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Curious what backpackers do in Cambodia? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • The (probably) final cooking class of our trip today. We were picked up by Ben from Cambodian Countryside Cooking bright and early at 7.30am. After a last minute cancellation it turned out we were the only 2 people on the course which is good cause you get lots of help but it does mean you can't quickly hide mistakes or fudge things.

    We started, as is the norm it seems, with a market visit. The moped loads never fail to surprise us. We saw one which had 4 people on plus two plastic washing basket strapped to the sides like makeshift side cars each with a small child in them. This market visit was probably the best one so far. It was quieter and as there were only two of us we had more chance to hear and ask questions. We learnt about how the stall management works, found out that Cambodians think we're crazy for eating coconut flesh (they feed it to the pigs) and that what they call a parsnip is very different to what we do. We saw a lot of fermented fish (apparently if it has maggots in it it's a sign off good quality?!) that our Western stomachs are too sensitive to eat and also a lot of live fish jumping out of their bowls and wriggling around the market floor. We also ate deep fried insect which was surprisingly delicious. It's good prep for when all the world's population need to start eating them.

    After the market we headed to the cooking school. The cooking school is a not for profit business, the money made is put back into the school/shelter that Ben and his team run for orphaned children or children who's parents can't afford to look after them. It started in 2009 with 6 kids and now they're at 71. He's currently training up a young guy called Ti who ran the class, with Ben keeping a watchful eye. It was clear he was just repeating back the English he'd learnt from watching Ben so if we asked questions he got a bit lost but he'd only been there 2 months and did a great job. We started on dessert first as it needed an hour to steam and made a coconut custard filled pumpkin. We had it in Thailand and it was gorgeous so we were keen to try it again. Matt scraped out the pumpkin and I squeezed all the coconut in water to make the coconut liquid. A few more ingredients and it could sit in a steamer till it set. Very easy.

    Next up was spring rolls. Our spring rolls were like snowflakes, no two alike! I kept thinking I'd got the hang of it and then would make a really crappy one. We began by peeling taro and 'parsnip' which took forever (they really need a spiraliser) and mixed it with egg, garlic that I had to smash by hitting it hard with a cleaver and pretending it was my enemy, and peanuts. Then we rolled them up. Despite them all being different they turned out ok out of the frier. After that we made Chicken Amok which I've wanted to learn since we got to Cambodia as it's possibly my favourite dish from the whole trip. It involved a lot of pestle-ing from Matt and a lot of chopping and smashing from me. Most of the ingredients you can get at home (hurrah) except the all important Amok leaves, but Ti reckons you can use spinach. I'm not sure I have the patience to thinly shred spinach, Amok leaves are lovely and long, easy to roll up but maybe I'll go crazy and try it was cabbage. We had to make little bowls out of banana leaves for it to go in. Matt had a lot more success. Mine was subtlety rejected! We enjoyed our Amok and pumpkin dessert in between lying in hammocks. It was a very nice morning.

    After being dropped back we had an afternoon by the pool. Highlights being margaritas at the in-pool bar and a loud, drunk American woman trying to argue with a Brummy family cause their very young son was playing with a pool jet and she thought he would break it. Words were exchanged on both sides so obviously I subtley turned off my headphones to hear phrases like 'entitled' and 'irresponsible parents' being thrown around. The family didn't stop their son but started ignoring her fairly quickly but her loud monologue continued for about 20 minutes. Very awkward but super amusing. Matt then came out which distracted her and, despite her husband being there, she started cat calling Matt and calling him eye candy. Cringe.

