Tuesday, 24 May 2016

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA : Market Mini-Series

Extract from my travel article titled: Classic Cambodia - published in an English language newspaper in Spain.



Phnom Penh is perhaps the most fascinating capital city in South East Asia.  



Outnumbering cars, the mopeds, tuk tuks and cyclos – bicycle rickshaws –  raise dust on the crumbling streets.  As you pick your way along the ripped pavements, sunlight reflects off the dust motes to create a city in soft focus.  

Central Market

Traffic lights are not common.  At junctions everyone slows down, weaving and criss-crossing in a graceful ballet while maintaining a Buddha calm.  






The streets are peppered with moveable food stalls emitting enticing aromas that mask the pungent drains.  Beggars with missing limbs – victims of Cambodia’s recent violent history – cannot be ignored.  

This is a country of gritty realism.  Behind the faded glamour of her classical French colonial buildings, Phnom Penh is edgy and intriguing.  I felt like I was in the middle of a Graham Greene novel or an American espionage flick. 


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We explored the Central Market which was built in 1937 during the French Colonial period. All manner of goods were on sale, but the stall which intrigued me the most was the one selling insects and bird embryos. The ladies were doing a brisk trade, with some customers tucking in on the spot. The area around this stall was littered with insect wings.




My husband challenged me to try some. I was up for it until he added: 'but I get to choose what you eat.'

Knowing he'd choose the largest insect, I declined his challenge!




I photographed this young woman with her baby at a roadside stall on the way to Siem Reap.











We met this lovely, confident little girl serving at a food outlet in Siem Reap. 







Do let me know if you've enjoyed this week's market visit. 
I haven't decided where I'm going to go next week... watch this space.


p.s. if you want to read more about Cambodia - click HERE to read my post about an experience I had in Siem Reap


37 comments:

  1. Very entertaining, as always. Thanks!

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    1. You're very welcome, David. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. Congratulations on your publication Susan! Love these market scenes and the woman and young baby so adorable.

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    1. Thanks, Sue - the article was published quite a long time ago, but I always think this sort of stuff doesn't ever really become outdated. :)

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  3. That was an interesting challenge thrown by your husband :) But other than the challenge did you try any insect? The other day I was watching a documentary on them and people were raving about these insects.

    Lovely article Susan. I sincerely wish I can make it to Phnom Penh someday!

    Cheers,
    Srivi|The Piscean Me

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  4. Hi, Srivi - glad you enjoyed this post. No, I've never tried any insects since that close call. (Unless you count licking an ant's backside in Australia... don't ask!)

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  5. Love the little girl on the stall, and the prospect of everyone maintaining Buddha calm at the crossroads. :)

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    1. Thanks, Jo. It took a leap of faith the first time to cross the roads there - we copied the locals and learnt to weave our way like everyone else.

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  6. Love the little girl on the stall, and the prospect of everyone maintaining Buddha calm at the crossroads. :)

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  7. Vietnam—the whole area, really—has always intrigued me. Sadly, I've spent very little time in Asia; only two months in India (and it wasn't nearly enough). You evoke the place well here, Susan... And whet my appetite for more :)
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

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    1. I've visited most - if not all - South East Asia and Cambodia was one of my favourites. The people are remarkable, given their recent history. If you click on the link at the bottom of this post it will lead you to a link to a rather amazing experience.

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  8. To maintain a calm center in a land trying to recover from bloody war is a true challenge. I envy you your travels. You let me go with you in these posts -- but without the shots or the passports! :-)

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  9. Thanks, Roland. Yes - Cambodia was quite an experience - both physically and emotionally.

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  10. My visit to Cambodia was probably the most memorable I've taken. I can sum it up in two words - mixed emotions.

    Cambodia - a country of contrast and contradiction

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  11. Ah - you were affected by this remarkable country too! The only place which I chose not to visit was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

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  12. What a fascinating journey. I think it would break my heart as much as leave me in awe. Seriously, I would love to be doing what you're doing. Great to meet you and thank you for taking me on your journey with you today!

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    1. Hi, Crystal - thanks for visiting my blog and glad to hear that you enjoyed this post. :)

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  13. Super article, Susan. I think I've read some of your stories on Alfie Dog - is that right? We visited Cambodia in 2013. Very memorable. The things that stick out are never the buildings or the monuments but the people, tiny children holding out bracelets and selling them (always) for 'one darllar'. Did you see the prison in Phnom Penh and did you go to the Killing Fields? As for Siem Reap, Angor Watt was ok but I didn't like the town at all, much preferred Phnom Penh.

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    1. Hi Rosemary - thanks for visiting my blog. I was runner-up in last Alfie Dog's short story competition last year. :)
      I didn't visit the former prison in Phnom Penh and I agree with you - it's always the people who make or break a destination.

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  15. I think your photographs of local people are just beautiful! That lovely girl has a killer smile. Glad you shared it with us.

    @Kathleen01930 Blog

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen. She was such a lovely child - very confident, cheeky and keen to practise her English with us.

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  16. Fascinating place but, yes, I'd pass on the insect stall too!

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    1. I was prepared to try a little bug out of curiosity, Linda, but my husband would have been unable to resist picking out the most challenging looking one for me to try!

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  17. This was fascinating, but I'd definitely be passing on the insects and bird embryos:(

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    1. I found the bird embryos more difficult to contemplate eating than the insects, Sandra.

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  18. In theory, eating insects seems like a good idea - but I'd have to be extremely hungry to do it.

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  19. They're protein-rich and supposed to be very good for you. It's really just a cultural thing - we grew up with crisps (potato chips) for snacks instead of insects. I've seen Spanish children react to Shepherd's Pie as if they've been offered something disgusting... but give the same children an olive or an anchovy and they're happy as larry. :)

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  20. Chicken! Not wanting to try a little protein! ;-)

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  21. Yes, well, that's the thing, isn't it? If I'd had my way I would have tried a little one - but look closely at those sacks - and you can guess which insect my husband would have chosen for me! :)

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    1. Corky the cockroach? I've been told they are the cleanest insects about! Yum-yum! :D

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  22. No thanks to eating insects-blecchhh. My good friend was seeing someone there and he told me that his friend picked up those cockroaches one evening and started eating them like one eats potato chips.

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  23. When my friend was over there, his boyfriend would pick up a bunch of those cockroaches at the market when they went out and eat them like we eat potato chips

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  24. Ha ha - they probably think the snacks we eat are equally weird and unappetising, Birgit.

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  25. There is a butterfly conservatory near here that does a "bug feast" every year where you can try various bug treats. But I never have! :D I know that they are nutritious, but the thought just doesn't appeal to me. I recently saw an article about a local company that was create bug protein bars, with crushed bug powder in them, and that did intrigue me. If I can't see the bug bits, I think I could do it!

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    1. I think I've seen something about this too, Tracy. It would make a huge difference, wouldn't it? A bar made from powdered bugs would be much easier to contemplate eating than one of those insects in my photograph!

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