Travel

Capturing Cambodia’s essence

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JASMINE VASARHELYI

 
The roaring of motorcycle engines floods the streets of Phnom Penh. Cheap market stalls, some afloat, some grounded, more or less diverge from water to land. The intoxicating scent of freshly made steamed noodles collides with harmonizing aroma of coconut-milk-base with a hint of chilli, nourishing your senses. Street sellers circulate around the city like sharks on the hunt ready to attack their prey, selling tourists the latest and greatest on their business, products or services. Unwashed children carry baskets of cheap bracelets and postcards alongside the muddy streets, persuading you buy whatever they have to offer, convincing you with their innocent faces it was right to buy those meaningless knickknacks, although you immediately regret it afterwards.

The soul of Cambodia is like no other. There is no guide that can speak of what to expect unless you experience it yourself, first hand. The curves of the mountains highlight the untouched earth that compliments the vibrant colour of its culture, for those who seek adventure and history, Cambodia is the place to be. Unspoiled islands mark the Cambodian coastline and small quaint towns merge among with one another in the remote countryside. The tropical flora and fauna land covers about two-thirds of the country, the other half is a hustle and bustle of city life.

 Leaving Phnom Penh, charcoal smoke floats behind the long narrow motor boat following the gusty wind. Revealed along the banks of the Mekong River are small villages set amongst open fields. Families fish together alongside the riverbank, holding homemade spears and nets.

The country is affected by two distinct seasons that are relatively equal length of time throughout the year, a Rainy Season and a Dry Season. The Dry Season is divided into two sub-seasons, cool and hot. The Rainy season is from: June till October (27-35.C),The Dry season (cool):From November till February (17-27.C) The Dry season (Hot) :From March till May (29-38.C).

Cambodia is home to 14.8 million people. On the wild streets of the city, everywhere you turn is a continuous motion of tuk tuks, travelling motorcycle taxis with cabins attached to the rear. The lively tuk tuks run all day and all night, riding on the rocky roads there is no doubt you will crossways with wild animals on the streets – alive and cooked.

The food resources in Cambodia are not as diverse as some western cultures, so people use what they have to survive. Bowls filled with deep fried insects such as crickets are a street snack. Hand size spiders are considered a delicacy in the traditional cuisine, piles and piles of black, long legged creatures are displayed on a moving cart with bells and whistles on the hand crafted wooden trolley. 

In the town of Siem Reap, the Angkor Night Markets are filled with people experiencing the nightlife. This fairly new flea market appeals to tourists and locals: unique silk, art, jewellery, clothing, souvenirs and more. The markets are claustrophobic, small arcade-like tents. The further you go into the maze of kaleidoscope trinkets, the more you become consumed by the heat.

As nightfall draws near, you may get tired of walking around all day and need a rest. Cambodia is famous for their foot fish massages. Foot fish massages are a once in a lifetime experience. For A$3-4, people sit on the edge of a Jacuzzi, a multicolour lightshow beams through the tub, filled with little fishes swimming around in the warm waters. The tiny fish nibble at the dry dead skin on your feet, like millions of little kisses.

 

One Reply to “Capturing Cambodia’s essence

  1. This is one of the best travel articles i’ve read in a long time! The writer truly captured Cambodia’s essence without fail! I felt that as i was reading i was being take on a visual journey through the streets, although it wasn’t to hard to do so considering there was an amazing use of evocative and innovative language. Awesome job!

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