Trip To Cambodia
1. Introduction and Preparations:
I am a Canadian currently taking an extended holiday in South East Asia. I spend the majority of my time in Bangkok, but have been taking short trips to other parts of Thailand and neighbouring countries. In July 2002, I made a 2 week trip to Cambodia, my first ever trip to the country and the subject of this report. I will discuss some practical details of travel to Cambodia, as well as some general observations and opinions.
I am the kind of person who likes to do a fair bit of research before going on a trip. Since Cambodia is changing so quickly, this means using the Internet, since printed guide books on Cambodia get out of date very soon. I think the best information can be found at Gordon Sharpless’ website on Cambodia – I would strongly recommend that anyone planning a trip to the country surf over to www.talesofasia.com.
I had to decide on transportation to Cambodia. My plan was to visit Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (to visit the Angkor temples). There are a couple of overland options – 1) The Northern route through Thailand to Aranyaprathet/Poipet, then on to Siem Reap. 2) The Southern route to Trat, Ko Kong, Sinahokville and on to Phnom Penh. Well, I am sure there is a lot of adventure in overland travel, but I wimped out and choose to fly; I am not really a big fan of long overland trips. Everyone is different on this score – I am sure a lot of people would enjoy the overland choice – again, check out Gordon Sharpless’ site detailed and up-to-date instructions on these overland routes.
I shopped around some travel agencies in Bangkok for a cheap air ticket to Phnom Penh. The best price I got was 7,700 Baht return via Bangkok Airways. You might get cheaper flying a Cambodian airline if there is one flying the route – there was one operating before, but I heard that it went bankrupt. I bought the ticket at J.P. Travel, just south of the Nana Hotel. It is a good idea to contact a few travel agents not only to get a lower price, but also just to get accurate travel information. A couple of agencies gave me information that I later found out was inaccurate.
2. Flight to Phnom Penh:
The flight to Phnom Penh was short, about 1 hour. I really enjoyed the service on Bangkok Airways; the flight attendants were pretty and very polite (as is usual for Asian airlines). There was even a meal service – there no way you would get this on a 1 hour flight in North America!
The Phnom Penh international airport is small but efficiently run – I think it is managed by a French company. I had not applied for a Cambo visa in Bangkok so I needed to get one in the airport. This procedure was a bit disorganized, but I had filled out all the forms in the departure lounge in Bangkok and had my money and photo ready as I left the aircraft, so I was among the first to be served. The other formalities only took 5 or 10 minutes.
As I exited the airport, there was a taxi stand. They fetched a car for me fairly quickly – the priced is fixed at $7.00 USD – you pay the driver after you have arrived. As you may have read elsewhere, USD are pretty much used for any purchase over $1 USD in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. You should bring some small USD banknotes with you.
Riding the taxi through Phnom Penh, I got my first impression of the country. Having stayed in Bangkok for 2 months, I noticed that traffic moves on the right, which was a pleasant change for me. Also, in contrast to Bangkok, all vehicles were moving rather slowly, perhaps 40 to 50 kph.
My taxi driver spoke fairly decent English, so he was the first Cambodia I made contact with. He was in his mid twenties and very curious about me, what I was doing in Asia, what I thought of his country, etc. He also recommended that I go to a different hotel than the one I had originally chosen. He applied a moderate amount of sales pressure in this regard, but I held firm and told him my decision was final. He was friendly about this and accepted. I was later to find out that this was a typical experience for hired transport in Cambodia.
3. Hotel Problems:
I checked in at the Asia Hotel (it is also known by its French name – Hotel D’Asie) on Monivong Road, and stayed there for 3 nights. Afterwards, I decided to move to another hotel. In order to be fair, I will list the good and bad points of the Asia Hotel below:
– It has an excellent location – close to the Central Market, beside a supermarket with Western luxuries, on the main commercial road (Mondivong)
– The staff were friendly and could speak reasonable English
– The price was a fair value for the quality of the room – $15 USD for a room with A/C, fridge, cable TV, en suite bathroom, free breakfast.
– The power was cut to my room twice a day – not a blackout of the hotel, just my room. I had to go to reception each time to get power restored.
– The restaurant screwed up my order every single time I ate there. This was not a language problem – I talk very slowly to staff, and indicate on the menu exactly what I want. Moreover, a couple of the meat dishes I ordered were awful – mostly fat, gristle and bone – very little meat.
– They lost my room key – took 1/2 an hour to hunt it down.
