The $1 Life-Giving Cambodian Noodles I Ate Every Day for a Month

My initial arrival in Siem Reap felt cinematic: exiting the airplane and right away hopping into a tuk tuk; careening down dusty, red-dirt roads lining the teeming riverbanks; gazing up at thatched roofs and golden temple gables surrounded by banana trees; feeling the breeze from the open-air carriage and the motorcycles speeding around beside it. I was in Cambodia to volunteer with a local NGO called the Ponheary Ly Foundation, and would soon start my assignment in nearby Khnar Village, working with elementary-age children to strengthen their English-language skills.

I was traveling alone—actually alone—for the first time, eager to challenge myself. I had but a vague plan and an even vaguer savings-account balance. I did have a place to stay, though. That helped. I soon got settled into my lodgings and, with an unsurprising hankering for a snack, ventured out into the twilit city.