Tag Archives: food

Cambodia the extra bits

Visiting the far away temples

Ignore my earlier advice about taking a tuk tuk when it comes to visiting the further out temples. The distance between them is far enough for air conditioning to be effective and much more importantly, the roads are so bad that you will relish having effective suspension in your vehicle.

Banteay Srei

Is a 10th century temple that is considerably smaller that each of the ones in town. Because of this you can get around it a lot easier and the fact that it is made out of red sandstone means that some of the reliefs and carvings have held up a bit better making it a nice spot to visit.

The People

Firstly let me say that the Cambodian people are lovely. There is always a smile and a wave and as at early 2023 they seem not to know how to lie and cheat (YET). With the exception of the markets, there is no bartering, the price for something is the price. English is widely spoken and even more broadly understood. The usual dramas that you get throughout Asia you do not, yet, get here in Cambodia. As the disgusting hordes have not fully descended on the place, in many ways it remains (at least partially) untouched. Yes there are massage joints everywhere, and yes they are seriously cheap ($10-12/hr) but for the most part they are offering massages and not the special happy ending types that seem to abound in places like Bali, Vietnam and Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that if you asked for the extra service that it wouldn’t be available or easily found but it is not in your face like it is elsewhere in SE Asia. There also is not the preponderance of old fat white guys with young Asian women, holding hands and making smoochy faces. This fact alone is refreshing in this part of the world.

But it is still a poor country and the people are doing what they can to get by. You will be asked constantly “tuk tuk sir” or “you want souvenir” or in my case the less than flattering but sadly accurate “we have big sizes”. If you brave the markets you must expect to be besieged however if you are walking down the street a light wave of the hand is usually enough to dissuade the approaches. This is not the case in the markets surrounding the temples, especially later on in the day. These guys can be quite forceful and persistent. That said, it is possible that they have not made a sale yet that day and that these are desperate attempts to earn money to feed their family.

Begging…this is a new thing since last time we were here. Begging was not a thing in Cambodia in any of our other visits, however whether it is COVID, the downturn or simply desperation it is a feature that is creeping in – especially in the early evening at meal times. Gangs of wheelchairs traverse the street food stalls begging for change. In addition there are gangs of children stalking the tables. The children for the most part are looking for recyclables such as aluminium cans however on initial glance do pass off as beggars.

Siem Reap Food

First thing to know about food in foreign countries – eat local. Local food uses the local ingredients, techniques and has been tried and tested to be good and more often than not cheap. You will invariably see signs that offer you the sorts of food that you are used to, grew up with or are just your favourites. With very few exceptions…these will be terrible. I have been caught out in this regard so many times it is not funny. Pizza and pasta seem to be my personal main failure points. The longer you are away from home the more you will be tempted to order something familiar. But it will invariably be bad, expensive (comparatively), poorly executed and will leave you feeling disappointed.

Second thing to know is that we are fairly adventurous eaters and are not (normally) afraid of the street food stalls. These tend to offer the best and most authentic foods at the cheapest prices. Lets be honest here, I am a little more likely than Jill to get into the weird and wonderful things but she is certainly not afraid and once she gets a taste for something there is no stopping her. That said, there are some things she will just not come at.

Albeit you do often end up eating on tiny tables while precariously perched on a plastic stool that was designed for toddlers.

Either way I am certain they are not rated for my XXL frame. So each time we go, I gently lower myself onto one of these plastic kindergarten chairs and hope and pray that I do not have the embarrassment of coming crashing down mid meal.

So far so good…

Cambodian Food

Cambodian food is simple but great. Typical of the region, soups, noodles, rice and BBQ sticks are the order of the day. There are the two most famous Beef Lok Lak and Fish Amok. Our first time here we did a cooking class and learnt how to make these along with some spring rolls. The fish amok is a mild coconut fish curry that is steamed in banana leaves, while the lok lak is a stir fried beef typically served with a dipping sauce of salt and pepper with fresh squeezed lime juice. Fried rice is of course available everywhere as is a range of noodle, meat and vegetable dishes.

