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Cambodia Part Two: In Phnom Penh: Enjoying the food, surprised by the cars

23rd March 2016

Wild Frontiers offers a number of Cambodia holidays. Founder Jonny Bealby is currently recceing in Cambodia.

If cars are one way to tell the economic trajectory of a country, Cambodia is on the up.

Rarely, if ever, have I seen so many Range Rovers in such a small area as I saw today in Phnom Penh, not even in Chelsea. Range Rovers, Toyota Land Cruisers, Mitsubishi Shoguns congest the city’s busy streets, while garages filled with Jaguars, Mercedes, even Bentleys and Porsches line the same thoroughfares. With import duty on new cars at 100%, and even on secondhand models at 35% – meaning the cost of purchasing one of these vehicles new here would cost a normal Cambodian double what it would cost us in the UK – must either mean the Cambodian middle classes are doing rather well, or there is a lot of corruption going on.

Anyway aside for the cars, I like Phnom Penh. Sitting at the confluence of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong rivers it is a vibrant place buzzing with life and energy and although it might not contain an array of great sites, it’s certainly worth a day or two’s exploration. Travelling with my wife, Anna – who, incidentally, was actually born in Phnom Penh – we were staying at a nice little boutique hotel called Villa Langka, conveniently located close to the river, along whose banks reside a number of bars and restaurants.

Having done my usual late afternoon filming, capturing the best images of the city during ‘golden hour’, we checked out a new restaurant we’d heard about, The Tiger’s Eye. Southeast Asia is of course known for its culinary prowess. Indeed, Thai cuisine, although a poor second to Vietnamese according to foodie Anna, is generally regarded as one of the world’s finest and eating well in this part of the world is rarely an issue. From top restaurants to street vendors, Southeast Asia serves up delicious, if at times rather surprising grub; ever tried deep friend tarantula, or scorpion? I did, yesterday, but that’s another story.

Better yet, watch me tuck in to the furry fellas...

Anyway The Tiger’s Eye was great. The only time I have ever had a tasting menu in Southeast Asia, the chef served up all manner of delicious delicacies, including steamed ginger sea bass, roast duck, lemon grass prawns and a host of other things, beautifully presented with exquisite style. The only problem was, until a German couple arrived we were the only people there. Whether the place is so new it has yet to be discovered, or that travellers and expats simply don’t want such an establishment, I am not sure but I felt sorry for them as I thought the place wonderful.

Early the following morning we struck out early to watch the monks wandering the streets gathering their alms from the cafés and stalls, then visited the amazing French built central market before rushing around a few more of the city’s highlights. It was a struggle, trying to avoid all those spanking new Range Rovers but by 11 we were on our way south.

Having never been to Kep before I was keen to get there quickly.

Jonny Bealby

Rock singer, writer and travel entrepreneur, Jonny Bealby has streetwise savvy and miles of travel under his belt. His experiences have given him the …

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