On reading about opening of border crossing with Burma near Moreh to traffic - the thought has struck me about driving from Delhi to Danang and back. This would involve driving from India – Burma- Thailand- Laos- Vietnam (Danang and Ho chi Minh)- Cambodia -Thailand- Burma and back to India. Armed with google, wikipedia and Lonely planet started doing my research . By the time I reached my lucid interval, reality has struck me about feasibility of the project. The whole project was screaming of bureaucracy hurdles all the way – for example ATA Carnet would only be honoured by Thailand and there are many hurdles at border crossings when driving your own car. So I decided to visit each of these countries by air over next three to four years, do back ground work , develop my contacts and take the help of like minded individuals to plan the driving trip in near future. Okay, but why Cambodia first ?
I had around 1 week time to travel during May 2014 . While most of my friends would just land at airport without bothering about visa due to privilege of having a British Passport, me on the other hand decided to stick to my Indian Passport even after eligibility to get a British Passport. This however means added burden of trying to sort out Visa. Among the countries mentioned above only Thailand and Cambodia offer hassle free visa to Indian passport holders. You can get visa on arrival in Thailand and can obtain E visa for Cambodia by filling a simple form online and paying 25 US dollars per person .
I decided to go to Cambodia first due to my fascination with history and visiting off the beaten track places. The following travelogue is my trip to Cambodia along with my wife from 27/5/2014 until 01/6/2014. The most difficult part of the trip was convincing my wife to visit Cambodia as, like any other sane person , she wanted to spend time in Singapore and Malaysia rather than the wilderness of Indochina.
If you managed to stay awake till now then please carry on reading...
Mr Sowanna Yun – Our tour guide[/B]
Sowanna is a passionate Khmer guide in his early fifties. He updates his face book page at least twice a day no matter where he is using a dongle. He seems to have many genuine face book followers and he boasted to me that he got ministry of tourism among his followers.
Belongs to Sowanna which we rented for the duration of our trip The Place – Cambodia
Country of Smiling People usually synonymous with Angkor Wat.
Every one in Cambodia seems to be smiling no matter what the situation is or how hard their life is. We have seen a Hotel manager shouting at his employee with a smile and even airport security personnel were smiling when frisking. The Temples
We may not realise now but roughly between 500 BC to 1000 AD India had huge influence on South East Asia extending up to Philippines. Most of these countries were initially Hindu and their architecture , names, arts and cuisine were influenced by India – especially South Indian style. Later some of these countries became Buddhist ( Cambodia, Thailand and South Vietnam etc) some adopted Christianity ( Phillipines ) and some Islam ( Malaysia and Indonesia). However some remained Hindu like Bali in Indonesia. Many years ago names of these places used to be in Sanskrit like Ayathuyya in Thailand( named after Ayodhya) , Champa/Cham in South Vietnam and Jayagiri in Cambodia etc.
Cambodian people known as Khmer
, at one time ruled most of modern day Cambodia, Thailand parts of Laos and Vietnam from their capital near Siem Reap. The kings of Khmer empire had Indian/Tamil names like Jayavarman, Udayadithya varman, Suryavarman etc. During this time they went on constructing temples as the king was expected to build temple for himself , his parents and grand parents (7 in total). They were also expected to build their temple bigger than their ancestors and so most of these kings went on constructing bigger and bigger the product of which is Angkor watt. Unfortunately with the decline of Khmer empire around 14th Century AD or so Thailand occupied most of Cambodia thus bringing end to the temple construction. Modern day Cambodia is full of these temples ranging from small to big , restored to ruined , accessible to yet unexplored etc.
Ancient Khmer Script The Cuisine
Khmer people seems to eat any thing that grows, ranging from snail to snake and fish to frog. . If you go to a traditional restaurant the menu often starts with some thing like Khmer frog. On the streets you see not only fried snails, grasshoppers and frogs but also whole fried snake ( Snake is an expensive dish according to my guide who informed a fried cobra would cost around 30 US dollars)
Amok is a cuisine exclusive to Cambodia and is cooked with lemon grass and either fish, meat or vegetables.
These three photos belong to Mr Sowanna Yun
Different ways to eat a Frog If you still have an appetite then these are some sober dishes;
Dishes from our hotel
Specially ordered vegetarian food - Road side hotel in rural Cambodia;
The Village waitress looked perplexed when I said I am a vegetarian - thankfully Sowanna explained to her what it means and she shouted some instructions to the cook. He came up with the above dish. I have to say it was one of the best tasting food we had in Cambodia. We tipped her nicely and she walked away ,blushed, when we gave a positive feedback .