Travel is my biggest indulgence. I visited Cambodia in January 2011, and I have to say Cambodia is one of my favorite countries, right up there with Turkey and France.
The Angkor Palm in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a lovely colonial-type restaurant that spills out into the street. After a long bus ride from Phnom Penh, I indulge myself here, sitting outdoors on the sidewalk so I can watch the people walk by. I order the Angkor Palm Platter for One. It’s a sampler of Khmer food: fresh spring roll, green mango salad with special smoked fish, local pork spareribs roasted with honey and spicy sauce, homemade green curry with chicken, cha’ta kuong or stir-fried morning-glory with oyster sauce, steamed rice, and a Khmer dessert of white pumpkin with a sugary sauce. As usual, I have a glass of red wine. Ah, indulgence!! It’s pleasant here on the street of this quaint town, sampling delectable food and watching the tourists and locals traipsing past.
Still in Cambodia, this time in Phnom Penh, I see the word indulge put into action on a scale unimaginable in Western culture. Indulgence of the Buddha. At Wat Phnom, meaning Hill Temple, the locals swarm all over the place. Buddha worship is taken to extremes; it’s big business. On the far right of the temple is a production area where people arrange flowers, cut fruit, burn incense, slice raw meat and offer these items for sale. Here, to indulge the Buddha will bring karma, I guess, or some kind of good fortune.
There are easily 25-30 people within the temple busying themselves arranging or collecting or distributing the multitudes of offerings. Others are on their knees praying. Inside the temple are hundreds of Buddhas, each of which is holding on its crossed legs or in its arms several Cambodian Riel, bananas, oranges, flowers, or little skewers of white flowers that smell like freesia (I can’t find the names of these flowers anywhere!). I walk behind a young Cambodian guy who devoutly walks around the perimeter of Buddhas, bowing and placing a Riel on each Buddha.
To read about my travels in Vietnam & Cambodia, please visit my blog rice paddies and papayas.