Cambodia’s “cool” season is still too hot for someone with Scottish genes and too polluted for lungs acclimated to the Bay Area’s clean air. But in other ways I feel comfortable here. Tonight in my Phnom Penh hotel, I watched a nature program about the Borneo I didn’t see. It wasn’t Malaysia’s fault that I wasn’t happy there. Just bad timing.
Cambodians love their lake. Fed by the giant Mekong River, Tonle Sap is five times the size of Lake Tahoe and supports fishing and farming by 3 million Cambodians. In my five weeks in Cambodia, I hadn’t seen it and I needed a little adventure. So on Saturday, I signed up for a tour led by a local NGO called “New Hope” (which, you guessed it, provides health and educational services to Cambodian children and has two restaurants to prove it).
I have a friend a couple of doors down who usually wakes me up at dawn.
My last post was about Cambodian food because, in the past five days, eating is about the only interesting thing I have done. I have mostly been in bed with a cold (it’s over now!). During my time in the hotel room, I also wrote a little about Cambodia. I have gone back and forth about whether to post a story that is so tragic. But I am not describing the real Cambodia if the only things I share are my isolated experiences as a privileged tourist.
Cambodia has been a sort of feeding frenzy for me. Maybe because its tourist infrastructure is relatively new, Cambodia has a lot of restaurants that have updated traditional dishes in ways that make them less greasy, less salty, fresher, and healthier than food I have had anywhere else in Asia.
On Tuesday, I returned to Siem Reap, home of magnificent Angkor Wat about 200 miles northwest of Phnom Penh. I hopped a 40 minute flight after being advised to avoid the road from Phnom Penh, which is a hot mess in spite of the billions Cambodia has paid a Chinese company for improvements.
Remember Samath from Butterfly Tours who took me on the bike rides through the Cambodian countryside? To jog your memory, here he is again: