Tag Archives: Cambodia

SE Asia Omelet Zine featuring eateries in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos now available

In 2010, Bangkok Books began distributing You Can’t Hide an Elephant in an Omelet as an e-book.  Tara Blackmore from Broken Pencil has this to say about the book:  “What a neat concept this book offers: essays and stories about omelettes and cuisine from around the world. This particular issue offers experiences from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

Part restaurant review, part tour guide, this book offers pure entertainment in eloquent language that can be enjoyed by just about everyone.

Written like a memoir (the good kind), the book offers a glimpse into foreign food production, consumption and a healthy dose of social interaction and culture shock as well. It’s an objective look at travel and all it entails, offering tips and advice on how to get by. It also gives descriptions of local cuisine that can either repulse you or attract you, so reading it while hungry is a bad idea.

This book is well worth the money. Rich with well-worded descriptions and beautiful photos, this zine will satisfy the reader who has either travel-curiosity or no idea what to make for dinner (which, of course, would be omelettes).”

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN WANTING TO READ A CLEVERLY WRITTEN BOOK ABOUT EATING OMELETS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA HERE’S YOUR OPPORTUNITY.

Click on one of the below links to purchase a copy:

Ipad
Android
Kindle
Bangkok Books

Front Cover
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Sample Page
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Back Cover
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Somewhere in Cambodia (short film)

I’m eating a Cambodian-style fried egg omelet when I hear an oink-oink…


click photo to watch short film

Seaside Guest House located in Kep, Cambodia

Fear of HIV Distracted me from my Omelet

Shortly after dusk, we arrived at the coastal community of Kep where we found a clean, spacious room with a bathroom for $4 a night at the Seaside Guest House.  The following morning, we found an omelet on the menu for 2000 riel (50 cents).  As you can see from the picture below, I look cool wearing my sunglasses to breakfast, but my mind wasn’t focused on the omelet.  Underneath my shades, I was harboring an embarrassing secret.

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Between falling asleep after the long motorcycle ride and waking up, my eye had fallen ill.  Not even visions of fresh basil, garlic, mushrooms, feta, Gouda and avocado; freshly grated hash browns; and thick slices of toasted sourdough bread smeared with huckleberry jam could distract me from my eye problem.

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Fretting about finding proper eye care, I had become a mental wreck.  I was afraid that I would become feverish and pass out, then wake up in a Cambodian hospital shack, infected with HIV from a dirty needle used to administer antibiotics.  I was afraid that a doctor would amputate my eyeball and I would have to wear a glass eye that is too small for my big eye socket, because maybe in Cambodia they only make small glass eyes for small eye sockets for small people.  To make the small glass eye fit in my socket, I would have to use chewing gum.  If you have ever tried to buy clothes at a local market, you will understand this fear.

I went to a pharmacist who thought I had a black eye and needed pain relief.  She tried to sell me some pills loaded with codeine.

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I went to another pharmacist who recommended eye drops.  I bought the drops, and I was back to enjoying omelets within a couple of days.

Indian Curry Pot Restaurant located in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Curry-Infused Dreams of Freedom (or) A Backyard for my Dog to Piss
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Indian Curry Pot Restaurant & Guest House,
I wouldn’t want to stay at a place called the Curry Pot,
even for the price of $3 a night.

I imagine a hammock strung above a steaming pot,
with curry smells rising up in dreamlike wisps of spiciness,
curling through the air, drifting below my nostrils as I try to sleep,
infusing my dreams with temples, rats and brightly-colored saris.

Anyway, I’m not looking for cheap accommodation.
I’m looking for a good omelet.

Usually I order curry at Indian restaurants,
This time I try an omelet
with a baguette and fresh fruit on the side.

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I sit at one of the few tables,
notice an adorable little girl with big brown eyes
milling about between the tables
but my attention is drawn to the sea turtles on TV.

Mid-omelet,
not expecting a baby to be sleeping in a restaurant,
I am surprised to hear
a whimper from the corner.
A woman immediately appears from the kitchen
to breastfeed the baby
who had been nestled quietly in a bed behind the counter
the whole time.

As I’m swallowing the last bite of banana,
I meet the owner, a happy man
who enjoys chatting with his customers.

He pulls a chair up to my table,
talks about his native land of Pakistan,
the restrictions,
strict Muslim codes
compared to here in Cambodia.