If you are anything like us when it comes to food in a foreign country you tend to pull up at small side of the road stand or restaurant and stare at the pictures on the menu pointing at things that seem vaguely recognisable or at least inoffensive. If this is the case Kuy Teav is the staple for both breakfast and lunch and you have probably had it without even knowing that you have. It is a kind of rice noodle soup with random acts of stuff thrown into it. Num Banh Chok is kinda the same but it usually uses a fermented noodle. These two are available virtually everywhere and is so common it is usually just referred to as Khmer noodles. If you didn’t have one then it would have been the other.

Num Pang is a local Cambodian version of the Vietnamese Bahn Mi or traditional Cambodian sandwich.

These usually involve a crispy bread roll (demi-baguette) that comes with pork and a pickle mix of carrot and daikon often added to by some local salad like cucumber, tomato, fresh herbs such as coriander, and an optional chilli sauce. This has become a quick lunch for us and for between $1.25-3 we get 2 rolls and our lunch is sorted. Jill dodges the chilli while I dodge the cucumber and coriander.

The interesting thing about ordering the Num Pang is that I have been to the same stall on 3 different days, I have been served by the same woman, and I have received the same item, but I have paid a different price every day. To be fair, if I were comparing a Banh Mi with a Num Pang the Vietnamese do a better version. But the Cambodian Num Pang is still very tasty and for about a buck, you cant do too much better for lunch.

Other lunch and dinner specials include: Bai Sach chrouk (pork and rice), Num Kachay (chive cakes), Nhoam svay kchai (green mango salad) and Lap Khmer (Beef salad). The food is simple and basic but also tasty and (as long as you avoid the tourist strip) cheap.

The bugs

Cambodia, like other places in Asia, has a culture of eating the creepier, crawlier and slitherier types of protein sources. While I have taken great pleasure over the years of dipping my toes into these waters, for the most part it was to say that I have. They were not particularly pleasant culinary experiences and fit more into the category of bragging rights or interesting future dinner conversations. Very few of these I would choose to repeat.

Cambodia has many dishes made from insects/bugs and roving tuk tuks will have trays of various such bugs for your culinary pleasure. Typical offerings are either laid out on trays or have been skewered for your convenience and can include: snakes, scorpions, crickets, silkworms, grasshoppers, cockroaches, ant eggs, spiders, beetles, and bamboo worms. On a previous trip to Cambodia the boy and I had an evening at the night market sampling the various weird collections of food on a stick. These included snakes and the particular Cambodian delicacy of deep fried Tarantulas.

On other trips to other countries I have had virtually every type of bug that is available for sale (I really need to stop drinking before hitting the night markets). As I have grown older (and supposedly wiser) I tend to eat less of the freaky stuff and stick to tasty local delicacies. For the most part, once you have eaten a scorpion you don’t really need to keep eating them everywhere you go. As such, my current intake of bugs and creepy crawlies has dropped off significantly. I am still more than happy to try new things however do not intend to retrace ground already covered.

The BBQ

As with almost everywhere in Asia there will be drums with fire and there will be various meats and vegetables on sticks ready and waiting to be grilled. Some of these items will be identifiable while others will not. For the most part this is where flame meets meat and at this point very little really can go wrong. Stare at something that looks good, point at it, raise the number of fingers that you think will be enough, and wait. A few short minutes later you will be a couple of dollars poorer and have had a meal. Our most expensive foray into these BBQ’s this trip was the $2.50 for the quarter chicken.

As can be seen from the photo above the options of things that can go on a grill are almost endless. Random sausage type things abound, mystery meats and odd looking balls are always regulars on the table as is a usual nod towards tofu and some vegetables. Pick the ones that work for you, point at it and then just dig in.

One of Jill’s personal favourites that fits both the weird and the BBQ categories is the barbeque bullfrog. I think the first time we had this was on a street food tour in Vietnam. We then found it again in Laos and have now also had it now here in Cambodia. The Cambodian version involves covering the bullfrog in a tamarind sauce before grilling over the ubiquitous charcoal drum. We got three bullfrogs for our serving size and tucked in accordingly.

This was neither difficult to find nor considered particularly unusual. It was just a normal item on the menu.

