Morning Markets and Bugs for Lunch ~ National Highway 6, Cambodia

Portrait: khmer boy eating a tarantula

OK, so tarantulas are arachnids, not "bugs", but there were bugs too, as you'll see later. 🙂

A “highlight” for tourists and travellers along Cambodia’s National Highway 6 between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is the small town of Skuon, 75 kilometres north of the capital, where spiders – fresh and fried – are a specialty.

We, however, were going the other way – from Siem Reap south to Phnom Penh – so my fellow photo-travellers and I, under the tutelage of Karl GroblGavin Gough and Marco Ryan, had all morning in our personal bus to anticipate our spider treats.

Our bus ride on the death-defying single-lane highway, which runs alongside barren fields with land-mine warning signs and gloriously green rice patties, was punctuated by stops. The first stop was at Spean Preah Toeus, the largest and most important of the 11 bridges remaining from the ancient Angkor Empire period. With 21 arches spanning the 86 meters across the Chhikreng River, this 12th Century laterite and sandstone structure (reinforced with modern concrete in the 1960’s) is a major part of an arterial network, and an excuse for a few shops and houses either end.

21 arch laterite bridge across the Chhikreng River, Cambodia

Spean Preah Toeus (Spean Kompong Kdey)

A khmer man sitting on timber framing on the balcony of an unfinished wooden building.

A Pause from Work: Spean Preah Toeus

Portrait: Smiling, bright-eyed pimple-faced adolescent khmer boy

A bright, unselfconscious smile lights up the face of a Khmer lad.

Portrait: Solemn Faced Khmer Girl and elderly white-haired man

Solemn Faces: Girl and Grandpa at Home, Spean Preah Toeus

Portrait: Gray-haired elderly Khmer man seated on a wooden bench in his purple checkered woven cotton "sampot samloy".

Old man at home in his "sampot samloy" ("pa kao mah" in Thailand), the woven cotton sarong worn everywhere in Asia.

Khmer man under a  large umbrella cutting guava in front of a rural mixed-goods store, Cambodia.

General Store on the Main Road, Spean Preah Toeus

Two Khmer men on a small motorcycle crossing an old Angkor bridge

Modern traffic on the dirt surface of the ancient Spean Preah Toeus, Cambodia

Three khmer men sitting on a dirt roadside on two pony carts

Local Pony Express Transport Service: Spean Preah Toeus

Portrait: Two khmer men in cotton cowboy hats.

The Pony Express Moving Men.

Our next stop was at the market in Kampong Thom.

I love the colour of local markets, but I find them challenging to shoot. This one was no exception; a roughly built wooden frame supporting a corrugated iron roof provided shade from the relentless afternoon sun bouncing off every surface outside, but made for a dark, stifling, hot and airless interior with blinding back-lights from the outdoors. The people were mostly very accommodating, but there were seventeen of us visitors in an already overly crowded space.

So, under-expose like mad and hope for the best!

Two khmer women sitting behind metal bowls of floured meat and fish in a simple market.

Smiles for the camera! These vendors know there is little likelihood of making a sale from this busload of foreigners, but they are happy to be photographed anyway.

Portrait: Female khmer teen, sitting, Markets, Kampong Thom

Chillin' with the Community

Portrait: Elderly Khmer woman in a woven checkered cotton headscarf.

Timeless grace ~ Elderly Khmer Woman

Bundled long-stemmed water lilies for sale in a market.

Whenever I see water lilies in the markets, I think of the poignant multi-media piece put together by two of my colleagues. (It can be found at:

Split-toned over-coloured treatment of hands making waffles on cast-iron forms in an open fire.

I haven't been keeping up with the latest Lightroom changes, so I spent a little time playing around with the new "curves". I rather like the effect of this over-coloured treatment of a woman making waffles on cast-iron forms in an open fire.

Portrait: Khmer lady in a market, a bucket of batter and some cooked waffles in the background.

The waffles were pretty good, too!

Portrait: Sad-faced khmer girl in a dirty white blouse resting against a cement pillar

Sad-faced khmer girl outside the Kampong Thom market.

Our last, much anticipated stop before reaching our Phnom Penh accommodation, was the small town of Skoun (or Skun), where people breed the high-protein local tarantula species (Haplopelma albostriatum) that is a popular delicacy. The street-side market at the junction of two highways also sells a variety of edible insects, as well as fruit and vegetables.

Portrait: A smiling khmer woman in a straw sunhat holds up a large live tarantula for sale.

Tarantulas for sale! Skuon

Close-up: Hand holding a tarantula on a plastic bag.

"One man's meat is another man's poison." Delicacy? To me, they just look hairy and horrible!

Close-up: fried cicadas with chilli

More local treats: spicy fried cicadas.

Bowls of battered and fried crickets.

Yummy! Battered crickets.

Portrait: Young khmer girl in a wool cap and plaid shirt selling bamboo-wrapped treats.

"Sexy Bitch" with an innocent smile.

Portrait: Beautiful young Khmer woman in a red sequinned cap.

Beautiful young woman ~ few opportunities.

A middle-aged Khmer woman reclining on a table covered in mangosteen, pomelo and pineapple.

No need to stress... Saleslady and her mangosteen, pomelo and pineapples.

The tarantulas on sale here have been called “edible spider” in Khmer for more than a hundred years. Although it has been suggested that they became more popular during the Khmer Rouge years when other foods were scarce, fried insects are also popular in Thailand (see “Buddhas, Bugs and the Burmese Border”) and other parts of Asia.

Text: Bon AppétitMe, I settled for the photos.

Bon Appétit, whatever you may be eating.

Photos: 19 July 2011


  • Karl Grobl - January 7, 2012 - 6:01 pm

    Ursula, this is a wonderful post… the photos are fantastic and they bring back such vivid memories of the trip down National Highway 6. You really captured the essence of that day and obviously,you also did quite a bit of research about the area, and about Cambodian culture and thus, you have provided me and all your viewers a “complete package”. Bravo on another amazing blog post! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! All the best, KarlReplyCancel

    • Ursula - January 7, 2012 - 10:09 pm

      Thank you so much Karl. You’ve made me blush!
      That day (and all the others) was such a joy. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - January 8, 2012 - 11:19 pm

    WOW, great share as always, I’m with you on the waffles and the spiders, I respect them and try not to kill them but eat them NEVER….stir fried or battered no bugs for me thanksReplyCancel

    • Ursula - January 9, 2012 - 2:25 am

      Thanks for joining me, Signe. None of our group tried any of the six- or eight-legged treats. I have had to eat ant eggs once, to be polite, in Thailand – and of course, green ants in Northern Queensland, but I sure don’t make a habit of it!ReplyCancel

  • […] the stalls, the faces of the people, the goods on sale. While some feature edible insects (e.g. Morning Markets and Bugs for Lunch, Cambodia), others specialise in flowers (e.g. Pyin Oo Lwin Flower Markets, Myanmar; Fragrant Flowers […]ReplyCancel

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