Tag Archives: Khmer

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

Cambodia Club located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

An Omelet in Phnom Penh
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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