- The people – welcoming, hospitable and kind. One time a tuk tuk driver chased me down after I’d left a bag of shopping behind. Also the cutest children in all of Asia, in my opinion.
- The bugs – in the West in the past few years there’s been much fashionable mention of insects as food, but apart from the occasional pop-up restaurant or novelty menu item nothing much has come of it. I doubt anything will, while ‘unsustainable’ protein in the form of chickens and cows is so readily available. Cambodians are way ahead of the curve, having chowed down on anything that moves since the starvation brought on by the Khmer Rouge regime left people with little other option for survival.
My friends and family like to express revulsion at my photos of deep fried tarantulas and scorpions on Facebook but most of them think nothing of eating crustaceans or indeed regard them as delicious – surely the insects of the sea. Even worse, with their inedible shells and digestive tracts. I’ll happily keep offending their sensibilities with my critter crunching and will wait patiently for Sainsbury’s to start selling packets of crispy crickets. As Bernd says “it’s not disgusting, it’s the future”.
- Pub Street in Siem Reap – people watching, 50 cent beers, cheap cocktails, great food. What’s not to like? We went there for 6 nights straight and I still miss it.
- Kban Spean – I enjoyed revisiting most of the Angkor sites but I’d never seen this one. It isn’t heavily visited because it requires a 2km hike up a rocky hill. Having done no research we were unaware of this and when our driver pointed and instructed us to walk “up there” who were we to refuse? The site features river carvings of Vishnu and Shiva and hundreds of lingas (fertility symbols) on the riverbed. Honestly, during the Khmer Empire people saw a rock and they just had to carve it, even underwater.
- The footpaths – impossible to traverse at night without a head torch, in case you fall into a huge hole or onto a massive pile of rubble.
- The food – after the intense flavour and variety of Vietnamese food we didn’t find Khmer dishes bad, exactly, just a bit mediocre. Certain dishes such as lok lak (stir fried beef with egg) and fish amok (coconut fish curry steamed in banana leaves) were definitely delicious but overall there wasn’t a great deal to write home about. Except the bugs, of course.