From Cambodia to Laos

Cambodia started out a little rough for us with corrupt border officials, maniacal tuktuk mafiosos, and one hell of a devious hotel owner. I can’t say our first day in the country was all that fun. Unfortunately, those corrupt border officials were there to say goodbye as we exited the country. I’m proud to say that they got nothing from us.

On the Mekong in Laos

If we had any hope that Laos would be less corrupt, it didn’t last long. Laotian border guards demanded mystery stamp fees of $1 per person. It’s not much, but after the $55 inflated we-hate-Americans visa fee, I was mad. This time though, it was Thomas who lost his cool. Continue…

Cambodian Treats

As our time here is coming to an end, I think about all the great food Cambodia offers. Crunchy frogs, scrumptious Amok and tasty tarantulas have made up only part of our diet, and when other travelers ask me for a food recommendation, I always come up with a few interesting treats.

Cambodian Treats

There’s nem, river fish zinged up with ginger, lime, chili, garlic and probably MSG. The snack is then neatly wrapped in banana leaves and sold by the dozen. But don’t be fooled, the packages are deceptive. Continue…

Cambodia: What a Dollar Can Buy You

If you are traveling on a tight budget, Cambodia can be a challenge. Excursions, temples and monuments can eat up quite a chunk of money, but I wasn’t prepared to spend even more on food. Sure, if you live off of noodle soup and little snacks in street-side stalls, you can get by. But Tony and I like our Fish Amok and Cambodian beer.

Cambodian Kramas

Cambodian Kramas

We ended up spending almost 40 percent of our monthly budget on food, more than we spent on hotels. There definitely seems to be a trend. Food prices are rising quickly all over the world. Especially fruit can be shockingly expensive. It’s crazy to pay $1 for a mango at home, but it’s even crazier to spend that much in Southeast Asia. Luckily, that dollar can buy you plenty of other things. Check out what you can get for around a buck:

  • 2 glasses of draught Angkor beer during Happy Hour
  • 1 ginger-stuffed barbecued frog
  • 1 krama, traditional scarf worn around head
  • 3 fried tarantulas
  • 20 minutes of fish pedicure
  • 4 liters (1 gal.) of drinking water
  • 1 T-shirt at Angkor Wat (pay $1.50 for a slightly better quality)
  • 2 cans of Coca Cola
  • 1 kg of clean laundry
  • 2 dragon fruit or 50 grams of Danish blue cheese

The Mekong

Life on Mekong

The Mekong is truly beautiful. The river has a palpable energy which sets it apart from many other rivers in the world. It feels magical. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another large tropical river with clear, blue water – it’s quite extraordinary. Gliding through the white sand banks and forested islands in a long-tail motor boat is pure joy. The small stilt villages and colonial river towns recall another age. I would go so far as to say that it’s second only to the Nile on my short-list of super rivers. Clearly from the photo collage, I’m not the only one who is enjoying it.

Filling Up

Cambodian Gas Pump

Cruising around on our mopeds through the Cambodian countryside, we have had a hard time spotting gas stations. Nothing looks like a Shell with an air-conditioned convenience store. Instead, fuel hand pumps present the latest technology in these regions.

Whenever I see a hand pump sticking out of a rusty fuel barrel, I think of an episode of Continue…

Apocalypse Now

Burning fields as far as the eye can see – everything is on fire. As our bus crawls towards Ban Lung, twilight accents the flaming orange highlights in the dying forest. The air is pure smoke. I can’t wait until it’s dark, I hate the view. Hours of environmental devastation: smoldering vegetation, dying villages, huge stumps recall once monumental trees. Bulldozers widening the red-dirt road are leaving a dusty wake in their path. The trees that have escaped the flames look as though they have been painted dirty rust. A tribal child waddles by covered in earth and ash. It’s a monochromatic nightmare, a scene straight out of Avatar done in pukey reds instead of blues.

Progress looks like crap to me. Cambodia is for sale, and everyone is buying it up – especially the Chinese. All across the country, new roads are being financed by China and there are definitely strings attached.

“When the Chinese built the road to Sen Monorom,” one witness recalled, “they Continue…