Happy Thursday friends! Hope your week is going well. As I write this I am on a very bumpy 9-hour bus ride to Bangkok. With Cambodia in the rear view mirror, I thought I’d reflect a little on the country and what I thought of it overall.
Originally, Tom and I planned to spend very little time in Cambodia. We were going to cross the border to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and then head back into Thailand but we changed our itinerary and ended up spending just over two weeks in the country and we are so happy we did. Cambodia has so much more to offer than Angkor Wat and honestly, if you’re spending time in South East Asia, just doing the temples would be a disservice to the country. But like all countries, there are some good and some bad.
Never before did I picture Cambodia as being a beach destination, but it absolutely is. The beaches are unbelievably beautiful and what I love most is that the islands are still largely undeveloped. There are no giant hotel resorts or cruise terminals. You get a chance to experience a true paradise without all the commercialism.
As we taxied from one island to another, I was struck by the amount of garbage floating in the water. And it’s not from the tourists. We witnessed firsthand our boat driver throwing cans into the ocean and saw the aftermath of the local’s Khmer New Year Beach party where all the garbage was left littered across the beach. It’s unfortunate and unfathomable to me that they don’t respect nature and the beautiful space they have. I can only hope they learn a lesson before it destroys their beautiful land.
If you love curry, you would love Cambodia. They certainly know how to make delicious curry dishes and a great variety of them too. And the fruit, I’ve went on and on about the fruit and fruit shakes on my Instagram, but seriously, I’m going to miss the mango when I return home the most.
The food is also very cheap, if you stick to Khmer food. If you want Western food, it can be quite pricey.
Khmer food doesn’t have a lot of variation. The options are curry, fried noodles (which are the packaged ramen noodles with the powdered sauce pack), fried rice and that’s about it. I’m at the point where I just cannot eat the same food anymore. I need some variety in my diet.
The other bad part – sanitation standards. Sanitation standards, refrigeration temperatures, etc. are very lax in Cambodia. That means stomach sickness is almost inevitable. Tom and I have been on and off sick for over a week. Even when we try to avoid high-risk items it seems we just don’t feel right. Hoping that will change soon!
The people of Cambodia are very friendly. They’re always willing to help out and English is commonly spoken which makes travelling throughout the country very easy.
Sellers of goods, food, tuk tuks, etc. will ask you to buy but when you say no, they are respectful of that and do not hassle. Nothing gets me angrier or less likely to buy something than being hassled, so I appreciate their kind demeanor.
There is unfortunately still a lot of exploitation of children. There are child beggars or women with their babies on the street begging for money. From Tom’s visit 7 years ago, it seems to be improving but it still occurs.
While the people are friendly and willing to help, don’t expect world class service anywhere. A job is usually just a job and there isn’t a lot of going above and beyond to improve an experience.
Cambodia is host to one of the most incredible historic sites in the world, Angkor Wat, but it’s beauty extends far beyond it. There are beautiful temples, palaces, and natural wonders to see throughout the country. Plus since the majority of tourists only enter Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat and don’t stick around for the rest of the country, you can still feel like you’re off the beaten path and have a place to yourself as you travel through the country.
Cambodia is a country with a brutal and sad history, between bombings from the Vietnam war and genocide by the Khmer Rouge, not all sights will be cheery to visit. However, I think it’s equally important to visit places like the killing fields where you might be uncomfortable and leave heavy hearted but the lessons of the past are necessary to protect the future.
Is Cambodia on your list of places to travel?
Linking up with Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud Thursday