Dreaming of Cambodia…in NYC

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Asia Society New YorkLast week’s Culture Weekend Staycation to Cambodia was amazing! 

We first started our journey at the Asia Society and Museum to attend the Cambodian New Year Family Day and view the exhibit, Bomb Ponds by Vandy Rattana.  If you’ve never been to this bastion of Asian culture, it’s a must see!  Asia Society New York is housed in a beautiful building on the Upper East side and has devoted its many floors to exhibitions, workshops and speaking events revolving about all things Asia.  If you’re looking for a bite to eat after spending hours exploring all that Asia Society has to offer, there is the Garden Court Cafe which serves a variety of Asian dishes.  Looking for a momento from your day out?  Then peruse the gift shop filled to the brim with Asian inspired trinkets, books, clothing, home decor and jewelry!   If it’s Asian culture you’re looking for, Asia Society New York has you covered!  

Asia Society New York

Upon entering the Asia Society and Museum, we viewed a part of Vandy Rattana’s photography exhibit, Bomb Ponds.  The images drew you in and made you feel as if you were standing within the landscapes.  The gentile nature of the stills are in contrast to the violence that produced these water filled craters in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.  More photographs were downstairs.  This photograph I took also serves as an interesting juxtaposition:  the innocence and naiveté associated with a baby and Bomb Ponds in Cambodia.   

Bomb Ponds

While I had high expectations for The Cambodian New Year Family Day event, I didn’t expect there to be as many organized, hands on activities planned for the little ones! 

Cambodian New Year Family Day

Holy cow!  This was not your typical family day festival with booths posing as kid-friendly but really a means for advertising to the adult parents some sort of product or service.  You didn’t walk away from this event carrying a mish-mash of freebie giveaways with a company logo on it all while waiting with your impatient wiggly youngster in line for an hour to get his or her face painted. (You know what I’m talking about.)   While those sort of events are useful and have a place, so does the Cambodian New Year Family Day: on a pedestal!   This event was the real deal.  The Cambodian New Year Family Day organizers planned hands on activities for the kids that were extremely engaging, enriching and (get this) fun which was unexpectedly awesome!  The icing on the cake were the facilitators who were so kind and always wearing a smile (even when my son decided to playfully tackle one of the them during a game… oops, sorry about that).   

The kids played Cambodian New Year games such as “Catching Lobster” or reeyoo bong gong in Cambodian.  In the game, one child is blindfolded in the middle of a circle of children holding hands.  The blindfolded child has to “catch” with his claws the next “lobster”. They also had dance demonstrations and lessons for the “monkey” dance.  Imagine the delight kids had witnessing grown ups scratching themselves and sniffing under their fingers, parading around like silly monkeys; what a riot!  After all of this excitement, we headed up to the 8th floor for a craft and a Cambodian sweet treat.  While my son didn’t care too much for what appeared to be a gelatin square with fruit bits (I liked it), he was all too happy to make an aspara crown.  Once again, this portion of the festival was very orderly and organized.  Each child had ample space to sit and ample  supplies to craft with. There were many hands on deck to ensure that, in a room brimming with what appeared to be in excess of 50 kids,  the environment didn’t feel chaotic.  

Many thanks to Asia Society and Season of Cambodia:  A Living Arts Festival for executing such a wonderful event!

Feed Me Seymour…

After our fun filled time at the Asia Society, we headed over to Num Pang Sandwich Shop for some great Cambodian eats!  Two things I didn’t know about Num Pang:

1.  How incredibly awesome and unique and fresh the flavors of the food are.

2.  There is no formal seating.  (Not that I’m complaining or anything.  It was just unexpected.)  The arrangement reminded me of a traditional NY pizzeria in that there were long counters that you could devour your food on.  Hey, it worked for me and the line of customers waiting to order their food.  

My son and I ordered the watermelon juice made fresh.  It was as if a ripe, sweet watermelon was stuffed in the cup…delicious and a must have on a hot day.  Next, I ordered the Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly sandwich while my hubby ordered the Pulled Duroc Pork sandwich.  The flavors were great and pork never tasted so light with fresh cucumber, cilantro and carrots.  My husband liked his sandwich so much that he didn’t want to share with me, surreptitiously devouring the last bites while I turned my back to attend to our son.  I guess I’ll have to try it the next time I return.  

Num Pang on Urbanspoon

Back at Home…

Whilst at home, we enjoyed the Cambodian Beef Stir Fry Recipe.  It was quick, easy and delicious…just how I like it.  

Cambodian Beef Stir Fry

I’ve yet to watch our movie recommendation: Enemy of the People and on second thought, it seems to be a violent and sad movie suggestion, yet critically acclaimed, which is important to me.  Culture Weekend is about exploring culture: both the bright and dark sides.  For future reference, I’ll make certain to provide a snippet of the movie recommendations and indicate which audience the movie is best for.  But for now,  let’s keep on exploring the world in our own backyard!  Happy Culture Weekend!  

How was your Culture Weekend?  Please feel free to share.  Also, if you have any requests for a Culture Weekend Destination…let me know!

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