The newest and latest instalment in my Intrepid Travel series… as the title suggests, I ate a tarantula.
I think this was actually the day I unfortunately started to get sick (just a sore throat at this stage), which was weird, cause those who know me know I very very rarely get sick. It turns out I had tonsillitis, but don’t worry readers, I don’t think I caught it overseas, and I’m fine now, so don’t let that stop any of your travel plans
Today we were catching our private bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, about 6 hours drive away. I was fairly sad to be leaving Siem Reap; it was a really fun place to be, and not too touristy. It ended up being one of my favourite places on the trip.
The first part of the bus ride was fairly uneventful, until we got to our lunch destination and first major stop, a silk farm. This silk farm is operated by a US military veteran, who immigrated to Cambodia to help the people after the civil war. He has attempted various not-for-profit projects over the years, including donations of prosthetic limbs, but he has found success in this most recent venture, as it is helping Cambodians to help themselves. He currently employs about 20 women working the silk machines, making scarves to sell in the markets. His workers get a fair wage, and they are taught a trade, which is helping to break the poverty cycle in their lives. He showed us how the worms make the silk, and how long the cycle takes, and I even got to eat a dead silk worm (nobody else was brave enough). Did you know that most of the scarves sold in the markets of Cambodia aren’t 100% silk like they claim? At least I think they claim that. But the ones that they made at this silk farm were all 100% silk, and they were very nicely made scarves. We watched the women working on the scarves for a while, before we headed over towards the house and they fed us some amazing homemade Cambodian meals, along with fruit for dessert. I think all of us in the group bought at least one scarf from there, even though they seemed expensive by Cambodian standards, but it was for a very good cause, and they were really well-made scarves.
After lunch we jumped back on the bus and it wasn’t long before we ended up at this small market on the side of the road, or ‘Tarantula Village’ as our Intrepid leader called it. As soon as we got off the bus we were swarmed by people, trying to sell us fruit, begging for money, showing us tarantulas and trying to put them on us. It was pretty full-on. Half of our group were too afraid to let the tarantulas crawl over them, but hey, that’s the kind of experiences you have in different countries, right? So I let a tarantula crawl along my arm, while I was trying to convince the rest of the group to have a go. Our leader put one of his face, and then he put it on mine. The tarantula crawled through my beard for a bit before he fell off. Now that was a strange experience, their legs feel quite weird and somewhat spiky trying to grab onto your lip. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo with my camera, but I know one of the guys in our tour group got one, so hopefully it’s out there on the internet somewhere, I just have to find it.
Next it was time to try the village’s speciality, deep fried tarantula. I bought two tarantulas, one for me and one for Jimmy. They look like deep fried chilli beef from my local Chinese restaurant, for anyone that has had that …crunch…crunch…crunch. I must say, it was weird to start off with, not something you’d even think about doing back home, but all things considered, deep fried tarantula isn’t too bad. A little bit crunchy, but it basically tasted like honey chicken, just a bit less meaty. I’ve had many people since tell me I’m gross, and they would never do it, but I encourage you all to at least try. I mean how many other people do you know who can say they have tried deep fried tarantula. They also had a few other insects at the village that were deep-fried; I tried the cockroach, I don’t recommend that as much. It’s very chewy and took me at least a few minutes to get it down.
A few hours later we were arriving in Phnom Penh. Just the size of the city surprised us when we were driving in. I didn’t really expect it to be quite so big, probably because Siem Reap was small in comparison. Phnom Penh has a population of about two million, and is a bit of a hub, seeing as it is situated on the Mekong River, with boats coming and going constantly. We drove through the city, getting a lesson in its history from Pheap, our leader, on our way to the hotel.
Once we’d dumped our bags at the hotel, we met up with one of the trainee Intrepid leaders we were travelling with us, who took us out for a quick tour of the city. We visited a few of the city’s main monuments in our tuk tuk’s, but unfortunately it was all was a bit of a blur for me that afternoon. I do remember an amazing sunset over the city as we were heading between destinations—the photo doesn’t do it justice. We ended up along the waterfront, watching the boats on the river, as we strolled towards a pub for a few drinks before dinner. Below are a few different day trips you can do if you are in the Phnom Penh area.
It was another short walk to where we were having dinner, at a place called The Friends Restaurant. No, not a Friends TV show themed restaurant, this was much better; well I thought so anyway. This restaurant got kids off the street, and gave them hospitality and cooking training so they could make a career for themselves. We were waited on by students and all the food there was cooked by student chefs. I wasn’t feeling too hungry cause my throat was sore, but I did manage to eat some nice meatballs and some sweet potato chips. It’s great to see that Intrepid Travel invests in places that support local businesses, industry and disadvantaged groups.
Disclaimer: All writings and views in this post are my own and not influenced by outside sources.