Desserts

Desserts are an interesting concoction here in Cambodia, fruits and juices abound and a bunch of tuk tuk attached stalls have plenty of options for you to choose from. The first night we found the pancakes for a dollar. These involved the thin crepe type batter being stretched and folded and fried in front of you while any number of toppings were an option, the go to certainly seemed to be banana and chocolate. Cambodian bamboo sticky rice (Kralan) is traditional and is cooked with coconut milk and soybean in a bamboo tube, however these tended to be available as you travelled to the outer temples and I haven’t seen too many in town. The next one we tried was the Fried ice cream. This is not really fried and is only notionally ice cream. It is fruit and cream mixed together on a cold surface in front of the tourists to extract some ($2.50) of their money. And the winner is…coconut crepes, these thin crepes are made on the streets and are sold for 25 cents. These eclipse the others by so far it isn’t funny.

Motorbikes and Monster trucks

Motorbikes and tuk tuks are commonplace throughout Asia in fact motorbikes are so ubiquitous that it is virtually impossible to go a few seconds without seeing (or more likely dodging) one. Every evening the streets become choked with parked bikes making even the simplest of walks into an exercise in maze running.

But a new feature on the landscape within Cambodia is the introduction of monster trucks. It seems that almost every second vehicle (excluding bikes and tuk tuks) is a monster truck. It starts with the generally very big trucks like the Ford Rangers, Mazda BT50’s, Toyota Hilux’s and even the odd Nissan Navara. Now these are pretty big trucks to be driving around the narrow streets of Asia however from here things start getting ridiculous with the REALLY big trucks coming into play.

Things like the Toyota Tundra, Ford Raptor, Dodge Ram, and Chevrolet Silverado’s. These are truly massive vehicles and really seem out of place trying to park within the centre of Asian cities. But they are everywhere.

Markets in Siem Reap

Markets are the lifeblood throughout most of Asia. There are two main types of markets to be found the tourist markets and the local markets. The tourist markets are usually hellish spots as touts harass you to buy useless trinkets and souvenirs. For those on short stay trips these make for the perfect spots to buy things for those left at home in a feeble attempt to make them feel like you were thinking about them. In Siem Reap the old market along with the night markets (both noon and Angkor) cater to this type of thing perfectly. If you are looking for something a little more authentic then the Made in Cambodia market may be for you. Focussing on local products and artists things are a little less cheap and tacky and a little calmer.

And then there are the markets for the locals. We saw the biggest one as we drove past it on our way to visit the Roulos Group of temples – Phsar Leu Thom Thmey. We tapped Mr Thou on the shoulder and asked what that market was and could we stop and visit it on the way back. He happily obliged. Phsar Leu sells real items for the local consumers – but be warned this place is both huge and a maze and once in you may never get out. Here there are huge number of stalls selling everything you could imagine. There are gold stalls, fresh fruits and vegetables, food, footwear, clothing by the acre and the ever present wet markets. Butchers and fish mongers abound as live fish flop about in shallow buckets. This place is truly an assault on the senses, but it is pretty commonplace for those who live here.

And importantly as a tourist you can walk through without getting harassed.

Pursat and Battambang, Cambodia

We stopped here in Pursat cos we had a little time to kill before we were due to meet friends who were joining us in Siem Reap. So we popped into Pursat for a couple of days to get a sense of what Cambodia was like away from the tourist hordes. This place is off the tourist route, so much so that when Jill asked the hotel in Phnom Penh to get us a bus ticket to Pursat…they asked…really, are you sure. And again afterwards when heading to the Battambang hotel they kept asking if we were coming from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh…when Jill said Pursat they said “no really, are you coming from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh”.

So we hopped a bus and did the 200kms to Pursat, which was quite a calm and uneventful journey. We got delivered at a rest stop about 2km from town and started to walk to our hotel but the heat of the day, and a vacant tuk tuk got the better of us (mainly me) and I paid a buck to get driven to the hotel rather than lugging the backpacks in high heat and high humidity.

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Jill had us booked into the flashiest joint in town…4 stars…had it actually been 4 stars. It was actually on a par with the 2 star place we stayed at in Phnom Penh. The main difference was that this place had a very nice swimming pool, a feature we used regularly over the 3 days. We went out on the first evening and poked around town (such as it is) and ended up eating at a little roadside joint. A nice meal and some Angkor beer for under $10 for both.

