Author: Maureen Santucci

Paradise on Cambodia’s Islands

By Andrew Kolasinski The boat swayed, more from the movements of the passengers than from the gentle waves of the Gulf of Thailand. In just over an hour we sighted the shores of Koh Ruessey, or Bamboo Island, one of Cambodia’s many island paradises. The captain cut back on the throttle, and steering with his foot, guided the 30 foot long sail boat right up onto the beach. I climbed over the gunnels and jumped into the shallows. The white powder beach was fringed by flawless palm trees. It looked like paradise. I had joined a group of Cambodians...

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Eating Tarantula Spiders in Cambodia

By Andrew Kolasinski A bizarre sight greeted me when I checked into my Phnom Penh guest house. In the lobby trashcan I saw a takeaway food tray with noodle residue topped by two huge black spiders – tarantulas! The next night sitting with friends at a sidewalk café a street vendor offered a platter of fried spiders. Succumbing to curiosity I regarded my snack with doubts. My friends advised me that the thorax of the tarantula was filled with soft goo that wasn’t palatable but the legs were a fine snack. The taste was a bit nutty, the skin...

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Peruvian Feeding Frenzy: Chowing Down at Lima’s Mistura

By Mike Gasparovic “¡Oye, maestro, más chancho rapidito!” The barked order comes from a grill cook in a ten-gallon Stetson and surgical mask to protect against the spicy smoke billowing from the coals. Before him, a massive contraption with 12 revolving gridirons, spluttering with grease. Busy basters are brushing the chancho al palo (pork on a skewer) with extra marinade, while the hair-netted ticket girl roars, “boletos, boletos,” herding the pack of customers along. Multiply this insanity times 240 food providers, throw in 40,000 hungry foodies from 18 countries, then multiply all that by ten days, and you have...

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Peru’s Temple of Doom: Chavín

  By Mike Gasparovic An unearthly lowing from a conch shell reverberates off the atrium walls, startling silent the initiates massed in the plaza. In the distance the hills crouch, waiting. A hush. Then, from nowhere, a roar of rushing water. The men are twitching, squinting their eyes against the light, painfully bright under the Andean dazzle. The din—where is it coming from? But everything is confused, a swirling jangle of colors and commotion, buzzing, flashing. Suddenly a priest appears, towering over the file of novices. Not human he seems, feline, the fangs of his grotesque headdress grinning ferociously as he intones inaudible words. He leads the men; they begin to march. Up the stairs, across the threshold, and into darkness—but here there is no darkness: the walls of the underground labyrinth phosphoresce as their carvings seem to move, writhe, menace the terror-stricken catechumens. Outside the conch shell bleats again, uncanny. Finally the jaguar-priest stops, turns, raises hands, chants a ritual formula that echoes off the stone walls, now convulsing like the entrails of a giant serpent. Utterly disoriented, the men raise their eyes: there above them is the god, leering upwards in the half-light. His contorted, malevolent face is inconceivably old, bespeaking immense power and triumph absolute—he is life itself. The initiates are trembling, feeling their own being leech out as they too meld with the alien, the...

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Waterfalls of Laos

By Andrew Kolasinski There was a rumbling in the air and a slight tremor in the ground a kilometer from the falls. As I got closer the rumbling became a thunderous crashing, the ground shook and the air was full of swirling mist. Khane Phapheng Falls in Laos is Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall and the third largest waterfall on earth (by volume of water). With a discharge of 11,043,569 liters per second, Khane Phapheng has four times the water flow of Niagara Falls). I saw the falls in the dry season but it was still an overwhelming experience, despite...

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