The grass is always greener … or browner … or whiter

Going shopping is a very different experience here, as I discover every time I go out to buy something.

If you want some tanning products – something to give you that healthy bronzed glow – forget it.  Everything here’s all about being white.DSC_1865

Even international brands have a different slant over here.


In fact, it’s easy to buy shower gel with bleach by mistake as there’s so much of it, thereby undoing weeks of tan-building in seconds.


Revlon even promises to make you luminous white, which could be useful around here because the street lighting’s not up to much.

Petrol is on sale at pretty much every village shop.  It’s sold in old glass bottles – gin, Baccardi etc – in a rack by the door, and costs 75 cents a litre.


One of the teachers at school explained that they prefer to buy petrol at a petrol station, as you never know if this stuff’s been watered down, but there aren’t many petrol stations and they tend to be in town, so people just fill up in the village if they don’t have a trip to town planned or live too far away to make it economically viable.

A trip to the butcher’s is not for the faint-hearted.  On a recent tour around the market I asked what this animal was (dog lovers, please look away now).


I have been assured that fewer than 1% of Cambodians eat dog nowadays, and there certainly didn’t seem to be any takers for this one.

On another stall I saw this pig – or some of him at least –


He has a resigned expression on his face, as if he was saying ‘I just knew something like this was going to happen today.’

Another striking difference is that shopkeepers in Siem Reap don’t seem to feel the need to stay away during opening hours.



Whether you just help yourself and leave the money, I’m not too sure.  Call me picky, but I’ve tended to opt for sales staff who are upright and have their eyes open.

There are children everywhere in shops and at the market.  They spend the whole day with their parents toddling around amusing themselves.

This mum had a great way of keeping her baby quiet.


If you fancy a drink, this lovely lady in the village will make you a sugar cane juice.


She puts the stems through the machine over and over again – a bit like a mangle, I suppose – and then gives you a glass of the juice.


Even when it’s mixed with orange juice it’s terribly sweet, but then so are all their drinks – condensed milk is king here.

The Cambodians are great snackers, and there’s a huge variety of mini-eats to buy as you wander around.


Crunchy spiders for starters.  These weren’t on offer when I did my food tour, so I’ve yet to sample a pan-fried spider … I may save it for next time.


Red ants can be nibbled on the hoof if you feel a bit peckish, or if you can hold out until you get home, you can make beef with red ants, a local speciality.


This chap is busy steaming a big basket of snails.


They’re steamed with lemongrass and other herbs.  I tried one, but have to say that it wasn’t a patch on a French escargot with garlic and butter.

If you want to buy medicine, the locals still use the traditional doctor.  I met this doctor, whose knowledge was passed down to him from his father.


He has baskets of bark, roots and herbs outside his shop which he goes out and gathers himself in the forest.


He can make you up a bespoke prescription, or you can buy something ready-made off the shelf.


This young baby had just been having some mysterious treatment that involved drawing a cross on his head


I just hope it wasn’t connected to the crosses drawn on these eggs.


These are duck eggs with a baby duckling inside.  You take it home and cook the egg and then crack it open and eat the duckling – it’s a traditional Friday night treat for a lot of people, apparently.

It all makes a trip to Tesco seem very tame indeed.