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It tastes better than it looks

...Bollocks!

sunny 28 °C

The FCC is what I had imagined it to be. Although it had only recently opened in 1993, the decor is what you would you would imagine foreign diplomats, journalist, explorers and entertainer sipping on their cocktails and smoking their cigarettes as they exchange exploits of lands far and away. Adding to the effect are the dark wooden chairs and the purposely placed palm tree plants (say that 10 times). The hanging fans turn slowly and a cool subtle breeze flows through the open air bar.

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We chill out and unwind after an emotionally charged morning at the Killing Fields. I take a sip of my Angkor Beer as I take a minute to take stock of this morning’s activities. We had decided to grab some lunch after a quick rest returning from the Killing Fields. We mapped out our afternoon and had headed to the Russian Markets for some Souvenir Shopping. I’m not the biggest fan of Souvenir shopping and I’m even less of a fan of bargaining. Probably because I suck at it and so I leave it to Sam to do all the bargaining. I knew at some point we had to do some shopping so I didn’t mind getting it over and done with. After a while, all the souvenirs look the same and the bargaining just becomes a pain.

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Our good friend Kate had suggested visiting the FCC so we convinced the other to spend the afternoon there as it was right by the river and we would have an excellent view of the boat races. So after making our way through the crowds of locals and tourists, we find ourselves chilling out at the FCC, with a great view of the river and the Festival revellers below. We spend the afternoon watching the boat races and just basically chilling out.

as the fireworks start, everyone stops to turn their heads toward the sky above the river

As the sun goes down, the shadows get longer and the colours in the crowds and on the boats become saturated. Someone has ordered fries and I realise that I’m getting pretty hungry, but it’s not another couple of hours before we head down to the restaurant. I start thinking of the local fare we had all agreed we would sample tonight. I don’t feel so hungry anymore but I eat some fries just to hold me over.

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The lights come on in the bar and the last rays of sun disappear from the horizon. "The fireworks are going to start soon" I hear someone say. I grab my camera and as if on queue, everyone moves to the open balcony to find a vantage point for the fireworks. The crowds on the waterfront are milling around but as soon as the fireworks start, everyone stops to turn their heads toward the sky above the river. Boats lit up with huge lighting design float down the river and create beautiful shimmering reflections on the water. “Ooohh...Aaahh”, the international reaction to fireworks that transcends all language barriers.

I put the unidentified insect in my mouth, chew, and swallow

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We decide to leave shortly after the fireworks as it’s almost time to meet up for dinner at a restaurant nearby. Nick and I are pretty pumped about checking out the street stalls selling the local cuisine. We head straight for the nearest one as soon as we exit the FCC. The girls aren’t so keen and stay back and observe from a distance, with their cameras at the ready. Nick and I eye off the bowls of various goodies. “What’s this one?” I ask the stall owner. “Locust” she says, picking one up and skilfully de-shelling it before casually popping it into her mouth. I point to something else and she picks it up and says something I don’t understand. “Beetle” I think it was. She hands it to me and motions me to try. I go into some kind of ‘Thumb in Bum, Mind in Neutral’ trance and like some kind of bug eating robot, I put the unidentified bug in my mouth, chew, and swallow. I snap out of the trance and Nick is looking at me, searching for a reaction. I catch the reaction of the small girl behind the stall who had been observing me, her face screwed up with disgust. “Hold on a sec” I think to myself. “You’re selling this stuff”. Are these stalls a scam played on tourist by the amusement of the locals? I quickly stop caring and Nick and I buy a mixed bag full of creepy crawly goodies.

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Rod, Milo and Fabian are waiting for us at the restaurant when we arrive. It’s alfresco dining tonight as we watch the throngs of people walk by. I take a bit of to partake in one of my favourite activities, people watch. That's cut short when we're quickly surrounded by children trying to flog fake DVD’s, Lonely Planet Books and anything else a foreign sucker would be willing to buy. I’m surprised at good their English is but thinking about it, these kids would talk to English speaking foreigner almost every night. Not only do they make money with their photocopies of Lonely Planet books, but they also get free English lessons, although some of the slang is questionable. One even shoots me a ‘G’day Mate’ after telling him I am Aussie.

quickly follow up with huge gulp of coke as I fear the beer will react badly

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We have dinner and have a few laughs over a couple of beers. After the final plate is cleared, I untie the bag of crunchy protein and start off our final course with a small cricket. Easy. There is some nervous laughter from the others, knowing that their turn will come. With some kind of ghastly timing, I notice the restaurant slogan, “It tastes better than it looks”. So, so wrong. Nick chimes in and starts snacking on the snake-on-a-stick. I take out the tasty tarantula, the appetizing arachnid, the Piece de Resistance. This eight legged monster is around 3 inches long with a body almost an inch in Diameter. I try and take the edge off what I’m about to do with a bit of devil-may-care bravado. Once again I go into my bug-eating trance and before I know it, I’m chewing on the head and leg of a tarantula. I thought it was going to be crispy and crunchy and would be able to swallow quickly. Instead it is oily and chewy and I find myself chewing more than I really want to. It has the consistency of beef jerky and tastes like after dipping it in some kind of engine oil salsa. I quickly follow up with huge gulp of coke as I fear the beer will react badly. I pass the tarantula, sans head and one leg, around the group and each person takes a leg and shares the delight. Once again, I see the local children react with fascinating disgust. No one is brave enough to try the tarantula body as it looks like something that will burst open with some kind of green ooze with the consistency of guacamole. Must have been a Mexican Tarantula. The snake is like some kind of bony fishy chicken. Tasty.

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...I’m sitting in bed because I’m finding it hard to digest my Insect Collection. It feels like when the corn shells of popcorn sit on your throat after eating a jumbo combo at the cinemas. Except this time it’s the wings, legs and body shells of beetles, locusts, tarantulas and crickets. The oily slime haunts the walls of my mouth and I start regretting my bug-eating bravado. Well, when in Rome, stick to pasta.

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On a serious note, thoughts and Prayers to all the the friends and families of those that died on the Diamond Island bridge tradegy during the Cambodia Water Festival. We were lucky to have left Phnom Penh the morning it happend

Posted by Al Jam 20:08 Archived in Cambodia Tagged water cambodia festival snake tarantula phnom penh crickets fcc locusts

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