Posts Tagged ‘Cambodia’

Whenever I eat while traveling (a daily occurrence), I feel like I should take photos of the various foods I try.

Why? Well, when I see travel and foodie shows that flaunt their delicious and mouth-watering images like its some kind of food porn, I want to join them.

Yet, despite this, I am always somewhat embarrassed to take the actual photos. I look around to make sure no one is watching (and judging me). Some people are shameless and snap those tasty shots without thought. But not me, I always try for sly and avoid eye contact with anyone in my vicinity at all cost. The flash always gives me away.

Here is a sampling of some of my poor quality, badly lit, guiltily taken food photos over the years that represent categories of sustenance that will surely cause a heart attack. I also threw in some beer and wine shots. Because I can.

I am not responsible for any salivating or queasiness that may result.

Squid ink pasta in Venice

A lunch repast in rural Mali

Mofongo in the Dominican Republic

Okonomiyaki in Japan

Sliders in Washington, D.C.

Cocoa beans in Zanzibar

El Presidente in Dominican Republic

Fish amok in Cambodia

Enjoying a ballgame

Camping with a freeze dried ice cream sandwich

In N Out burger and fries in LA - animal style!

Lots of wine in South Africa

Chicken mole in Mexico

A Jucy Lucy in Minneapolis

Red wine in Northern Virginia

Fuju in Tokyo

Frites drowning in mayonnaise in Amsterdam

Zingerman sandwich in Ann Arbor

Kobe beef in Kobe

Cheese and beer in Seattle

Nasty fruit in Cyprus

Wedding cake in Washington, D.C. (yes, it is)

Ostrich meat balls in Kenya

Bandeja paisa in Colombia

Goose Island beer in Chicago



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(Conductor taps stick, the orchestral music swells, then softens…a voice booms overhead…)

NARRATOR: So begins a ‘short’ treatise on the temples of Angkor built by the Khmer kings a long, long time ago (790-1307 AD) in a place far, far away (Cambodia) in nine different architectural styles (trust me). Of the dozens of ruined, restored and random temples interspersed near Siam Reap, here are the ones I, the Narrator, and friends happened to visit, explore, scramble through and photograph. We begin with the best and work our way down. Break out your warm cans of Angkor and Anchor beer and settle in, this is about to get historical.

(Curtains open. The stage is a large stone temple with trees.)

NARRATOR: Ta Prohm – built by King Jayavarman VII (henceforth to be known as Jay the 7th) in the 12th century or so, this royal monastery is most famous for the many silk cotton and fig strangler trees growing from and causing the ruins of walls and galleries. Atmospheric and grand, the site has largely been left alone, letting the trees continue to thrive towards their ultimate destructive magic. Sit and contemplate life for awhile before your photo is taken in front of a storied and massive tangle of roots. Photos cannot do the tree’s roots even the slightest justice…

(Narrator pauses, Jay the 7th enters with a flourish.)

JAY THE 7TH: Jai Ho!

(Beautiful dancers run onto the stage and an epic rendition of “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire ensues around the roots of the giant tree. Exit all.)

NARRATOR: Beng Melea – built by some dude in the 12 century, this temple, which means ‘Lotus Pond’, could be best described as finding a lost, ruined civilization in the overgrown, unknown jungle. No inscriptions or markings were found to indicate who is responsible for erecting this site, but over 800 years of nature have not been kind. Left virtually untouched (a few walkways were added to minimize sprained ankles), you scramble, squeeze and scrap your way through, between and around the jumbled stones, mosaics and pillars. You could stop and marvel at one or two of the massive galleries that survived complete destruction, but then you would never have time to see it all.

(Conductor allows soothing orchestral music to reach a crescendo. Slowly it mellows.)

NARRATOR: Angkor Wat – built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, the name means the ‘city (that became a) pagoda’, and is among the largest religious temples in the world. Adorned by countless (by my count) bas reliefs and carvings, Angkor Wat is huge and covered in art. One such is the “Churning of the Sea of Milk” that depicts the Khmer origin story and is especially violent, given all that furious churning. We arrived just before sunrise (too early) and waited as the sun slowly crept up and up, mirroring the pyramid towers of Angkor Wat perfectly on the lotus pond. Photos were snapped. Explorations were had. Awe was struck.

(Conductor continues the orchestral music for a brief interlude. It fades…)

NARRATOR: Bayon – built by Jay the 7th, in 1200 or so, this temple was among those used as a film set to show off Angelina Jolie’s more refined attributes (see Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, natch). Not that you care. More impressive are the 49 towers (37 still standing) loaded up with huge carved faces on each. The original number of faces is disputed but it’s safe to say there are a lot of semi-smiling dudes staring at you from every angle. As fascinating and numerous as these faces are, the temple also has a series of massive bas-reliefs that completely circle both inside and out. The outer ones, of which there are at least eight, are 35 meters long and 3 meters high and depict epic battles of the Khmer versus the Cham from long ago. Intricate and ambitious, these carvings do not seem to leave a single detail uncarved.