    Dinner was at a bargain Cambodian grill near the hotel where we saw possibly our favourite religious offering so far. Most businesses have a shrine to their chosen religious icon and there's usually food or drinks left. This one had a cup of coffee with a sugar sachet on the side. You know, just in case they want it. Then we met up with a woman called Eleanor who I work with and her new husband Matt who happened to have just arrived in Siem Reap on their honeymoon! (Plus a cat who had a seat at our table for a while) It's such a small world. We've had a few paths almost crossed whilst we've been here. I felt slightly bad for crashing their honeymoon but we had a fantastic time drinking lots of cocktails at Asana where we did the class last night. Probably at least one too many seeing as we had to be up at 6am for a flight...
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  • A slightly less early start today (7.30am) for Angkor complex part 2. Today, just in the morning, we saw 7 temples. They were mostly smaller than the big draws yesterday and I can't really remember the names of any of them. But I can remember some of the odd things that happened across the morning.

    The first temple we went to was cross shaped with rooms the width of the 'arm' all the way to the centre. The doorways between each room got smaller and smaller as you got closer to the middle. In the middle we met a man in a police man's uniform - I have no idea if he was a genuine policeman - who took it upon himself to give us a guided tour including going and visiting in one room a very old person (I thought man, Matt thought woman) sitting in front of incense and a carving of a Buddhist queen. He/she took our arms and chanted something I can only assume was a blessing before blowing on our foreheads (?!). We learnt a lot of interesting things from the policeman guide who at the end asked for a $5 tip and wasn't too impressed that we only gave him $3 but there was no way he was 'I have no change-ing' and taking our $10 for a tour we didn't request.

    Next was a temple you got to over a long wooden bridge. On the way to the temple we saw a child's flip flops on the side of the bridge but no child was to be seen. Odd and a little concerning. The temple was apparently the hospital temple as the king would go there to drink holy water which cures everything. You couldn't go in this one as it was surround by the holy water so we didn't stay long but on the way back we worked out what happened to the owner of the flip flops. He must have been under the bridge catching fish as he was back up with a little fish squirming in his hands.

    The next few temples were quite similar to ones we'd either seen or to each other (except with a couple of geocaches). One had some nice elephant statues that I liked and a girl getting a friend to take photos of her doing yoga poses at the top. At another we were admiring a chicken and her chicks when the chicken bolted, a rooster started squawking and the chicks all huddled under a root. A local guide explained to his tour group (with us eavesdropping) that the chicken had seen a bird swoop which would have tried to take a chick so she'd gone on the attack. It was like something from Planet Earth, though I'm not sure Attenborough has ever done much on chickens.

    I think it was after bonus temple 3 that we got back to Mr Smarty and his bike wouldn't start. Queue a flock of other tuk tuk drivers flocking and pointing at different bits of the bike until one guy who must have some tuk tuk ring authors came by and pointed at the other side of the bike and suddenly the problem was fixed. It broke down again after stop 4 but was quickly fixed and we were ok from there. We asked Mr Smarty what was wrong and he just said the bike was old so maybe it's a common occurrence.

    On our way out of the final temple we pulled over to look at the wild monkeys which sit on the edge of the roads hoping tourists will feed them. Mr Smarty gave one of them a bottle of water which it proceeded to down - so funny. What was less funny in the moment was that I then felt something on my back and another monkey had grabbed my bag strap and t-shirt. Once it had got off and I hadn't been bitten or given rabies I could see the funny side as it sat behind me in the tuk tuk with Mr S playing with it. Well until I think it nibbled him and it was time to go. It clung on briefly as we drove away before getting off to join his friends.

    We got back about lunch time again and went to Pub Street for lunch. I found a dish which ticked all my favourite ingredients - chicken, mash potato, pesto and cheese. We had a quick 50cents beer before coming back for more pool time. The most amusing part of pool time was either a grown man diving in and soaking two women without caring one bit or the bar man trying to fix the jacuzzi bubbles on the pool edge and somehow just making water spray up in the air from random places on the edge.

    After the Western lunch we were back to Cambodian for dinner. More Lok Lek and Amok. Then a Cambodian cocktail class at a really cool bar which is the only old wooden house left in the city centre. It was just us in the class with our teacher Sombo (or Sombu, we can't agree which was right). We made a ginger mojito, a tamarind sauce and for our third I made 'The Lanes' which featured peppercorns (surprisingly nice) and Matt made a sweet Green Lemongrass. Sombo/u made us read all the ingredients out loud in the Khmer language which was very difficult but hilarious. She kept pitting us against each other, but I'm not sure there were any winners. The class was excellent and another skill to bring back.

