Michael Sullivan

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

In the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, workers are putting the final touches on the grandstand for Bon Om Touk, the annual water festival which begins this weekend. It's a huge party—the country pretty much shuts down for the three-day holiday, with dragon boat races and plenty of drink and dance.

It's a celebration of the water's bounty. This year, though, there will be less to celebrate.

There's food that's old. There's food that has gone bad. And then there's soup that has been simmering for 45 years.

In Bangkok, customers can't get enough of the latter at Wattana Panich, a noodle soup joint in the trendy Ekkamai neighborhood, where third-generation owner Nattapong Kaweeantawong wants to clear up what he thinks is a popular misconception about his beef soup.

Pinyo Pukpinyo, 50, remembers the first time he was sent to remove a snake from someone's house. It was a 14 1/2-ft. python, high up in the rafters waiting for its prey 16 years ago.

"There were four of us, and I was really scared," he says. "We didn't have any experience, but we wrestled him down and got the hoop around his neck" — a kind of snare — "but he was very strong. And after we put him in the sack, we had to remove the hoop from his head, and that's the dangerous part, because at any time he's ready to bite you."

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