(Jay the 7th returns and does a mean Riverdance jig, set to Irish music. Suddenly, a loud boom erupts offstage and 10 Cham warriors rush Jay the 7th. He battles and taunts them one by one with a scimitar, as he does his masterful jig. They cannot smite him. The Cham are vanquished. Exit all.)

NARRATOR: Ta Nei – built by Jay the 7th (yes, this dude is a temple building fiend when not slaying Chams) in the late 12th century, Ta Nei is still overgrown and far off the beaten path. We had to walk a solid 20 minutes down a random dirt road to find this place, which made it all the more exciting to finally discover, since the alternative was being lost forever in the woods with only a lonely, slow death to look forward to. The best part was getting kicked off the temple roof (rubble?) by one of the curators who was not amused by our climbing and exploring endeavors.

Bakong – built by King Indravaran I in 881, we reached this giant stone temple just as the sun was about to set, after a long road trip to Beng Melea in crazily slow tuk-tuks. Loaded up with cans of warm Angkor and Anchor beer (from roadside vendors), we sat and scrutinized the slowly sinking sun while savoring the succulent swill. A couple of local girls sat nearby, waiting patiently for us to finish the beers so they could run off with the cans (recycling plunder). As the sky darkened, we soon realized that no one else was hanging around. A group of tough looking monks soon came with flashlights and we hightailed it out of there before we were questioned and gleefully thrown into a pit of tigers.

(Conductor plays “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots. Jay the 7th and King Indra enter and begin a slow swaying dance. Soon locals run onto the stage, pursued by tigers. Jay the 7th and King Indra, run for their lives. King Indra is caught and tackled by a tiger, rolling offstage. Horrible noises ensue.)

(Curtains close.)


(Curtains open. The action continues on a temple overlooking Angkor Wat, again during sunset.)

NARRATOR: Silence!! You in the back, sit down! Where was I, oh yes… Phnom Bakheng – built by King Yasovarman I around 907, the best way to reach this hill-top temple is by elephant. Of course, you could walk…but that’s no fun. My elephant was very laid back and received a severe rapping upside the head every two seconds by the handler’s evil hooked stick. Not sure I would have put up with that. The elephant of my friends was not as laid back and was off like a flash and out of camera range in less then 60 seconds.

(Conductor plays “Pink Elephants on Parade” from Dumbo. Enter elephant stage left. Exit elephant stage right.)

NARRATOR: Phimeanakas (and the royal palace) – originally built by Jayavarman V in the late 10th century, and added to by others, this small temple gave a nice excuse to climb to the top and sit around. Nearby, a large man-made pond, next to where the Royal Palace once stood, gave an equally good reason to sit around and relax.

Banteay Kdei – built by Jay the 7th in the late 12th century, we didn’t so much as see this temple as simply walk through it on the way to Ta Prohm. Looked okay, we just had other priorities.

(Jay the 7th runs out on stage and takes a bow. Conductor plays “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis Presley. Hips sway. Women swoon. Jay the 7th bows again and exits stage left.)

NARRATOR: Srah Srang – built by King Rajendravarman in the mid 10th century, this is a massive royal bath (more like a lake) built so that King Raj over there would have a ridiculously ornate place to bathe and frolic. As the sun’s fire mirrors on the shimmering lake you can pretend you’re worthy to clean yourself in these waters. You’re not – it’s off limits to you and elephants.

Bapuon – built by King Udaya (something) around 1060 AD, this has a reclining Buddha made of bricks, that doesn’t look so much like a reclining Buddha as a brick wall. Nice try though. One of the many drawbacks of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s is they stopped all restoration and research on the temples for many years. As a result, you can still see all the hundreds of scattered stones, waiting, like a nightmare jigsaw puzzle, to be reintegrated into this pile of stones passing as a temple.

(Conductor begins to play “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” by Pink Floyd. King Udaya, King Raj and three elephants enter stage and start marching to the music.)

KING RAJ: We don’t need no education!

(Exit all. Conductor ends song.)

NARRATOR: Preah Palilay – maybe built by King Jayavarman VIII in the 13th century, this small sanctuary had great promise, at least based on the guide book, which espoused ‘its attractive forest setting’. Imagine our chagrin when we sauntered up and found that the bums had cut down ALL the trees growing around the tower! And not more then a few days before we arrived. Made me sick.

Suor Prat Towers – built by King Indravaman II in the early 13th century, these towers are supposed to have been where tight rope walkers balanced and entertained the king before he fed them to the rampaging, hungry elephants. I jest.

