can hear and see the tropical rain pour all over the countryside. Annie and I were not able to see much of the southern countryside since our ride started in the early afternoon and went throughout the night. Unfortuniately Annie and I did not have as nice of a train ride as the one we took earlier. We were stuck in a cabin with a much older married couple who were a little odd. For one, the lady slept throughout the 15hr journey and the man was just sitting there at times smoking inside the cabin room directly below the No Smoking sign. It was a very long 15hrs.

We finally made it to Saigon at around 4:30am. We were able to get a cab ride to our hotel (Saigon Hotel in District 1) and we were able to check in early. Since nothing was really open at 4:30am, Annie and I were a little scared that we were going to be standing outside of our hotel with our baggage for awhile. Lucky that did not happen.

  • *A note for those who are thinking about coming to Vietnam, watch out with the cab drivers and their shady cab rates. I can't tell you how many times Annie and I have been dooped into thinking that we were getting a good rate on our travels with the cabs when in reality we were not. Lets just say that we have resorted in travelling by foot around the city no matter the distance, but that is just our experience so far. **

Saigon is a big city with the same traffic that we encountered in Hanoi. The only difference is that Saigon has the street space to handle the enflux of people and moped. Saigon is a little easier to get around town with a map, unlike Hanoi the street names do not change every two blocks so that it is impossible to find the location that you are searching for. In our foot patrol around the city, we were able to find the War Remnants Museum. This War museum was first opened in 1975 and it is dedicated to the study, collection and perservation of the Vietnam War. Annie and I were amazed to see so many exihibts on the war and to read the other version of what happened in Vietnam, through the words of the Vietnamese citizens who survived the violence. Old black and white pictures capture the images that occurred not so long ago. Areas that Annie and I have visited while in Vietnam were photographed with a competely different picture. The museum left Annie and I further questioning why we have Wars. It affects so many people and for so many years after it is all over.

Well our time here in Saigon is almost over. Annie and I are only staying here for one night. This also concludes our journey through Vietnam. It has been an intresting voyage through Vietnam, we both carry many images with us. Before we leave Annie and I are hoping to eat a real Vietnamese sandwhich. We heard of a small cafe that is famous for them called the Black Cat. Anyways tomorrow we are off to Cambodia. We will be taking a 6hr bus ride to Phnom Penh. We both hope we arrive safely. Tomorrow will be the 24th of Dec, which is Xmas eve. We hope all of you back home are done with your Xmas shopping. Tick Tok!!!!

Posted by Garcia2008 00:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Relaxing in Hoi An

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If anyone is planing a trip to Vietnam...Hoi An is a must see. This sleepy beach town is perfect for renting bikes and motorcycles for the more adventurous. The journey here is less relaxing. Andy and I took a 14 hour train ride and a 45 minute taxi ride here. The train was small, cramped and smelly, but it crosses over some of the most beautiful coastline in Vietnam. Our overzealous taxi driver drove us throughout DaNang ( the train stop) and pointed out all the new resorts being constructed. He was also quick to point out that we were staying in a very expensive place. To our surprise our hotel was very nice, especially for $62 a night. It had it's own private beach, river, pool and bikes for guests. Our room overlooked the river and gardens of the hotel. We took a short cab ride into the center of town and wandered around until dinner time. The area of Hoi An and DaNang used to be a US Air force base but has not been active since 1974. It is not until recently that there has been a lot of construction and most of it is for hotels, resorts and casinos. The small town itself is very charming with cobblestone pathways and narrow roads. This area is famous for their tailoring, silks and lanterns. We didn't have time to get anything made, nor did trying on heavy wool coats appeal to us in the humidity. I could not resist getting a lantern though. At night the lantern shops turn on the lanterns and the street is a glow with the soft, multi-colored lights. Each restaurant and store front also uses the lanterns for illumination as well.

