Beautiful Cambodia

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Latimer: This post has been such a long time coming. For various reasons I never got round to finishing off my South East Asian adventure posts! 

Yummy Fish Amok, a Cambodian dish

Yummy Fish Amok, a Cambodian dish, it’s inside a coconut!

Well, last time I left off, I was leaving Vietnam for Cambodia. I was really looking forward to this. One of the main reasons I’d gone on this trip was to make it to Cambodia. I’d heard such good things about it from my brother, who is still as taken with it now as it was when he’d first been there. It grabbed hold of him somehow. And, now I know why.

For those of you that don’t know, Cambodia was once the jewel of South East Asian; prosperous and full of very well educated people. It was once the ancient empire of Kampuchea; it ruled South East Asia.

That glorious past was blotted out in the 1970’s when Pol Pot’s terrifying Khmer Rogue communist organisation came to power. I wouldn’t get into the horrific details; these people, if you can call them that, declared that the country had entered Year Zero, and that meant going back to the Stone Ages in some respects. The educated people were viewed as traitors (the  were sent off to the countryside to work as labourers on the farm, the country entered a famine; neighbours were encouraged to ‘spy’ on each other and inform on each other (even though no one did anything, it was all about fear and mistrust).

Pol Pot’s regime committed genocide; they tortured thousands of people, wiped out whole families (men, women and children), sending them off to the Killing Fields.

People leave bracelets at burial markers in the Killing Fields

People leave bracelets at burial markers in the Killing Fields

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When we visited one of the most horrific and infamous prisons, Tuol Sleng (S-21), our guide told us that in Pol Pot’s reign of terror (which he lived through), there were only two words; Friend, or Enemy… Friend meant ‘life’, Enemy meant ‘death’. The Khmer Rouge preached that they had the ‘eyes of a pineapple and ears everywhere’ – they preached that everyone should spy on each other (or face death), and so no one was safe.

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Tuol Sleng prison

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Our guide, his father (a Professor) had been taken by the Khmer Rouge during the regime. They never found out what happened to him.

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This is the dark side of Cambodia. To this day the Cambodian courts are trying the last living high ranking members of the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot died in the early 1990’s having never acknowledged how he’d tried to destroy his people and his country).

It’s very, very sad, but the Cambodian people are truly incredible. They are strong; stronger than I think I could ever be. I was very touched by what had happened to them, but I think they should be beyond proud of their resilience. 

It was a hard day when we went to Tuol Sleng and then the infamous Killing Field, Choeung Ek. A very hard day. But Cambodia is more than that, so when we went to the amazing Angkor, we got a glimpse back in time at the ancient Kampuchea Empire.

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Walking towards something wonderful

Angkor Wat is the most famous temple in the Angkor complex; it’s a Hindu temple originally. And it was interesting to learn that the languages and scripts of Khmer, Laotian and Thai derive from Hindu and India, not China as I always expected. Many of the temples in Angkor are Hindu; or at least originally, they later became Buddhist.

We got to Angkor Wat for the sunrise – which as it turns out it very popular – haha, of course it is. Anyway, it was packed full of people and I didn’t get a very good picture… but I was there and it was amazing. This is me trying to remember it’s not about the picture but the experience.

Angkor Wat sunrise

Angkor Wat sunrise

Angkor Wat sunrise

Angkor Wat sunrise

This is the sort of photo people try to get, where the temple is reflected on the lake in front... yeah we all tried!

This is the sort of photo people try to get, where the temple is reflected on the lake in front… yeah we all tried!

Inside Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat

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A guy getting a Hindu bracelet in Angkor Wat temple… I still have mine!

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Blessing bracelets inside Angkor Wat

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After Angkor Wat, we went to Angkor Thom, the ‘great city’. This was an emperors capital city during the Kampuchea empire. There is a temple inside that has his face built into the walls.

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My travelling buddha makes it to Angkor Thom – onward Buddha, onward…

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We then went to the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple, where the first movie was shot. The temple is actually called Ta Prohm. It’s spectacular. You might know it as the temple with all the roots on it.

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Cambodia really is an amazing country.

