Asian Street Food Smarts

By Robyn Eckhardt

Smoky chicken sate plucked from a grill and dipped in sweet-spicy peanut sauce in a Jakarta alley. Steamed ground rice and jaggery cakes eaten from a banana leaf on a street corner in Penang. A mound of sticky rice drizzled with coconut cream and topped with juicy mango slices spooned up at a stall in a Chiang Mai market. For the Asia-bound traveler keen to know the region’s diverse culinary cultures, these are essential experiences.

Siem Reap street food

Num krok, made from rice flour, coconut milk, and spring onions, being sold on the streets of Siem Reap.

In this part of the world the term “street food” (or “hawker food,” as it’s referred to in Malaysia and Singapore) denotes not just a cheap and quick way to fill one’s belly. It also describes a repertoire of dishes prepared by experienced specialists, dishes rarely duplicated successfully in restaurant kitchens. Eating on the Asian street offers the opportunity to observe cooking techniques up close and to engage with strangers over a meal in a way that would be difficult in a proper brick and mortar eatery. Continue reading

Cambodia Gay Pride 2018

This month the 2018 Cambodia Gay Pride week is set to be better than ever, with a weekend packed with events in Siem Reap leading into a week of celebrations in Phnom Penh.

The 2018 10-day event will celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, increase local acceptance, and raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in Cambodia.

Gay pride Siem Reap

2018 Cambodia pride comes to Temple Town for 2018!

Friday, May 11th – Siem Reap

7 p.m.
To kick off Cambodia Pride 2018 The Hangout is hosting ‘Absolutely Dragulous’ a drag competition that promises a good time for all. All profits go to local NGO A Place To Be Yourself (APTBY) For more details, see the Facebook event page.

Saturday, May 12th – Siem Reap

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On Saturday morning head to Golden Gecko Villa for the ‘Hot Buns Sausage Sizzle.’ Entry costs $5 and includes lunch and a swim. Come and decorate your tuk tuk for the Gay-Mazing Tuk Tuk Race. More info on their Facebook event page.

2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Join the ‘Gay-mazing Tuk Tuk Race,’ a 2.5 hour scavenger hunt around Siem Reap. The cost is $15 per team. Register in advance online.

5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
If the Gay-mazing Race has gotten you all hot and bothered, head to the Lub D pool party for a cool down. Check the Facebook event for more info.

9:30 p.m. until late
Head straight to Barcode for the evening’s entertainment at the 1st Pink Party. Get the event info on Facebook.

Sunday, May 13th – Siem Reap

9 a.m. to noon; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
On Sunday drop by A Place To Be Yourself (APTBY) for their open house and find out how they are helping to support Siem Reap’s LBGTQ+ community.  Find out more.

1 p.m.
Head to Rambutan Resort for a lunch-time BBQ. Tickets cost $18 for all-you-can-eat poolside barbecue, and all proceeds go to APTBY. Details on their event page.

9 p.m.
To wrap up the weekend Barcode is hosting a Candyland party, where they suggest patrons will be able to ‘taste the Siem Reap rainbow.’

To find out more about the Siem Reap pride events, subscribe to the ‘I Am What I Am – Siem Reap page on Facebook.

cambodia gay pride

Blue Chilli cabaret show. The Cambodia LGBT community goes all out for pride week+ in Phnom Penh.

Wednesday, May 16th – Phnom Penh

10 p.m.
Street Party. PoC, (formerly PoPP) are known for their great parties. They’ve added an extra bar and are spilling out into the street with their yearly Cambodia pride party. Free food, lots of enthusiasm, and a diverse crowd make this an excellent way to start Phnom Penh’s pride week.

Thursday, May 17th – Phnom Penh

6:30 p.m.
Pride Popcorn Time aka Movie Night. Major Cineplex Soriya will be screening Love, Simon, a sweet, teenage gay coming of age story. $3 entry.

9 p.m.
Jungle Party at Space Hair Salon and Bar.  The undeniably handsome staff of the Space Hair Salon will be dressed like wild animals for the jungle party, and so should you! Head to Space for their yearly pride party that never fails to impress.

Friday, May 18th – Phnom Penh

7 p.m.
Heaven Party. Cambodia’s only lesbian bar invites the entire LGBTQ+ for the ‘heaven party.’ Unicorn Bar Cambodia have not released any information on what that entails, so go be surprised!

9 p.m. until late
Pride It Out Party at Blue Chilli. Head over to Blue Chilli where they’ll be having a “sexy muscle boy show” as well as a Cambodian drag, diva, and dancers performance, plus free condoms and HIV testing. This event is consistently excellent, taking over Street 178 in front of Blue Chilli and this year is sure to be just as good.