– They sent my laundry to the wrong room – took 1/2 a day to find and return it to me.
– There were several motorcycle taxi drivers (motodops) who lurked just outside the hotel door. On the first day I was there, I was in a friendly mood so I chatted with them, told them about myself and why I was in Cambodia, etc. This was a mistake – a couple of them were encouraged to the extent that when I went out for walk, they would stalk me for half an hour or so, constantly offering to take me to various places around the city. They were never hostile, but extremely aggressive. When I returned to the hotel, it seems like they would wait outside, trying to guess my travel schedule so they could be there to jump on me when I walked outside.
The last straw was when one of the motodops walked into the hotel restaurant when I was having breakfast. He started up with his sales pitch, plainly obvious and in full view of the hotel and restaurant staff. The way I see it, a hotel should prevent this from occurring, or at the very least toss the offending party out if they somehow sneak in.
I finished my breakfast, packed my bags and checked out. I know that Cambodia is recovering from a difficult period in her history, and trained staff are in short supply: I was willing to show considerable tolerance for less than perfect service. But the sheer number of screw-ups they made had me wondering what would happen next – would they make a mistake that would really mess up my trip? I felt bad about leaving because they were friendly and all, but they had exhausted my store of goodwill.
I checked in at the Hawaii Hotel, on street 130, East of the Central Market. It was a fairly decent place to stay; friendly and much more professionally run. It’s a bit old and run down, but the staff keep the place clean.
4. Martini’s, Sharkeys and K11 (Svay Pak)
O.K., I am not a degenerate sex fiend, but I am not a choirboy either. I have read so much about the infamous fleshpots of Phnom Penh that I had to see it first-hand. Also, I wanted to find out how it stacked up against what Bangkok has to offer.
My first evening in Phnom Penh, I paid a visit to Martini’s. It is quite a distance from the city center so you certainly need to hire a moto (motorcycle taxi) to take you. In the interests of security, it is recommend that you get a moto that is known by your hotel, and have him wait for you at Martini’s take you back.
I arrived at Martini’s about 8:00 pm. This was too early, things only get going around 9:00. However, there were a few Saigon Girls (Vietnamese prostitutes) there, and I got a fairly heavy sales pitch from them. I was able to fend them off with a bit of effort, have a beer and check out the place as it started to fill up. There are a large number of freelancers working the place, and an unescorted farang male will get a fair amount of attention from them. During the evening, an older Viet lady (mamasan?), started talking to me and said that she could get me a ‘young’ girl. How young? She asked me how young I like them? I had read about child prostitution in Cambodia, but this was my first exposure to it.
I’ll just say at this point that I am not at all interested in sex with minors, I think child prostitution should be illegal and these laws should be strictly enforced. Obviously they are not in Cambodia, and I hope the people of the country feel deeply ashamed about this.
Martini’s is worth a visit, but one visit is enough for me. It is too much of a sleezy meat-market for my taste.
The next evening, I paid my first visit to Sharkys. This bar is much more to my liking; Stickman provided a good description of it in his Cambodia report, and I concur with most of what he said – I, too, wish this bar were in Bangkok. The beer is cold and reasonably priced, the music is 70s Rock and Roll, the food is good, and it is simply a fun place to talk with the staff or customers, or simply watch humanity interact.
I ended up visiting Sharkys several times, and got to know a few of the staff pretty well. They can speak OK English – a bit better than the average Thai bar girl. In fact, they were very interested in hearing about the farang bar scene in Bangkok, especially the prices charged for sanuk. The staff are all Kymers (ethnic Cambodians), whereas the freelancers are mostly Saigon Girls. The Kymer’s favorite topic of discussion with me was what greedy, money-grubbing sluts the Saigon Girls all were. I delicately raised the issue with them about whether the staff is available for sanuk. At it turns out, you can pay a $10 barfine to take out a waitress. I never took them up on their offer, but I am pretty sure some of them were available – they were just too shy to proposition me directly about it. There is a line in Shakespeare’s play “MacBeth” where “Methings the lady doeth protest too much”. Some of the Kymer girls would tell me over and over again how they were not as ‘easy’ as the Saigon Girls – I think they were implying that they were available, but perhaps I had to sink more time and money to enjoy their favors.
Svay Pak (or K11) is a small village about a 30 minute moto trip North of Phnom Penh. The trip there and back is itself quite interesting – you get out of the big city and see a slice of suburban and rural life Cambodia. I think you can take a bus there, but I choose a moto – pay about $1 USD each way.
