In case you missed my last blog on Cambodia, I basically poured my heart out about this utterly enchanting country. Perhaps the most profound observation I have, though, is that Cambodians remain resolutely cheerful and strong in the face of such a harrowing history. In this article I'm going to delve deeper into Cambodia's incredible temples and delectable cuisine. Here goes...
Siem Reap, famous for its temples, doesn't disappoint. It is a whole new level of beauty with the temples nestled in amongst verdant jungle. Pushing back branches as you go it almost feels like you're discovering something very secret and intrepid... even though Cambodia's temples are one of the main tourist attractions! It really is like a setting from an Indiana Jones movie. Many of these temples have trees growing straight through their ancient structures, perhaps in a protective manner... or they could be menacingly choking them, depending how you look at it! This, together with the vast moats and man-made lakes surrounding the ancient cities of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, creates an Oscar-worthy setting, ripe for exploration. How the people of the Khmer Empire were able to create all this in the 12th century is beyond me but the result is an unbelievably striking setting.
I'm a real foodie and I love Asian food but I think when most of us think about this type of cuisine we think predominantly about Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and India. In fact, I don't think I'd ever knowingly eaten Cambodian before going. Needless to say, I spent most of my trip making up for lost time! The food ranges from delicious pumpkin curries to cleansing soups, satays, fresh fish cooked in aromatic herbs and an array of salads. Perhaps the most surprising aspect to Cambodian gastronomy, however, is the lack of spice. Instead they use a lot of sweet and sour flavours.
My favourite dish? Stir Fried Peppercorn Crab, which combines the produce of two regions - the pepper comes from Kampot and the crab from nearby Kep - a match made in heaven, if you ask me. The crab is cooked in a delicious peppery, sweet sauce but the fun really begins when you attempt to eat it. While I tried my hardest to remain elegant and dignified, the outcome looked more like a toddler had just swept through the restaurant; claws were unceremoniously flung to the floor; sauce found its way onto every surface (mostly my face) and my dress was a lost cause. Delicious, nonetheless.
So there you have it: Cambodia, a country you can quite quickly fall head over heels for.