He takes customer service to an unfamiliar and appealing level
of intimacy and entertainment.
It’s as though he’s chatting with a friend in his living room.
Then I realize that’s exactly what’s happening.
I’m the friend who has entered his home to enjoy a meal.

Here in Cambodia,
he’s allowed a family,
a business on his own terms,
freedom to be a homeowner and entrepreneur.
Selling curry, omelets and cheap accommodation from his living room.

I’m from Boise, Idaho
where people place a different value on property.

Yes, a person can own a piece of land.
On that land
they build or buy a box
to store possessions.
The backyard
simply a place for the dog to piss.
Beautify the front yard,
motivated by a Better Homes and Garden look.
A fancy exterior will increase property value.

Indian Curry Pots
do not exist
in Boise, Idaho.
The only type of acceptable business
in suburbia:
a Garage Sale.
Make way for new possessions!

As I get up to leave, I realize
the 5-year-old girl is his daughter.
She comes over to sit in his lap,
wants to know if I can
recite the ABC’s.

America, Better Change.

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Indian Curry Pot Restaurant & Guest House
Victory Hill
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Same Same but Different Restaurant located in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Ketchup has Failed Me

The restaurants at Serendipity Beach consistently serve the same horrible omelet saturated in grease with small pieces of onion intermixed with nibbles of carrot. Trying to finish one of these salty omelets is more depressing than watching tourists ignoring landmine victims as they scoot across the sand asking for money. I couldn’t even finish one of the omelets. This is the first time ketchup has failed me.

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I gave up and started eating a breakfast of baguettes with Nutella. After several days, I felt weak. I looked in the mirror and saw myself growing as thin as a cancer patient. I had to return to the nasty omelets for nourishment, and more importantly, for inspiration. Without omelets, I might waste away and creatively die.

One morning, I was sitting on the beach banging on a ketchup bottle when I noticed the man next to me staring. He said, “All that ketchup you’re going to pour on that repulsive omelet is full of corn. Read the bottle. The second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. You’re going to get fat and die from eating too much corn.”

I broke down almost into tears, “The omelets are disgusting. I can’t go on like this.”

He said, “With my good looks, young Khmer bride, and imitation brand clothes, you would guess that I’m a healthy 50 year old. I’m actually 55 and a recovering chemo patient. You know how I ended up NOT being a hairless, dead Karen Carpenter? Marijuana! It gave me the appetite I needed to beat cancer!”

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The omelets at Same Same But Different are the same as everywhere else around Serendipity Beach, but the difference is the happy shakes on the menu. That nice man bought me my first happy shake. After three hours, I got these weird cravings that cancer patients call the munchies. Not only did the omelets taste good, I giggled at the smiley face that I made on the sand with ketchup.

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Same Same but Different Restaurant & Bar
Serendipity Beach
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The Khmer Gourmet located in Sihanoukville, CambodiaThe

More American than Apple Pie

The Khmer Gourmet
Weather Station Hill
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The omelets at The Khmer Gourmet are fluffy and spiced with black pepper. The coffee has nothing to do with Nestle; the dark brew comes from beans grown by local farmers.

Khmer Gourmet omelet

I watch the American owner who’s in his late 20’s go about his morning. He flips pancakes, smiles at his Khmer sweetheart, says goodbye to his French customers, and glows when talking about honeymoon plans.

I experience a sense of optimism. I realize he is living the usually unattainable American dream, the elusive dream that I read about in grade school history books, that pro athletes talked about in high school, and that I prepared for during my uneducated first year of college. This is the American dream that has nothing to do with suburbia, health insurance, and a 401K plan. The last time I experienced this sort of adulation for America was when I heard Arturo’s story. My old boss crossed the border twice. Once along the coast and another time through the desert. He met the beautiful daughter of a Thai woman and Vietnam vet. After she graduated from college, they married and created a family. They then put their money together and opened a restaurant. Luckily, cupid instead of an Arizona militiaman shot Arturo.

These thoughts of the American dream die along with Saddam’s last breath. There he is on the front page of the paper. The fastest way to ruin a decent omelet is to read about U.S. foreign policy. I wish my country wasn’t the largest arms exporter with a large population of citizens who pledge allegiance to admitted liars. I wish it had a government that can be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

With the Cambodians and Europeans that I meet at The Khmer Gourmet, I would rather discuss huckleberries, the Sawtooth Mountains, and Senator Frank Church. I would rather tell them about Arturo from Moscow, Idaho than try to explain my government’s actions in the headlines of the Bangkok Post.

