68. French Leftovers

French Leftovers: France Was Here, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam – the colony protectorate of Indochina – and it left behind more than just a few thousand chilly, well-dressed expats. French culture still coats these places like sugar glacé, though it begins to melt as soon as you venture outside of the city. The sensation of waking up in an old French guesthouse in Cambodia (above) and walking downstairs for an Asian breakfast of noodle soup and tea is one of the peculiar delights of life in this part of the world. The urban architecture is 1920s Paris, rows of tall, narrow shop-houses pocked with balconies facing grand boulevards and elegant river promenades. Cambodian women diligently push huge carts of fresh baguettes, perfectly crisp and chewy, down rugged potholed roads. Pronunciation of English words takes on a French accent and ay-bee-cee becomes ah-bey-cey. As it turns out, French language fluency is common among older Cambodians, and wherever we travel in the country, some smiling local usually approaches us to ask if we parlez Francais. I slept through two years of French in high school, so I’m the one who’s obligated to try, fail and then take Amy’s abuse.

Cambodian Man: Bonjour! Parlez vous Francais?
Amy: (points at me) He speaks some!
Me: Uhhhhh, un peu?
Cambodian Man: Ah, a little.
Me: Yes. I mean, oui.
Cambodian Man: Quels endroits avez-vous visités au Cambodge?
Sloan: Oh crap.
Amy: You’re useless.
Cambodian Man: Au revoir!
Amy: (punches me in the arm)


  1. Lizzy Caston says:

    You capture so well the essence of this region and reading your posts is bringing me back to my own first encounter, and why I feel in love, with SE Asia over 10 years ago. I’m living vicariously through you.

    I’m really glad you took this year long adventure Sloan (and Amy too although I don’t know you), and you guys are terrific writers and photographers. More please.

    Safe travels,

    Lizzy C.

  2. Debra says:

    Un peu, indeed.

    What happened to the french lesson that I gave you at Soapbox Derby?

    A tout a l’heure.