Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cambodia- Phnom Penh

Our time in Phnom Penh was short but rewarding. Highlights include dinner at an incredible restaurant called Romdeng (part of Friends-International, an organization that assists marginalized street children and youth to become productive, independent citizens), a trip to the Killing Fields, visiting the Toul Sleng Prison Museum, walks around the city to people watch and snap photos, a sunset boat ride on the Tonle Sap River, seeing locals dance at sunset along the riverfront, champagne at the Foreign Correspondent's Club (FCC) to celebrate our 3rd year wedding anniversary, some t-shirt shopping, tuk-tuk riding, and mucho family quality time.

zoom-in and notice the plethora of workers riding in the backs of the oncoming trucks, mostly women and children, on the way back from nearby factories at the end of the day. We passed close to 50 of these trucks in a 10 min span

The Killing Fields
Tuol Sleng Prison

inside Tuol Sleng Prison Museum

grilled bananas
classic family motorbike load

I was humored by this guy rolling his food cart right down the middle of the main street

locals doing aerobics on the riverfront

The above video, if it works, is Carter eating deep fried tarantula at the restaurant Romdeng. We learned from Gordeon Ramsay's Great Escapes- Cambodia that tarantula is a national delicacy, so we had to try it. We were only brave enough to eat the legs though, as the body is supposedly filled with nasty pus. Gross!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cambodia- Kep

After a few days in the Mekong Delta, we started what was supposed to be a 5 hour drive from Chau Doc to Ha Tien, Veitnam for an eventful border crossing into Cambodia (the 2 hours of driving as we neared Cambodia was some of the neatest scenery we saw on our trip). The drive took several hours longer than expected, our Vietnamese guide was a liar and swindler, Robert and I did not have our Cambodian visas (the e-visas we had procured in advance were not valid for the Ha Tien crossing), the border technically closed before our arrival, and the border patrol officers left to go home. But, miraculously, our guide waiting on the Cambodian side was able to convince the border patrol officer to turn around and come back -- and give us our Cambodian visas -- so we managed to make it across into Cambodia. Just as we pulled up and walked across the border with our bags, the sun had set, and a giant thunder storm hit with high speed winds and flood caliber rains, making things even more dramatic. But we made it across!

two guys crossing the border into Vietnam
Our first stop in Cambodia was the small coastal town of Kep on the southern shore, in Kampot province. We had gone back & forth about whether or not to visit Kep, and we only stayed for 24 hours, but it was incredible. We went 100% for the experience of eating fresh crab, and it was beyond worth the diversion.  After crossing the border, we went directly to a crab shack type restaurant on the water for dinner before checking into our hotel. The following morning at 6am we went to the local Crab Market, which is the true experience of visiting Kep.... crab boats coming in just at dawn, local women wading out to the boats and dragging full crates back to shore, hordes of women dividing up the crabs, which leads to lots of emotional bartering and a few all-out arguments, and nearby another set of locals firing up grills and pots to cook and sell the fresh seafood from the strip of family owned and operated restaurants right on the water...

After our morning at the market and another fresh crab meal for lunch (during which Robert and I finally learned how to successfully tackle eating a whole fresh crab, thanks so much Dad), we hit the road for Phnom Penh. On the way, we went to a Kampot black pepper farm, a famous cave (where we were roped into paying for children as guides which was an incredibly sad and disturbing experience), and we visited with some wonderful Cambodian people. 

locals working in the rice fields

Kampot pepper farm
black pepper
A gobbler wandering through rows of pepper plants... leading to a classic interaction with Nelson who pretended to be a hen with his perfect turkey call, which caused the gobbler to go crazy... email us if you want to see the hysterical video
railroad project on-hold (there are currently no commuter rails in Cambodia)

a tame yet scary monkey outside of the Buddha cave
Robert and Dixon with their guides through the cave

Nelson's crew of guides

that's a pig