I can’t believe it’s been seven weeks since I set forth on this amazing journey. I’ve seen sights that have shocked me, things that have humbled me, and have done things that I will remember for the rest of my life. Southeast Asia is incredible.
I know what you’re thinking…ok, ok, Southeast Asia is great. Jennifer’s seen temples, ridden elephants, motorbiked through rice fields. But what about the food? Well, here’s a snippet of what I’ve been putting in my belly:
Papaya salad, curries upon curries, noodle soups so hot my nose was dripping. Crepes from street vendors, baguettes with eggplant and tomato dips, sticky rice in bamboo baskets. Fruit shakes and salads with everything from mangoes to durian. Khmer barbecue, amok (a Cambodian fish curry), larp (a traditional Laos salad), spring rolls with fresh mint and basil leaves, coffee served with condensed milk that had me buzzing for hours.
Words can’t describe how fresh, how delectable the local food is here. I can’t believe I haven’t gained weight, or gotten sick from all the street food I’ve woofed down.
Last night I went to dinner with the Cambodian motorbike guide I hired to drive me around Battambang. In my dress, I sat on the side of the bike, and squealed in delight when we arrived at the restaurant.
There was an entire cow roasting over a fire. People were crammed around tables, sitting on red plastic chairs. Everyone was staring. “You’re probably the first white person that’s come to this restaurant,” my guide Sahm said with a smile. I knew I was in for something good.
Sahm ordered for us and immediately began preparing my dipping sauce: lemongrass, chilis, fish paste and water, sugar and a pinch of salt. We dipped raw carrots, cucumbers, onions, eggplant, leaves, herbs and meat into it. I sucked it straight from my chopsticks.
Over dinner and Angkor beer, Sahm told me about his grandfather and the way he suffered during the Khmer Rouge regime. His eyes were cut out with hot spoons and he was forced to work like a cow on the rice fields. When he became too sick to work the way they needed him to, he was executed.
I lost my appetite and felt a great sadness for his family and the Cambodian people. “Yes, it is very sad and maybe three million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge,” he said. “My country is still sad but we are strong, happy people.”
He lifted his beer and taught me how to say “cheers” in Khmer.
I continue to be amazed in each country I visit. Southeast Asia is not only rich with good food, but also with strong and kind people.