Svay Pak is really just a unpaved street running off the main road. After a rainfall, it gets quite muddy; after it dries, it is very dusty. There are brothels lining both sides of the street – whenever a potential customer walks by, all the girls come out and try to entice him in. It’s actually very entertaining just to sit down for awhile and watch this. There is a restaurant on the North side of the street, opposite brothel #15, which has good vantage point of the street.
Unfortunately, there is child prostitution in Svay Pak too. While I was drinking a beer in the restaurant mentioned above, an elderly Vietnamese lady (she runs the restaurant or lives behind it), said she could fix me up with a girl. I waved my hand along the street and told here there was plenty on open display for me to choose from. She replied that she could get me a really young girl. I was curious, so asked her: how young? She asked me how young I like them – 10? 12? 14? What surprised me was that there was no attempt to be subtle or secretive on her part – she talked in a regular tone of voice, easily in earshot of several other people. Her demeanour was as if she were touting a legitimate product or service.
Continuing the discussion of minors in immoral activities; I not only was disturbed by casual acceptance of child prostitution, but also by the juvenile-pimps on the street. I took a stroll up and down the street a couple of time, and was followed by a group of boys aged 10 to 12. They constantly pestered me to visit a particular brother, or offered to arrange for whatever sexual service I preferred. My God, pimping at that age! What are they going to be when they grow up?
5. Tuol Sleng Prison Museum
The Kymer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975 and ran the country for 4 years. Whatever their intentions may have been, these bastards committed atrocities that are comparable to the Nazi party before and during World War II. In order to understand the depths of their evil, I strongly recommend you take a few hours to visit Toul Sleng Prison Museum in Phnom Penh.
This museum was formerly a secondary school. When the Kymer Rouge took over, they converted it to a detention centre to hold, torture and dispose of political prisoners. An estimated 10,000 victims were ‘processed’ here.
The curators of the museum today do not in any way sugar coat what happened here. If you visit this place, brace yourself for a true chamber of horrors. You can see all the cells, with barely enough room for a person to lie down in. There are leg irons in which the victims were restrained most of the time. Various devices of torture are also shown, along with painting that illustrate exactly how they were used.
In my opinion, the most memorable part of this trip here were photographs on the walls. The Kymer Rouge was very methodical in their grisly business (the similarities with the Nazis continue). All prisoners were photographed and documented thoroughly. As you walk through the rooms, you can view the thousands of faces of the victims, staring at you from the pictures.
It was quite a moving experience. I spend about 2 hours in the museum. In that time, I walked by several dozen tourists, mostly other farangs. We took pictures and examined the displays, but I did not hear a word spoken, nor did I feel like saying anything to anyone while I was there.
Well, I don’t know what else to say about this place except to please visit it if you are in Phnom Penh so that you may understand the evil the can sometimes happens in human society when the wrong sort of people manage to seize power. Even if you are visiting Cambodia strictly to get acquainted with the ladies, buy all means give the other cultural attractions a pass, but please take an afternoon to see this museum.
6. General Impressions of Phnom Penh
Cambodia is obviously one of the poorest countries in South East Asia, but in spite of this, Phnom Penh has most of the trappings of modern society. From what I have read, this is in large part due to heavy foreign aid contributions. But you only need to take a short trip outside the city to see how far Cambodia has to go to get back on her feet.
The people of Cambodia are friendly and most are fairly genuine. I didn’t feel like I needed to be on my guard all the time like when I am in the touristy areas of Thailand. However, as a foreigner, you are to a certain extend targeted as someone to extract money from – usually by being overcharged for something, or harassed by beggars. In areas frequented by tourists, you will find English-speaking Cambodians lying in wait for you to tout various products and services. In fact, just by walking on the street anywhere, you will frequently get motodops pulling up beside you to offer you a ride.
Speaking of traffic, it first seemed a bit chaotic to me, but I very quickly learned the flow, and I didn’t find it all so bad. As I mentioned earlier, vehicles move more slowly than in more developed countries so that alone makes it quite a bit safer. I was surprised to find traffic lights at the major intersections, and even more surprised to find drivers (more or less) obeying them, even when the cops weren’t looking! I predict that as the country becomes more developed, things will go downhill as more cars crowd the road and drivers become less patient.
