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-inspiring 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!
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 vegetables, or for a snack, or really just any time you feel a bit puckish. Delicious!
Don’t give to street children
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 street child is supporting a life away from school and an orphanage. Rather shop at fair trade or street children 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.
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 flavors and zesty sauces.