One time last month when I was riding the bike with my friends along the riverside in Phnom Penh I saw there was a crowd and very loud noise in front of Happy Herb Pizza. I was wondering what happened over there and then I came in just to see. I asked some guys who I knew in the crowd: “What’s happening?” And they told me there were customers who had made a competition with a newspaper seller boy. They want to see if he can eat all the hot chilies on the plate, and they will give him $20. I saw two foreign men and two Cambodian girls at the table watching the boy, who was about 13 years old, eating the chilies. I didn’t know that boy or where exactly he’s from. I’ve just seen him sometimes selling newspapers along the riverside where I do my motorbike driving.
At the same time I saw that boy tried and tried to eat all the chilies. There were about 40 to 50 chilies on the plate. He seemed like he was very hot, so he wanted to get the bottle of water on the table to drink. But those customers were very mean to him and they did not allow him to drink any water during the eating. They said he could drink only when he finished all the chilies first. That boy seemed to be very patient because he kept eating and even we knew it’s very hard to eat that much of those chilies. The crowd around him made a loud noise to support him. Some of them shouted: “Come on boy!” Or some of them said: “Come on my friend.” So this really made him look stronger to me.
It was really interesting to see many people there, not only the customers in the Happy Herb pizza restaurant came out to see this and take photos, but also the customers from next-door like at Cantina or Pink Elephant restaurant came to take the photo of the boy.
Finally the boy was successful in the competition. He finished all the chilies and he just took the $20 out of the guy’s hand, and took the bottle of water, and then he ran out of the crowd to spit some chilies that he had leftover in his mouth. And everyone around there clapped hands for him.
I think, wow! $20 is a lot of money for some people, and especially the poor, but the problem is those guys used it like to hurt a boy, which is not right. Anyway, after the boy finished spitting, many people there asked him “Are you gonna be alright?” And he just answered “Yes! I’m fine, but I just feel a little bit spicy.”
Phnom Penh Blog