Holiday in Cambodia

While I'm back to the grind, my recent travels are still still fresh in my mind. This year my family and I headed to the Far East for Winter Break, specifically Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand (taking advantage of the extremely strong dollar)! A much younger me had already been to Vietnam and Thailand, but Holiday in Cambodia was a first for me, and as such, I did a little investigative research on the ground to prepare for the journey and stay in the Loupe! 

It's a holiday in Cambodia
It's tough, kid, but it's life
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Don't forget to pack a wife

Holiday in Cambodia, Dead Kennedys

Angkor Cambodian Bistro (ACB)
408 E 64th St, New York, NY 10065

First things first ... what the hell is Cambodian food??? I am familiar with and love Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, but knew nothing of Cambodian. It seems there are very few Cambodian restaurants in New York City, in part because there are few Cambodian immigrants here; Philadelphia, on the other hand, has a large Cambodian population and a thriving cultural scene, including food. Lo and behold, one of the few NYC Cambodian restaurants is an amazing new comer on the Upper East Side.

ACB's owner Chef Minh is Cambodian, but traveled a long, winding road since he fled the brutal Civil War. He learned to cook in Thailand as a political refugee there. In 1980, he immigrated to the United States and worked in a variety of French restaurants before he opened his first Thai restaurant, almost 25 years ago. He has since sold it and wanted to get back to his Cambodian roots by introducing New Yorkers to this cuisine which has been lacking a presence and an audience. In fact, I would argue they have a marketing problem. Everyone I ask (foodies and regulars alike) can't tell me the nuances of Cambodian food relative to other East Asian cuisine.

The owners of ACB were happy to induct me into this world, and it was amazing. Some highlights include Loc Lac (stir fried beef with vegetables), Amok (fish stuffed with seafood & lemongrass, topped with curry) and my favorite, Kuthiew (a noodle omelette with sautéed shrimp & vegetables), This restaurant is tucked away on a quiet street on the Upper East Side in the old John's Pizza spot! So, instead of your go to Chinese dinner on Sunday, check it out and introduce yourself to the taste and style of Cambodia, whether you plan to travel there or not!

It's a holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll do what you're told
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Where the slums got so much soul

535 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022

Before you leave on your journey you need the right gear, and much to my chagrin, this year we were in the market for new luggage! My constraints were size (large!), easy to pack & unpack (butterfly), and easy to move (4 wheels). We needed big bags because we like to go on long trips, and you can't always count on (afford) laundry while you are away. We also tend to make lots of stops, so the bag must keep everything organized so you don't need to unpack at each stop. We also needed bags that roll easily, so everyone can maneuver their own bag if there are no carts at the airport, or I have no foreign currency to get a cart.

The answer is Rimowa, a German company that has been making innovative luggage since 1898! Apparently I was not the first to discover them, as LVMH bought them out late last year and Rimowas were everywhere we turned in Asia! These bags are constructed from the best materials (you can choose between polycarbonate, aluminum, and a hybrid), contain TSA compliant locks for security and come in a variety of sizes (supersize me). Most importantly, they have added the innovative Rimowa Electronic Tag, which allows you to log into an app and check in your bag so you can avoid the dreaded airport lines. Rimowa's electronic tag is essentially an E Ink display with the same width as a standard paper luggage tag. Imagine that! It is currently accepted by United Airlines, Lufthansa, and EVA but I can imagine that LVMH will associate with every airline before long .... this, my friends, is the future of travel! 

Well you'll work harder
With a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers
Till you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake

Jetlag Genie

Jetlag is real people, it is serious and it can mess you up! If you are traveling half way across the Earth, you need a plan. You don't have time for jet lag, especially when you get there and have things to see/do or when you return and have to get back to work (argh)! Jetlag Genie is that plan. This app requires that you enter information about your trip, specifically where you will be traveling, when you will be traveling, and what your normal sleep patterns are. From there, it will provide what to do before, during, and after you travel. This includes a regimen of Melatonin, Melatonin and more Melatonin. Just kidding, it includes a regimen of sleep, wakefulness, and of course Melatonin! Sure you can get more aggressive sleeping pills, but this worked just fine for me and I was on a reasonably normal pattern in no time, both directions. I know this may be late for some of you, but hopefully you are traveling far, far away for your next trip!

Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot

Angkor Wat

Now that you know what Cambodia food is, have the appropriate luggage, as well as a strategy to get over Jetlag, we can finally make it to Cambodia! 

Most people (everyone!) wake up early, get on their tuk tuk, and venture to see the sunrise over the Temple! There is indeed something magical when Angkor Wat finally reveals itself with first light. This is a 10th century architectural feat no doubt, but what really grabs you is the scale and superb craftsmanship and detail. It is truly indescribable. Whether it is the uniform carvings of buddha, the beautiful renderings of the dancing ladies, or even simply the embellishments on the columns. This place is a treasure that is meant to be explored slowly and thoroughly among the monkeys that pop out when you least expect them. Sure it is difficult and time consuming to get to, but it should be on everyone's bucket list! Also, at sunset, don't miss Ta Prohm (the Jungle Temple) to find your inner (bad-ass) tomb raider (where Angelina Jolie filmed). The huge trees and massive roots grow out of the temples’ walls making it feel like an enchanted and eerie jungle! 

Ok, so now we know a few things, most notably that the punk rock band, the Dead Kennedy's anti-establishment Holiday in Cambodia is one intensely political song. It mocks the arrogance and indifference of American youth to the travesties of life under dictatorship! Boy does history repeat itself. Not quite, what you expect from the song's title? However, it sheds light on the tragic history of this beautiful country that experienced three decades of civil war under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and remains today one of the poorest countries in all of Asia. 

What can you do? Get out there, get in the loupe, and go; see the beauty that lasted through the wreckage and consider Angkor Cambodian Restaurant, Rimora Luggage, Jetlag Genie, and Angkor Wat Found!

Bryan VeronaComment