I can’t pretend I got a good grasp of Cambodia due to the fact that I only spent five days there. But I enjoyed what I did see…
Angkor Wat Archaeological Park- I heartily agree with the consensus whereby if you find yourself in South East Asia you should go see it. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
Prices- I’ve gone through all of Asia remarking at how cheap everything is, but things hit rock bottom in Cambodia. The funny thing about this is as a result Cambodia was probably the most expensive country in the region I visited, as it’s all too tempting to pay the few extra dollars- sure you can get a room for $3 but $10 gets you what is essentially a hotel room in the West with air conditioning, so why not?
Hungarians- For reasons I can’t completely work out, most of the people I hung out with in Cambodia were Hungarian. As in there were eight of them at my guesthouse, a few I ran into at Angkor, and six of us on the bus ride to Bangkok! Kind of an interesting surprise.
New music- If you travel in this part of the world, you will inevitably run into someone selling music and movies for your iPod on the streetcorner. Cambodia takes this a little bit further in that there are some very nice stores set up for this particular practice, and they sell albums at a dollar a pop so I visited one inquiring as to whether they had the new U2 album that had been released two days prior. They did of course, and I spent a happy amount of time getting new tunes for my iPod and movies for my computer. After two months, trust me, this was very exciting.
I’m not going to lie, Cambodia’s recent history and poverty today are not particularly pretty. The country was decimated and destroyed not too long ago and is on the long road to recovery, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see plenty of poverty around you from kids trying to sell you trinkets instead of going to school to musicians missing limbs and playing on the streets. It’s heartbreaking.
I did have an interesting conversation with a guy who worked at my guesthouse though about this, who is going to school at night to study tourism in hopes of being a hotel manager (and said this in the same tone you hear from a guy in the US who tells you he is studying business in hopes of going to Wall Street). He asked me how many beggars I saw compared to other countries in the area and I had to admit, lots of people try to sell you stuff but there is pretty minimal outright begging.
“That’s because we are people who insist on keeping our dignity,” he told me. “The best thing you can do to help us is visit Cambodia, and tell your friends back home about our country so they visit as well.”
I found this comment to be so, well, different from what one usually hears that I am repeating it here. visit Cambodia!