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I’d like to write a poem
while I’m on holiday in Cambodia.
There’s a rule to repetition.
I learned it a while ago.

While I’m on holiday in Cambodia,
with monkeys, goats and elephants.
I learned it a while ago,
and Brandon—he says he knows it.

With monkeys, goats, elephants,
prostitution, peace, and tourism.
Brandon—he says he knows it.
He’s eatin’ omelets and talkin’ politics,

prostitution, peace, and tourism—in Cambodia.
New year’s bombs in Bangkok.
eatin’ omelets and talkin’ politics—
democracy, by the way, is failing in Iraq

New year’s bombs in Bangkok,
read it in the Bangkok Post, saw it on CNN.
democracy is failing in Iraq and the USA,
and the talk is all about—Saddam Hussein.

read it in the Bangkok Post, saw it on CNN.
Bush is holding out for victory, but—How does he define it?
the talk is all about Saddam Hussein,
with the Khmer Rouge long forgotten

I define victory as peace
while sipping Anchor beer and sitting on the beach.
The Khmer Rouge, long forgotten by many, but
Cambodia remembers—leaders yet to be tried for their crimes.

While sipping Anchor beer and sitting on the beach,
I wonder if my children will be tourists in Iraq.
We ride a moto through the countryside,
Celebrate the new year with sparklers and fireworks.

I wonder if my children will be tourists in Iraq.
We ride a moto through the countryside
the kids all wave and yell—Hello!
there’s a rule to repetition that I broke a while ago.

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Besides fluffy omelets, Khmer Gourmet serves the best desserts on the Hill.

Something all Americans should know about: “America…From Freedom to Fascism,” a documentary by Aaron Russo. Determined to find the law that requires Americans to pay income tax, Aaron Russo sets out on a journey. Neither left- nor right-wing, this startling examination exposes the systematic erosion of civil liberties in America. Through interviews with US Congressmen, a former IRS Commissioner, former IRS and FBI agents, tax attorneys and authors, Russo connects the dots between money creation, federal income tax, voter fraud, the national identity card (becoming law in May 2008) and the implementation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track citizens. A striking case about the evolving police state in America.

John F. Kennedy’s Hair (short film)


Click on the picture to watch the film

The legacy of JFK can be seen overseas, not only through the ongoing efforts of Peace Corps volunteers, but also in a beautiful head of hair.

In the film I am modeling a Saturna t-shirt. Here is a plug for my friend’s band.
Saturna is the rock ‘n’ roll band you want to listen to before, during, and after the party. Their debut EP …All Night serves up a tantalizing cocktail of ethereal guitars and riveting drums, tender harmonies and heart-ripping hooks.

For another interesting hair documentary, check out Doug and the Haircut

Honda Dream

For Westerners who are unsure if they recklessly want to invest time and money in motorcycle safety classes and the purchase of a motorcycle, Cambodia is the perfect place to test your motorcycle wandering spirit.

Our tour began in Sihanoukville and took us on a 281 kilometer round trip journey over scenic mountain passes, through coastal villages, and along winding jungle roads to the corner of southeast Cambodia near the Vietnam border. This fun, overnight experience only cost $23.

The Rental
To rent a motorcycle, all you need is a passport, four dollars and some previous bicycle-riding experience. I handed over my national identity and signed a form accepting responsibility for any potential theft, injury, or damage, and I was given the keys to the Honda Dream. The Dream has four speeds, a 125 cc engine, a front basket for luggage, and comfortably sits two.

The Law
No need to be worried, paranoid, or fearful of cops who nap in hammocks.

Driving Guidelines & Advice
My best advice for people familiar to Western driving standards is to start your trip by erasing all preconceived notions and habits. Cambodian roads are not for people who fiddle with their cell phones, adjust the air conditioning vents, shuffle through CDs, and need to apply make-up at stoplights.

In Cambodia, common sense, defensive driving, and a healthy sense of adventure will safely guide you to your destination.

Speed limits do not have any relevance. What might be a dot in your mirror can instantly turn into a car just four feet off your back tire.

No stoplights or stop signs. Choose a path carefully, and stick to it. Everyone else will hopefully go around you.

