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The Killing Fields

No trip to Cambodia would be complete without confronting its dark and complicated past. We rose early and left Phnom Penh to make our way to Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields. Choeung Ek was once an orchard, but became an execution ground for the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot. After the fall of the regime mass graves containing 8,895 bodies were found at the site, many being those of prisoners who were formerly held at the Tuol Seng detention centre.

The Killing Fields

By arriving early we had the place to ourselves for a while, and opted for the audio tour. This allowed each of us to go to each stop at our own pace, and reflect upon the horrors that had taken place there between 1975 – 1979. An hour or so into our trip massive foreign tour groups arrived at the centre, guided to each site by a tour guide. I personally found the big, loud tour groups to be disruptive and distracting from the whole experience. One of the group I arrived with felt the behaviour of one of these groups to be so disrespectful that she had to leave.

Choeung Ek

It wasn’t an easy experience to go to the killing fields. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and the memorial stupa, or Buddhist memorial is really moving: inside the memorial stupa is a tower of human skulls taken from the graves. But knowing that each rainy season brings even more bone fragments to the surface, and that children were also killed at the site by those pursuing a deranged political vision is chilling. Having said that, I believe that the trip should be mandatory to those visiting the country as I feel that we can learn a lot from the events that occurred at Choeung Ek.

The Killing Fields The Killing Fields 2014-03-17 23.14.18 2014-03-17 23.09.07 The Killing Fields

Restaurant Review: Dine in the Dark, Phnom Penh

In February I took Mr. A to Dans Le Noir in London as part of his birthday present. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, at Dans Le Noir you dine in complete darkness. I mean, you can’t see the hand in front of your face, and for most people it’s probably the first time you’ve been somewhere without a single source of light. It was a great experience – dulling the sense of sight seemed to heighten the other senses of sound, touch and smell, making a really unique culinary experience.

As great as Dans Le Noir was, I preferred Dine in the Dark, located on Street 19 opposite the Lovely Jubbly hostel in the heart of Phnom Penh.

Dine in the DarkDine in the Dark

Perhaps it was the fact that I opted for the Khmer menu (the other choices were International and vegetarian), and that it was my first time having Cambodian cuisine. Or, perhaps, the fact that the restaurant was set up with the help of a local NGO (Krousar Thmey – School for the Deaf and Blind), who employ visually impaired guides to help you to your seats promoting equal opportunities. Either way, Mr A, my friend Sophie and I had a great time.

The lovely Fredo, our guide, encouraged us to use our hands to eat our meal, which was such a relief. At Dans Le Noir there were several moments where I put my fork up to my mouth to find there was nothing on it! Using my hands allowed me to feel the texture of the food, all of which was delicious. I also liked the fact that I wasn’t limited to ‘surprise’ cocktails like its London counterpart, and as a result had a few too many cosmopolitans with my meal.

We ended up having a gorgeous salad with beef, spinach, cashew nuts and prawn crackers as a starter, followed by a fish amok curry in an aubergine case served with sticky rice. After this came a trio of soups in shot glasses, a lovely touch, and an incredible rice pudding. And I mean that – I am so not a fan usually but the addition of the exotic fruits and condensed milk was absolutely divine. After we finished our meal (two hours later – time just flew by!) Fredo led us back into the light, and we were shown gorgeous photos of what we’d just eaten on an iPad. I did sneakily take some photos of my own which I’ve decided against sharing – you’ll just have to go and experience it for yourself!

We retrieved our phones and cameras from the locked box (so you aren’t tempted to whip your phone out and ruin the experience for everyone else) and jumped into a tuk-tuk to go bar hopping. After months of £11 cocktails, can you blame me if I was a tad overenthusiastic at the prospect of $2.50 cocktails?

Amnesia

The aptly named Amnesia, from Jaan.

Blue Mekong

Followed by several Blue Mekongs, sipped as I looked out over where its namesake meets the Tonle Sap.

Restaurant Review: The Sushi Bar, Phnom Penh

On our second day in Phnom Penh we headed down to The Sushi Bar.

We went to the Boeung Keng Kang, or ‘BKK’ location, surrounded by some of the best spas, bars and shopping in Phnom Penh. The area has a cosmopolitan feel, probably due to the concentration of international schools in the neighbourhood. The South-East Asian chain has several dotted around Ho Chi Minh, but only opened in Phnom Penh in 2012.

Sushi Bar Phnom Penh

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I’m usually fairly picky about my sushi – despite my limited budget. Which is why, on first sight, the front cover of the menu didn’t fill me with confidence – sushi ain’t something to joke about! A big red flag for me when I go into a sushi place is mayonnaise anywhere near the rolls – it is just unnatural,  and same goes for cream cheese in my opinion. I’m open minded and up for fusion cuisine but there are just some things you don’t mess with.

Sushi Bar PP

Luckily this wasn’t a problem at the Sushi Bar. I was really impressed with the selection – particularly with the negi tuna handrolls and the aburi, or broiled tuna sushi which I have yet to find in London.

Sushi Bar Phnom PenhI went for the sushi set A – my personal favourites were the eel and ikura (roe) as well as the salmon. I really loved my meal, but the others weren’t so keen on the scallops or the squid – they found theirs chewy to the point of inedible.

Aburi tuna

I greedily ordered the aburi tuna (centre) while the others ordered a negi handroll (left) and salmon avocado handroll (right). I  loved the aoshiso addition but again, the others weren’t a fan! All down to personal taste.

Negi TunaAnd being on holiday and all, I just had to order the negi handroll – I was getting bad food envy!

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Washing it down with a few sips of the local draft beer – (Angkor), my experience at The Sushi Bar made me a very happy girl. I definitely recommend it!

Sushi Bar Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After months of waiting, and what seemed like the longest flight ever I’m finally here! In Phnom Penh. And I’m loving it already.

Phnom Penh. CambodiaMr. A and I left dreary London on Friday night, both completely exhausted for the overnight flight to Guangzhou, China. We flew with China Southern, and I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about it. The fact that the  flight was £200 cheaper than all the other deals, combined with the news that the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight was a codeshare with China Southern really unsettled me. I’m glad on this occasion that I was proven wrong – the whole experience exceeded my expectations and left me pleasantly surprised, which is always nice!

After a three hour stopover (filled with awesome dumplings and Chinese green tea) we arrived in Phnom Penh at half eleven in the evening. The visa application process was smooth, although I do recommend that if you’re intending to go to bring along a passport photo to save yourself another queue.

Today we woke up at the crack of dawn to get the most out of the day, but ended up taking it fairly easy. I’d arrived the night before in a thick coat, wool tights and leather ankle boots so I’m still having to adjust to the heat! We had a lazy day of going to the local market to get fruit, walking around, drinking fresh coconut, swimming and soaking up some sun.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

We passed the Royal Palace (above) on our way to the market. The palace faces the riverbank, right where the Tonle Sap river meets the Mekong.

Tonle Sap Riverbank Phnom PenhThe local market was full of the weird and wonderful. I’m so excited to try out all the fruit – some of which I’ve never even seen before.

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My favourite so far are the teeny bananas. They call them ‘chicken egg’ bananas, which I love! I finished off the day by having a barbecue and catching up with old friends. Not very adventurous, I know – I’m dying to try the local cuisine. I wasn’t pleased when I popped into the supermarket to see this sign: definitely not what I came here for!

Waitrose Phnom PenhI’m so excited and happy that I can’t sleep! I guess I’ll just have to get stuck in and get on with some research – I have a very important appointment tomorrow.