Things I Have Learned In Cambodia

Things I Have Learned In Cambodia

“If you smile at me, i will understand because that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language,” Crosby Stills Nash and Young

The Kingdom of Cambodia is located in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula in South East Asia. It is bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand.

Khmer or Cambodian is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia.

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In Cambodia, greeting is formally done by joining both the palms together in front of each other and then bowing. This is called Sompeah and is usually initiated by the younger or lower rank of people.

Electricity in Cambodia is in pressing need in the rural areas. It is supplied in the evening only from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM while the business establishments and hotels rely more on generators. It is not uncommon to receive notes in your hotel about power outtages..

The infamous tyrant leader Pol Pot, who took control of Cambodia in 1975, was considered  the most notorious war criminal of modern times.

Over one and a half million people died during the regime of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot. The exact number is not known . It could be a lot more. One-fifth of Cambodia’s population was killed. They were mostly educated people, priests, and monks. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot wanted all educated Cambodians dead so that nobody would oppose their rule. You don’t see many old people.

Americans do not learn Asian History in school unless it directly affects us. Cambodia is still a traumatized country from the time of the Khmer Rouge and it is good to read about it. I read First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers  written by Loung Ung, a Cambodian author and survivor of the Pol Pot regime – or watch the Killing Fields before you go.

UNESCO has listed Cambodia as the third most landmined country in the world. More than 4 million landmines are still strewn across the country causing a high amount of casualties. It is estimated that it will take a decade before all the land mines are cleared up.

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Cambodia has the highest per-capita percentage of amputees in the world. Each month there are between 300 and 700 amputations due to land-mine injuries.

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Cambodia has the largest inland lake in South East Asia called the Tonle Sap.

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Cambodia has the least Chinese influences among all the other Mainland Southeast Asian nations.

Cows are a part of life in an agrarian economy and you see them all around Cambodia. Often you see children entrusted with the responsibility of walking with them.

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Since motorbikes are cheaper than cars in Cambodia is not unusual to see whole families on one bike.

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Rice is ubiquitous in Cambodian meals. It is served in many forms that include fried, steamed, noodles or dessert. (rice field)

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The relationship between water buffalo and humans in Cambodia is integral to their agricultural way of life. They have no fear of us. I was very close.  He was like “just take the photo already”.

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The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by 95% of the Cambodian population.

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Tarantula kebabs are a popular delicacy in Cambodia. Spiders are another delicacy or necessity served in Cambodia,

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Prahok is a national ingredient in Cambodia, and is made of fermented fish.

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Cambodian food is a complex mix of local dishes and various influences such as Thai, French, and Sino-Vietnamese and is really tasty. (amok and morning glory)

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Cambodia’s motto is “Nation, Religion, King.

The Temples of Angor are a great place to take wedding photos.

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The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is an outgrowth of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), which through the 1980s served as the single party, providing discipline and leadership for the socialist state. It is not clear to what extent the transition to a multiparty democracy has taken place. There is a lot of corruption in the political system.

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Many people in Siem Reap speak English because “the people who know more teach the people who know less.” School is in the morning or the afternoon. Now most of the kids you see working in Siem Reap do it before or after school.

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Hammocks are a lifestyle  in Viet Nam and even more in Cambodia. Maybe it is the heat but they are everywhere.

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Garment export and tourism are two of the main industries that generate revenue for the economy of Cambodia. (I’m hoping garment export doesn’t mean factories with underpaid workers)

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Half of Cambodia’s current population is younger than 15 years old.

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Traditionally, birthdays are not celebrated in Cambodia. Older people might not even know their birthdays.

In Cambodia, the head is regarded as the highest part of the body and shouldn’t be touched even in the nicest way.

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The Cambodian flag is the only national flag that has an image of a building – the Angkor Wat.

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Cambodia is home to the emblematic Angkor Wat temple, which is a silent testimony to how resourceful and artistically brilliant its people are.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Why Don’t We Eat More Cambodian Food?

Why Don’t We Eat More Cambodian Food?

“Now that you are eating the rice, you can enjoy the taste of the food.” Cambodian waiter in Siem Reap to me.

I don’t like rice but I am grateful to rice for keeping people from starving. It is the most widely consumed food in the world especially in Asia. In Asian countries it is weird if you don’t eat rice. So this trip I managed to not eat rice in Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Viet Nam but in Cambodia everyone eats rice. If they see that your plate has no rice, they put rice on it. In many restaurants, rice is free or included. They did not understand the no rice thing. Having had so much starvation for so many years, it is odd for them to see people jogging to lose weight or not eat rice. I needed to eat some rice in Cambodia to understand the food. I felt a little of that first world privilege that I had a choice not to eat it.

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Khmer food takes influences from a variety of countries. Cambodia was a French colony for many years and also has many Chinese immigrants, so both French and Chinese foods are widely found. Thailand is nearby and influences the flavors as well. as well. Common ingredients are rice and sticky rice, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime, garlic, chilies, coconut milk, lemon grass,, kaffir lime and shallots.

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I have never eaten Cambodian food before so I can’t judge anything other than that I thought it was fresh and delicious. The flavors are strong, clean and not too spicy for me. (Cambodian curry)

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Hunger is a legacy that lives on in Cambodian food and everything is edible. This is not my first fried bug country but there are a lot of them here. Platters of fried tarantulas and spiders are common in the market.

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They told me the red ants that were biting my leg on the hammock were delicious when cooked with beef and they were right.

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My new favorite Cambodian dish is  Amok, a popular Khmer dish. Amok is  a national dish, made from fish, coconut milk and curry paste and cooked in banana leaves.   I had it with fish and chicken.(fish amok and morning glory)

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I love trying new restaurants and my new favorite restaurant is in Siem Reap Cambodia.  It is Batchum Khmer Kitchen restaurant (http://batchumkhmerkitchen.com) I ate there twice. The food is fresh  and organic (as most food is in agricultural communities).

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It is located in a quiet part of the Angor Archaological Park overlooking tropical gardens and rice paddies. (watching the quick tropical rainstorm while eating)

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The second day I went for a coffee and did not plan on staying for lunch but it is so beautiful and relaxing there  and the food is so delicious and the staff is so friendly that we ended up staying.

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In the Khmer language the word for rice and food are the same. In Cambodia, they go together.

Fly safe,

JAZ