Tag Archives: Pescatarian

Captivated by Cambodia: A Travel Guide

Thailand is known for its spicy curries, the Philippines for its white sand beaches, and Vietnam for its lush landscapes, but there is something about Cambodia that draws one in and compels one to stay. What is it about Cambodia that I find so appealing?

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Cambodia is a country of contrasts: a country of ancient civilization and adolescent citizens, local markets and foreign boutiques, of homegrown circus performers and international film stars, of old line politicians and avant-garde artists. Read on to discover the experiences that await you in Cambodia!

Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the most touristy and my least favorite city in Cambodia, but is worth a visit because it is home to the Angkor ruins, an ancient complex dating back nearly a thousand years. From 900 to 1200 A.D., Khmer kings ordered the construction of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples.

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If you have one day, make sure you see sunrise over Angkor Wat, the smiling faces of Bayon, the sandstone carvings of Preah Khan, and The Tomb Raider tree at Ta Prohm. If you have three or more days, you can admire the intricate carvings at Banteay Srei or reenact scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark at Beng Melea. After a long day at the Angkor temples, unwind at ABBA Café’s rooftop lounge, eat a tasty vegetarian meal at Banllé Vegetarian Restaurant or Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant, or sample the homemade ice cream at The Blue Pumpkin. For more information on the Angkor temples, suggested sightseeing itineraries, and accommodation and restaurant recommendations, read my guide to Siem Reap.

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Phnom Penh
Many travelers will tell you to skip Phnom Penh, but I had a lovely time wandering around town, going on self-guided tours of the city, exercising along the riverside, and unwinding at the cinema.

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Travelers interested in Cambodia’s history can browse the ancient Khmer artefacts at the National Museum of Cambodia or listen to guides’ stories about life under the Khmer Rouge at Choueng Ek (the Killing Fields) and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (formerly the S-21 Prison). Architecture buffs and the spiritually-minded should check out the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, Wat Botum Vatey, and Wat Ounalom. For those interested in people watching, take a stroll down the historic riverside of Sisowath Quay at dusk or participate in a group exercise class in Royal Palace Park or Wat Bottom Park at night. Travelers looking for more relaxing activities can attend a movie marathon at one of The Flicks Community Movie Houses or experience a 4D movie at Aeon Mall. For more details on the sights, entertainment choices, and international dining options Cambodia’s capital city has to offer, read my guide to Phnom Penh.

Battambang
While the bulk of international tourists’ exposure to Cambodia is limited to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, the country has much more to offer. In my mind, no visit to Cambodia is complete without a visit to Battambang. Cambodia’s second largest city, it feels much more like a small, sleepy town and, as such, is easy to explore on foot. Due to its burgeoning art scene, Battambang is gaining recognition as the creative capital of Cambodia. Attend a performance of Phare the Cambodian Circus or take a self-guided tour of Battambang’s art galleries.

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The attractions around the city can easily be seen by way of a one-day tuk-tuk tour. Don’t worry about booking transportation in advance, as a horde of tuk-tuk drivers offering tours will mob you the moment you step off the bus from Siem Reap. You will start your tour with a fun ride aboard the Bamboo Train before climbing the 360 stairs to the top of Wat Banan Temple. After lunch, your driver will take you the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau, one of the sites of the Khmer Rouge’s mass executions. You will end the day by witnessing the breathtaking phenomenon of thousands of bats flying out of the Bat Cave at sunset. Look at my guide to Battambang to hear about the city’s emerging art scene, read restaurant recommendations, and learn which celebrity was directing a movie during my visit!

Kampot
If you’re looking for rest and relaxation, Kampot is the place for you! Kampot, a charming town famous for its pepper and riverside setting, was my favorite place to visit in Cambodia. My friends and I spent four wonderful days eating terrific food, dining at cute cafés, watching movies at the cinema, chilling by the river, and exploring the 19th century French colonial architecture.

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For great views of the river and terrific food, stay at Samon’s Village. Stop by Wonderland for Belgian ice cream and homemade popsicles or spend a lazy afternoon brunching, snacking, and reading at Epic Arts Café. Enjoy Mediterranean tapas with local, nutritious, and vegetarian ingredients at Deva Café or grab bread and croissants on the go at L’Epi D’or Bakery & Café. If you’re missing watching movies at home, you and your friends can rent a private movie room at Ecran Movie House or buy a day pass to watch the three movies it screens daily. Hungry? You can order hand-pulled noodles and homemade vegetable dumplings from Ecran’s restaurant. For more detailed travel recommendations, read my guide to Kampot.