I was not at all surprised to find pirated CDs in Cambodia – I have seen this in several other Asian countries. But I was surprised to see pirated books openly for sale – The last time I saw this was over 10 years ago in China, and even there they were sold somewhat discretely. Most of the books were educational in nature – English language books, basics of accounting, business, tourism business, etc. There were also a lot of Lonely Planet guidebooks for Cambodia and other South-East Asian countries, guides to Angkor Wat, and books about this history and culture of Cambodia. They would usually sell for 2 or 3 US dollars.
You know, in these politically correct times, colonizing nations have gotten a bad rap for exploiting the less developed world, exercising political and cultural hegemony, yada, yada, yada. But I have to tip my hat to the French; in Phnom Penh, they designed and built a beautiful and logically laid out city. I like to go for long walks to get the feel for a city, and walking along the wide, tree-lined streets of the city was truly a pleasure. Armed with a map, I had no trouble finding my way around, and could even give directions to the motodops when they gave me a ride. In addition, the French seem to have got the locals hooked on good quality coffee, freshly baked bread, and cheese and pate to spread on same. Food wise, Phnom Penh is a very farang-friendly place to visit.
OK, I guess at this point I should make my beer report. For the sake of diplomacy, I always try to been seen by the locals drinking their locally made beer, and remaking how great it is (sometimes a white lie, but hey, I’m in Asia, where civilized people understand about saving face). The main local brew is Angkor Beer, and it’s OK to drink and quite cheap. You can get it in draft in some bars. There are some imported brands – Tiger, Heiniken, a few others. But in Cambodia, Beer Lao rules! Its cheaper than the other imports, and I ended up drinking it most of the time. I think every Cambodia report I have read on the Internet says this beer is number one. I don’t know why I can’t get Beer Lao in Thailand – perhaps the Thai brewers paying heavy bribes to keep it out?
7. Trip to Siem Reap
I am a person who usually takes some interest in the history of a country I am visiting. I had read about the history of Cambodia, and especially the Angkor Empire of 1,000 years ago. This got me pretty pumped up to see the world-famous Angkor Temples.
I choose to take a boat from PP to Siem Reap (this may only be an option during the rainy season, when the Tonle Sap river is deep enough). I bought a ticket for the “Rambo Express” fast boat service – $25 USD. The boat left at 7:00 AM and was scheduled to take 4 to 5 hours, but in fact it took 6; perhaps the river is still relatively low, slowing down the boat.
The boat was fairly cramped inside. There were seats for 90 people, but I think they double-booked a fair bit because many people choose to sit on the roof. I would recommend doing this in order to watch the countryside go by, and also for safety – if the boat swamped, you would almost certainly drown if you were inside. The ferry boat crew did not impress me with their seamanship.
The boat service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is something of a scam. I understand that there is a cartel of companies running this service, and they fix the price at about $25 USD for foreigners. If there was free competition, I am sure it would be more like $5 to $10 for the level of service they provide. Once the road between PP and Siem Reap is in better condition, I think the boat price will come down. Nevertheless, I would recommend taking the boat at least once just for the experience.
The boat arrived at Phnom Krom in the early afternoon (this is the port nearest Siem Reap). We were towed for about 1/2 an hour through the Vietnamese floating village – another reason to sit on the roof of the boat since it is a very interesting scene. There was no dock or jetty at the end of the trip for our boat to get moored to – we were simply tied to another boat. We had to collect our luggage, hop from one boat to another, then to a floating house, and finally walk across a plank onto shore.
There must have been 100 to 200 touts waiting for us, and all hell broke loose when we arrived. You really needed to have nimble legs and stay focused to get through all of them. If I was the police or port authority, I would set up a barrier to keep them back, but Cambodia is not at that stage of development yet. Anyway, the good news is you really don’t need to arrange for a hotel in Siem Reap. I just memorized the names of a few likely hotels in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and looked for a tout holding a sign for one of these places. I found one immediately and he guided me through the chaos to his motorcycle.
It was about a 30 minute ride from the boat to Siem Reap. My driver, Dimont, was a local Kymer, only 18 years old, but spoke decent English. He had spend all his life in the Siem Reap area and asked me many questions about Phnom Penh (I am usually was asked to describe my own country, so this was a change). We went to the hotel that he was associated with (Smiley’s Guesthouse), but it was full. Fortunately there were a dozen guesthouses nearby, so we were able to find an empty room very quickly.