We had the opportunity to visit some schools, built and run by international donations and the people of the New Hope Cambodia organisation (which is fantastic). We had dinner at the school, cooked by local teenagers being trained to enter the hospitality industry, giving them a trade. We also sat in on an English class (the kids were amazing) – there’s one classroom called the Irish Classroom (I wasn’t in it) – it’s because there’s an Irish woman that donated a lot of money to the school. That’s great.

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The thing to remember is after Pol Pot’s regime the country lost it’s teachers and educated people. The schools in Cambodia are far behind the rest of the world and lots of children don’t even go to school. So it was great to see that there are grassroots initiatives for Cambodians to help get their country back on track. 

It goes to show you that you can’t keep good people down; people are more resilient that you’d think.

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After a few days in Cambodia I was back in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, where I’d started my amazing journey. I had some time to collect myself before flying back home.

As always, I’m thinking of the next adventure to come! 

What’s for Dinner?

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Latimer: I’ve said this before (a lot!!), but honestly one of the best things about going to a different country is getting to eat their food! And I’m the sort of person who takes photos of the food they eat and Instagrams them – hence this post is photo heavy!

I love Asia food but I wouldn’t have ever said I particularly liked Chinese food. As with most countries, we have Chinese takeaways in Ireland and they’re fine. But having been in China, I don’t think they are making proper Chinese food (I think it’s Westernized to suit our palettes). But, I wish they weren’t, because as it turns out, proper Chinese food is so freckin’ good!

I was asked a lot about the food when I came home – people would grimace, ‘what did you eat?!’ Well, okay, to be honest in Chinese food, they use everything and the food is always fresh (i.e. the fish is alive in the tank then cooked and put on your plate). It’s harsh to look at, but you have to respect that Chinese people know where their food is coming from; we eat the steak and the pork and we don’t think about how it got there.

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Weighing the fish

And here the fish is cooked moments later (it's called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)

And here the fish is cooked moments later (it’s called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)

And they have some amazing food markets! The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an was one pretty cool food spot…

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Muslim Quarter Xi’an

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The yellow stuff is rice cake

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They are making this sticky bar type stuff from peanuts and honey… beating the crap out of it with mallets!

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A prune, fungus drink… wasn’t nice! 😦

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Roasted walnuts

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Kitchen in the Muslim Quarter

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A kitchen in the Muslim Quarter

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Making fried wraps

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Yummy fried wraps

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Squid on a stick!

From hotpots to noodles, to taro chips… I ate well in China!

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Meet in a bun… sooo good… and spicy cauliflower

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Noodles in Xi’an (they’re known for their noodles – this was the only time I had noodles actually! wow)

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Spicy beef

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Yummy spicy cabbage

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Sweet and sour fish in Beijing

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Dumplings in Xi’an

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Some seriously spicy hotpot in Chengdu (they have the best hotpots apparently!)

Do you see the brains? Yup... I did not try that! ah... ha... nooo...

Do you see the brains? Yup… I did not try that! ah… ha… nooo…

Spicy potato... Love me some spuds!

Spicy potato… Love me some spuds!

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We stopped off at a local woman’s house for lunch in Yangshuo. This green stuff (a type of lettuce I think?!) was soooo tasty… I could have ate the whole plate!

These were homegrown in the above woman's garden... yummy!

These were homegrown in the above woman’s garden… yummy!

Taro chips.... They could give potatoes a run for their money!!

Taro chips…. They could give potatoes a run for their money!!

I went to a cooking class and this was my end result.... not too bad?!

I went to a cooking class and this was my end result…. not too bad?!

If you ever go to China know that you are going to eat well!

And to round things off you’ll find some nice drinks too!!

This beers quite nice... and bloody massive - I could hardly hold it for this photo!

This beers quite nice… and bloody massive – I could hardly hold it for this photo!

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Strawberry soda

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coffee art… how can you drink it now!!

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More coffee art… so cute!!

 

Tokyo Food Puzzles

What’s in it? What’s in it?”

“That’s the point of the thing, not to know!”

– Nightmare Before Christmas, Kidnap a Sandy Claws

We love trying out the different food while we’re here in Tokyo, especially if it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. So far our time here has been a real lucky mix of flavours. We’ve bought a few things where we haven’t the foggiest idea what flavour it is, or even what it is!

Giant Caplico: Not an ice cream, not really a sweet, this ice cream cone lookalike was hard, sugary and we’re still not certain what it was made from.