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Chi Pat
Travelers looking to experience the “real Cambodia,” should arrange a stay with the Community Based Ecotourism (CBET) project in Chi Pat village, located amidst the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong Provice. CBET aims to protect the Cardamom rainforest and provide inhabitants income-generating opportunities by transforming former loggers and wildlife poachers into tour guides, guest house owners, and taxi drivers. CBET offers travelers trekking, mountain-biking, kayaking, and camping expeditions through the jungle, as well as opportunities to stay at homestays in Chi Pat village. For detailed information about how to get to Chi Pat, what to do there, and what to expect, read my guide to Chi Pat.

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Sihanoukville
As Cambodia’s top beach destination, Sihanoukville is much more expensive than the rest of Cambodia. While I do not find its beaches as beautiful as those in Thailand or the Philippines, they have white sand, warm water, and calm waves which make them ideal for sunbathing and swimming. Plus, with fewer crowds the only sounds you’ll hear are the breeze blowing, waves lapping against the shore, and the occasional snack seller hawking her wares.

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Travelers wanting to get away from it all can stay on one of the islands off of Cambodia’s coast, such as Koh Rong Samloem (not to be confused with the party island of Koh Rong) and Koh Ta Kiev, but beware as the islands have limited hours of electricity, bucket baths and Asian-style toilets, and no wifi. Personally, my top choice in Sihanoukville for fun in the sun is Otres Beach because of its many shade-providing trees, laid-back environment, beachside restaurants, and Cambodian vacationers. You don’t have to leave the sand to enjoy a brunch of Eggs Florentine or Baked Eggs at Sea Garden or appreciate the homemade pizza, pasta, and cheesecake at Pappa Pippo. Other nice beaches include Sokha Beach and Independence Beach. You can use Holiday Palace Resort’s day beds if you buy a drink from Palais Coffee; Palais makes a yummy Ferrero Rocher Frappe.

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Last but not least, travelers interested in developing or deepening a yoga practice can attend a yoga and meditation retreat at Vagabond Temple. Retreats are open to beginners and advanced practitioners alike. The Temple also offers detoxification programs, Reiki courses, and healing sessions.

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More Guides to Cambodia:
Guide to Siem Reap
Guide to Phnom Penh
Guide to Battambang
Guide to Kampot
Guide to Chi Pat
Vegetarian Guide to Cambodian Cuisine

 

 

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Bats, Boutiques, and Billionaires: A Guide to Battambang

Battambang is Cambodia’s second-largest city, but it feels much more like a small, sleepy town. Upon your arrival, the view of the Sangker River flowing lazily by the city greets you.

What to See
Start by seeing the sights on foot through a self-guided walking tour. Khmer Architecture Tours has free downloadable maps on its website. While the tour stops are not particularly memorable, the maps provide a nice introduction to quaint Battambang. That the numbered streets and roads (Roads 1.5 and 2.5 among them) neither run precisely east to west nor north to south only adds to the locality’s charm.

Due to its burgeoning art scene, Battambang is gaining recognition as the creative capital of Cambodia. Leading the cultural revival is Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), a nonprofit organization formed in 1994 by nine students and their art teacher when they returned home from a refugee camp after the end of the Khmer Rouge’s rule. PPS provides over 1,700 students with arts education through its public, art, music, and theater schools. Many of its graduates perform in Battambang and Siem Reap through Phare the Cambodian Circus, a Cirque-du-Soleil-esque show combining Cambodian stories, theater, dance, music, and circus arts.

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Beyond PPS’s students, there are a number of artists-in-residence in Battambang including the unforgettable Marine Ky. Raised in France after her family fled the Khmer Rouge, Marine returned to Cambodia in 2000. Her textiles combine Western and Khmer printmaking techniques and explore the journey from genocide to inner peace, happiness, and harmony. Marine welcomed us into her gallery and her home with a presentation of her artwork, a pot of tea, and tales of her life, and sent us away with embraces and mandalas for protection. To embark on a self-guided tour of Battambang’s art galleries, check out the following guides by Granturismo, Move to Cambodia, and Bric-a-Brac.