Saturday, May 19th – Phnom Penh

11:30 a.m.
Pride Brunch at Feel Good II Cafe & Coffee Roasters. Feel Good 2 is doing a special gay pride brunch with a gorgeous set menu for only $15. Bloody marys and mimosas will also be on offer and $1 from each drink sale will be donated to CCT for HIV outreach in Battambang. You must make a reservation in advance, as seating is limited. Call 078 866 651.

2 p.m.
The Amazingly Fabulous Race. Join this tuk tuk race around Phnom Penh which will be visiting various LGBT venues and organizations. This year promises to be bigger, better, and more fabulous than last year! Check the Facebook page for more details and to sign up for a team.

2 p.m.
Pool Party at Vehaa វេហា. Billing itself as “Phnom Penh’s most extravagant pool party,” Vehaa Sky Bar invites all comers to put on their hottest swimwear and go for a dip.

9 p.m.
It’s Raining Men! Party at Toolbox Bar. Featuring the best all-male dance show in Cambodia (or so they say, you be the judge!), Toolbox is having an ‘It’s Raining Men’-themed party, which means if you show up wet from the pool party, you’ll fit right in.

11:30 p.m. until late
Late Night Party at Heart of Darkness. Heart of Darkness, Phnom Penh’s preeminent gay club, hosts a pride night bash. Last year they featured a “bare-chested beauties” show, drag acts from Blue Chilli. $5 cover charge includes one free drink.

Sunday, May 20th – Phnom Penh

3 p.m.
Cooldown Pool PartyRambutan Resort and Arthur&Paul join forces again to host a pride closing party that will feature drinking, swimming, and sauna.

Monday, May 21st – Phnom Penh

7:50 p.m.
Nerd Night LGBT Special. The Factory Phnom Penh is hosting a special Nerd Night (for those who have never been, they are passionate presentations of 20 slides, 20 seconds each in the Pecha Kucha style) that is LGBTQ+ themed.

 If you know of additional events that should be listed here, please contact us.

Siem Reap’s LGBTQ+ Pride Weekend 2018

For the first year ever, Siem Reap will be hosting its own sensational pride line-up of events and festivities, kicking off the 10-day Cambodia Gay Pride 2018. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Siem Reap, this is it.

Gay pride Siem Reap

Cambodia pride comes to Temple Town for 2018!

Friday, May 11th – Siem Reap

7 p.m.

To kick off Cambodia Pride 2018 The Hangout is hosting ‘Absolutely Dragulous’ which they bill as “Siem Reap’s first and only drag competition for the ‘common folk.’” They have a packed schedule that will culminate in six fearless drag queens and six fearless drag kings competing for the title of Siem Reap’s Next Drag Superstar.

There will also be mini audience competitions, a silent raffle, music, and lots of lip-syncing. Even if you aren’t the performance type, there’s a special prize for best-dressed guest, so be sure to get dolled up. All profits go to local NGO A Place To Be Yourself (APTBY) For more details, see the The Hangout’s Facebook event page.

Saturday, May 12th – Siem Reap

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Saturday morning head to Golden Gecko Villa for the ‘Hot Buns Sausage Sizzle’ which we assume is the fabulous version of a barbecue. Entry costs $5 and includes a sausage and salad lunch, and, if you’d like, a swim. Vegetarian options available *if* you contact Golden Gecko Villa in advance.

The Hot Buns Sausage Sizzle is also acting as a Gay-Mazing Tuk Tuk Race pre-game event, so feel free to come and decorate your tuk tuk for the race at the Golden Gecko. There’s more information on their Facebook event page.

2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sick of the yearly commute to Phnom Penh for the big gay tuk tuk race, Siem Reapers took it upon themselves to set one up in temple town, and it promises to be a hoot. Teams of 1 to 4 people will compete in a 2.5 hour scavenger hunt around Siem Reap, and unsurprisingly, looks are just as important as skill, so be sure to decorate your tuk tuk! The cost the enter the ‘Gay-mazing Tuk Tuk Race’ is $15 per team. You can reserve a tuk tuk for an additional $15, or bring your own. Register in advance online.

5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

If the Gay-mazing Race has gotten you all hot and bothered, head to the Lub D pool party for a cool down. Cocktails will be 50% off, there’s a street food-style buffet, games, prizes, and of course, swimming. Check the Facebook event for more info.

Barcode gay bar Siem Reap

The cabaret show at Barcode is one of Cambodia’s best.

