It is amazing to see the variety of road side stands – that is, for us they are road side stands but here they are the shops. I love seeing how people use their specific skills or whatever resources their immediate area offers.
In a stretch of about one kilometre along the main road you might see stand after stand offering vegetables, or just coconuts and pineapples. The next stretch offers foot long length of bamboo, all standing up straight in baskets. At first I thought they were baskets of french baguettes (Cambodia was long under French occupation). But these hold steamed sticky rice with beans.
Someone sells chickens, live ones trying to scratch the dirt under the basket that holds them captive. Her neighbour offers fish for sale – small live catfish huddled in a plastic tub of water with a piece of wood on top to keep them from jumping out.
There are carvers of amazingly beautiful teakwood chairs and beds. Or people who build ornate stands with spirit houses on it. Each household needs one or more of these small altars so there must be a brisk business in spirit houses, often painted golden or orange.
Some women sell fabulous deep fried bananas or pineapple pastries.
A haircut costs one dollar, also in a roadside stand.
Perhaps one of the most innovative sellers is in the towns too far from a gas station. Everyone needs gasoline to drive their motorbike but it is too expensive to drive to the city. So someone goes to stock up and then sells it in small portions in empty pop bottles.
At one point I asked our tuk-tuk driver to stop at a roadside stand selling round green things. I wondered what they were so we bought one bundle. Turned out the be the fruit pods of the lotus flower which we saw growing along the roads in shallow water. The green pods have round holes. You break open the pod to take out a green ‘nut’. Then you break open this nut to reveal a white inside which you pop into your mouth. It didn’t have much flavour but is an interesting texture, somewhere between a berry and a nut.
We enjoy experiencing new Cambodian foods. We’ve had things like
- fried bananas with papaya sauce
- river fish amok, a stew with rice served in banana leaf
- banana blossom salad
- pineapple spring rolls
- fried glass noodles
Our lovely cheerful guide Po asked me if I’d like to try some deep fried tarantula. Hhhmmm…. I have to think about that one. He also laughed as he told us about frog sausages. Or would you prefer some chopped up tree ants in fish paste? Dog is on the menu, too. We see tall lines with bunched up plastic sheets along the road. Their purpose? To catch crickets at night when a light attracts them to the plastic. Another deep fried Cambodian delicacy! You can wash it all down with rice wine with scorpions.
And just in case you think everything is fabulous: we had lunch at a very interesting hammock restaurant. I loved the experience. As we walked over, all we saw was enormous wooden platforms with hammocks. Someone came over and spread a large woven wicker mat for us on the wooden platform. We climbed up and swung in a hammock until a pot of soup with cut up chicken pieces arrived. I ate some fried morning glory and we had rice (no chopsticks in Cambodia). Then we relaxed in the hammocks again as families around us did the same. It was fun until something hit me, about a day later. Severe food poisoning. I really don’t know if it was here, or something else I ate but I was sick as a dog and couldn’t eat a thing for three days. Had to cut down on hiking as it left me drained of all energy. I am just grateful we brought plenty of medicine and gravol.