Battambang is not only home to local artists, but also to international performers. Movie star Angelina Jolie owns a house in northwestern Battambang which she purchased after the adoption of her oldest son, Maddox, from Cambodia. During my visit to Battambang, the town was abuzz with preparations for the shooting of First They Killed My Father, a motion picture directed by Angelina based on the memoir written by a childhood survivor of the Pol Pot regime. Even though I was more than a little disappointed when my submission to the movie’s open casting call and my dreams of stardom went unanswered, a few friends and I managed to sneak onto the movie set and witness Angelina in action.

Spend a few days wandering around Battambang and soaking in the art and culture scene, and then hire a tuk-tuk to see the attractions outside the city, namely the Bamboo Train, the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau, the Bat Cave, and Wat Banan Temple. The Bamboo Train is a touristy but entertaining excursion where bamboo rafts powered by gas engines transport passengers seven kilometers through the countryside along metal rails.

The Killing Caves – one of the sites of Khmer Rouge mass executions – provide a sobering look into a human tragedy, while the Bat Cave exhibits one of nature’s wonders. At sunset every day, thousands upon thousands of bats fly out of the Bat Cave to feed, a breathtaking phenomenon to behold. If you drive down the road, you can watch the bats soar over the rice fields and disappear over the horizon. During my visit to the Bat Cave, we were equally astounded by the spectacle of two of Angelina’s children, Shiloh and Pax, standing before us.

I expected to be tired of Khmer temples after three days of touring the Angkor ruins, but Wat Banan was worth the visit. The temple dates back to 1050 AD, even before Angkor Wat, although it was rebuilt in 1210 AD. Like many of the Angkor temples, it was originally dedicated to Hindu gods before its conversion to a Buddhist temple. That its four towers are still standing is a miracle as they look ready to collapse at any moment. Luckily they remain erect, giving visitors the opportunity to examine the captivating carvings adorning their exteriors. Climbing the 360 stairs up to the temple can pose a challenge, but results in a rewarding view of the surrounding countryside.

Where to Stay
Hostel BTB Cambodia is so new that it was still being built during my visit to Battambang. Don’t let that deter you, however. Despite construction, the dorms and bathrooms were clean and the showers were hot. The owner is very knowledgeable about the area and can share with you a number of things to see beyond the main tourist attractions. He helped us book bus tickets to our next destination and offered us a resting place when our bus decided to show up not one, not two, but three hours late. At $3 a night, Hostel BTB Cambodia is a steal!

Where to Eat
The Kitchen’s Coconut Strawberry Freeze and Fish Taco Salad are the perfect antidotes to a long day of traveling. You can sit and eat in the downstairs café or browse the exhibits in the upstairs art gallery. Apart from the Mexican food at The Kitchen, you can get decent Spanish tapas at The Lonely Tree Café and tasty Indian food at Flavors of India. Pay a visit to White Rose for fruit shakes, my favorite of which is the creamy pineapple, banana, and soursop shake. For prime people watching, get a drink at Bric-a-Brac, a boutique which specializes in Asian cookbooks and hand-made tassels, textiles, and scarfs (perfect gifts for your family and friends after your trip to Cambodia!). Every evening, the shop transforms its storefront into an al-fresco wine bar. Lest I forget, no visit to Battambang would be complete without tasting the divine chocolate hazelnut cake at Choco L’Art Café.

Finding ‘The Lost Room’

When I heard about The Lost Room in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the name immediately intrigued me. Hidden in a back alley, The Lost Room serves a selection of Australian and internationally influenced small plates meant for sharing. Although it has a limited menu, its staff happily offer recommendations and cater to a variety of dietary restrictions including vegetarianism, veganism, and gluten-intolerance.

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My friends couldn’t wait to sample the food at The Lost Room!