    Final cookery class tomorrow!
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  • Das Küstenstädtchen hat uns den Start in den Trip wirklich leicht gemacht. Trotz fehlender Nachtruhe sind wir als erstes die Strände des Orts abmarschiert, die sich über mehrere Kilometer erstrecken. Und das bei über 30 Grad Mittagshitze! Tja, wer was erleben will, muss eben manchmal leiden 😉

    Ansonsten bietet der Ort leckeres Essen, reihenweise nette Unterkünfte (wie unsere, das Zana Beach Guesthouse) und Bars.

    Hier kann man es also leicht ein paar Tage aushalten - und genau das haben wir für den Einstieg auch vor. Für morgen sieben Uhr früh haben wir eben einen Scuba-/Schnorchelausflug nach Koh Koun/Koh Rong Sanloem eingetütet. Nur Strand wär eben doch etwas fad... Also heißt es heute zügig ins Bett - gute Nacht schon mal!
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  • Wir haben eine Bucht ganz für uns allein gefunden! Und es gab unter Wasser was zu sehen. Doppelcheck :-) Dazu eine überdachte Hütte zum Liegen, um uns rum nur Vogelgesang und hübsche Schmetterlinge.

    "Leider" müssen wir morgen Mittag schon von Sihanouk und den vorgelagerten Inseln verschwinden Richtung Siem Reap, um Angkor zu sehen. Nach noch mal zwei Tagen gehts dann nach Tokio.

    Wir kommen wieder, keine Frage!Read more

  • Today we had a quieter day, catching up on trip planning, arranging transport, laundry, etc (not exciting, but necessary). We have decided to stay in Siem Reap for another few days, instead of our original plan to move on to another town in Cambodia. There is plenty to do here and it should give us chance to catch up on preparations for the next leg of our trip (we fly to New Zealand next week), as well as fortifying ourselves before the 10-hour bus journey to Bangkok and another imminent round of jet lag... Selfishly, it also means that I do not have to spend my birthday tomorrow on a bus! We went for a last swim in the pool of our fantastic hotel before we had to check out and move to a hotel across town (also very nice and above budget - a birthday treat!). We went out for a walk in a park by the riverside and saw lots of large fruit bats roosting in the trees - fascinating to see. Having missed out on the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh, we found the FCC in Siem Reap and enjoyed a "happy hour" cocktail there this evening (whilst Solana practised her photography skills again!). We ended up going to an Indian restaurant tonight and, although not up to Bradford standards, it was better than we expected. We also saw a pharmacy that doubled (tripled?) as a mini-mart and money exchange shop - possibly an idea for pharmacies in Britain who are feeling the economic pinch?...Read more

  • And now for the big one - we visited Angkor Wat this afternoon. Apparently it is the largest place of worship in the world. It certainly was very impressive, even after seeing the temples at Angkor Thom this morning. We entered Angkor Wat over the stone bridge across the 180m wide moat that goes all the way around the temple complex. We were explaining to Solana that the moat was made to protect the temple and she concluded from that that anyone bad who tried to get over would be pushed into the water to be eaten by crocodiles! You then walk along a long pathway that leads to the main temple complex, with the iconic view of Angkor Wat in front of you along the way. Once inside, we spent a couple of hours exploring. It was pretty busy inside but it quietened down a lot towards 5pm. Solana met a couple of other little girls around her own age, the first we think was Japanese and the 2nd, pictured here, we're pretty sure was Cambodian; the two of them attracted quite a crowd, all wanting photos of the cute little girls! Solana is loving the idea of Buddha and today she was asking questions about the offerings people had made to the statues in the temples; we told her about offerings and she wanted to make an offering herself. After talking about the different types of offerings (many of them here were sweets - bearing a remarkable resemblance to Werther's Originals!), she offered some money; a monk then offered her a blessing of luck with holy water and tied a red cotton bracelet around her wrist. It was lovely to see her interaction with him. As it got later, the light got even better and we managed to get some photos of Angkor Wat together with its reflection in a lake - seen here with us spoiling the artistic view!

