Princess Marie of Denmark's Poignant Humanitarian Trip to Cambodia

On April 3, 2022, Her Royal Highness, Princess Marie of Denmark, second wife of Prince Joachim of Denmark, made a humanitarian trip to Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country, in her capacity as honorary President of DanChurchAid, the Danish church’s humanitarian foundation, which has an equivalent name of People's Church Emergency Relief.

HRH Princess Marie of Denmark

It was a poignant visit as Her Royal Highness learned about the foundation's work on poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and empowering rights in the country's most depressed areas. 

Her first stop was at Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, where she visited many historic sites including the "Killing Fields", just outside the city. It's the memorial site of the Khmer Rouge genocide victims, a reminder of the dark past of the brutality and Pol Pot and the Khmer regime, where many Cambodians suffered torture and cruel killings.

Princess Marie laid wreath at the Killing Fields memorial site for the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide

Princess Marie laid a wreath in memory of those victims. She also listened to the painful stories of the survivors and learned about the terrible situation of Cambodians during the atrocities. 

Shen then proceeded to the Royal Palace where according to her "the rays of the afternoon sun illuminated the golden roof even more". 

Princess Marie posed at The Royal Palace

The palace is built in Khmer architecture and one of the prominent landmarks in Phnom Penh.

A different face of a kingdom

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy. And one of the countries in Southeast Asia (the other are Thailand and Malaysia) that retains its monarchy. 

However, unlike in Europe, Cambodian throne is not hereditary, but rather elective. Which means the next Cambodian king is determined by the Royal Council of the Throne who will chose someone from the lineage of the Cambodian monarchs, it can be a son, a cousin, a nephew.  

King Noromdom Sihamoni of Cambodia

Cambodian royals are not as glamorous and popular as their European counterparts. They rarely make headlines, and Southeast Asia is a region not known to be royal watchers who get fascinated with everything about royal families.

Cambodia's current monarch is Noromdom Sihamoni, unmarried and no children of his own. His successor will be determined by the Royal Council of the Throne.

King Noromdom Sihamoni, who reigned since 2004 was criticized by the British media in 2011, calling him as "snub" for turning down an invitation to attend the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in April 2011.

Visiting Depressed Areas in Cambodia

Princess Marie also visited the Danish boarding school in the capital, and among other things, she also met Mith Samlanh, one of the local partners of the People's Church Emergency Relief who makes a great effort to support street children and other vulnerable children and young people. 

Princess Marie visited Kampong Chhang

Princess Marie shared a story on the Danish royal family's instagram that Mith Samlanh and the organization helped vulnerable people bounced back after being hit by unemployment during the pandemic.

Losing job is a different situation with people from poor countries in Southeast Asia compared to people in rich countries like in Europe. Here, Princess Marie learned how Cambodians tried to survive during the pandemic, which included unconventional ways like selling frogs, beetles and other animals they caught from Mekong River.

She also visited Kampong Chhang, located in Central Cambodia, just west of Tonle Sap river where many residents lived in floating fishing villages. And shared she felt blessed having met a Buddhist monk during her visit.

She also participated in planting 100 new trees in Kampon Chhang which going to symbolize People's Church Emergency.

Princess Marie visiting Takeo province

During the Khmer regime of Pol Pot (which isolated Cambodia from the rest of the world), most Cambodians were driven to live in the countryside and developed their own survival method by eating wild animals and exotic species like grasshoppers and beetles. 

Today, these practices are still evident in the countryside. And Princess Marie learned these things during her visit in Takeo. She also learned that many farmers are composed of women!

Takeo, which has a literal meaning in Cambodia as Crystal Grandfather, is a province in southern Cambodia near the Bassac river, and has a thriving grasshoppers culture business.

Here, Princess Marie tried cooking grasshoppers! 

Princess Marie tried cooking grasshoppers in Takeo, Cambodia

But di Her Royal Highness try eating this popular Cambodian exotic dish?

All tourists, including me who made a trip to Cambodia years ago, know that Cambodian restaurants especially in the countryside, served grasshoppers and beetles. Though I haven't tried, some tourists claimed it tasted good.

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So did Princess Marie taste it? Here's what she said:

"Grasshoppers were on the lunch today! I admit, I had to get used to the thought of putting my teeth into a grasshopper but they actually taste incredibly good, especially if they are fried and spicy with chili and lemongrass. There are many good reasons why grasshoppers are called the "superfoods of the future. Now, I have learned how to cook grasshoppers myself!", she exclaimed.

Princess Marie of Denmark tried eating fried grasshoppers during a visit in Taeko

Indeed, she tried eating grasshoppers in Takeo, Cambodia. However, in today's Cambodia, most edible grasshoppers served in Cambodian restaurants are cultured. 

As what Princess Marie shared, "The woman Sinuon, whom I visited today in Takeo province in southern Cambodia, through the local partner of the People's Church of Emergency Aid, has had great success in breeding grasshoppers. Through raising grasshoppers, an unskilled woman can earn twice as much as a textile worker gets".

Princess Marie visited Danish boarding school

Princess Marie met Cambodians and her counterpart in The People's Church Emergency Response organization

Such a trip to remember! Princess Marie noted, "A journey that will always remember, thank you for the warm welcome!". Her trip began on April 3, Sunday, and wrapped up on April 7, Thursday. 

What did we learn from this humanitarian trip of Princess Marie?

In fact a lot. Depends on what type of traveler are you, Cambodia is one destination that will constantly remind us that somewhere in this world, despite modernity, there are still places that are lagging behind in development and modern technology.

That people in the countryside, even at this modern time, still relying on exotic food, as a method of survival.

That royalty is not all about glamour and splendor. Cambodia has its own royal family, but something that we haven't regularly heard. Its monarchy is not hereditary but rather elective.

Cambodia is a lovely country to visit. Beautiful countryside, smiling people, and a lot of things to learn and explore, especially on the cultural discovery side. 

It offers so many cultural wonder especially the Angkor Archaeological Park in Seam Reap Province. It's very far from Phnom Penh, about eight hours travel by land, so perhaps, the reason why Princess Marie was not able to include it in her itinerary. 

It is also home to nice locals who are accommodating to tourists, but when you visit Cambodia, bring US dollar, most of the establishments there accept US dollar currency than their local currency. Glad Princess Marie of Denmark was able to pay the country a visit. 

Photos credit: Detdanskekongehus instagram - the official IG account of the Danish royal family

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