My friend and I ordered an assortment of “keys” or dishes, including the Pear & Blue Cheese Parcels, Feta Bouyiourdi, Crab Cakes, Pan Fried Sea Bass, Roasted Caramelised Pumpkin, Pan Fried Green Beans, and the Rich Chocolate Pot. A complimentary basket full of bread accompanied by garlic confit arrived first. We appreciated the warm and crusty bread, but the confit would have made a better spread with the addition of oil and salt. The parcels were served with a mango-basil purée which pear-ed nicely with the pungent blue cheese. The succulent red and yellow peppers similarly complemented the savory olives and salty feta cheese in the bouyiourdi dip. While I remained a fan of the mango-basil purée, the crab cakes which it came with were mushy and lacking in texture. My friend, a Maryland native, complained that they were missing the freshness of crab cakes back home. The sea bass was savorless by itself but appetizing when combined with tartar and herb gremolata. As for the vegetable sides, the roasted pumpkin was dulcet, pleasant and sweet, but the green beans topped with garlic confit were bland and in need of salt. We ended our meal with the chocolate pot, sweet chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream.

Clockwise from top left: The Lost Room, Pan Fried Sea Bass, Rich Chocolate Pot, The Lost Room decor, and Pear & Blue Cheese Parcels and Crab Cakes

Overall, my experience at The Lost Room was enjoyable but not outstanding. Service was prompt, the atmosphere was classy, and the staff was cordial, but most of the fare was underseasoned and pricey given the tiny portion size.

Dining in the Dark: An Eye-Opening Experience

During my last visit to Phnom Penh, I had a novel experience eating dinner at Dine in the Dark, a restaurant where diners experience eating a meal in complete darkness with the assistance of visually impaired guides and servers. Guests pick from three set surprise menus, the contents of which remain unknown until after dinner when the dishes are revealed to them. The prospect of a culinary adventure thrilled me as I have heard that not being able to see heightens the other senses, including taste.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I was seated in the garden lounge where I ordered a mocktail and a vegetarian three-course menu. The hostess placed my phone and camera in a lockbox, and then introduced me to my guide for the night, Freddo. I took hold of Freddo’s shoulder as he led me up a flight of stairs and into a pitch black dining room. After helping me to my seat, he directed my hands to my plate, cutlery, drink, and glass of water.

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A short while later, Freddo announced that he had arrived with my appetizer. I detected a vegetable with the consistency of green beans covered with a slimy substance. I tried to pick up the food with my utensils, but without my sight to rely on I kept narrowly missing it, forcing it to slide across my plate. After a few failed attempts to spear the not-beans with my fork, I resorted to using my hands. As I was licking my fingers clean, Freddo returned. Even though he couldn’t see me, I blushed at my lack of table manners.

I waited in silence for the entrée to arrive. Since Freddo was proficient in English, I tried to make small talk with him. He was sweet but shy, and left after a short while to check on my food. He came back with my main course. It had a gelatinous consistency – not quite liquid, not quite solid. I guessed that it was a curry of some sort, especially as it was accompanied by rice. I tried to spoon the rice and maybe curry onto my plate but dropped rice everywhere. In the dark, I felt like a toddler sitting in a high chair, making a mess for my parents to clean up.

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Freddo returned to clear my plate. He reappeared with dessert, creamy and fruity deliciousness which I devoured all too hastily. When he came again, he asked if I needed anything. I replied that I was fine and awkwardly continued sitting there, not realizing that the meal was over and I could return downstairs. I had assumed that the grand unveiling would take place in the dining room with a flick of the lights and a collective gasp. I finally grasped the situation and asked Freddo to escort me downstairs where the hostess showed me beautiful pictures of my meal on an iPad. I could tell you what it is, but you’ll have to try it for yourself to find out!

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Having dinner at Dine in the Dark certainly was an interesting experience. Eating in the dark and speaking with Freddo provided me with a glimpse into a blind person’s life and raised awareness of the limited job prospects for the blind in Cambodia and in other countries. I realized how much I relied on my sight to have a meal, and how differently visually impaired people must perceive the world. Dining alone in the dark also made me appreciate eating’s social aspects. As an avid foodie, the food guessing game fascinated me. For that reason, I was hoping that there would be more discussion of the fare served after the meal. Without a smartphone or a book to distract me, the wait times for the various courses seemed interminable. A dining companion would certainly have remedied these problems. If you’re game for an unusual and thought-provoking dining experience, book a table at Dine in the Dark, but make sure to take a friend with you!

