Posts Tagged With: durian

Visiting Cambodia, Part One (Kep & Kampot)

Have you ever done something so many times that it becomes second nature? You don’t even think twice about doing it? Take, for example, the way you brew your coffee in the morning. Or your drive to work. These things seem obviously simple to you. Until someone else enters your life, and views these things from a lens that completely blows your mind.

Going home to Wisconsin for Christmas, getting lunch at the local cafe is so routine for my father, they start making his salad before he walks in the door. For me, it was a flurry for colors, smells, and tastes I never experience the other 364 days of the year. Not to mention the excessive amount of cheese that is present on every Wisconsin plate.

So it is with Cambodia. When my friends and family come visit, they are amazed by things that I view as my day-to-day life. Take, for example, dodging motos when crossing the street. Or ordering lemon when you want lime. (Don’t ask.)

My aunt and her friends visited this past month, and it was a total blast. We had so much fun exploring Cambodia, and I love any excuse to play tourist. My aunt is one of the best photographers I know, so I asked to steal some of her photos for my blog. (Seriously, she gets one of her photos in her annual work calendar every year!)

So, here you go. Cambodia from another pair of eyes.

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The view from my rooftop in the Russian Market neighborhood. If you’ve ever been here, you can see White Linen Boutique Guesthouse in the bottom center. (The lavender colored building.)

 

 

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Walking through the Russian Market.

 

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The meat venders of the Russian Market.

 

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Fruit outside the Russian Market. (As if you needed any more evidence that the Russian Market is one of the best in Phnom Penh!)

 

IMG_4718Sunset over the Kampot river, a two hour drive from my school. It makes for the perfect weekend getaway.

IMG_4741The famous Saraman curry at Rikitikitavi in Kampot. Saraman curry is a special Cambodian curry that is not easy to come by. It is very, very rich and very flavorful. The primary ingredients are dry roasted coconut, shallots, garlic, cinnamon, and a lot of yum.

 

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My friend Anna snuck down to Kampot with us for a weekend. We woke up nice and early to get a yoga session in with the sunrise. Little did I know, my aunt snapped a great photo!

 

IMG_4791Eating breakfast off the balcony at Greenhouse in Kampot.

 

IMG_4801Downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4813Downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4818The famous Durian statue in downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4838Walking along the Kep coastline. What a contrast.

 

IMG_4847Monkeys along the Kep coastline.

 

IMG_4851Monkeys along the Kep coast.

IMG_4860More monkeys.

IMG_4888Buying snacks in Kep.

 

IMG_4902My favorite hotel in Kep, the Kep Lodge.

 

IMG_4954Ordering squid in Kep.

 

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Browsing the crab market.

 

IMG_4982On the drive home from Kep, we passed at least thirty busses carrying young women. Sadly, we deduced they were being taken home from their factory shifts. Check the label of your shirt right now. Does it say, “Made in Cambodia”?

 

IMG_5023Passing a family of five on a moto.

 

IMG_5024Beautiful smiles.

 

I love all these pictures for so many reasons. My aunt takes a fantastic photograph, and it is a reminder of how beautiful this country is that I have come to call home.

Check back soon for the next blog, in which I give you yet another tour of Phnom Penh!

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Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We Sail Tonight For Singapore

Not so long ago, Sean and I were student teaching in Madison, Wisconsin. When it came time to start the job search, we applied to the Singaporean public school system. Trust me, it felt as surreal as it sounds.  This was before we knew about overseas recruitment fairs. A professor of Sean’s recommended we apply to Singapore, and that she’d put in a good word for us. (As she “knew people” in Singapore.)

We sent our paperwork off and waited a few days. To our surprise, we received an email telling us to go to the Town Bank building on the capitol square at 10:30 at night. There, we would buzz the entrance to the complex, be led to an empty conference room on the seventh floor in the pitch dark, and conduct a video interview with the Singapore school board. We did all this, and were offered a position within the week.

Why am I telling you this? Because we visited Singapore this past month for the first time, and I couldn’t help but think about how our lives would have been different had we accepted the job.

Not only that, but my student teaching supervisor kept singing the Tom Waits song, “We sail tonight for Singapore” as we contemplated accepting the job or not.

Needless to say, there was something that didn’t feel quite right, and we politely declined the offer.

After tasting Singapore’s food and walking there streets, maybe I would have said differently all those years ago…

 

IMG_1719We were there for a conference, and settled into a nearby hawker center for a drink and an Indian meal. Tiger beer is the iconic beverage of Singapore, and due to its international nature, Indian food can be found on every menu.

 

IMG_1722A hawker center is a bit like an open-air food court. People order an iced tea, a meal, or just a snack and rest for a while on the plastic chairs.

IMG_1728As Asian as the hawker center felt, there was so much that was British and colonial about the country.  Such as the absurd pictures for bathrooms in the hotel.

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IMG_1736A morning photo down the street as we walked to the subway. Yes, Singapore is as clean as it’s rumored to be. Also, everything is in English, and the cars are impeccably clean and modern. I think it must be a literalcrime to own an old car in Singapore.

 

IMG_1743The famous “No durians” subway sign! You actually cannot take a durian on the subway. The poor, ostracized fruit. I feel bad for the durian; it is the object of everyone’s contempt despite its luscious meaty interior and pungent, unique aroma.

But seriously. The smell of a durian is like boiling a pot of gym socks, onions, vomit, and sangria. Anthony Bourdain described it as “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” And he loves durian.

Me? I’ve only ever had durian ice cream. And I liked it. A lot. Honest! It was that type of flavor where the initial taste is slightly repulsive, but the mouthfeel and lingering aftereffect is mouthwateringly curious. You aren’t quite sure whether you like it or not, but you can’t stop eating. I once read an article about a couple who moved to Southeast Asia because they became obsessed with the taste of durian. (You can read more here.) Animals can detect the smell half a mile away.

No wonder it’s forbidden on public transportation.

IMG_1751Another Singaporean classic: The Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

IMG_1788We settled into a restaurant across the water from the hotel and watched the evening light and sound show. All of Singapore felt a little like Disneyland.

IMG_1794After our final day of the conference, we had an evening to explore. As our hotel was in the shopping district, we decided to take it easy and see what the surrounding streets had to offer. It was a bit like being downtown Chicago.

IMG_18077-Eleven is another Southeast Asian ubiquity. We don’t have them yet in Cambodia, but their presence everywhere else is simply astounding.

IMG_1811When it was time for dinner, we went to a food court. That’s right, a food court. Why, you ask? So we could order the following:

Kim’s Meal: Barley tea and nasi lemak (The national dish consisting of coconut rice, fried fish and chicken, and spicy sauce.)

Sean: Pink juice and pepperoni pizza

Like I said, Singapore has something for everybody.
IMG_1824To end our multicultural evening, we stumbled across an outdoor art exhibit. Just when you think you can’t get any more “Wow, I’m really in Asia,” you see a giant glittering dragon. I love it.

 

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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