Now please leave quickly, we have another performance in 10 minutes. Go!

(Orchestra music fades. Narrator berates audience until last person has left the theatre. That means you.)



  • Direct observation by Narrator (Jeremy Bailey), Intrepid Explorer, December 2008
  • Ancient Angkor by Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques
  • No music rights were procured.

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Once again, I’ve found you. There is no escape from this annually joyous attempt at season greetings. Since you likely have no other distractions; give me your full attention and let’s get down to the business at hand…to put the year that was, 2008, into a little perspective.

I know that the number of Christmas letters you’ve already dismissively wadded up and chucked into the wastebasket, along with all that fruitcake and eggnog you’ve gorged yourself on, will affect your reading of this; so I’ve decided to make it easy for you. First, it’s not a letter at all, it’s an email. No extra energy needs to be expended to get rid of it. Second, it has virtually nothing to do with Christmas. Sure, the title gives you that impression, but it’s really just a dirty* laundry list of all the wackiness that was 2008. Third, stop reading this introduction and get to the good stuff below. Fourth, I try to use simple words for simple folk like you. Sure, this means extra effort on my part, but…wait a minute. Forget it, there will be no pandering to the masses. You get what you get, and like it. Fifth, it is not required reading at all, nor should it be confused with anything relevant and timely that could impact your life in a meaningful way. Sixth, seriously, this intro is over. Get on with it.

Hang gliding (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Let’s get this started off with a bang. You presumably know what hang gliding is. You’ve likely heard about (or been to) Rio. You probably understand the concept of swooping over the tops of high rise hotels. You have it within you to visualize a long, graceful descent onto a white, sandy beach. You are surely capable of wrapping your head around a scene showing a short burst of sprinting with your appointed pilot and glider attached, and a brief, sudden tandem free-fall before catching air and soaring peacefully over every postcard view of Rio you’ve ever seen. Yes? Good job! I’m so proud of you!

The Game of Baseball (Worldwide)
I took in the Japanese version of baseball in Osaka with the Orix Buffaloes playing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (sponsored by Nippon Ham). What have they done to our beloved game? Only turned it into an enthusiastic circus of bright colors, silly mascots, and crazy slogans! Case in point, “One heartbeat, close to you”, supposedly will entice you to attend a Buffaloes game. Hmmmm…yes, I see. I also saw home games of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals. And boy did my heart skip a beat when I discovered $2 Tuesdays in Toronto!

Safari (East Tsavo National Park, Kenya)
Thirty different types of animals participated in my dusty, bouncing, day-long photo shoot. And not a single one smiled. So disappointing. The closest I got to a smile was from six massive lions feasting on succulent buffalo. Oh, and a baby giraffe played coy for the camera until warming up after I offered her the cover of National Geographic. Sucker!

9:30 Club (Northwest, Washington, D.C.)
Definitely the best venue to see a concert in the city (standing room and balconies for 900), I took it upon myself to see all kinds of bands and artists while skipping between the three bars, each with different beer offerings. I witnessed Super Diamond (twice), Sara Bareilles, The Ting Tings, Cut Copy with the Pre-Sets, Hot Chip, Shiny Toy Guns, and Vampire Weekend. Although this may be the first time you’ve heard of some of these, don’t waste this rare opportunity you’ve been granted to expand your horizons. (Hint: iTunes)

Dr. Granville Moore’s (Northeast, Washington, D.C.)
Fancying itself as a Belgium gastro pub, Granville Moore’s dishes fantastic mussels and frites (as seen on the Food Network) and entertains around 60 different Belgium beers before offering them up to eager patrons. This row house turned restaurant is seemingly unfinished on the inside, with exposed dry wall, and flourishes church pews for seats. Not that anyone would notice with a face full of frites and Framboise.

Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada)
Big and wet. You expected more?

Whatever your taste in music is, remember, this is my list. So when I say that the albums from Sara Bareilles, Vampire Weekend and Coldplay are the ones you should buy (now) and listen to (again, now), then you might want to take heed. Even should you choose to ignore my expert advice, I’ll happily enjoy them without you.

Yes, I read some books, but let’s not dwell on it too much. The two to buy or hold-up the local library for are: “Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World Has Failed” by Thomas W. Dichter (the title also acts as a synopsis!) and “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman (an interesting thought experiment on what would happen to the planet if humans no longer existed – can you guess?).

Some of the best movies of the year included: “The Dark Knight” (a no-brainer), “Iron Man”, and “The Visitor”.