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Freddo, my guide, and I

Images courtesy of Dine in the Dark

A Vegetarian Guide to Cambodian Cuisine

Before traveling to Cambodia, I had never experienced Khmer cuisine. Over the past two months, I have tried an array of Khmer foods and found their combination of sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami tastes incredibly pleasing to my palate. While the below list is not meant to be exhaustive, it should help you identify dishes which you can eat during your next trip to Cambodia or a Cambodian restaurant.

Amok
Amok trei, or steamed curried fish, is the national dish of Cambodia. Amok differs dramatically depending on where you order it. Named after the banana leaves it was traditionally served in, amok can resemble a red, yellow, or green Thai coconut curry or a casserole with baked or steamed gravy, meat, and vegetables. While fish was historically the main ingredient, most places now offer a choice of chicken, pork, fish, or vegetables. Other ingredients include coconut curry and kroeung, meaning spices and herbs. Typical spices used in Cambodian cooking include lemon grass, lime, galangal, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and dried red chilies, though amok usually substitutes Kaffir lime leaves for turmeric.

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Photo of pumpkin amok

Somlar Kari (Khmer Curry)
Somlar kari, translated as Khmer Curry, is a hearty curry full of vegetables, such as carrot, sweet potato, onion, eggplant, and long beans, and is flavored with kroeung spices. It tastes similarly to a Thai coconut curry but with fewer chilies. While Khmer Curry was customarily served with rice vermicelli noodles or a fresh baguette to celebrate occasions like weddings, it can now be found at most restaurants with English menus where it is accompanied by jasmine rice. Strict vegetarians and vegans should ask the chef to prepare the dish without fish sauce.

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Photo of Khmer curry

Somlar Machu (Sour Soup)
Somlar machu refers to an entire class of thin but refreshing sour soups. Somlar machu trei, also known as somlar machu Khmer Krom, contains a freshwater fish such as catfish, tomato, pineapple, and basil. Lotus root, okra, morning glory, water spinach, bamboo shoots, Asian rhubarb, and bean sprouts often make an appearance as well. Tamarind, lemongrass, Kaffir lime, lemon or lime juice, prahok (fermented fish paste) give the soup its sour and citrusy notes, while ginger and garlic round out the flavor. Ask the kitchen to prepare the soup without fish and prahok if you do not eat seafood.

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Photo of sour soup via Katiya Korner

Salads
Khmer cuisine has a number of salads starring green mango, green papaya, pomelo, banana flower, shrimp, or beef as the main ingredient. Other ingredients comprise long beans, dried fish or shrimp, tomatoes, eggplant, peanuts, lemongrass, cilantro, and basil. The dressing contains shallots, garlic, galalangal, red chilies, prahok, palm sugar, and lime juice. As with other Khmer dishes, vegans and vegetarians should ask the cook to prepare the dish without seafood and fish sauce. Some people may find banana blossom salad dry because of the flower’s texture, but I like the combination of the bitter petals with sweet-and-sour tamarind. My personal favorites are the green mango and green papaya salads. I’m often tempted to drink the sweet and zesty dressing with a spoon or scoop it into my mouth with a spoonful of rice!

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Photo of green papaya salad

Mee Katang (Stir-fried Noodles)
No Asian cuisine would be complete without a noodle dish. Mee katang, meaning Cantonese-style noodles, originates from the Chinese community in Cambodia, and is related to Chow Fun in China and Rad Na in Thailand. Wide rice noodles are stir fried with oyster or soy sauce, sugar, eggs (optional), meat (optional), and vegetables such as carrots, Chinese kale or broccoli, mushrooms, and baby corn. Mee katang is a cheap and delicious meal any time of the day!

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Photo of mee katang via Viet-Thai Restaurant

Khmer Coffee
Move over Thai iced coffee! While many of us associate iced coffee served with condensed milk with Thai cuisine, I only spotted two places serving iced coffee during my month in Thailand. Coffee with sweet milk, or Khmer coffee, is ubiquitous in Cambodia and can be prepared hot or cold. For someone like me who detests black coffee but loves coffee ice cream, Khmer coffee is the perfect pick me up!

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Photo of iced Khmer coffee by Vi via Raising Hammocks & Running Amok

Key Khmer Phrases

I have listed some useful Khmer phrases for vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians below with the Khmer words spelled phonetically. The third phrase is a bit challenging, but anyone who has heard the famous quotation from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “You don’t eat meat? That’s ok, I make lamb,” knows that often, especially when encountering other food cultures, it is necessary to specify exactly what types of meat you don’t eat. If you can’t memorize it, just learn the first phrase and remember that you can always point and shake your head. Bon appétit!

