Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Cambodia Recap Day 1 (pt.1)

We arrived in Phnom Penh around 11am. HOT HOT HOT.
I never assumed that even in late December it would still be so warm.
Actually, for all who might be planning a trip here after all of this, I would recommend
going in December or January. The humidity is lowest at this time of year and the heat
is at least bearable. You would likely still require air-con in your rooms...definitely a fan though.

A taxi ride from the airport was $7. It was funny though...our driver kept saying "pay now, pay now..." which is TOTALLY a foreign concept to me. I thought maybe he would drop us off at the side of the road after we gave him the cash. Turns out, he needed gas money.
Welcome to Cambodia. Dont expect people to have much cash on them.

We got dropped off at the guesthouse I reserved just so we had a place in case we couldnt find anything else. This place was ok, but a little spartan. We were just excited to be there.
We arranged our tour for the next day, and asked where the fruit markets were.
As luck would have it, a really good one was only a ten minute walk south.

"You want to try Durian???" She asked us.
Um...yeah! She probably thought that we never had it before, but we let her know that we were big fans and were excited to have it really fresh while we were staying here.
So she marked it on the map and off we went.

Phnom Penh is much more of a local city. Not much tourist stuff here really. Well, there is some, but we'll get to that later. But if you are into exploring the markets and trying new fruits, this is really the place. No other place we visited came close to variety and price. This was it.

We stumbled upon the coconuts first. We were quoted 2000 Riel which is 50 cents. Not knowing how much the usual rate is, we asked a chinese lady that we were exchanging HK Dollars with across the street. She told us 1300-1500 Riel is common.
So here we are haggling over 10 US cents. I felt pretty damn cheap about that, but you dont want them to take advantage of you. I was actually much more easy going about bargaining than Iris, but Im not as well versed in market-protocol. You have to haggle.

So, for 35-40cents, we scored the best coconuts Ive ever had EVER. EVER.
And the best thing? They werent sweet. Well, a little, but NOTHING like the Thai coconuts back home. I dont know what those things are anymore. Im done with them, thats for sure.
Save your coconuts for when you live nearby or are traveling. Those chinatown coconuts are dipped in fungicide, and irradiated. Use a nut milk for your smoothie base instead and throw in some coconut oil if thats what you need. Im done with the Chinatown Thai coconuts.

Then...despite all the motos and cars everywhere, we looked across the street and our noses werent deceiving us. There they were, and in quanities Ive only dreamed of.
All those horrible car fumes and STILL...the durian was stronger.
You cant fight the funk.

Ok, so obviously I was excited.
I was even prepared for the occurrence that durians werent quite in season yet and that I would just have to settle for mangosteens and jackfruit and coconuts. But alas...NO!
MAJOR durian action going on. Such a blessing.

A BIG one cost about $9. Funny thing, because this is how much one night cost us at the first place we stayed. I think id sleep outside and eat durian instead. Haha...

Now, what was even better was exploring a little more and seeing what else was available.
I found 3 fruits that I never even heard of. Not even a clue about what these were.

First was this gem. A big one cost about $1.50 US. Inside was like a cherimoya but more sour. We saw a soda can later with a picture of this fruit and they called it a Soursop.
Has anyone here ever heard of this before?
This was my favorite find, and we were sneaky enough to bring one back to Hong Kong later.

Check this one out:

You can see the unwrapped ones behind the vendor. I had no idea that these even existed.
I asked him what they were called and he said that they all call them "Snake-skin fruit".
Fair enough.

They were somewhat sour, yet still pretty sweet. Great for traveling because they store pretty well. The skin was really like a snake...but super dry and flaky.

And when fully peeled, this is what they look like:

Many herbalists say that if you eat a food that looks like a certain body part, it will directly
influence that body part. Um...can you call this BRAIN food? Wow...I was blown away.

And the last discovery? The MILK fruit!

They were about the size of tennis balls, and had a sweet milky inside.
Pretty nice, but nothing compared to the other two. 50 cents each.

So...all this in just our first hour of Cambodia. A great start I have to say.

After getting so excited about everything, I asked the tuk-tuk driver (a cart pulled by a motorcycle) what his favorite fruit was. "Durian? Jackfruit? Mango???"

"Apple!" he replied enthusiastically.

Think about this everyone. Apple. Wow....the grass is truly greener on the other side.

Pt 2 of day one coming up!


Bella said...


Love, LOVE your photos and descriptions as usual! I was in that area a couple of years ago, and it totally brings me back to how much I love the markets and how everything just looks brand new like you're a little kid!


Heidi and Justin said...

Hey Anthony -

Fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I think I have to add Cambodia to my list of future places to visit!

In regards to the Soursop...they are not usually available fresh in the US, but sometimes they are available at very large asian markets. Usually they are preserved in sweetened liquid and then canned.

There is a bubble tea shop in the Twin Cities that has a very popular soursop shake, and they use frozen soursop and sometimes canned sour sop to make the bubble tea shakes.

That's about all I know about Soursop... I think the flavor is quite tangy yet sweet with quite an aftertaste of sour!

Happy New Year!

Assen said...

Yep i've had soursop before and i really like it. Just not sure where i can find one in the US. Anyone know? Btw, love the pictures.

raw by default said...

I'll have to remember that the next time I complain about apples being the only available fruit. It's hard to imagine other people thinking they're exotic... but I guess it's all relative!