Eating Beef and Ants in Cambodia Whilst Dodging Knife Fights

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What turned into a quest to eat some beef and ants in Cambodia turned into a quest to not get cut into tiny pieces myself. Find out what actually happened when I went for a ‘quiet’ meal in Phnom Penh. Cambodia.

Eating Beef and Ants in Cambodia

Getting to the restaurant was a task in itself!

‘What should we go for Alice?’  Dave, a tall and lanky backpacker I had met just last night on the bus, sat opposite me.  He was waiting for solid confirmation of what we had promised each other.  Our midnight ride had failed miserably, spluttering its final heartbeat out in the middle of nowhere in pitch black nothingness.  We had slept on the roadside around some seriously dubious dogs. As the sun begun to crack through the darkness and a replacement ride was nowhere in sight, we impulsively wailed out to another bus and hitched our way to Phnom Penh.

Dogs in Cambodia

Beef and Ants in Cambodia

Fast forward 10 hours, with no refund on that bus ticket (this is Cambodia).  Our sweaty backs slouched into the tacky white plastic chairs.  The rickety fans whizzed around and around, creating an ongoing soundtrack against the buzz of local diners surrounding us.  With a bottle of Angkor beer in one hand and the grubby yellow-stained menu in the other, I locked eyes with Dave and gave him the nod.  ‘OK, let’s get the beef and ants’.

The ‘dish’ arrived.  The ants weren’t what I had observed in my fine and green English garden. These ants looked like they had been viciously zapped in from Mars, presenting themselves thrice the size as the minuscule jet black creatures I was used to.  These ants were angry, ruby red, alien monsters.  I’d be lying if I told you me and Dave had a delectable dining experience. We didn’t.  Staring each other out whilst spooning the critters into our mouths and egging each other on. Delightful. We reassured ourselves we were getting some fantastic protein points into our systems.  Sometimes, bucket lists can take you too far.

Eat Ants in Cambodia
CC image courtesy of Jared B on Flickr

Nature Calls!

Fast forward 15 minutes and we had eaten about half of the ‘delicacy’ and in our books, eating half of this dish merited a gold medal.  We declared a cheeky victory and began to wrap things up.  ‘I’ll be back in a moment, I’m just popping to the bathroom’ declared Dave.  ‘OK, I’ll grab the bill!’.

Cambodia Bathroom

Here Comes Trouble

As I waited for the calculations and Dave was busying himself with regret in the bathroom, a different kind of force came into the atmosphere.  From the corner of my eye, this group were clearly not the Phnom Penh average.  They were very different.  With heavily patterned shirts and enough gold jewellery to be a pop-up pawn shop, these cashed-up men strutted in, with a jewel-encrusted girlfriend to complete their look.  The sound of the fans faded out, the buzz of the locals halted and I quickly registered that I should have chosen a different spot to dine.

Things escalated from discernment to ‘I gotta get the hell out of here pronto’. All of this whilst Dave was still questioning his life choices in the bathroom.  One of the Cambodian Elite clocked a diner in the opposite corner of the restaurant. H was an older, more humble man who had no desire to wear ridiculous flower shirts like the Scooby Doo gang to my left.  It started to become clear that these guys weren’t eating beef. Instead, they HAD beef with each other. Yikes!

Clueless about the locals’ turbulent history, I found myself in the middle of an extremely tense situation. Without hesitation, Mr. Richie Rich snatched the chef’s meat cleaver from his hands, soared towards his enemy and swished it through the sweltering air.  I gasped in shock as the older guy fell to his knees, lay his neck on the floor and demanded his enemy go right ahead and take his best shot.

‘I wish Dave would hurry the hell up’ I squealed inside.  Dave luckily materialised from the bathroom but he was unfortunately none the wiser.  As Richie Rich’s poodle girlfriend begged him to put the knife down and snap out of it, I threw the money at the waitress, grabbed Dave’s hand and evacuated the building shouting, ‘We’re never eating beef and ants in Cambodia ever again!’.

Related Reading

10 Essential Cambodian Phrases

Don’t be stabby: be pinny!

For more crazy stories from Cambodia, check out ANOTHER brush with death tale here!

Have you had any crazy adventures lately? Comment below!
Eating Ants Dodging Knives in Cambodia

17 thoughts on “Eating Beef and Ants in Cambodia Whilst Dodging Knife Fights”

  1. Bananas! And ants LOL. SO happy you got out safe and so happy you wrote the post explaining your harrowing tale. Sihanoukville was a little sketchy. Only place I visited in Cambodia – or around the world – where the energy was a bit off and I felt genuinely unsafe at times. Seems some of the horrific past maybe sticks around as some low energy stuff in a few of the locals. Love the land though….just never tried the ants ;)


  2. What a story! I felt like I was right there with you. (Though I wouldn’t want to be- sorry no beef and ants delicacies for me) Love your writing style, you had me hooked from the beginning of your story! :)

  3. I like your writing style. You are a very patient women, with all that going down, I would have stormed into the bathroom, snatched Dave and said let’s go NOW! There is no time to wait when you are that close to death.

  4. This has to be one of the best blog entries I have read so far. Love your writing style and I’m sure the experience was unreal but, you got the true local feel. Keep up the fantastic writing!!

  5. Sounds like a crazy trip – your story about bus troubles reminded me of a time when I took a fairly long-haul trip in Zambia and experienced a similar fate. Oh the joys of dusty roads and dodgy buses. Great post – your tone/style of writing is awesome.

    • Hehe I feel everyone has a dodgy bus story when it comes to travelling. Hell, even if you’re not travelling, you might just have a dodgy bus story in your local town >< Happy you enjoyed the post and thank you for the awesome compliment!

  6. You have such a great way of telling the story, you captivated me from the beginning. I don’t know how I would have reacted, but I assume I wouldn’t have been able to move, haha.

  7. You make me giggle a lot Alice :) Really enjoyed reading it. Are you still friends with tall lanky backpacker?

    (Love the Pinterest friendly graphic at the end btw).

  8. I love your way of telling stories. Real life stories. You have a very good sense of humor, but then I guess you need one if you are up for adventures in Cambodia. It was very brave in the first place to order ants, but I think it was even braver to tell us about their effect on your intestines. Ha,ha,ha!


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