The next day we hit the tourist sites…20 minutes later we were finished. A temple, a market and a garden. We were back to the hotel for a swim and we found the only restaurant listed on trip advisor. It was a pizza joint of all things…and the pizza was good. Not Cambodian good…actually good. We have dipped our toes into the odd western dishes intermittently on this trip and have been disappointed every time…until now. This place served good pizza and the owner was lovely as she hung out chatting while we waited for our food. We found out she was a school teacher by morning and a restaurant owner in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of our meal she offered to give us rides back to our hotel on the back of her motorcycle…but we assured her we could make the 700m walk. In all honesty after a big feed the walk was welcomed.

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Our hotel managed to get Jill into a rage as she sought two bus tickets to Battambang…4 requests and 2 days later still no tickets. She ranted, she raved, she swore, she asked for the manager (who had conveniently gone home)…and we walked down to town (5mins) and got the tickets ourselves…from a woman who spoke zero English…but could still provide better service than the hotel. The next day we took our $3 bus ride to Battambang.

We were picked up from a dirt patch opposite the servo (which passes as the bus stop) by Bodan (pronounced Bowrain) who was to be our personal guide and tuk tuk driver for the next few days. He dropped us at our 2 star joint which was immediately better than our 4 star one (but minus a pool). The owner was waiting to greet us and could not do enough to help. We locked in a 4pm trip to the Bamboo train and dinner afterwards.

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The bamboo train is a series of small bamboo rafts, for want of a better term, that sit on two railway axles, powered by a law mower engine that run along the out of service railway tracks. Originally this was for transport and goods movement but is now almost entirely for the tourist. There is one track, so if a competing raft comes in the other direction one or other must cede the track. To do this, both drivers pick up the raft, dump it on the side of the tracks, move the wheels and after one has passed then ( hopefully) the other driver will help the raft that ceded back onto the tracks.

WARNING: Jill’s video may induce epilepsy

This was fun. Jill has developed a love for all things train and this was yet another experience for the train journal. As we left our hotel at 4pm this was designed to be a sunset trip with a 30 min tuk tuk ride followed by a 20 min bamboo train ride to a village manned solely by stores (grass huts more than stores) for tourists and a 20 minute bamboo train ride back (pausing for some sunset photos across the rice paddies). I repeat…this was fun.

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The next day we locked in with Bodan for a day exploring the southern areas around Battambang. This included the odd temple, fishing village, bat caves, winery and Wat Banan a run down group of 5 temples atop a hill with about 500 stairs that needed climbing. The best bit was cruising around the real Cambodia in the back of a tuk tuk. The day saw us heading about 50k out of town so we passed actual villages and villagers going about their daily business (not the tourist version at the end of the bamboo train).

The highlight of the day (other than the general immersion in the local lifestyle) was the visit to Phnom Sampeu. This is a series of hilltop temples, a monastery and two Buddhist stupas. The other thing of note was that it was the location of three Khmer Rouge killing caves, which is exactly what you might imagine (especially after reading the Phnom Penh post). These were deep crevasses where people were forced to kneel at the top, were killed and were kicked into the crevass. The one I went into was one where over 10,000 bodies were found.

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The next day Jill booked us into a local cooking class run by a young Cambodian guy, French trained, chef in his own business (Coconut) that was staffed by his family. A classically trained chef being aided/overseen by his mother (who at times takes the mortar and pestle off him) is funny to watch. He may have all the skills but mum still sometimes knows best. We made 3 different local dishes (spring rolls, Fish Amok and Beef Loklak) and a desert and they were all incredible.

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From here Bodan picked us up and we went touring the north of the city to Wat Ek Phnom an 11th century temple that is hanging on by its fingernails. This place will be rubble before too long. On the way we stopped at some local village businesses like the rice paper factory (underneath somebody’s house) and the fish sauce and fish paste factory. It is said you should never let people see how laws or sausages are made…this goes triple for fish sauce and fish paste.

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These items have distinctive smells…but at the factory (a shanty shed with no walls) watching the filthy conditions, the man kicking the fish into piles, the vats of compressed (by big rocks) salted fish, the 15-20kg catfish having their heads chopped off (to be sold to the crocodile farm down the road), the shrimp, the ass fish that were too small to be eaten. Some things you just never needed to know…this was one of them.

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Penang

 

We arrived back in Malaysia for about the 5th or 6th time during the last year. Up until now we had not made it away from KLIA2 (the airport)…add to this two previous times and we had been to Malaysia about 7-8 times without ever having been outside of Kuala Lumpur. Alas we arrived at a time when smoke from Indonesian forest fires shrouded Singapore and Malaysia in a thick haze. We spent a night at the airport hotel then headed to Penang.

