We're so excited! One of our favorite things, bubble tea, is now available in Cambodia. The Gong Cha shop opened this week and we've already been twice. :) We shared chocolate milk tea with pearls. And it was "really good" as our Khmer friends say. No longer do we have to go to Singapore or Japan to get this yummy treat, it's right here in Phnom Penh.
Just like in Singapore we could choose our sugar level. We chose the lowest which was 30% but it was still super sweet. For our special topping we chose tapioca pearls but we could have ordered red bean, grass jelly or aloe. I might try the coconut jelly sometime.
The new milk tea shop is beautiful, on a corner lot with glass wrapping all around. And inside it's so clean and bright. A lovely inviting place inside and out.
Being so open to the street this way is very different from the way many restaurants were when we first moved to Cambodia. Two years ago we mostly found restaurants nearly hidden from us tucked away inside compounds. This along with understated signage made it always a surprise when we stepped through the door and found a wonderful ambiance. I'm sure these restaurants were meant to be an oasis, an escape from the street and the real life there. But things are changing in Cambodia. Now as much attention is paid to the facade of a restaurant as the inside. Gong Cha is simply the latest shop to build or rebuild its store with as many windows as possible. The new trend is bright and open, not walled off from the street. And I like it. Had this shop been here when we first moved to Cambodia I might have all but camped out in it. :)
I don't know if I've mentioned it before but most businesses have car guards like this guy leaning against the SUV. These car guards actually offer quite a bit of assistance to drivers. I watched this guard go through this routine a number of times: first wave the car forward, then put up a hand stop and reverse, circle his arm to indicate turning the wheels, wave the driver forward again until just in the right spot and then tap the car to signal that the parking job was done. When the driver is ready to leave that's when the car guard gets out his whistle and steps out into the street with oncoming traffic. He blows on his whistle and raises his hand to all vehicles and they either swerve around him or stop while the car reverses and then pulls forward into the flow of traffic. For this service he is given 1000 riel or the equivalent of 25 cents. Payment is optional but not many drive away without handing over a 1000 riel note.
When parking fills up, car guards regularly double park the overflow. As we sat drinking our bubble tea, I noticed that two guards tried to push the silver car. The red car's driver wanted to leave and even started to back up right into the silver car. Whenever we've been motioned to double park our car, the guard will make sure that Stephen has left the car in neutral. That way he can roll our car out of the way should the cars we are blocking want to leave before us. Maybe these guys are new or maybe they were too busy to check, but the silver car had obviously not been left in neutral; they couldn't budge it. So they had to find the driver so he could move it.
We're going to Gong Cha again tomorrow and I think I might order caramel milk tea with coffee jelly! :)