Motorists generally drive on the right, the same as in the United States. When there is a dotted or solid line separating the lanes, disregard it just as everyone else does.

It is advisable to drive hugging the shoulder of the road. Large buses and semi trucks do not slow down, but they do warn with manic honking to get out of the way. When there is oncoming traffic, they will pass vehicles in their own lanes. At first, the honking might scare you like gunshots from hunters firing rounds at deer across a valley. Recognize the sound as a friendly hello, and as soon as you hear the first honk, move quickly to the edge of the road.

Even though I recommend driving on the shoulder, there are exceptions. Drivers will not stop or even look to see what vehicles are already on the road. Always be aware of side roads and driveways that intersect the road on which you are traveling. Traffic will pull out right in front of you, so be ready to slam on your brakes.

Animals
In most industrialized countries, motorists only need to be concerned with scared cats, lost dogs, or suicidal squirrels. A worst-case scenario is you squash someone’s pet and leave a note of apology. In Cambodia, the roads are a long, winding, petting zoo. A motorist must be prepared to swerve, slow to a crawl, or completely stop for goats, pigs, cows, water buffalo, and elephants.

Road Conditions
The roads are as unpredictable as the animals. Be prepared for leisurely paved roads, a scattering of large potholes on hard-packed dirt roads, and the front tire wandering along loose sand and gravel roads.

Motorcycle Maintenance
Cambodia has plenty of gas stations, and the most you’ll pay for a liter of gas is $1. Some gas stations offer the standard pumps and flushing toilets. Other gas stations offer a soda bottle full of gas and a tree for a bathroom.

The motorcycle rental did not include the protective AAA guardian angel, but we found the Cambodian people in the countryside very helpful in providing mechanical services. At one point in our journey, the Honda Dream started to wobble violently. Amy and I pulled over to find the back tire completely flat. I pushed the motorcycle over to a group of people standing by the roadside. None of them understood English, and I do not speak Khmer. With some pointing at the back tire, soon enough heads started to nod in understanding, and they motioned for me to walk down the road. I once again started to push the bike, but this time a little boy came to help. He and I pushed the bike for about five minutes until he motioned toward the front yard of a house. The front yard doubled as a tire shop, and the flat was repaired within 30 minutes. A new tube and labor cost $3.

Tourist Attractions

Seaside Guesthouse
Shortly after dusk, we arrived at the coastal community of Kep. We found clean, spacious rooms with a bathroom for $4 a night at the Seaside Guesthouse. When looking for a guesthouse, one thing to keep in mind is that motorcycle theft is common in Cambodia. The motorcycle came with a lock and chain, but we appreciated the additional security of enclosed parking for motorcycles provided at the Seaside Guesthouse.

The next day, we chose two tourist attractions that would give us plenty of time to visit and also get back to Sihanoukville before dark.

The Pepper Farm

The Cave

Upon returning the motorcycle, we paid the $4 rental fee and I retrieved my passport from an envelope containing an assortment of passports. It feels good to know that there are plenty of fellow travelers who will gladly give up their national identities for an adventure.

Having survived our motorcycle journey, my imagination feels caged with the thought of taking photos and watching kids’ smiles through a bus window. My mind already feels numbed by the dull excitement provided by the movies shown on long bus trips. Cambodia seen through a bus window is like fast forwarding through a movie to the love scenes or the climatic ending. The journey definitely is as important as the destination.
Motorcycle rental $4.00
Gas $3.00
Guesthouse $4.00
Food $8.00
Repair flat tire $3.00
Souvenir pepper $1.00

Our overnight scooter adventure for two people cost $23.00

Special thanks to our scooter models Mike and Serena
photo

Sihanoukville to Kampot 105 km
Kampot to Kep 24 km
Kep to Cave 33.5 km
Cave to Kampot 13.5 km
Kampot to Sihanoukville 105 km

total distance 281 km

 

Brandon and Amy

Check out the reprinting of Honda Dream at Go Nomad

Also an interesting critique of Honda Dream at Crossing Cambodia

Cambodia Club located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

An Omelet in Phnom Penh
tuk-tuk

Loud banging in the hallway wakes me, as a man at our guesthouse tries to rouse his friend sleeping in the room next to ours. The gruff, German-accented voice shouts, “Hey! Shooting range in thirty minutes! Wake up!” The banging stops, and heavy footsteps move urgently down the hallway. From the sound of it, he’s amped for a morning of AK-47s and grenade launching. Now that I’m awake, I just want an omelet. It’s 6 A.M. and time to begin another day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The refreshing morning rays of sunlight are forgotten as soon as I exit the guesthouse. Before even reaching the street, I am bombarded by yells, waves, and a crowd of guys jostling for the opportunity to sell me a ride on the back of a scooter or in a carriage pulled by a scooter (also called a tuk-tuk). In Cambodia, anyone with a scooter can be a moto-taxi driver.

