This week I went on a little tour of the Cambodian countryside, and it has been one of the highlights of my time in this country! (Along with watching the sun come up at Angkor Wat, of course.)
When we were making plans for this outing, we told our tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Bay, that the only touristy thing we wanted to do was ride the bamboo train in the outskirts of town – everything else was up to him. So he decided to show us some of his favourite aspects of rural Cambodia, and we were in for a treat!
Picking us up bright and early at 7 am, we left Battambang behind for open fields and sleepy villages. We bounced down dusty dirt roads, swirled through temples with ringing bells, and drove past chickens pecking at their breakfast until at last we reached our first stop.
Bamboo Train (Nori)
I will give a more detailed account of that later, but for now all I can say is that this little bamboo platform on wheels can sure pick up speed! I had a smile plastered on my face the whole time not only because it was fun, but because the speed had glued that expression on my face.
Roadside Bamboo Rice Stand
With the train ride out of the way, our first order of business was to find a little morning snack. We pulled over at a roadside stand that specializes in bamboo rice, and that also meant getting a lesson in the cooking process, which I now have to share with you because I’m certain you’ll be trying to make this at home… 😉
Bamboo rice is made by mixing rice with coconut milk and black beans. The resulting mixture is then stuffed into the bamboo and sealed with banana leaves to prevent smoke from getting in. The bamboo is then placed over hot coals to cook for forty minutes to an hour, and voila!
From there, the exterior of the bamboo is shaved down to get rid of the charred layer, and you are left with a shell that can be easily cracked and peeled down. Let’s just say we were finished our snack before we even got back on the tuk-tuk to continue on our way. Mmm mmm, tasty!
Fishing Village, Fish Market & Crickets
Then it was off to a small fishing village that earns its livelihood fermenting fish. Wait, fermenting fish? Sounds an awful lot like rotten fish, but I assure you it’s completely different! The fish aren’t just left to ferment; they are cut, cleaned, washed, left to dry in the sun for 3 days, and only then are they thrown in a barrel to ferment. The end result is a strong fish paste that can be used to flavour any dish in the kitchen. I bet you’ll want to try making this as well…
I should mention that there was also a cricket tasting component to this visit! Thinking me to be a bit more adventurous than I perhaps really am, Mr. Bay walked us over to a street stand where he proceed to pay a few riel for us all to snack on the crispy little hoppers.
Mr. Bay ate his, Sam ate his, and then…Sam also ate mine because I chickened out! I meant to grab the little black cricket out of his hand, but then the leg just looked too juicy, and the eye was bulging, and I started to think of the liquids that would ooze out once I bit into it, and it didn’t happen this time around. I am told it just tasted ‘sweet and salty’. Perhaps another time…like when I get to Bangkok?! Yes, let’s do it then…
Towns and Farmland
Our morning drive with Mr. Bay also included a little lesson in agriculture. We got a look up close at a silk cotton tree, which for the record looks nothing like other cotton trees I have seen in the past. Mr. Bay casually picked up a long woody pod from the ground and cracked it open in front of my eyes to reveal fluffy clouds of cream. Ooo la la!
We also learned how farmers protect their fruit trees from insects – wrapping each individual fruit in plastic bags! These trees are nicknamed garbage bag trees, because well, that’s exactly what they look like.
The rest of the journey involved lots of bouncing up and down in the back of the tuk-tuk, with lots of waves and hellos from kids along the way. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday morning!
Here’s a little video of the outing:
Have you ever gone on a drive of the rural countryside?
That is so cool! The best picture opportunities are in countrysides. I bet Sam was happy 😉
because the speed had glued that expression on my face!!!!!!!!!! 🙂
I think he had fun too. 😉
I’ve had lots of great adventures in Cambodia by asking a tuk tuk driver to just show us around. Local knowledge and local stories, people love it when you trust their opinion.