Ridley: “That was weird, I feel like I just ate twenty different chemicals. Giant Caplico? Giant chemical mess.”

Ketchup flavoured Pringles

Ridley:  (I love ketchup by the by-so these are not for the faint hearted. Latimer’s face of disgust was hilarious!) “After a while the kick of the ketchup is really sour…I like it, but I’d never give up my sweet and sour…no…what is it, sour onion?” Giant Caplico chemicals addle Ridley’s brain.

Peach pieces in peach jelly

Latimer: Does exactly what it says on the tin! Yums. Fruit in jelly can’t go wrong.

Unknown flavour crisps…

Latimer: “I really wish I knew what flavour they are, I can’t taste anything. I really hope it’s not frog.” (Ridley: I wish it was.)

Green tea flavour

Latimer: “It tastes like soil! Why does it taste like soil???” I promptly placed this in the bin after approximately 3 glups (it didn’t get better with time). However, the next day the maid had removed it from the bin and placed it on the floor by the table (as you do!). She seemed to want me to drink it. (Ridley: Waste not, want not! Soil will help you grow!) I poured it down the sink and back to the bin it went. Thankfully, it was gone the next day.

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Ridley: Latimer took this lovely close up of tiny fish in a bowl.  It’s Korean food. This was after I’d eatten two lots and thought it was seaweed, I didn’t see the eyes. (Latimer: Even though they were staring right at you.) Ridley: *silence*….I’ve nothing…no comeback to that…damn you. The tiny eyes!! Eweeee….I was chomping on it as I was telling Latimer, “My brother says I eat with my eyes, if it doesn’t look good, I’ll avoid it.” I obviously was blind this time round….

Toppo-reverse pocky, the chocolate’s on the inside! (Latimer: Reverse pocky, evil pocky!)

Ridley: *crunch crunch* “Hmm…they look like bamboo sticks with black stuff in it…I like it!” 

Banana ‘Yogurt’

Latimer: This wasn’t exactly a yogurt… it was more like a solidified, banana milk jelly. Why is nothing as it seems!?

Peach and apple drink (or so you would think)

Latimer: I bought this thinking ‘yeah, peach and apple sounds good’…. but when I took my first gulp my mouth was flooded with fruit jelly-bits. It wasn’t a nice texture. One gulp from Ridley had her face collapsing in on itself; “I don’t…. I don’t, YUCK, I don’t like it! That’s nasty… nasty…”

Mushroom shaped biscuits

Latimer: Ridley hasn’t noticed this, but around Tokyo at the moment there are these cartoon whistling mushrooms (they’ve been on the telly and in the arcades on these really annoying games that whistle the same tune over and over and over again, adding to the din). Well, these are biscuits based on the whistling mushrooms (Ridley: you think! Latimer: quiet you!). They were tasty: biscuit stalk, chocolate cap. No whistling though (I’m disappointed). (Ridley: no you’re not) 

Kirby chewing gum

Ridley: There were three little brown balls (stop sniggering Latimer) in this box, it was chewing gum, a fruity type! I liked them. It seemed appropriate, considering Kirby was kind of like a giant blown up chewing gum bubble…(Latimer: I loved Kirby’s Dream World. Ridley: Me too!)  

We don’t know what this was, we thought chocolate of some sort

Latimer: I was going under the assumption buying this was a steal at 30 Yen. Actually no, that’s 30 cent (euro speak) and that’s not cheap considering what it was. A square of ‘chocolate’… I spent 30 cent on one square of ‘chocolate’? (Ridley: fool.. wait, so did I!). It was white faux-chocolate with a sliver of yellow jelly (custard like, or something). It was tasteless and not worth 30 cent (hindsight is a great thing) (Ridley: you are harping on about the 30 cent, people are going to think you’re tight. Latimer: I am… 30 cent! Do you know what I could have done with that! Ridley: you’re an idiot. Latimer: Damn you!)

 Pocari Sweat (a God amongst the dehydrated masses)

Ridley: Lemony. Latimer: you haven’t had any this holiday. I bought one bottle and couldn’t finish it. Still, I will say it is a GOD! Ridley: you weren’t dehydrated enough… does everything I say get typed? Latimer: yes. Ridley: Pocari Sweat, a lemony rehydration drink. 

More food mysteries coming soon! (if we haven’t succumbed to gastric malfunctioning in the meantime)