    As with many things, the photos don't really do it justice but it gives you a flavour of what we've seen anyway. All in all, it was very reminiscent of the days we spent in Central America 12 years ago, wandering around the Mayan and Aztec sites including Chichen Itza, Tikal and Copan - but here there are slightly fewer mosquitoes and definitely more tuk-tuks! It is also striking every time we see such ancient buildings, the similarities between different such sites in very different parts of the world, geographically distant and often built in different eras - e.g. the Mayan and Aztec temples of Central America, Machu Picchu in Peru, Angkor Wat, the ancient cities in Thailand, the pyramids in Egypt. It makes us wonder - did ancient civilisations have more contact with one another than we know, or did many different groups of people come up with similar ideas independently?.... We also saw a bit of wildlife around the temples today - including monkeys, lizards, myna birds, butterflies, frogs and parrots. Tomorrow we plan to visit some of the other temples in the area (to get our moneys worth from our $62 each tickets - they went up in price dramatically just last month, from only $40 per person!).
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  • We spent the day exploring Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. This morning we went to the Royal Palace, the official residence of the King. It is still the Royal residence, so many parts are off-limits and the parts that we could see were not well signed - but the buildings included palace, temples and stupas and all were very ornate. It even got a "wow" out of Solana when we first arrived! It was very busy there today, being a weekend it was busy with both Cambodian and international tourists. After the palace we found a kids play park - the first decent one we've found since Playa Hermosa in Cost Rica, over 6 weeks ago, so Solana was ecstatic! She somehow forgot that she doesn't like being out in the hot midday sun and happily played there until we dragged her away for lunch.

    This afternoon was a lot more sombre. We went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (aka "S-21"), to learn more about the history of Cambodia. We weren't sure whether or not to go with Solana but, after reading up about the place, we decided to go and we took turns staying with her in the gardens, whilst the other went around the museum (but we decided against going out to the Killing Fields). This was a prison in which thousands of innocent people were detained, tortured and killed during the dark days of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime during 1975-79 (i.e. in the lifetime of most of you who will read this blog....). As you might expect, it was a harrowing visit, with tissues required, but it is appropriate that it stands as a monument to those who lost their lives and to educate future generations in the hope of preventing such atrocity from occurring again.

    This evening we were hoping to take James & Lou's advice and head to the FCC for a sundowner but time ran away with us and, after a quick and refreshing dip in the hotel pool, we ended up in an odd local restaurant - where no English was spoken but managed to enlist the help of a 10-year-old boy to translate (son of one of the staff members!), our portions were small and served with no rice, yet there was a small kids play area. Tomorrow, we have a 7-hour bus journey to Siem Reap - not looking forward to the long journey on a bus but needs must....
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  • Today we left our lovely hotel and Siem Reap, which was a sad depart having loved the city so much. Our next stop was our homestay which would be a true local experience of a Cambodian.

    On the way we stopped at the floating villages. These buildings and the way of life around the river was incredible. Some people living on floating houses year in and year out. Located here are some of the poorest people and it's so eye opening having an insight to their personal lives. I feel almost silly about the worries I have in life. Here, putting 3 meals on the table and feeding your children is a big worry for these families as where this is a given for me, my biggest worries ranging from whether the spot on my forehead is gone or if I moisturised my face that morning.

    I can't quite put into words how much I admire these people and they deserve so much more credit than they get. If I think about how they live in comparison to me, although it amazes me it saddens me at the same time. Having said this, all I do is see these people smile, making me question what's necessary to make someone happy and it's not always the latest iPhone or newest shoes that do this.

    Before our homestay we visited another set of temples with a lovely tour guide who did a super job. On to our homestay, which was with a delightful family who had spent the majority of the day cleaning their house and preparing our dinner in order to welcome us. They cooked up a masterpiece and I've never had a meal so tasty. Breakfast was the same, indulging in typical local treats.

