Deep fried spiders

Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, January 24, 2008

We had a full morning in Phnom Penh before we needed to catch our bus to Siem Reap. We wandered down to where the muddy brown waters of the Tonle Sap met the blue flow of the mighty Mekong. Boats journeyed up and down the rivers, and families with bamboo rods fished from the banks. Flags of many sizes were flying stiffly in the breeze along the waterfront. We moved on to the National Museum, a beautiful terracotta building housing treasures of Ancient Cambodia. I was interested to discover that some of the statues are still revered as holy; we were given sticks threaded with flowers to place in front of images of Shiva and Vishnu.

After a quick lunch, we caught our bus. It dawned on us later that the 5 1/2 hour bus journey had not been at all daunting- something to do with all the long haul flights we've made recently, perhaps? The roads were rather dusty and bumpy, but in reasonable repair, threading through the flat rural landscapes where most of Cambodia's population make a subsistance living. We drove past emaciated cattle, languid water buffalo, and wooden houses on tall stilts with tin or palm-leaved rooves. The stilts protect the houses from the possibility of flooding in the wet season, and provide a shady spot to sling hammocks and retreat from the heat.

Carts piled high with hay and drawn by oxen shared the road with us, as did ponies and traps and the usual plethora of motorbikes and camrys. The bus pulled over at a rest stop at Kampong Thom. As well as bags of pineapple and mango, available for sale were boiled eggs, boiled ducklings and plates stacked high with deep-fried tarantulas. I don't think I've ever been scared of food before.

Time passed quickly reading, watching Khmer karaoke and comedies (I think they were comedies anyway- they seemed to involve lots of falling into ponds), and staring out the window watching kilometres of palm tress and sugar cane, rice paddies, cattle and poultry roll by.

We were picked up by tuk tuk and conveyed to our hotel, the Villa. Our room was beautiful, with crisp white sheets and orchids on the beds. We wandered into the Old Market to search for food, and ended up at Soup Dragon, the home of the best spring rolls ever. I tried the Vietnamese squid fondue, cooking my squid in boiling vinegar and wrapping it in sheets of rice paper with mint, chilli, pineapple and lettuce. Delicious! I did notice the irony of being scared of the many-legged edible spiders, then tucking into things with tentacles with relish. But then I've never claimed to be particularly logical.
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