- Don’t be fooled
There are all manner of scams that are
regularly used to pull the wool over foreigner’s eyes (and the dollars from
their wallets), especially at border crossings and entry points to Cambodia,
but also at every bus stop and arrival point in a new town or city. Do your
homework – make sure you’re up to date with what the scams are and how to
circumvent them (i.e. how much things actually cost!) and you won’t fall for
any of the obvious scams.
- Bring an open mind
The problem with Cambodia is that it’s
right next to Thailand and Vietnam – both extraordinarily beautiful countries,
overflowing with scenery that will take your breath away. Cambodia’s beauty is
more subtle, more cultural, and not as flashy. Don’t come in with high
expectations and you won’t be disappointed.
- Make time for ancient history
Cambodia is a country steeped in ancient
history – the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap are as wonderful and
awe-inspi.jpgring as you’ve heard. Although, if you want a personal connection with
them (away from the maddening crowds), either make a plan to get there early in
the morning, late in the afternoon, or simply (as we did) leave the well-beaten
path and go in a direction not pointed out by arrows!
- Eat bread
Baguettes are a way of life in Cambodia.
Eat them fresh with cream cheese, or for breakfast with omelettes or Nutella,
or for lunch with pi.jpgckled vegetables, or for a snack, or really just any time
you feel a bit puckish. Delicious!
- Don’t give to streetchildren
No matter how desperate they look or how
whiny their voices. It’s only encouraging them to stay on the streets – every
tourist who gives to a streetchild is supporting a life away from school and an
orphanage. Rather shop at fair trade or streetchildren support shops, which are
scattered all over the country.
- Understand the past
Cambodia has a violent past, and it’s still
fresh in the country’s memory. While you’re in Phnom Penh, visit the Killing
Fields and the Genocide Museum, but be prepared – you will leave feeling very
depressed. The Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot enforced a regime so violent and
insane that it practically reduced the country to the Stone Age – he destroyed
education, books, commerce, money, trade, learning of all kinds, entertainment,
even clothing (everyone had to wear identical black pyjamas). Understanding
Cambodia’s past will help to make sense of the present.
- Go to the beach
For the lighter, prettier, more fun side of
Cambodia, head to Sihanoukville for some laidback fun in the sun – loads of
bars, restaurants, beach barbecues and snorkeling trips make this the beach
resort of choice for Cambodians and tourists alike.
- Haggle hard
Especially with tuk tuk drivers – the price
they give you at first is by no means the price they are willing to go for. Ask
at your guest house or hotel beforehand so you have an idea how much a trip
should cost or if in doubt, start at half the amount they first give you and
work up from there.
- Have a foot massage
A whole HOUR of reflexology foot massage
(with a little shoulder massage thrown in at the end) for a mere $5 (US).
You’ll feel like you were given a brand new pair of feet. Heavenly!
- Be an adventurous eater
Many Cambodian restaurants will offer
Western dishes as part of their menu, but these are guaranteed to be boring and
poor imitations of what you’d get at home. Be adventurous in your eating and
you’ll be rewarded with Khmer dishes with delicious notes of pepper and lime,
unusual fresh flavours and zesty sauces. Yum.