Cambodia, officially known as the kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 69,898 sq mi in area, and has a population of over 15 million. Bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, it has a 275 mile coastline along the gulf of Thailand. Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital and is home to the art deco central market, and situated on the riverfront are the glittering Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum.

Probably the most well known site in Cambodia is Angkor Wat situated in Siem Reap Province. The complex of temples make up the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. Originally constructed as a Hindu Temple, it was gradually transformed to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. As with most other ancient temples in Cambodia, Angkor Wat has faced extensive damage and deterioration by a combination of plant overgrowth, fungi, ground movements, war damage and theft.

The Vietnam war extended into the country with the US bombing of Cambodia from 1969-1973. Following the Cambodian coup of 1970, the deposed king gave his support to his former enemies, the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979. Led by Pol Pot, they changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. The new regime modelled itself on Maoist China during the Great Leap Forward, immediately evacuated the cities, and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million; the most commonly cited figure is two million (about a quarter of the population).

Industry in Cambodia was badly disrupted by the war. Agriculture is the traditional mainstay of the Cambodian economy, however since the late 1990s, tourism is fast becoming Cambodia’s second largest industry. In 2015, there were just under 4.8 million tourists visits. The key attractions are Angkor, Tonlé Sap, Sihanoukville, Silver Pagoda and Siem Reap.

Recipes I came across during my research included Pleah (hot and sour beef salad), Amok Trey (fish curry), Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ pork and rice), Kuy Teav (noodle soup), Chhnang Plerng (hot pot), Samlor Kako (soup made with spice paste, fish paste, meat, fish and vegetables) and Bai chha (fried rice). I decided to make Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef) served in lettuce leaves with rice. It was really enjoyable.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1 hour marinating
Cook time: 20 minutes

300g sirloin steak, sliced (or you can use chicken if you prefer)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
2/3 tsp chilli sauce (optional, preferably vietnamese or chinese chili sauce)
2 tsp oil + extra for cooking
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
A few lettuce leaves
Cooked rice
For the pepper sauce:
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed back pepper
1 tsp crushed garlic
juice of a lime

Mix sugar, salt, pepper, oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup and garlic in a sealable bag, add meat and coat thoroughly
Marinate in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes
Mix salt, sugar, pepper and garlic in a bowl
Cook the rice
Add oil to a wok, fry the onion until brown and add steak and stir fry 5 minutes, until done (don’t over do it)
Mix in chili sauce as desired
Prepare a serving plate with a bed of lettuce and rice
Just before serving, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into the pepper sauce and stir lightly
Serve the steak over the rice and lettuce with pepper sauce on the side

Ingredients for Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
Kompong Phluk Kompong, Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

South Korea

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea is situated in East Asia in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. The Seoul Capital area is the world’s sixth leading global city, with the fourth largest economy. 75% of South Korea is mountainous, making it a popular winter sport destination. They are to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President PARK Geun-hye, daughter of former ROK President PARK Chung-hee, took office in February 2013 and is South Korea’s first female leader. Her father PARK Chung-hee took over leadership of the country in a 1961 coup. During his regime, from 1961 to 1979, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea.

Some interesting facts about South Korea
South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world.
They have a very unusual approach to age. Every South Korean child is considered to be one year old when it is born and it will turn two on the next Lunar New Year.
The iconic song “Gangnam Style” by the South Korean musician Psy became the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views (The phrase “Gangnam Style” refers to a luxury lifestyle associated with the Gangnam District of Seoul).
It has the world’s fastest Internet speed and highest smartphone ownership, with half of Koreans paying all their bills using their mobile phones.
Although South Korea has very high living standards, suicide is a serious and widespread problem. It has the second-highest suicide rate in the world according to the World Health Organization.
Since 1997, every July the nine-day Boryeong Mud Festival takes place, attracting 1.5 million attendees. It was started to promote the health benefits of mud.

South Korea has 12 world heritage sites including Changdeokgung Palace Complex in Seoul, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine and the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes. In 2012, 11.1 million foreign tourists visited South Korea, making it the 20th most visited country in the world. The South Korean government has set a target of attracting 20 million foreign tourists a year by 2017.

Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, vegetables, and meats. Ingredients and dishes vary by province. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes that accompany steam-cooked rice. Recipes I came across include Kalbi Jim (stewed korean short ribs), Dak Galbi (spicy stir fried chicken) and Mi Yeok Gu (seaweed soup). I opted to cook Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef) which was absolutely delicious.

Rating: 10/10

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 mins + 2 hours marinating
Cook time: 6 mins

450g thinly sliced beef (sirloin or rib eye)
5 tbsp sugar
½ cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves (bashed)
¼ tsp salt
5 tbsp Mirin (sweet sake, optional)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup spring onions, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced carrots

Mix together all ingredients except carrots.
Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Griddle the beef slices on a medium to high heat for a few minutes.
Add the marinating juice and carrots and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
Serve with steamed rice.