Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Into Cambodia and frogs

New country! Two weeks in Vietnam - wonderful place, almost certainly not long enough there but there’s something consistently invigorating about entering a new country. I’ll only be in Cambodia as long as it takes me to wander around the temples at Angkor Wat and a brief visit to Phnom Penh but it’s good to be here. My first 3 hours in Cambodia will not quickly be forgotten as I was subject to an horrific ordeal of karaoke terrorism of the worst kind. Now we’re all familiar with stories of US forces playing Megadeth and Motorhead at extreme volumes to Taliban prisoners in order to extract confessions (surely three minutes of this would have worked), well by the time I walked off the bus I was ready to confess to a litany of crimes including being the brainchild behind the Khmer Rouge, Al-Qaeda and that yes, yes, it was me on that grassy knoll after all.
My first impression of Phnom Penh - surely the most cantankerously named city in the world - as I climbed off the bus was that the entire city smells like a musty hotel room. Reeks of it. Having survived the scrum of moto drivers waiting to manhandle me and others to their various hotels, I strolled through what I assumed was the rougher part of the city. 10 minutes later I was still in the rougher part of the city when it dawned on me that this is what all of Phnom Penh looks like. That said if you stroll far enough to the river there's quite a nice promenade walk there.
Now I haven’t been all that gastronomically adventurous on this trip to date and so I decided to chance my arm a little here now that my South East Asian odyssey is drawing to a close. I passed through all of Vietnam without having tried - or having been given the chance to try - dog. Damn it, I love dogs, sure, but if I’m in a country and there’s dog on the menu, why not? But I never did get the opportunity and short of dragging one of the many mongrels in from the street, landing it on the table and demanding “Here, cook this,” the taste of dog will remain a thing of mystery to my palate for now.
And so now that I’m here in Cambodia, my best attempt at trying something unusual is, er, frog. Yes, it does sound rather apologetic, I’ll admit. I had a choice between large and small and so I ordered the small wondering briefly if this would mean I’d get tadpoles. There are a wide variety of ways in which you can have your frog served to you and mine arrived soused in ginger. Who would have thought that a frog had so many bones, because that’s pretty much all the taste I got from the bloody thing. Even if I was unsure that it was frog I was eating, my doubts were allayed as I munched my way through my meal, and one leg after another appeared as the ginger and other frog parts gradually disappeared. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the legs - not out of disgust mind you - but I just couldn’t see any meat and so my plate was left with four little legs which I tried to arrange in a humorous way on my plate for a photo opportunity, but feeling the disapproving gaze of the waiting staff I abandoned the plan.

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