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Travel: Amok fish in Cambodia

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The Rowdy Chowgirl

(Read caption) Amok fish served in bowls made, origami-style, from banana leaves, with steamed rice on the side. The flavor of this dish was rich, complex, slightly sweet, and similar to a very mild yellow curry.

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Our first day in Cambodia began with a row of uniformed customs officials, splendid and unsmiling and endless.  They collected visa fees and photos and scrutinized and stamped and handed passports up the line while I shifted from foot to foot with excitement and tried to look like the sort of person who should definitely be given her passport back and admitted to their country.

The town of Siem Reap was an intoxicating jumble of extremes: the sun, the dust, the humidity, the sense that an encroaching jungle might just take back this crumbling mix of faded colonial architecture and humble shacks at any moment.

After sunset, the heat still washed over us in waves like steam rolling from a shower. The smell of dust and exhaust fumes still filled the air. But without the remorseless tropical sunshine beating down, we were able to leave the pool and venture out of our hotel, to find the streets even livelier after dark. The town pulsed with life. Traffic whizzed by like a slow river without regard for lanes – a blur of scooters carrying entire families, tuk-tuks, and a few cars – horns honking and voices calling out. People filled the narrow sidewalks, some slowly walked, but more stood clustered around open shop fronts, or waited for their turn at open-air food stands.

Tuk-tuk?”  “Tuk-tuk?” chanted the drivers as we passed, reclining in the back of their own motorcycle trailers as they waited for fares.

We dodged and scurried to cross the street, sighing with relief upon reaching safe harbor on the opposite side.

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