Before we arrived I was perusing the guidebooks and they all wrote about the HoiAn delicacies. I was determined to seek out these specialties, but not from just any storefront restaurant. We settled on the Blue Dragon, recommended by 2 guidebooks. The Blue Dragon donates a portion of their profits to children of HoiAn. The food was amazing...we had the 3 local specialties; white rose ( shrimp dumpling), fried wontons ( similar to nachos but with a warm mango salsa), and Lau Cau ( noodle dish with crisp pork skin crunchies on top). The noodles were my favorite, andy went for the fried wontons...he liked them so much he ate the second order by himself. The tiny restuarant was one the waterfront so we watched the boats come in while sipping on 80cent beers and fresh coconut shakes.

This morning we rented some bikes and biked along the coast to work up an appetite for breakfast. After 20 minutes we didn't work much of an appetite up but our bums were killing us. Guess we are made for driving cars, not bikes. We are trying to enjoy the last few moment of HoiAn before we are shuffled back into the train. We have one more leg of train travel, DaNang to Ho Chi Minh ( Saigon). Both of us agreed this will probably be our last train ride for awhile. The romantic ideal of rushing past the countryside by train is crushed when you almost fall out of the top bunk in the middle of the night.

Posted by Garcia2008 18:28 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Refreshed, relaxed and back from a junk

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Yep...a junk. A junk is a boat in Vietnam. We booked a short cruise to Halong Bay from Hanoi. It was exactly what we needed to get out of the city. We were not sure what we were getting ourselves into, and we were not sure what we were paying for, but afterwards we both agreed that we got a lot more out of our money than we ever expected. First we took a 3 hour drive away from the city. We drove through the country side and visited a government run art workshop where children affected from Agent Orange worked on various crafts. From there we drove out to the harbor of Halong City. We took a small boat to get to our junk out in the harbor. When we boarded we were surprised to find out that the only guests on the boat were us and another couple on their hunnymoon....the whole boat was ours with a 5 person staff; 2 attendents, one guide, one cook, one engineer and the captain. The boat was quite large, especially for 2 couples. We enjoyed our welcome cocktail on the deck and enjoyed a fabulous seafood lunch as we cruised out into the islands. Legend has it that a dragon ripped through the water in Halong Bay and formed the 3000 rock formations. The rocks were very magical looking. In 1994 Halong Bay was deemed a world heritage site by UNESCO, subsequently the few people living on the rocks were moved to preserve the area. The travel company we chose ( HANDSPAN...2 thumbs up!) are very ecologically aware and have done a lot to preserve the environment. We visited a floating fishing village in which the company sponsors their waste removal program and the school for the children. We were able to visit the school where they were learning english. It was very sobering to see the small children. Since the children live on the floating village, 5 hours by speed boat to the mainland, many of them do not have a proper diet. The do not drink milk or eat many vegetables. The children are very thin and do not grow very big. When they reach high school age they move to the mainland to attend high school.

After visiting the village, we stopped off to explore a private cave. Handspan supports the cave and only Handspan tours are allowed to visit it. The cave was smaller than the other public cave, but we were the only boat there and we were not bombarded with other tourists. It was very private and intimate and we were able to explore at our leisure. We docked in the lagoon for the night with one other boat in the whole harbor. Andy and I sat on the deck chatting and watching the lights of the squid fisherman. In the morning we did some kayaking around the rocks and started to head back to the harbor. The whole experience was so magical, we could not believe our good fortune to only share the boat with one other couple. The boat actually had a capacity of 6 passengers so even if it was fully booked it would not have been crowded. The Canadian couple we shared the boat was awesome and had a lot of insight into Cambodia since they just got back.

As a whole, Halong Bay is a definite must see. We are not sure if it was the private boat and personal chef, but we had a great time and were sad to leave. I have heard that there are cheaper and more expensive cruises but we got 200% of our money back in fantastic experiences.

Handspan has an office in Saigon and we are planning on hitting them up when we get there. We were impressed with the staff and the commitment to the environment.

Tonight we are going to gather our luggage from hotel storage and head off to catch a 11pm train to Hoi-an...another world heritage site in Vietnam.

Posted by Garcia2008 04:58 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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