Bananas, Bananas, Bananas (!) and other fruits at the Russian Market
I love bananas, and banana fritters for that matter. In Cambodia, they produce many different types of bananas. Though this post seems nothing more than on bananas (yes I’ve written ‘bananas’ eight times so far) I’m actually want to highlight the other tropical fruits around.
A local Khmer suggested I try the milk fruit. The shinier it is, the sweeter tasting it is. I have also heard from a fellow Singaporean to make it a point to try Kampot durians. Apologies for the lack of photos - I was already having my hands full with quite a number of purchases that day.
Fruit purchase I made that day:
- Two mangoes, locally produced: US$1.25
- Two fuji apples, imported: US$1.00
The mangoes were really sweet and the apples juicy.
10:00 am • 12 March 2014
Office Lunches in Cambodia
When in Phnom Penh, I volunteered with a local non-governmental organisation. Everyday at 12pm, my colleagues would call out “Lina!” signalling me to join them for lunch at the floor mat. They would then scoop individual plates of rice for everyone and we will share several food dishes with just only a spoon in hand. Depending on what they could get fresh from the market that morning, I got to taste a variety of dishes from bittergourd and cabbage with fish maw soup to different types of vegetables and plant parts that I have never eaten before (I was told they eat lilly bulbs and stems, banana leaves and pumpkin flowers, even!) to delicious meat or just simply having salted egg, salted fish and salted shrimp with rice.
10:00 am • 10 March 2014 • 2 notes
A peek into a small local market, along st. 63
Over one of the weekends, I wandered down Street 63, totally forgoing the touristy tuktuk. I stumbled upon this market and decided to do some spontaneous grocery shopping. Local markets are the best places to learn the local language, and is an especially useful place to practice simple Khmer.
As you can see, it’s dirty, and not exactly cleaned up for tourists, but this is how it really is, for most locals at the very least. So let’s round up the prices:
- Packet of Phnom Penh rice noodles: 1800 riels
- Vegetables for one: 400 riels
…which is equivalent to about US$0.50! I effectively got my meal for less than a dollar.
10:01 am • 7 March 2014
Local market meats, Russian Market
Asian wet markets have everything from dried sausages, dried fishes to whole raw chicken and freshly cut fishes still leaping out in blood. I forgot to have photos taken of the paddy field crabs, which are really salty by the way, and other seafoods like prawns and crabs they had to offer. One thing different compared to home is that the markets in Cambodia sells more dried or pickled items as they typical last longer without refrigeration.
Locals typical shop in the morning, when the freshest batch of meats arrive - usually in big boxes balanced on top of a motorcycle - at around 4am in the morning. As no refrigerators are used, it’s always best to buy your meats early in the morning when it is at its freshest.
If you are already squirming about the hygiene and sanitation, and rather buy your groceries from a proper grocery store or a supermarket, it’s all in the mind, really. Where do you think restaurants get their meats and vegetables from? No surprises for guessing.
10:00 am • 5 March 2014
An education in vegetables, Russian Market
I love going to the local markets because I am always curious to have a look at a country’s produce. Singapore does not really have much local farming products.
My Khmer friend who used to study in Singapore brought me around the market, giving me a quick and dirty low-down of different vegetables used in the Khmers cuisine. From banana leaves, pumpkin flowers to lilly bulbs, lilly stems, and hycinthas, there’s way more parts of the vegetables Khmers creatively use in their cuisine as compared to the Chinese.
10:01 am • 3 March 2014 • 8 notes
My tuktuk driver going against traffic on a one way street.
Having lived in India for a couple of months, riding in a tuktuk is nothing new to me. However this driver was classic. First, he was terrible with his road orientation and directions and I had to help navigate (as if I knew the city very well at this point). Even after giving clear directions, he still decided to go on this one way street despite me telling him to go by another road. I couldn’t help but just be amused because he got really lazy to make one big round and decided to go against traffic.
In my head, I remembered what Claudia said several times to me, “This is not Singapore, this is Cambodia, there are no laws here.” Yep. And this is a very apt moment to describe this.
Anyhow, I still paid him well because he was kind of enough to help carry a piece of furniture back to my house and wanted to help me out with some problems that I ran into when I was running another errands. But it was difficult communicating with him in English even though he tried his best. He flashed a smile revealing two gold teeth and said, ”You speak small Khmer?”
I responded by shaking my head, reminded of my limited Khmer vocabulary that I had learnt over the past few days. It was like a chicken talking to a duck.
10:01 am • 28 February 2014
Local Coffee Cart…of Japanese origin
I’m a coffee nut. So I was excited to see local UEDA coffee carts littered across Phnom Penh on my first tuktuk ride here. But don’t be fooled - UEDA Coffee is not exactly authentic Khmer in origin, and they charge slightly more expensive than the local coffee you can get at road side stores.
When I stopped by the cart during my lunchbreak, the girl seemed quite grateful to see me patronise her cart. She told me that she drives this tuktuk to this spot everyday to sell coffee and seemed a little bit down, due to a slow sales day, perhaps?
I was not able to find out more information about UEDA and its Japanese business owner, but here’s a nice PPP article on how UEDA coffee intends to create jobs and give training to aspiring business owners in Cambodia.
10:01 am • 26 February 2014
The Santa I nearly destroyed
When I first arrived in Phnom Penh, I almost took down Santa Claus (this blown up version). I had just found my apartment and needed to break my fiver to pay the tuktuk driver. I decided to bring my luggage with me, haphazardly leaving it outside next to Santa. It could not balance and fell over, nearly toppling Santa over. The Lucky Cone cashier behind the counter eyed me suspiciously wondering what I wanted, but I was sure he was amused and secretly laughing inside.
