Living and working in Cambodia and trying to learn the local language has brought many challenges and some embarrassing moments for Intrepid’s Jo Crisp. But the effort has been well worth it…
“When I started as a new manager with Intrepid in Cambodia I thought the key to success was learning the language. So I bought a Khmer English dictionary and practiced key phrases when ever I got the chance. Remork (motorcycle rickshaw) and taxi drivers, friends and work colleagues, they all suffered as I mangled the ancient Khmer language. What I thought was a good representation of chh’nung – delicious – was in fact a badly pronounced version of chanung – cooking pot. Meanwhile everyone must have been a little confused when I announced that I had a sore snake – rather than stomach ache.
It is now the Year of the Rabbit in Cambodia, because the country has just celebrated their most important festival of the year, Khmer New Year. And no Khmer festival passes without some sweet treats.
Sticky rice forms the basis of many sweet dishes. It’s different from regular long grain rice and is readily available from Asian grocery stores. Sticky rice is traditionally soaked overnight and steamed, not boiled, and when cooked it turns from white to translucent.
Travelling through Cambodia, you are greeted with the fantastic opportunity to take a glimpse into everyday river life on Tonle Sap Lake. But did you also know that this unique lake is one of earth’s most interesting and natural phenomena? Nicola Gibson explains…
“Every year, during monsoon season, high water levels in the Mekong River hinder outflow from the great lake, causing the Tonle Sap river to back up, reverse its flow and fill the lake rather than draining it. Through the seasons the lake will shrink and expand dramatically and resulting flooding of the river banks leaves the surrounding land very fertile and excellent for farming. The Tonle Sap is also the most important wetland in South East Asia for globally significant endangered species.
Any trip to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without spending time at Angor Wat, but the full complex of ruins is actually scattered over an area of some 160 sq km. So you can imagine why Graham Stanley decided to spend a second day marveling at these amazing archaeological sites…
“Our Intrepid trip included a visit with a local guide to the temples of Angkor Wat. This was amazing, but there are so many temples that it’s impossible to see them in one day, so on our free day a group of us decided to go back into the temples to explore in our own time.
When travelling through South East Asia you’ll come across many amazing highlights and hidden gems. Jack Horder spent a few months doing just that and he’s whittled the list of wonders down to his top 5…
“With the strong Aussie dollar continuing to linger and the reeling international tourism industry offering unprecedented deals, there has never been a better time to travel through South East Asia. A budget traveller’s paradise, South East Asia offers a taste of the exotic as well as being a historical and culinary treasure. Here are just a few of my must-see destinations:
Stepping into a hospital is something that most travellers hope to avoid on their holidays, but recently Intrepid’s Jane Crouch was happy to make a special visit in Cambodia for a real life-giving experience…
“Siem Reap and its surrounds are so full of contrasts. You’ve got the extraordinary ruins of the various temples of Angkor, giving you some insight into ancient lives. There are the opulent hotels which remind you of how some of the rich may travel. And then you have in-your-face poverty, where you know some of the local people are unsure where their next meal will come from.
The conflict between the haves and have-nots can be unsettling. But in Siem Reap I found some salve for my conscience, in giving the best gift of all – life!
This week there has been a lot of publicity about the tragic events at the Water Festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where over 370 people were trampled to death in a stampede as the crowd became panicked. It was a tragic incident and our thoughts are with all those affected by the event. Thankfully we can confirm that none of our travellers and staff or their friends and families were involved.
Intrepid’s Graham Stanley was in Siem Reap to visit our Cambodian office at the same time as the Water Festival…”The festivities here in Siem Reap were a lot less news-worthy and it was actually a fantastic occasion. The Water Festival is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia. The town was full of foreign visitors, as well as Cambodian tourists from other cities or the countryside wanting to be a part of the event.
Ever wondered what it’s like to travel through South East Asia with no sound? Earlier this year Intrepid’s Nicola Gibson and fellow leader Savath had the pleasure of leading a group of 12 deaf travellers on the Great Indochina Loop. The trip gave them the opportunity to experience new pleasures and emotions throughout South East Asia, that may have otherwise gone unnoticed…
“When you travel through Indochina, try covering your ears and let your other senses override to experience the following… Spring rolls, Pad Thai, pancakes, even crickets and silk worms, the smell of street food cooking fills the air in Bangkok. Absorb the atmosphere of the vibrant non-stop city, as the bright lights of bars and tuk tuks whiz past you in the street.
Many Intrepid travellers to Cambodia visit the Land Mine Museum near Siem Reap and learn of the sad legacy of war – the deaths, the amputees and the estimated five million unexploded ordinance (UXO) and landmines still left in the country. They also may meet the larger-than-life character, Aki Ra, who has just been short-listed in the Top 10 CNN Heroes for 2010 – out of 10,000 nominations!
At the age of 10, after being separated from his family through the war, Aki Ra became a child soldier and was given his first rifle that measured his height. He fought firstly with the Khmer Rouge (whose genocidal crusade was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians during the 1970s); he was captured by the Vietnamese and fought for them, then when the Vietnamese left he fought for the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces.
Some of the richest real life experiences revolve around food, and where better than Cambodia to combine flavourful local experiences with exotic regional dishes.
Cambodian cuisine is often described as a mixture of Thai and Vietnamese – but don’t tell that to a Cambodian. They believe their cuisine is in a class of its own, and they’re right!
Highlighting the delicious delights of Cambodian cuisine is non-profit organisation Friends-International. We are thrilled to announce the launch of their second cookbook From Spiders To Water Lilies, now available on-line. It features over 160 pages of mouth-watering traditional recipes, (one of which we share with you here), plus exquisite photography and inspiring stories from one of Asia’s most fascinating countries.