It’s not Sra (liquor), it’s Mera (the slightly less alcoholic version). Both are forbidden to precept holders. But in the dry season, what else are you going to do?
The always excellent Phnomenon has just blogged a short piece about Palm Sap. It is indeed hard to get good palm sap (or palm wine, which is the same thing after a few hours) in the city – it doesn’t take long for the wine to turn into vinegar. [link]
I remember sitting in a house in Kompong Thom province in the dry season, drinking bowl after bowl of the stuff, just after a breakfast of rice porridge. This was apparently a normal routine in the household (for the men), though I think that they were enjoying testing me to see how much the enormous white guy could put away compared to their own seasoned selves.
There’s a nationalist myth that the Sugar Palm, which provides so much to the Khmer, cannot exist outside of lands controlled by the Khmer. While obviously a bit of a myth, it’s been expanded to a very concrete statement that you will hear quite commonly when the Sugar Palm comes up in conversation. The claim is that the minute you cross the border into Vietnam, you will cease seeing Sugar Palms. And although not strictly true, it has to be admitted that a cursory observation from roadside (into HCMC) did not turn up many sugar palms at all.