With so many guys looking for the job, you might think finding a driver would be a simple task. It’s not. I tell the crowd of drivers my destination and they don’t understand. I pull out my map of the city and point to where I’d like to go. They discuss in Khmer, and then nod their heads and say, “Okay, I know. Three dolla.” Three dollars! None of the taxis use a meter, so now it’s time to negotiate a fare. When the driver agrees to 75 cents, I hop on back.

En route, the driver proceeds to ask, “I take you to the killing fields? You want to go to Tuol Sleng?” (genocide museum). This is the equivalent of going to San Francisco and every driver wanting to take you to Alcatraz. The driver never once asks if I want to eat an omelet that possesses the beauty of a Cambodian woman, an omelet so delicious that it sends you to a spiritual realm only surpassed by Angkor Wat, an omelet with such soul that it symbolizes the future direction of Cambodia. Instead of discussing genocide and omelets, I ask to be driven to the river where the tourists hang out.

There’s an old omelet proverb: “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.” Sacrifices must sometimes be made in order to arrive at a wonderful end product, but this is not the case for Cambodia. As an American whose country waged a secret war on Cambodia, I see a broken egg and no breakfast served. The great USA did not even bother to turn on the stove or even wash a tomato.

The driver drops me off at the Cambodia Club, a restaurant that boasts an omelet with veggies and mozzarella cheese. The restaurant sits along a paved street that overlooks the river. There is a fresh breeze coming off the water, and from this distance, the trash along the bank is hidden from view. The tranquility ends as fast as it begins.

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The constant interruptions to my pleasurable time are like a snooze alarm that invades a fantastic dream. Children approach the table between sips of coffee, conversation, and bites of omelet. The breakfast dream disappears and reappears between successions of snoozes. The kids are selling books about Cambodian history, the Pol Pot regime, and S-21.  Eventually, the pleasure found in the omelet is killed by death, amputees, whores, and the reality that lurks behind titles such as “Off the Rails in Phnom Penh: Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja.” The snooze alarm wins. I now see the omelet as nothing more than a way to survive. I just need some energy to get out of this city.

Cambodia Club
corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 178
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

for more information about this beautiful city, see Persevering in Phnom Penh, an article on GoNomad.com

While eating an omelet, I heard an Oink-Oink

I’m eating a Cambodian-style fried egg omelet with steamed rice and vegetables on the side when I hear an oink-oink.

Excited, I get up to follow the animal sounds. Usually in the States, food is trucked in from places all over the country. Not only does a person eat an out-of-state pig, a Texas farmer might have given it large amounts of drugs, an awful farmer’s teenage son might have made sweet love to the pig in Mississippi, and the pig might have eaten its own disease-ridden, dead mother in Ohio. Finally, you scarf its remains on a hung over Sunday morning, take drags off your smoke in between bacon bites, and wash down the last morsel with an orange juice drink that tastes like flavored sugar water. I don’t eat pigs, but I’ve lived with similar horrific thoughts about a leaf of spinach.

I make my way to the back of the restaurant where the smells become stronger and the flies swarm thicker. Just past the restrooms, I find a pen of five little pigs all looking up at me and wanting to be held. I almost pick one up and hold it close to my bosom, like Tory Amos in the Boys for Pele album. All of a sudden, a big brown pig appears over the sidewall of its stall. His eyes follow me, like a grade school teacher who could have looked at twenty other students but chose me for no apparent reason. Stop staring at me, pig!! Why don’t you stare at the other pigs or the chained-up monkey?

I would like to eat all the pigs to take them out of their misery, much like I do when I see a cluster of miserable over-ripe bananas. I return to my meal to find it infested with flies.

To watch a video of this omelet review, including the pigs and chained-up monkey, click the photo below