1. What is a typical day in Phnom Penh?
A typical day for me would be to wake up, go to work from 8am-5pm, come back to the apartment and get changed. Usually I do an evening activity with friends such as going to the cinema, bowling, walking to riverside, grabbing drinks at one of the many sky bars. On occasion I’ll not go out and do a bit of food shopping and watch a movie in the apartment or read before going to bed.
2. What do I normally do for dinner?
Sometimes I cook food in my apartment, but street food is so cheap and tasty here. Luckily for me I live directly opposite a little market so there is always so many food options around me. Normally at home in England, I don’t eat meat that often at all but in Cambodia it is quite hard to avoid. At first, I was a bit wary about the street food, worrying if it was safe to eat etc. but once you push these preconceptions and worries aside, you find some really delicious food. One of my favorites has been the Cambodian porridge “borbor” which is a rice dish with chicken in it (nothing like English porridge I am used to) but actually it’s so good and only costs $1 a bowl.
3. How many places have I visited, what was my favorite trip and why?
I’ve been incredibly lucky with how much of Cambodia I have been able to see in such a short amount of time. I’ve visited both Kep and Kampot twice, once with friends and once as part of a work retreat. I’ve also been to Siem Reap, Mondulkiri, Siahnoukville, and Kampong Speu. At the end of my time here I will also be visiting Vietnam for a few days before returning back to Phnom Penh to fly back to England.
All of these places were beautiful in their own way but I think Mondulkiri was my favorite trip. Our homestay had no power, no showers, just a bucket and freezing cold water, no proper toilets, we had a huge ant infestation throughout the night, we all ran out of clean clothes and had about 4 hours sleep for the whole weekend. But it was so nice to escape the city and see green for miles on end and to explore the jungle. We were able to see a wild elephant up close and feed her bananas, and clean her in the river. We also helped to make bamboo soup with ingredients from the forest. The friends I went with made the trip so worth it, we just laughed through everything the entire time.
Elephant In The Wild
4. What is the biggest culture shock? How did I overcome a culture shock and transition?
For me the biggest culture shock was how much meat is consumed in Cambodia, it’s served with every meal and usually there are little to no vegetarian options. I really started to miss vegetarian food because at home I only eat meat once or twice a week so that has been hard for me to adjust to. Similarly, the amount of plastic used in Cambodia really shocked me, every food stall sells their food in polystyrene containers, in a plastic bag but everything comes individually wrapped in plastic. All the fruit and veg in supermarkets comes wrapped in plastic and on the polystyrene trays. Even all the drinks sold in plastic cups come with plastic straws are then put into a little plastic bag to carry it. I found just the amount of plastic use and waste very shocking and a lot of it rather unnecessary. But I think Europe must have been the same a few years ago so maybe attitudes here will start to change soon or alternatives to plastic packaging will come around.