Couchsurfing in Cambodia – Chicken feed, the screaming neighbour kid, rolled Ice Cream and other cultures.
Couchsurfing is one of the most famous, commercialised platforms to find hosts worldwide. Other users offer you their couch and home to stay with them for free. Many members use Couchsurfing not only to find a free accommodation but also to meet people from all over the world, find new friends, travel mates, do a language exchange, or get to know more about different cultures. It was founded in 2004.
I had shared my plans coming to Siem Reap on Couchsurfing and that is how it came that Ratha invited me to stay with his friends and family. I accepted the invitation thankfully especially because I was really curious to learn more about Cambodia and its culture – and what could be a better opportunity than to stay with Cambodians. Ratha is a tour guide in his home town, his friend Veann who lives with him in a sharing flat has his own Tuk Tuk. He was actually also the one who offered me to pick me up from my former hostel I stayed the first nights in.
Ratha lives together with two of his best friends, his friends’ wife and little brother. They share a small flat with three bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen and the entrance is like the common room. They also have a smaller apartment next door. Ratha hosted a lot of different people at the same time. Together with me stayed a couple from Russia, Akhil from India, an older woman from the Philippines and a guy from the US. But I still got my own bedroom for myself. Veann insisted to give me his room since I am a woman I would need space for myself. The room was pretty small and had not much more than a bed. That wasn’t the only time I encountered the hospitality of Cambodians.
Akhil and I spent the night with the family and shared dinner together. We were sitting in a circle around the plates and pots with freshly cooked food like soup with fish balls, vegetables, meat, Curry and Cambodian pancakes. Everyone got a bowl of rice and just took the food directly from the pots on his plate or optionally directly in their mouth.
Rolled Ice Cream
After the dinner, Ratha showed us a bit around Siem Reap. Really practical when your host is a tour guide. We visited the different stalls of the night market in the city centre. There we also got a little dessert – Ice Cream Rolls or also Stir-fried Ice Cream. The special about this ice cream is that it’ll be prepared freshly. The vendor spreads the main ingredient basically made out of milk, cream and sugar on a steel pan, adds toppings and mixes them with two scrapers. The ice cream will evenly spread on the pan, cut into pieces and rolled together. I chose strawberries and Nutella for my rolls – it was really delicious.
When the neighbour boy screams …
… or it’s time to take a bath. I already took a cold shower in the morning since most flats -as well as a lot of cheaper hostels – don’t have any warm water at all. Even on the coldest days, the average temperature is still around 20 degrees in Siem Reap. Anyway, it cost me some effort to jump under the shower. Later when I was sitting in the living room I heared a loud scream from the neighbour’s kid through the open door. First, I was a bit confused but a few minutes later I saw him just dressed in a towel in the arm of his mother. He probably also had to take a bath in the cold water today.
Adventures in Phnom Penh
Couchsurfing is also really nice to meet people from other cities. This can be other travellers but also locals. So, I met with Theara in Siem Reap and with Phearum in Phnom Penh – both Cambodians – to explore a bit the particular place. It’s really nice to be with someone who knows the city and sights. In Phnom Penh, Phearum picked me up with his motorcycle to catch dinner together. He brought me to an open-air restaurant with local food and besides a small street. As far as I could see, I was the only tourist there. I made the mistake to tell him he should just order food – my only condition was that he shouldn’t order seafood. Phearum actually ordered another serving of chicken feet (I already ate them in Macao and maybe wasn’t the biggest fan) – rubber-like meat and a lot of bones to spit out again. Then he ordered eatable snails – I never ate snails before and I’m afraid it’s not becoming my favourite dish as well. And last but not least, the really famous pancakes, I already ate in Vietnam. They are filled with chicken, bean sprout and mini shrimp – so not exactly without seafood. But the pancakes are actually really delicious and a true Cambodian dish.
At this point, I really want to use this spot to say a big Thank You to all the nice people from Cambodia I met. A special Thanks to Ratha, Veann and their family – thank you for hosting me, showing me around and sharing your food with me <3.