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I immediately fell in love with this place. I had always held Malaysia relatively high on my list of nice places but this early foray has placed it VERY high on my list of favourite countries. Based in no small part to the excellence of the food available here…you can get anything you like here…add to this the happy and friendly nature of everyone you meet…how could you not love the joint.

Malaysia has been recorded as a major trading hub on the spice route going back as far as the 1st century AD. It seems to have had for almost all of its time a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society…which continues up to this day. Malaysia’s foreign policy and apparently the populations policy is “officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system.” This means that they pick no fights and generally try to resolve issues pragmatically. As such there is very little disharmony and the place is a pleasure to be in.

We set up camp in the old town section of Georgetown which is the heart of the tourist district. On our first day our hotel owner sat with us for about 30 mins and on a map pointed out all of the tourist sites and identified the lesser known ones that were not to be missed. For the ones with a bit of distance he added the bus numbers, where to catch them, how long it would take and how much it should cost. All of this at no cost and with no benefit to him other than making sure that our stay was as pleasant and fulfilling as it could be…WOW…

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The main thing you see when you hit the old town section of Penang is the street art. It is everywhere. It started from small beginnings in an attempt not to lose the history of the neighbourhoods but has grown a life of its own. Every street, every corner, any spare bit of wall is fair game for what has become roaming gangs of artists. Not graffiti…actual art. And some of it is incredibly clever and it adds a whole level of character to old crumbling buildings…so much so that the crumbling etc is incorporated into the art. The street art here is a beast in its own right so I will do an extra sideline for this alone.

On the first night we migrated into little India in search of a feed and a beer (which we thought may be a little challenging in an overtly Muslim country). No issue. We wandered through typically (sort of) Indian streets and markets with spices, trinkets, saris, tailors, food and gram everywhere you looked. I say sort of…because it was clean here…no urine and faeces (human or cow) on the road. The water was clean and running (not in a rusty, filthy drum) and all the scary bits about India were removed leaving only the best bits.

With this knowledge we happily settled in for a meal. Alas it had been too long between curries for me and I went crazy with the ordering. I absolutely love the concept of having a bit of everything…thali style…but for two of us spraying orders across the menu is less than ideal. Either way I ordered about 6 mains for the two of us…plus breads and beers. What was delivered was authentic Indian…it was good. I however have been reminded of the two dish ordering rule…in my defence…we ate it all…and it was fantastic.

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The next day we hit the road following the map suggestions of our hotel owner which were spot on. The first port of call was the local Yum Cha (Dim Sum) joint about 150 metres down the road. We then wandered up “Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling” commonly known as harmony street…why harmony street…Because the Kapitan Keling mosque, Kuan Yun Chinese temple, Saint Georges church, Hindu Sri Maha Mariamman temple, Cathedral of Assumption, Acheen street mosque, Nagore shrine and the Khoo Khongsi clan temple are all located side by side within a 5 minute walk. As they have done for the past 180 years.

So we wandered the street hitting the end where we found Fort Cornwallis, town hall, city hall, and a bit further on and around the corner the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion for the guided tour. All of this was on the recommendation of our little dude and it was all awesome. The only detractor of this was that the town was still choked with smoke from the Indonesian fires, it was about 34 degrees and high humidity…and we both had bellies full of curry and yum cha making it a touch uncomfortable.

We hid In the air conditioning for a few hours before heading out to the red garden food court which is a brilliant food court style eatery surrounded by almost every type of hawker stall you can think of. We got our seat, ordered our beers and off I went in search of food. Alas I completely forgot (or disregarded) the 2 dish rule…I cannot be trusted with so many delicious food options. We had Chinese roast duck, Syrian schwarma, Asian braised pork belly, some Malaysian noodles and German beers and got change from a $20. Oh my…we would be back.

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The next day we got up late and missed our yum cha and had to settle with coffees and scones for Jill. We then hit the art trail using the well appointed map supplied by our little hotel dude. Another high temp high humidity day but 4-5 hrs of walking and checking out and photographing the street art…followed by another night at the hawker stall for another spray of delicious goodies from across the region.