Khmer Phrase English Translation
K-nyom nyam boo. I am vegan/vegetarian.
K-nyom mun nyam sai. I do not eat meat.
K-nyom mun nyam sai mon, sai ko, sai chrook, aha krung ss mot, pong mon, ri tuk dos ko. I do not eat chicken, beef, pork, seafood, eggs, or dairy.
Som mun dak pr hok. Please don’t put fish sauce.

 

 

Relaxing by the River: A Guide to Kampot

After a multi-day trek through the Cambodian jungle, my friends and I spent four wonderful days resting and relaxing in Kampot. Kampot, the capital of Kampot Province in southern Cambodia, has a reputation as a sleepy, laid-back town. I planned to stay for only two days, imagining that I would quickly grow bored with the lack of activity. Instead, I doubled the length of my stay and spent several days eating terrific food, dining at cute cafes, watching movies at the cinema, chilling by the river, and exploring the 19th century French colonial architecture. Below are my accommodation, dining, and entertainment recommendations for Kampot.

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Colonial Kampot

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Park overlooking the river

Samon’s Village
Samon’s Village may be the best place I’ve stayed so far on my travels through Southeast Asia. The ‘Village’ features adorable bungalows and a restaurant dock overlooking the river. We reclined in hammocks and did yoga on the dock, swam and kayaked in the river, and enjoyed a smorgasbord of foods from the restaurant. The kayak which we rented from the Village was old with wooden oars which were too short to render them truly useful, but which nonetheless led to an adventurous river excursion. The restaurant consistently served some of the best food I’ve eaten in Cambodia, although the service was terribly slow – 80 minutes for a salad, stir fry, and fried shrimp seems excessive, even in Asia! Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and highly recommend Samon’s Village.

Photos of Samon’s Village restaurant and bungalows

Wonderland
Stopping by Wonderland for a nightly treat became a tradition for my friends and I while we were in Kampot. Wonderland, operated by French expats, serves Belgian ice cream and homemade popsicles made with fresh fruit and sugar (perfect for vegans!). My friend adored the coconut popsicle with a hint of lime, while I relished the passion fruit popsicle and yogurt with Khmer fruits popsicle. I’m usually not a big popsicle fan, but Wonderland’s homemade popsicles are simply irresistible!

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Photo of Wonderland courtesy of TripAdvisor

Epic Arts Café
My friend and I spent a lovely lazy afternoon reading, napping, and snacking at Epic Arts Café. The second floor made me feel at home with its variety of comfortable chairs and bright windows overlooking the street. We shared the carrot cake and a bagel with cream cheese and vegetables. The carrot cake was a tad dry, but the cream cheese frosting was nice. The bagel was not the best bagel I’ve ever eaten (I am a native New Yorker after all). Still, it was warm, fresh, and filled with tasty roasted vegetables, and a welcome New York staple in Asia. I did not have a chance to eat breakfast at Epic Arts Café, but the salads and the eggs florentine with spinach looked tasty. Another reason to visit the café is it employs underprivileged and disabled people. In fact, it gives you a sheet on which to mark your order since most of its cooks and servers are deaf.

Eunice at Epic Arts Cafe (3)

Bagel 2Photo of bagel with cream cheese and roasted vegetables by Penny via Captain of the Back Seat

L’Epi D’or Bakery & Café
With fresh bread on sale for $1 and pastries available for only $0.35, L’Epi D’or Bakery & Café is cheap and delicious! I tried the olive bread and a chocolate croissant, and was wowed by the croissant’s flaky crust and chocolate filling which reminded me of French bakeries back home.

Deva Café
Vegans, vegetarians, and raw food lovers, rejoice! Deva Café, the small eatery attached to Banteay Srey Women’s Spa, serves fresh juices, smoothies, lassis (Indian yogurt-based drinks), and Mediterranean tapas with local and nutritious ingredients, such as moringa, kale, jicama, morning glory, mango, and papaya. We tried the Hummus Wrap with Morning Glory Flatbread, the Zucchini Noodles with Raw Pesto, the Smoked Eggplant Crostini, and the Chilled Creamy Avocado Soup among other dishes. Each dish was bursting with flavor. The Sweet Basil Lassi likewise was outstanding. Because the portions are small your meal may land up being on the more expensive side (for Cambodia that is), but you can rest easy knowing that the proceeds from your food purchases go towards the Banteay Srey Project, a social enterprise which provides young Cambodian women with vocational training and a safe space.