    One thing I have to say about this place is I adore the kindness in people's hearts and willingness to please. Everything is always presented with a smile on their faces no matter how much they have to offer. I feel as though I'm the luckiest person being able to experience the generosity of these people, yet they act as though they are lucky to have us, which I guess makes the whole experience all the more touching.
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  • On Thursday we celebrated my birthday in Siem Reap. I had a few birthday cards (which Solana was very excited about and desperate to "help" me open!) and Laura even managed to find a bottle of fizz as a present, which was a nice surprise. In the morning we did a Cambodian cooking class. We visited the food market, then made some traditional Cambodian dishes. We both made mango salad to start, then Laura made beef lok-lak and I made fish Amok for main courses. They were tasty and, although some of the ingredients may be difficult to get at home, we would try to recreate them with substitutes where needed.

    In the afternoon we visited another temple (photos to follow in a separate post). In the evening, the hotel staff knocked at the door and brought me a birthday cheesecake, complete with candle! It was a nice touch and Solana loved it - she thinks a birthday is not complete without a cake & candles. For dinner we went to a Japanese shabu shabu restaurant - where you select items from a food conveyor belt and cook them in a soupy broth at your table. It was great fun (once we'd worked out to avoid the offal!) and they even had a bit of sushi - tasty. The day was rounded off by finishing off the bottle of fizz - a great way to end a good day.
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  • We got to the beautiful family run cafe at 11am. I was really keen to do a cookery course whilst we were away and I am so glad we waited until Cambodia.

    The setting made it extra special, right on the shore of the emerald Secret Lake,
    The husband and wife duo (sorry can't remember their names) greeted us with beaming smiles and a refreshing ginger ale with lime.

    Then we set to work of how to create four delicious dishes:

    Massaman Curry
    Chicken Kampot Pepper
    Beef Lok Lak
    Amok Chicken.

    It was so lovely getting an hands on approach, especially as i have missed my kitchen the most whilst being away. The amount of preparation and ingredients that goes into each dish is incredible and i feel so greateful that i can now take these skills home and share with friends and family.

    My favorite dish was the Masssaman curry and the beef lok lak... so yummy and even more tasty because I had cooked it, well with a little help.

    A really fun day!!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Kingdom of Cambodia, Kambodscha, Cambodia, Kambodja, Kambodia, ካምቦዲያ, Campuchia, كمبوديا, Kambodiya, Камбоджа, Kamboji, ক্যাম্বোডিয়া, ཀམ་བོ་ཌི་ཡ།, Kambodža, Cambodja, ཀམ་བོ་ཌི་ཡ, Kambodia nutome, Καμπότζη, Kamboĝo, Camboya, KambodĪa, Kanbodia, کمبودیا, Kambodso, Kambodza, Cambodge, Cambodg·e, An Chambóid, કંબોડિયા, קמבודיה, कंबोडिया, Kambodźa, Kanbòdj, Kambodzsa, Կամբոջա, Cambodgia, Kamboja, Kambódía, Cambogia, カンボジア国, კამბოჯა, ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា, ಕಾಂಬೋಡಿಯಾ, 캄보디아, کەمبۆدیا, Kambodya, ກຳປູເຈຍ, Kambôdja, Kamapōtia, Камбоџа, കംബോഡിയ, Kemboja, ကမ္ဘောဒီးယား, Kambodsja, कम्बोडिया, Cambòja, କାମ୍ବୋଡିଆ, Kambodża, کمبوډيا, Camboja, Kambuya, Cambodscha, Kamboje, Camboggia, Kämbôzi, Kamboodiya, Kamboxhia, கம்போடியா, కంబోడియా, Камбоҷа, ประเทศกัมพูชา, Kamboçiýa, Kemipōtia, Kamboçya, كامبودژا, کمبوڈیا, Cam-pu-chia, Kambocän, Orílẹ́ède Kàmùbódíà, 柬埔寨, i-Cambodia