Thursday, 2 April 2009

A gastronomic delight!

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, has been one good meal after another and suddenly all of those pounds I am sure I had lost are back :-) Never the less, "Friends" , a restaurant run by an NGO to help street children off the streets, into job training and education, and back into society, serves the most delectable Cambodian/Western fusion tapas ever! We over ordered (as you do at tapas restaurants because you worry you won't have enough) and we feasted on roasted tomato hummus, green salad with red wine vinaigrette, Cambodian curry, port meatballs and grilled fish. Mm mm mm! So many flavours that we haven't had for ages like mint, vinaigrette, honey - oh how deprived we've been! We really were fat Westerners, stuffing our faces, but it was all in a good cause. Our most expensive meal to date, coming in at a grand total of US$20 - that's 1/3 our daily budget, but who's counting when it tastes this good!

Enough of the food already. Phnom Penh. It's hot. Disgustingly, drippingly hot. It's not possible to look anywhere but the ground, or gesticulate in any way without attracting the attention of an enthusiastic Tuk-Tuk driver who believes that your look in his direction, or the slight wave of your hand as you were discussing where next to eat, indicated that you wanted to go in his Tuk-Tuk. Polite as ever, they are just trying to earn a living, I find myself saying a constant stream of "No thank you's" and Mike's patience is wearing very thin :-)

So the capital is quite unlike Bangkok as it is not nearly as developed, but the traffic is still bad. The main difference, and a really positive one, is there's no smog. I don't think there is any industry here of great significance. We undertook the walking tour described in the Lonely Planet, much to the amusement of Tuk-Tuk drivers and stall owners - it's only crazy foreigners that walk! We investigated the main areas of the city and ended at the Royal Palace and trod lightly on the silver tiles at the Silver Pagoda where the floor is covered with tiles of pure silver, each said to weigh 1kg.

We ended our time in Cambodia learning about the country's gruesome, tragic recent history - the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime, which is very topical as the first person responsible for the murders has just gone on trial. In just 3 years 3 million Cambodians were killed by execution or by being worked to death in the fields. The Khmer Rouge were backed by the Chinese who wanted to empty the country of all but 5000 Cambodians, who would be kept as slaves, to make room for Chinese settlers. We visited the killing fields where mass graves have been uncovered of men, women and children who were bludgeoned to death because bullets were too expensive to waste on them. Truly shocking were the clothes strewn across the ground in and around the now empty graves - clothes belonging to the victims - because 30 years is not long enough for the cloth to degrade completely. It was a harrowing day finished with a visit to a museum where the meticulous records of the Khmer Rouge , now evidence in their trials, are displayed (Mugshots of the people detained and murdered, photos of the torture inflicted on them in the very rooms we were standing in) but necessary to get a full picture of the country we are visiting.

No photos this time as I haven't yet taken to photographing our food, but I might! Also I didn't take any photos at the Killing fields for obvious reasons.

1 comment:

Tasha said...

I'm so glad that you were able to see so much so far, can't believe how quickly time has flown! Hope all is good with the two of you, love reading about all the places you've been to and the things you've seen - maybe someday follow on your footsteps! :D x