One of the things Robert and I like best is getting off the beaten track a little bit and seeing how people really live in the places we visit. We were thrilled then to come across the combo tour offered by Dani of Bees Unlimited. This tour is billed as a combination of a market tour and a cultural tour, but let’s just say I think it should be called the “all-you-can-eat while seeing the countryside tour.” We started the tour hungry and finished it feeling absolutely stuffed (in a good way, of course).
Dani picked us up bright and early yesterday morning with his tuk-tuk driver. He quickly whisked us off to a local bakery. Honestly, we would have never even known it was a bakery if we had walked by on our own. But it was, and they had baguettes still warm from the oven. Yum!
After changing some money, it was off to a local market where the eating began in earnest.
We started with some steamed sweet potatoes. A bit too sweet for me. And, not my ideal breakfast food.
Next up, fresh grilled corn on the cob. Here in Cambodia, you can sometimes choose between sweet corn and starchy corn. I, of course, picked the sweet variety. And, Dani taught me a trick — if you spread a lime segment on the corn, it completely changes the flavor profile. Try it, it was really good!
Then, we dove into the market with both feet. We’ve done market tours before, but I have to say this market was one of the more interesting markets we have seen. The market was chaotic, with scooters driving up and down the aisles. Parts of the market were kind of disgusting, like the stack of pig heads (which I saw, but didn’t get a picture of). Or the beheaded and skinned frogs that WERE STILL MOVING! Sadly, at least from what we saw, there were no snakes for sale yesterday.
Then, even though I was already feeling full after all that starch, it was time for a real breakfast.
And, we still weren’t done eating! It was time for sweets.
Then, it was more walking around the market, nibbling on things like steamed peanuts and local fruits and spicy nuts and something like a hush puppy made of jicama.
Once we were ready to burst like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka, it was time to hop back in the tuk-tuk to head out into the country. But, before we got far, the tuk-tuk was pulling over to the side of the road for no apparent reason. Turns out, it was time for crushed sugar cane juice with orange juice. We had tasted sugar cane juice before and weren’t huge fans, but the addition of the orange juice changed the flavor entirely and we loved it.
Once we arrived in the country, Dani and his tuk-tuk driver kept watch to see which of the many families they know were doing something interesting. If a family was doing something interesting, we stopped. We got to see things like women making baskets and a man making the most beautiful fish traps.
We saw dog being grilled on the side of the road. We didn’t stop for that one. So sad.
We also saw incense sticks being made by hand. This woman collects the various herbs and barks used to scent the incense and dries them. She then turns them into a paste. She then rolls the paste onto sticks she has made herself. It was amazing to watch. Each stick was identical to the stick before it. All that effort, and 30 sticks sell for only 50 cents.
We also randomly came across a family making fresh rice paper and fresh spring rolls. Of course we stopped — who can pass up a fresh spring roll with fish sauce — and of course they were amazing.
We also stopped into the home of a local family where the wife was a practitioner of cupping. Guess who got cupped on the shoulder he injured in Phuket? He said it felt really good.
But the tour still wasn’t over. We hadn’t even finished digesting breakfast when Dani told us it was time for lunch.
Robert also had his eye on some grilled, stuffed frog being sold on the side of the road, so while I finished up my banh xeo he went off in the tuk-tuk to grab two frogs on a stick.
And, then Dani said it was time for dessert.
The tour was fantastic. We got to try food we would never had tried otherwise, and we actually got to meet some locals and see how they live. It was a great off the beaten track kind of day.