This world is full of good food and by any means necessary, get these dishes into your salivating piehole as soon as possible! Japanese okonomiyaki (pancakes with plenty of what you like), fugu (poisonous pufferfish), Kobe beef (marbled, mouthwatering meat), Dominican mofongo (puréed plantains with pork), Khmer (Cambodian) fish amok (the name says it all), Brazilian feijoada (sizzling stew with steaming beans, pork and beef), Kenyan ugali (doughy cornmeal), Canadian poutine (frites with fromage and fancy gravy), and British cream tea (tea and scones with clotted cream and jam). Oy!

Cherry blossoms (Kyoto, Japan)
What does strolling along the meditative Philosopher’s path, exploring any of 1,800 temples, jostling through the bustling (bursting?) streets of the Gion district, cramming onto crowded buses, and meandering through countless, breathtaking Japanese gardens all have in common? In early April, you can do none of these things without a pink and white explosion of cherry blossoms (sakura) in every direction. And a vast array of sakura flavored sweets, including the cream puff that explodes pink goo onto your shirt.

Corcovado (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Arms wide for a welcoming embrace, the Christ the Redeemer statue (120 feet high) sits atop the mountain of Corcovado, overlooking Rio and its white beaches. Considered one of the ‘new 7 wonders of the world’, the statue commands your full attention from every angle. Then, inevitably, you have to take time to be distracted by the breathtaking view. But, out of the corner of your eye, Christ is still ready to hug you.

Mt. Misen (Miyajima, Japan)
Any sorry attempt on my part to describe the majestic panorama of sights from the high temples of this island mountaintop, overlooking the red, floating torii gate (considered one of Japan’s three most scenic views) and neighboring islands; and the arduous ascent through primeval forests and fiery cherry blossoms to reach it; and the perfect warm instant noodles and crisp Kirin beer bought from the Mom and Pop café at the summit; would only pale in comparison to the real thing. Sorry to disappoint.

London, England
Over repeated trips to England without giving London its proper due, I finally decided to invest a couple of days to really take LDN in again. First lesson: Use the money you theoretically saved on that cheap hotel with a shared bathroom (60 pounds a night) on a Fuller’s London Pride beer and a greasy order of fish and chips. Then go bankrupt. Second lesson: Go see Monty Python’s Spamalot. Third lesson: Take your iPod and stroll around Hyde Park and The Serpentine lake during sunset. Fourth lesson: The village of Greenwich and the Greenwich Mean Time line is acceptable to visit in the rain.

Pub Quiz Nights (Fado Irish Pub, Washington, D.C.)
A rich winter tradition of pencil in hand, sipping from pints of frothy Guinness, nibbling on corned beef and cabbage, writing down answers to random questions, and handing them in after each round – all with the hope of out-dueling the other, lesser teams for cash money – always ended in tears as we failed to live up to our own hype. Next time…

Flight of the Conchords (Television show)
So ridiculously funny, you will surely snort milk out your nose (even if you’re not drinking any!). The title refers to a very low-rent, no gigs, two shlub band from New Zealand, who, along with their manager, get into random misadventures, and then sing about them. As you decipher the lyrics, and nod your head to the beat, keep an extra pair of underwear handy in case a laughing accident ensues.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I’ve lived on the East Coast now for a few years and only just now made it to Philly. So to make up for lost time, we swaggered into Philly foot loose and fancy free. Philly cheese steaks, a Phillies baseball game (World Series Champs!), Broad Street, pub crawling, cheering on the Kentucky Derby while quaffing mint juleps, and a random Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit and you’ve got yourself a weekend.

Malindi, Kenya
Whether seasick while deep-sea fishing; enjoying a fine meal at the Old Man and The Sea restaurant (Hemingway did not make an appearance); staying at the quiet and cheap Cloud Nine
hotel (not in any guidebook); cooking fresh fish in banana leaves; strolling the seaweed choked beaches; or watching the resilient sailboats, made by the local boys from cast-off detritus (flip-flops for outriggers and plastic bags for sails anyone?), brave the ocean’s wind and waves; Malindi is a worthy place to unwind and pretend the world really is this small.

Temples of Angkor (Cambodia)
The Khmer empire was pretty busy between 850-1200 AD, building temples like they were going out of style. Then most of these temples were abandoned for hundreds of years and they became part of the encroaching jungle. Angkor Wat is by far the largest and most well-known, but it’s the temples of Ta Prohm and Beng Mealea that are among the most amazing. These have been allowed to stay mostly overgrown and ruined. There is a certain amount of peace and awe one feels when traversing over and around the tangled roots of giant fig strangler trees and the tumbled stones and carvings that once were grand galleries and massive buildings of ancient kings. At least it seems that way, if I do say so myself.

Can’t wait until next Christmas for another injection of insipid, indelible insights? Keep track of all the random hilarity at:



Bonus Question! (Guess correctly for a cool prize!)**

How many countries did I visit this year? (Hint: One paragraph lists them all)

* Clean version
** No, not really

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