29 August 2014

Capturing Cambodia: The land of lotus and lemongrass


*all photography is my own, unless my iPhone photos were too dire to use - in which case my dad and sister's "real" cameras step up to the plate… nonetheless, these are surpidingly few and far between; I do think I managed to remove some of the prejudices associated with my camera of choice, by the end of the holiday! Don't knock the phone of many faculties. 

This seemed a suitably traditional image to open with

Siem Reap, Cambodia. The first of three destinations in our Asian Adventure. This was my second ever 'multi-centre' holiday - and my first knowing what multi-centre actually means! It does mean living out of a suitcase for the large part, but this actually didn't bother me. For one, I hate unpacking. Secondly, I hate packing. So it was a win-win situation really.

That's a lotta lotus
and lemongrass...
At the start, however, it seemed the choice would not even have been there, thanks to our luggage being left in Ho Chi Minh airport, from where we had taken the connection flight into Cambodia. Turns out my dad's prophecy of lost luggage proved correct; although, to be fair, Swissport weren't to blame! Charlotte panics over her shoes and nice clothes, I lament over the prospect of lost medication and nature valley bars... Thankfully, I always pack around half of my supplies in my rucksack, at the risk of becoming a pack mule. Nonetheless, it meant that we were there in 30+ degree heat, in day old clothing, unable to even take a shower!

Permission to steal the the
lotus leaf plate? 
Entering the Tara Angkor hotel to a quite hypnotic lemongrass aroma - plus a serving of lemongrass tea (you will notice a theme develop…) on arrival - your luggage-less frazzled mind was put slightly at ease; however, relief only puts it light to describe our emotions when the cases eventually arrived later that evening; with a shower and a song we could truly start recapturing the holiday spirit.

In addition to lemongrass, Cambodia's other abundant offering was lotus flowers. They used them for decoration, served it as tea - for the higher quality teas, I learnt that it can take up to one thousand lotus flowers per kilogram to make! It is done by either filling lotus flowers with green tea leaves, or baking the green tea leaves with the entire stamen of the flower (credit to wikipedia for giving me the second piece of information…!) It is a lovely tea; a slightly more floral aroma than green tea, and slightly sweeter too. It is probably more comparable to jasmine tea.

Before this holiday, I had never really drunk iced tea, but it became my drink of choice! I am still a bit tentative with fruit juice based drinks, due to the headache that would be trying to guess the insulin dose needed; a combination of the heat and exercise meant that my blood sugars were yo-yoing slightly more as it was. However, I want to use my next year of uni to do a bit of trial and error testing with drinks, as I am long overdue a cocktail! Sometimes, with diabetes, it is a case of going with your gut, taking a little leap of faith, and it will work itself out in the end.
Iced lotus tea time 
Dad and Watermelon juice, aka elixir
of the devil… I can't stand melon!

That evening we began our foray into the local cuisine! I've never been much of an asian food girl; having a dislike for rice is probably not the ideal scenario for visiting two countries that have it as their staple! However, there was one food that was another staple, which made me very happy… seafood! I love it, and on this holiday my seafood cravings were most definitely satiated. 


wine isn't a thing in Asia… much to my disappointment!
First night in Cambodia and I went for something… Japanese! Hey, I stayed in the Asia vicinity. It was a seafood and soba noodle soup, and it looked (and tasted) lovely. The bowl was like a cauldron; it even came a lid on top so looked very sophisticated indeed, when the waiter *dramatically* lifted it up to reveal what was under the sea. Okay, officially singing Ariel in my head now… 

Here's another capture of the lotus flower modelling - I have to say, outside the photo these did not stay on for long! We accumulated quite a collection, as they used to serve them in all your cocktails/iced tea. As i mentioned earlier, I drank a lot of iced tea… and coffee! I am a bit of a coffee fiend, and one thing I had heard, before coming to this part of the world, was about the 'famous' coffee and teas. I experienced a moment probably familiar to all t1 diabetics, where you sip the drink and you detect a sweetness that is not down to artificial stevia! Charlotte ordered an "iced latte", me an "iced cappuccino". Turns out that, with the cappuccino, they took the liberty of adding the sugar syrup in for you! Being the lovely girl my sister is, she agreed to swap with me. As I mentioned earlier - drinks are a pesky business; the couple of occasions on which I did order a cocktail at uni, it was with me practically falling into the bar because I was straining my neck, trying to see if any weird and wonderful (but diabetes woeful) syrup was added!
photo credit: tumblr
diabetes memes can be a much
needed source of comic relief!
Our stay in Cambodia was definitely enhanced by being in a lovely hotel such as Tara Angkor. It took us roughly 10-20 minutes to get to the temples, and the facilities themselves were brilliant. Charlotte and I got a double bed each, which saved the "you're stealing all the duvet!" arguments. Not that you would exactly have been sad about this, given the 30+ degree heat! The restaurant, as demonstrated above, was just lovely. Really high quality food, seving both Eastern and Western dishes. The highlight was possibly the pool at night; it had lights all round, so looked quite beautiful when the sun was down. Sadly we were always too tired to take a nighttime swim, but on the walk back to our room after dinner, we were still able to appreciate its aesthetic appeal!

All in all, for the purpose of our trip - temple touring - it more than exceeded expectations, and I would strongly recommend it if you ever want to visit Angkor Wat. 



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