9:30 p.m. until late

Towel off and head straight to Barcode for the evening’s entertainment at the 1st Pink Party. Don pink duds and you might win a prize! Details are still thin on this one, but if it’s anything like most nights at Barcode, there will be a fabulous drag performance, excellent cocktails, and lots of fun. Get the event info on Facebook.

Sunday, May 13th – Siem Reap

9 a.m. to noon; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

On Sunday drop by A Place To Be Yourself (APTBY) for their open house and find out how they are helping to support Siem Reap’s LBGTQ+ community. Check their event listing because they have things going on all day long, including live music, speakers, free and confidential rapid HIV testing, nibbles, games, and a “dress the gender-queer mannequin competition.” Find out more.

1 p.m.

Head to Rambutan Resort for a lunch-time BBQ in support of A Place To Be Yourself. Tickets cost $18 for all-you-can-eat poolside barbecue, and all proceeds go to APTBY. Tickets include a glass of wine or beer and discounted tickets are available for Cambodians for $10. Details on their event page.

9 p.m.

To wrap up the weekend Barcode is hosting a Candyland party, where they suggest patrons will be able to ‘taste the Siem Reap rainbow.’ We’re hopeful that means exactly what it sounds like, but if not, there will probably be a drag show and lots of interesting people.

Siem Reap promises to put on a fantastic pride weekend, so we’d encourage you to grab a bus ticket and head to Temple Town. If you’re coming from out of town for the festivities, Lub D Hostel is offering special rates for pride-goers.

To find out more and stay up to date with what’s happening, subscribe to the ‘I Am What I Am – Siem Reap page on Facebook which is being regularly updated with new and and increasingly exciting information.

Happy Khmer New Year!

Look around and you’ll see Cambodian New Year, Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei, being celebrated around the country. The holiday, also called Khmer New Year, is Cambodia’s most important, bringing the country to a near standstill as city residents head home to the provinces to spend time with their families, have parties and visit their local pagoda.

Khmer New Year decorations in Cambodia

At last! The time has come to bust out the Khmer New Year decorations!

The holiday celebrates the end of the harvest season and marks the start of a new year (and also the start of the truly hot hot season). Although the holiday is officially only three or four days long—this year it’s April 14, 15, 16—it can extend onto one or both adjoining weekends, and often even a few days before that. In the days leading up to Khmer New Year, prices, especially for transportation, can go much higher than usual. Continue reading

Review: Giant Ibis night bus, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

Giant Ibis night bus at a glance…

Over the years, I’ve taken more Giant Ibis night bus journeys than I care to admit. When I first moved to Cambodia, I vowed I would never take a night bus in Cambodia.  Since then, I’ve made an exception for Giant Ibis because of their safety record and precautions. I’m now a regular on the Giant Ibis night bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. In this post, I’ll share some details about the company and the trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice-versa).

Giant Ibis night bus Cambodia

The Giant Ibis night bus looks great in the morning, too.

Night buses in Cambodia are notoriously unsafe. Giant Ibis, on the other hand, makes safety a priority. Their  buses go slowly, with a maximum speed of 60km (37 miles) per hour. They enforce this by transmitting the speed via GPS to the Giant Ibis office so that management knows if a driver breaks the rules and go faster. Going slowly is not only safer, but allows for a better night’s sleep, because even at at these speeds the bus usually arrives in six or seven hours. Another safety precaution Giant Ibis takes is to always have two drivers on each bus, and they switch half-way through the journey. If one driver feels fatigued he can switch out and take a nap. Continue reading

What’s going on with work permits in Cambodia?

Update Apr 5, 2018:

They’ve extended the deadline for work permit applications until April 30th. This is handy because they never officially announced the previous deadline. Unfortunately, the extension does not include an amnesty for previous years’ fines as it did in 2017. They have also announced that employers will be fined $630 for employees who do not have a work permit and employees will be fined $10 per day for overdue work permit extensions.

So if you haven’t gotten a work permit, now is probably the time to do it. The cost is $100 per calendar year that you have had an EB visa (formerly the “ordinary” or “business” visa) and $100 for the current year. If you work for an employer, they need to have applied for a quota for foreign workers. If your employer neglected to do this, you will need to apply as a self-employed worker.

Those who are self-employed report that their applications are being rejected multiple times for not having a business license. Those who persevere have reported that on the fifth or tenth attempt, they have gotten approved. So keep trying. If you are self-employed, do not list a business name or they will (understandably) request a business license. Those who have been approved report entering “freelance/freelance/salary 0/category X (other) 100 (other)” on their application.

I can’t keep up with the changing work permit information or with emails I get from readers asking for advice on their situation, so if you have questions or need updates, please visit the Cambodia Visa and Work Permit Group on Facebook. Continue reading