Despite the influx of festive marketing during the Christmas season, Cambodia does not officially observe Christmas as a public holiday. I was still going back to the office. But it’s not an entirely sad thing because I already intended to escape the Christmas festive season at home. Spending it in Cambodia was great because I could celebrate the holiday be ignoring it, and not be obliged to Christmas cheer and gatherings that you cannot help but patronise. This was certainly a first!
10:01 am • 24 February 2014
Because of my pride, I am ashamed to have ushered in 2014 twice (the first was the normal calendar year, and the second, the lunar calendar year), without having written an update after coming home from Phnom Penh. I had already drafted out a whole bunch of interesting things related to Cambodia, just that it needed a proper edit, introduction and sequencing - or so the perfectionist-side of me says I should.
Truth is that my personal writing about the world has taken a hiatus as I deal with major life transition after transition (settling into a new job, new commitments and relationships, upheaving my previous, more carefree lifestyle). Despite this, I would like to think that true passions are those that still emerge out of a person despite having other priorities set forth for them. Writing, honestly, keeps me sane.
2013 was a year of feeling lost as my original, “wonderful” career plans was steered out of course - but it had brought me to a whole different level of realisation of what I really wanted. Better the tough years early on than be faced with a mid-life crisis in the later years. In 2013, I fell down many times, but never gave in to wallow in my failures or self-pity, though I almost nearly did. At that point, the mental battle was really, all about picking myself up to start all over again and not about what went wrong. Running away to Cambodia to discover another part of the world fed my curiosity, allowed me to make peace with myself and come back home emerging stronger.
This time round, I would be smarter and do things a little differently. The near future will be even brighter than before.
So, hello 2014!
11:44 pm • 21 February 2014
Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Christmas greetings from Cambodia, the kingdom of wonders!
Over the past two weeks, I have been in and around Cambodia and will continue to stay here for the coming days.
So far, it has been a wonderful journey meeting all kinds of people - local Khmers, fellow volunteers and expats from all over the world and also reconnecting back with my fellow Singaporean counterparts either working in Cambodia or just coming up for a visit (a condition that I had promised my family as a reassurance of my safety by keeping in touch with many other Singaporeans around…which I don’t think is really a good measure of my safety, but we’ll just leave this as that).
That said, the trip did not just come without a cost, and I’m not just talking about time or money. The forgone opportunity to spend the holidays with loved ones, the sacrifices people around me had to make for my absence back home, the frustrations bourne out of last minute changes and disapproval that stems out of concern for my safety because of my gender…are all costs and consequences that I have to deal with.
However, that only makes me treasure, even more, the moments that I have here. I do not know when I would make this kind of trip again, especially since I actually did not even see this trip coming just six months ago. I cannot predict where I would be running off to, and when, for that matter! Sometimes I wonder to myself, when I’m in the middle of doing something few people would do, whether it’s bravery or stupidity. Yet, all these thoughts fade away when the action rewards you with life, awe-inspiring moments that almost no words can truly, accurately describe.
Having the world as my classroom has certainly taught me quite a number of things, and I will certainly make it a point to share what has been going on in my secret Khmer life over the next few weeks - in bite-size portions, of course (I’ve been trying to rid several bad habits here).
Here’s wishing all happy holidays!
10:40 pm • 24 December 2013
Yes, it’s that time of the year again in Singapore, when Christmas decorations are up in Singapore’s shopping malls - even Taka’s iconic 4-storey tall Christmas tree (this year with Tiffany’s boxes!) has been fully erected and lit up in all its glory.
Starbucks, too, has started their Christmas promotions run (ahead of their Seattle counterpart who would probably prefer to deal with thanksgiving first - hey, it’s only November), and cleverly making customers so giddy with red and gold decorations, they happily pay 70cents more for an extra pump of ‘toffeenut’ syrup for their tall latte. Yes. I’ve been suckered in too. But…doesn’t it make you smile and feel warm and fuzzy all inside!
Seriously guys. I know it’s a huge festive marketing promotion, but sometimes prolonging the period just makes the real Christmas unauthentic. But then again, as I have mentioned this last year, what’s Christmas, really, in this hot sticky weather? “C’est bizarre!” as the French would say.
I’m shrugging my shoulders as I intend to celebrate Christmas in Singapore in November and then skip town the entire December to celebrate a more authentic one out of this city of shopping malls that promotes shiny things. Two Christmases in one year - that’s great!
Edit: Just discovered Bloomberg’s writeup on Starbucks’ launch of their festive drinks (Gingerbread, Peppermint Mocha and Caramel Brulée, to be exact) in the US way before thanksgiving. (Obviously one friend living on the westcoast in a small town was not a good reference.) Sales are usually strongest in quarters October to December - festive marketing wins. Now the question is - how much?
8:23 pm • 10 November 2013 • 1 note
Banksy in New York
Totally laughed out loud when I came across this in the papers; I’ll take anything to ease my sanity during busy mornings.
1:31 pm • 8 November 2013
happy birthday stephie, xx
P.S. Did you see the watermelon bowl? They fill them up with soju at East8 New York Tapas Bar.
12:00 am • 1 November 2013
random costumes: spot the ninja (?), steve irwin wannabe, spartan warrior with a great fury, and the fortune cat you rub for prosperity.
12:00 am • 31 October 2013
brunch - eggs benedict at five&dime; thanks for the inspiration to order them, x
12:00 am • 26 October 2013