Photos of juices and tapas via TripAdvisor (1)

Ecran Noodle and Dumpling House (Hand-Pulled Noodles and Vegetable Dumplings)
My friend and I relished the hand-pulled noodles and homemade vegetable dumplings at Ecran Noodle and Dumpling House. In true Chinese-Cambodian fashion, a vinegar and soy sauce accompanied the dumplings while the noodles had a slightly sweet taste. Hand-pulled noodles and homemade vegetable dumplings for only $2 each? Sounds like a perfect meal!

Photos of hand-pulled noodles and vegetable dumplings via Kampot, Cambodia

Ecran Movie House
For the traveler missing watching movies at home, Ecran also operates a cinema with comfortable wicker chairs, couches, and beds with pillows. For $2.50 you can watch one of the three movies the theater shows daily or for $3 you can buy a day pass to watch all three movies. If you’re interested in learning more about Cambodian history, Ecran screens The Killing Fields at least once a week. When I was in Kampot, the theater was celebrating the Oscars fever by playing all of the Oscar-nominated films. Ecran also has private movie room rentals for $3.50 per person where you can choose a film from a selection more than 1,000 movies and watch it on a large plasma TV with a small group of friends.

Photos of Ecran Cinema & Movie House and Ecran Noodle Shop via Kampot, Cambodia

I hope you have a restful and relaxing stay in Kampot, my favorite place to visit in Cambodia!

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Fishing boats returning at the end of the day

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Sunset over the river

 

(1) Photo credit (clockwise): photo of watermelon and carrot juices via TripAdvisor, photo of smoked eggplant crostinis via TripAdvisor, photo of chilled creamy avocado soup via TripAdvisor, photo of raw pesto pasta via TripAdvisor, and photo of baba ghanoush and tzatziki dips via TripAdvisor

Bougie Bangkok

When I think of Southeast Asia, I picture floating markets. Floating markets revolve around rivers and canals where boats sell produce, food, and goods, and date back to the times when waterways used to serve as trade and transportation hubs. Nowadays, these markets boost tourism and generate income for local communities.

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Amphawa Floating Market

Last week I visited Amphawa Floating Market. There are several floating markets around Bangkok, notably Damnoen Saduak, Amphawa, Khlong Lat Mayom, Taling Chan, and Bang Nam Phueng. Amphawa is the second largest floating market, and is known for being an authentic market frequently visited by Thais from Bangkok on the weekends.

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Entrance to Amphawa

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon what I can best describe as a hipster’s paradise. Polished wooden docks boasted rows of boutique stores selling handcrafted lotions, cosmetics, and soaps; trendy t-shirts; chic crochet covers; inventive handicrafts; and hip electronic accessories. In between the stores were cute coffee shops, swank resorts, and ritzy bars. Behind the docks I found a farmer’s market and a community garden.

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Signs pointing the way to  the community garden and other income-generating projects
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Community coconut grove

I had envisioned Amphawa as a rustic reminder of days gone by; instead I found the Thai version of Chelsea Market. There were a few boats in the water cooking seafood and noodle dishes and some crowded streets alongside the canal with hawkers peddling street food and cheap knick-knacks, but the majority of the market was undeniably upscale.

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Designer t-shirts
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Clay crafts

I remember having a similar experience while floating down the Li River in Guangxi, China. Wooden rafts with photo printers and laminators printing souvenirs for tourists drifted alongside rafts selling fruits and vegetables. Having visited various Asian countries throughout my life, I am always impressed by their seamless blending of tradition with modernity.

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Pad thai, a classic Thai street food, packaged in a neat banana leaf take-out container
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Grilled seafood

 

Later that same day, I spotted a number of American-style food trucks preparing sandwiches, burgers, and fried chicken outside of MBK Center, a distinctly Asian-style mall (i.e. one large vertical department store). It appears that Bangkok and its denizens are on the rise.

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Chilling outside of one of the resorts