After acclimating to a new climate and time zone for two days in Phnom Penh, our family (extended family – ten of us!) was up early on Sunday, November 20th, for a four-day excursion to Siem Reap.

The road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (National Highway 6)

Ten years ago when Ordinary Spouse and I visited Cambodia, there were essentially two ways of going between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in a timely fashion: airplane or boat on the Tonlé Sap. We had the “privilege” of experiencing both of them.

How times have changed!

Now there is a good road (National Highway 6) that connects the two cities. Granted, it may still be slower than either boat or plane. However, it is a significantly faster land route than it was a decade ago, requiring only a portion of a day, rather than multiple days.

So – by 9 a.m. we had piled into our van and had set out on the 323 km journey.

Here are some pictures and a video of the countryside, taken as we were driving. Nothing special – just examples of the scenery on Highway 6…

Mid-morning, we stopped at a rest area, and the girls had their first experience with “squatty potties”. It wasn’t altogether positive, although it should be noted that things improved (“Attitudes, not facilities,” says Ordinary Spouse!) over the course of our vacation. The Guest Complacent also visited some vendors to purchase an assortment of snack food for us, while my daughters struck up conversations with some local girls (who spoke English quite well, thanks to their interactions with tourists). According to Oldest Daughter,

They ask where you come from if they can tell that you aren’t Cambodian. They were commentiong on how tall I was for being 9 years old. They said I was pretty, too. They wanted the grownups to buy their products, too. They were asking who was my aunt and who was my mother and who were my sisters.

Food vendors at the rest area

Food vendors at the rest area

What constitutes snack food in Cambodia? Well, there was pineapple, sticky rice, sugar cane, and this fried delicacy that Ordinary Spouse is trying…

Snack food

“That picture is a bit too fuzzy,” you say. “What is it that she’s eating?”

I’m sorry for the blurriness. Let me see if I can find a better one. Ah, yes – here’s one…

Fried bugs

Fried bugs. Mostly crickets. Some grasshoppers. Maybe some other random things.

Yes – I did try them. I started out with the biggest grasshopper that I could find. I’m ashamed to say that I gagged on it, but only because some wings caught me off guard. The second one – a cricket – went down much better. It tasted ok. Really, there wasn’t anything disagreeable about it. They mostly just taste fried. But they’re high in protein.

And for the record, here is the sticky rice…

Sticky rice

We stopped in at the Arunras Hotel and Restaurant in Kampong Thom for lunch.

Arunras Restaurant

I don’t have much to say about lunch. The Guests Complacent chose a nice selection of Khmer food for us, as they often did. However, there is one significant thing that sticks in my mind…

One of the dishes that we ate was Morning Glory. In my opinioin, it was ok – not bad, not outstanding. We ate it frequently throughout the trip. But it was new; and it was a cooked, leafy vegetable; and that made it a potentially challenging food for my daughters. However, Oldest Daughter put on a brave face and tried it. And apparently she liked it. And this seemed to set the stage for the entire trip. There weren’t any foods that she didn’t try. There weren’t any activities that she shied away from. She got nervous about some things, but she didn’t let her nervousness stop her.

The week after we returned from Cambodia, Oldest Daughter turned ten-years-old. When I look back at the trip – and perhaps in the future when I look back at her life – that lunch will stick in my mind as a symbol of her maturity – a coming of age moment. I was really proud of her. What a great way to end her first decade and start her next one!

Eating morning glory

Oldest Daughter has Morning Glory for lunch. She doesn’t look excited, but she’s still jet-lagged.

From Kampong Thom, we had a few more uneventful hours of travel to get to Siem Reap. And my next story will pick up there…

Coming up: Central Boutique Angkor Hotel