Cambodia: First Impression

Well, people make first impression on make up, let me make one for Cambodia whilst the memory is still fresh in my head. The country is a popular destination for people to see the Angkor temples, but interestingly for Indonesians (or at least half of my friend) do not really know or care of the country. The shocks of people’s face when I said ‘We’re going to Cambodia for honeymoon,’ were priceless. Even colleagues who’s been travelling to Cambodia asked me the same questions of why. The answer is as simple as ‘We wanted to see the Angkor Wat,’

First, first impression
In Phnom Penh, the roads here are surprisingly good and has less potholes than Jakarta. Traffic is pretty decent, I only saw a very few number of high-rise building. Clothing shops and barbers and garages are linings on both side of the street. One thing I noticed when I got here first time was: there are way too many shops selling fancy cars, mostly SUVs and 4×4 vehicles. In the land of minimum infrastructure and considerably ‘less-developed’ country than Jakarta, I found these fancy cars disturbing. Turned out, one easy Google search lead me to the answers of my questions:here and here.

nyonya-fancy-cars

Siem Reap, though, as a major tourist destination surprised me on how bad its road and infrastructure is. The tourist pass to enter Angkor for one day is USD 20 per person, I find this pretty expensive and one would think the money should go help the province to achieve a better life. Yet, somehow, one reliable source told me that all the money made by the tourism of Angkor do not go to Cambodia but to another Southeast Asian country, in a way for Cambodia to pay its debt to that country.

The people
One of the best thing about Cambodia beside tuk-tuk are the locals, despite having such a dark past under the Khmer rouge… Cambodians are extremely friendly, sellers and tuk-tuk drivers will quote a fair price and most of them speak good English. I would also say that, despite a few warnings to keep my bags away for being snatched, there are a high number of solo and group female travellers in Cambodia. So, so many female travellers.

The weather
I visited Cambodia during the monsoon time so it would be pretty cloudy in the morning, hot and sticky during midday followed by heavy downpour in the evening. Despite coming from a tropical country, I hate the heat. I found the cooler weather during this time very chillaxing.

The food
To be honest here, I come from the land of spices so I find Khmer food pretty bland at times. Nothing is spicy here, nothing too rich, everything is ‘safe’. Suffice to say, I was dying for rich, super spicy food of Indonesian cuisine. However, beers here are very cheap and the taste is not bad at all.nyonya-cambodia-lager

The shops
There are something about a market in any touristy area. Markets in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, just like markets in Yogyakarta, Bali, and even Hanoi… they are all selling the same stuff! I love buying scarfs and the Khmer krama, but the rest of the products they sell can be found in any other markets in Southeast Asia. Of course I still buy them but sometimes my head went like, ‘There is one big factory in China producing all these and distributed this to Southeast Asian local markets’ I hope this is not true.

The cost
Despite being a ‘less-developed’ country together with its sisters Laos, Myanmar, and Viet Nam in the ‘CLMV’; US Dollars are the most commonly accepted currency here. Sometimes you mix your dollars with Cambodian riel when you don’t have enough dollars on you. At the time of this writing, one US Dollars equals 4,000 riel.

nyonya-kitten-at-temple

The cats
Oh well… this last point is not too important but I love cats. Stray cats here are chubbier than most in Jakarta but they sleep just as much as any cats in the world.

Final verdict
It’s a charming place with super friendly people and cheap, cheap beers. Do you need me to tell you more? 🙂

Much love,

S~

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3 thoughts on “Cambodia: First Impression

  1. Thanks for sharing. I am glad you had a good time there. I love Cambodian people, they are very warm and welcoming. I passed by Siam Riep but didn’t have a chance to visit the Wat (still on the list). I was able to use US dollar to shop in the market. Those days (2004) I was still carrying travelers cheque lol…:D

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