The next day was day 365…our 12 month anniversary since departing Australia. We had a day in…blogging, this and our 365 post followed by a revisit to little India for more curries. My god I love this place. The next day was sushi train, some assignment prep for Jill and back to the food court for our last meal in Penang as we would be leaving early in the morning to head to Borneo.

Dalian

We did dalian in two blocks with a side trip to Dandong in between.

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Dalian was the site of the 16th international beer festival that Jill found advertised way back in March. She made the bookings for travel and accommodation at the intercity hotel back in April. This was all going swimmingly until she tried to amend the booking to factor in our trip to Dandong. At this point the hotel realised that we were booked in for under 200 yuan a night, when the going (extortionate) rate for this week was well over triple that…they then advised us that they were overbooked and could not and would not accommodate us.

Jill (rightfully) went off. The hotel refused to honour the booking that was made over 3 months ago and relet our room for the massively inflated gouging rate and would not honour an existing booking. Needless to say complaints were lodged with the tourist bureau but this vent is to make it fairly public that this particular Chinese hotel is money grubbing and has zero business ethics. Thankfully the booking was made through booking.com who copped an earful from Jill who refused to accept less or pay more. They were very accommodating and eventually found us something but they had to pick up the cost difference due to the immoral actions of the intercity hotel.

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Dalian was one of those cities that through various wars was under the rule of a number of different nations. As such it has some nice Russian style architecture but has little else to it apart from the parks and squares. Which are ok without being startling or all that different from most Chinese public spaces. It is a city of over 6 million people and is a major port and industrial centre. The one real standout to Dalian has been the food streets. Our introduction to this was in the heart of town where we came across a series of alleys winding between buildings and malls that stretched for about 3 kilometres.

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The first this we spotted was a huge tray of red claw…now we knew that this is a favourite of Jim (Jill’s Dad) and looking down over this tray made us both immediately think of Jim and his red claw stories. In honesty the amount of chilli in the Chinese red claw would be too much for him (and most others) but I found them really tasty. As you walked along the array of food got more varied with each step. Almost any type of seafood you can imagine add to this the ever present meat on a stick options and the broiling pigs heads, feet, innards and other bits.

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On our return after Dandong we circumnavigated the beer festival which was being held in Xinghai park which is possibly the largest park/square in all of Asia. The first thing that struck us was the sheer size of this thing. We saw the huge (and I really mean huge) beer tent then turned to the left and right only to find that this tent was one of about 20 such tents. The festival was set to go for 12 days and with the size of this thing I can see how.

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We entered the festival in the early afternoon after paying the $5 entrance fee. As we lined up we were surprised to see that in China this was a family affair with mothers, kids, grandparents all lining up for what, in Australia, would be a male dominated, adults only drunk fest. The next difference was the food. The festival had a huge range of really good, really healthy food options…so much so that you saw 5 food stalls for every beer outlet. There were the usual items and some non typical fare such as the crocodile skewers (pictured below) and the amazing use of the cow carcasses after they had been stripped bare and consumed over the preceding days of the festival.

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The food was like you may see in any Chinese city with full meals of many varieties, dumplings, rice, noodles, BBQ stick options and the normal snacky bits. The prices were obviously higher than you would pay outside but not excessively so. The beer prices were seriously ramped up with 40 yuan the going rate for a 500ml bottle or glass (bear in mind you can buy these in the supermarket for between 3 and 9 yuan. Having been drinking low alcohol Chinese beers for quite a while now we settled into the beers from the Europeans…particularly the Germans and the Czechs. These were generally ok but the ordering off Chinese menus with no English meant we were playing a bit of beer lucky dip.

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As we entered each of the beer company tents we found hundreds of tables and a big stage where different entertainment options were on display. This brings us to our next major difference between a Chinese and western event. Most of the entertainment was an organised form of karaoke with a performer belting out Chinese tunes over the top of a soundtrack.

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Some had a little more style with Chinese plate twirlers, another with a great magician show, and one with a US quartet doing lady gaga covers backed up by the worst Chinese dancers ever put on a stage. These girls were not dancers but were basically thrown on stage in skimpy (ish) outfits and told to shake it…it was like watching a train wreck. But most of the entertainment involved overweight minor local celebrities singing along badly with a karaoke track and yelling loudly into microphones.

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