From being followed to the atm by men with guns when we couldn’t pay at a shoot range, to a guided tour of decrepit mansions abandoned by the Khmer Rouge in Kep and some cross country tuk tuking in Sihanoukville, Cambodia is a great place for random adventures.
Those sound like some fun adventures you had. I really enjoyed the random exploring around the countryside. I think there will be more tuk-tuk rides in my future… 😉
Would like to taste the bamboo rice. Recently been watching a chef program where they do all their cooking in the wild. Sounds similar.
The rice was delicious! Not easy to make back at home, but if you’re ever around these parts, definitely give it a try.
Looks like a great trip! Having your own driver to take you around, too cool:)
superb experience. When I went to Siem Reap, just stayed closely by at the temples and never had the chance to see Battambang and this bamboo rice looks inviting. 🙂
It was a lot of fun exploring the countryside. I’m glad I had enough time to head a little further out of the way. 🙂 And the rice was delicious!
Yes, in Cambodia you really need to – I prefer cities over rural but if you don’t go in Cambodia, you’ll miss so much. Glad to see you traveled the red roads – they’re unforgettable.
I usually enjoy big cities as well, but I found Phnom Penh a bit overwhelming, so it’s been nice to enjoy the quieter towns before heading back to the capital. 🙂
Ugh, now I regret not trying the bamboo rice, sounds delicious. When you get to Bangkok try the fried crickets 😉 weird but they tasted like peanuts.
I love this video… and that snack looks really tasty. For 60c? Yes please!
That bamboo rice sounds awesome!
We took a similar tour in Battambang – actually two, because we loved our first countryside tour so much! It’s still one of our most memorable memories of Cambodia. Our guides brought us to some really cool spots and off-the-beaten-path temples which were amazing. I totally forgot about the bamboo rice – sooooo good!! I would recommend a countryside tuk-tuk tour to anyone going to Cambodia 🙂
I am going to try that bamboo rice… now to find some bamboo.
Great post and video. Sam eating a cricket was hilarious 🙂
So glad you managed to to see the countryside. Most tourists don’t bother venturing out further, which is a real shame as the Cambodin countryside is one of the most beautiful I know!
Genuinely trying to figure out ways I could make bamboo rice at home now. Hahaha That sounds amazing. 😀 Audrey, you really make me want to explore SE Asia so much.
Wow… that looks like a lot of fun riding by tuk tuk. I recommend cycling as well if you want an adventure.
We did do a little bit of biking in Siem Reap. It was a nice way to get out of the city and explore the rural areas.
Love the blog! It’s been my go to in preparing for backpacking Asia for three months. I leave on Tuesday, Feb. 25th. Could you tell me if you’ve had experience with malaria tablets and what your opinion is on needing them in parts of Asia you have been to?
I’ve actually never taken malaria tablets. I’ve been in Southeast Asia for the past year and it hasn’t been a problem, but if you want more peace of mind about it, it’s not a bad idea to take them.
Hi Audrey, How did you organsie the tuk tuk ride? Did you do this before you went or while you were there. Can you recommend anyone/any company?
Hi Irene, you can easily book a driver through your hotel/guesthouse once you arrive there – they usually have trusted drivers they work with. I think I ended up hiring a driver that was just hanging out in front of my guesthouse and he was great.
Nice experience! Perhaps next time you’d like to see the countryside of Cambodia on an ox-cart instead? 🙂
Love your blog!! You have been everywhere. ? Really interested in your tuk tuk driver – do you have his contact details?
I visited over 3 years ago, so I don’t have his contact details anymore. That being said, it’s very easy to arrange a tuk tuk driver through your hotel.
I also stopped in Battambang on my way from Mondulkiri to Siem Reap. As often, I wanted to reach a place at a few kilometres (Aek Phnom temple) and was finally invited for a cremation after some talks with the monks and the lunch in a temple. It was a change with Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, where I was invited to several weddings.
Cambodian people are so kind that I could learn a lot about the local traditions.
It’s really one of my favourite destinations and so much more than a few days extension from Thailand.