The New York Times recently released their list of the 45 places to go in 2012. Some were obvious (8. Tokyo) some were controversial (3. Myanmar ) some were just strange (20. Space?).
In 2011 I visited two of the places on the list: 15. Halong Bay, Vietnam, which is already completely overrun by tourists (but that’s another story), and 23. the Cambodian coast and surrounding islands (specifically Koh Rong) near Sinoukville, which is not. This post is a focus in the latter and what to do there if you are somewhere in between a dirty backpacker and a New York Times traveler.
I wanted to give specific advice on sleeping/eating/drinking/doing as I think this is one the few times during my six week trip I got it all right.
Sleep: Mushroom Point. The guesthouse is most accurately described a campus of little mushroom like bungalows. Located a stone’s throw away from Otres Beach, the quietest of the Sinoukville beaches, this place has amenities all the right places: clean sheets, stylized décor, good music. The vibe is similar to that of a café in Portland in that many guests lye around the lobby all day, drink Black Panther (Chinese) beer and tap away on their laptops. Except between 4-6 pm when the yoga class is held.
Full disclosure: The couple that run the place are Slovenian and while they may have escaped the Balkan temperatures, their mannerisms are a bit… icy. Nonetheless, they are on the whole helpful. Don’t be intimidated, just prepared.
The mushrooms are $25 /Rooms $10/ Dorm rooms $7 a night.
Eat: Again Mushroom Point. The Slovenian ownership is also manifested on the menu, in a good way aka great schnitzel. All of the vegetables grown used in the kitchen are grown in the garden on site.
Drink: Sunshine Café is the barrier in between Mushroom Point and Otres Beach. The place is run by a Polish woman who makes some of the freshest and best tasting cocktails I have ever had and at $2.50 for a pint sized mojito with fresh mint and lime, probably some the cheapest.
Do: If you made it all the way to Sinoukville, you have to check out the islands off the coast. Any guesthouse can book it for you. The place we booked it through even gave us a bag of beer as they pushed us out to sea at 8 am.
And make sure you go to Koh Russei, specifically the beach on the Southwest side of the island. Please please please do not be deterred by the 20 minutes walk through the jungle among the millipedes or else you will be stuck on the garbage beach, miserable and angry that you took my advice. Once you make it to through millipede forest, you will find yourself on one of the most beautiful and untouched beaches I have ever seen. The beach is only inhabited by what I can only describe as the most “authentic” commune I have ever seen, and probably what most people are looking for when the go visit the island on which they filmed “The Beach” in Thailand. They were even playing Moby’s “Porcelain” when we arrived.
My relationship with Red Hot Chili Peppers: Since I have been back in America I have been basically unable to taste my food. This not a hyperbolic way of describing culture shock or nostalgia but a literal description of my apparent acute dependence on chilies to evoke any sort of reaction from my taste buds. Apparently after suffering for 15 months my taste buds surrendered to the onslaught of spiciness endemic of Northeastern Thai cuisine.
This jar of red pepper flakes (pictured) is how I have chosen to remedy this problem. I put it on approximately 66% of the food that I eat at this table everyday (I haven’t gone so far as to put it on my cereal.)
Would this make you change your course?
“Good Thai-dings for Christmas…” Even in a Buddhist country the Christmas tree still manages to go up excessively early in one of the most traditional places: smack dab in front of Bangkok’s newest shopping mall. In line with the Christmas season, the weather is getting colder and residents are even starting to sport hats and gloves. However, cold means a low of 76 degrees so I don’t think we will have to worry about a white Christmas.
What everyone in the USA will probably be doing this afternoon: Here’s a dog taking a nap in a 7-11. Happy Thanksgiving!
“Don’t wear any clothes you like.” That was the advice I was given before going to Long Beach Seafood Restaurant in Singapore. This is also the same place that Lady Gaga ate when in town for a concert, not that I would look to her for restaurant recommendations.
Long Beach lies somewhere in between a commercial chain (they have a customer rewards program) and a true locals spot, if you’re a regular and BYOB they will waive your corkage fee.
With the abundance of multiethnic cuisines in Singapore it is hard to discern what is true Singaporean food. Long Beach Restaurant provides the answer and the answer is crab, of the curry and black pepper varieties to be exact.
Singaporeans claim that curry crab was invited in the 1950s’ when a policeman got bored of his wife’s cooking and asked her to make something different. She dumped a jar of tomato sauce (note: tomato sauce is the color of blood) over a whole crab, added a little chili flavor and curry crab was born, thought the recipe has evolved slightly since then. The crab is also traditionally served with bread for mopping up the sauce, which is where the wardrobe becomes most at risk.
Black pepper crab, hard shell crab served whole and coated in black pepper, is actually a creation of Long Beach Seafood but from the same era as the curry variety. In the event you find yourself craving crustaceans in Singapore, my advice would be to order only the chili crab sauce, which also has crab in it and is the highlight of the dish anyway, and save your crab capital for drier, more fragrant nature of the black pepper.
Away from the investment banks and Hermes stores, Long Beach Seafood creates food and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you are in the Singapore that locals enjoy everyday. To top it all off, despite the fact I took a risk of not sporting a bib, all of my clothes managed to escape the meal unscathed.
Under the sea: My living room.
And you think you have a gambling problem? Marina Bay Sands Casino and Hotel Singapore, developed by the Las Vegas Sands. It boasts the world’s longest elevated swimming pool and is billed as the most expensive stand alone casino property. But what I find really impressive is that locals say about once a month you see a story in the paper about a Chinese businessman losing 8-10 MILLION dollars there —in just one night.