8. Momma’s Guesthouse
I will talk briefly about the guesthouse where I stayed in Siem Reap, “Momma’s Guesthouse”. I usually stay in tourist class hotels, so this is my first experience for a guesthouse. The price is certainly right – $12 USD for a decent room – A/C, en suite bathroom, a bit small but very clean. However, what I liked most about this guesthouse was the very friendly family who ran it. I spent a lot of time talking with the owners about all sorts of topics related to Cambodia – politics, religion, economy, etc. Older Cambodians have a lot of stories about the sheer horror they experienced during the Kymer Rouge regime, Vietnamese occupation, and troubled times afterwards. It is a miracle to me that they can keep a smile on their face and get on with their lives.
There was a decent outdoor restaurant at the guesthouse, and I ended up eating there most of the time. The menu had a good mix of Kymer and Western food, and it sure was a lot cheaper than the restaurants set up along the main road. If you are going to Siem Reap on a budget, you should consider eating at the guesthouse rather than some of the restaurants you find in the tourist ghettos.
Another interesting aspect of guesthouse-style hotels are the other travellers you meet there. You mostly get a young backpacker crowd. I recall one evening I was relaxing in the restaurant, sipping a Beer Lao and reading a book. At the next table there was a large group of backpackers, a mixed group of British and French judging by the languages and accents. However, there was one chap who spoke English with a North American accent. He was a bit of a know-it-all, the kind of person who had visited a lot of places and will talk for hours on end about his travel experiences (among other things, I heard him discuss dropping acid in Spain and toking weed in Holland). This guy could also speak pretty decent French. He did most of the talking, rapidly switching back and fourth between English and French. I think he may have been trying to pick up a French girl in the group, or maybe a British girl, or maybe both at the same time?
9. The Angkor Temples
I won’t say too much about the Angkor Temples themselves. There are lots of books and websites that talk about the architecture, history of the Kymer empires, etc. But visiting this historical site was definitely the highlight of my trip to Cambodia, perhaps the most amazing thing I have seen in all Asia – it even tops the Emperor’s Palace (Forbidden City) in Beijing and the Great Wall nearby. It is the number of buildings and the size of them that really take your breath away. I bought a 3 day pass ($40 USD), and spend every day, 11 or 12 hours a day visiting the sites and still did not see everything I wanted to see.
As I said, there are guides books that describe what Angkor is all about. I recommend you get one and read up on it, as well as the history of the Kymer Empire. It will make the visits to the temples more meaningful. You will likely meet some Kymers in the major temples who speak English. I enjoyed talking with them about the history of the Angkor Empire. In fact, you may get a history lesson from them that is rather different from what you would read in a book. In the last few hundred years, Thailand and Vietnam have taken various chunks of land out of Cambodia. The Kymers are acutely aware of their great empire 1,000 years ago, and are deeply resentful about how it has been whittled down to size by her now more powerful neighbours. In fact, some Kymers believe that within 50 years, their country will be swallowed up and cease to exist as a sovereign nation. Well, yes it could happen – many great empires in world history have disappeared thus, but it is not inevitable. I was diplomatic enough to refrain from pointing out that all mayhem the Kymers have inflicted on each other in the last few decades has not improved their odds of surviving as a country.
I was impressed by the international flavour of the Angkor site. I saw tourists from all over the world there, and heard many different languages being spoken. The Japanese are there in large numbers – perhaps because Japan is relatively close to Cambodia? Aside from tourism, there is an international effort to restore many of the temples – France and Japan are making major contributions in this regard. I plan to return to Angkor in 5 or 10 years to see how well they have tidied things up.
As the above implies, many of the sites at Angkor are in ruins. In fact, a couple of the sites I visited have been left un-restored on purpose to show the raw power of nature and time. I saw huge trees growing right through walls and other structures, knocking over huge stone blocks like they were a child’s toys. If you will pardon me for getting philosophical, it was an object lesson in how the greatest achievements of human civilization all come to naught in the end. God, Mother Nature, The Supreme Deity, whatever you believe in, will have the final say.
There are plenty of hawkers and touts at each of the temple sites, selling all manner of souvenirs, food and drinks and transportation services. They are a bit annoying but most are not overly aggressive. You may get a few young males actually impeding your path, requiring a bit of a shove or an expletive to discourage them. Actually, I was grateful for the opportunity to buy drinks on the site because I must have been sweating off a litre of water per hour just walking around and climbing over everything. You have the choice of buying your souvenirs at the Angkor site, in Siem Reap or even in Phnom Penh.
10. Impressions of Siem Reap
I didn’t spend much time in Siem Reap; most of the time I was walking around the Angkor temples. During my last evening in the city, I did take a few hours to walk around the downtown area, and was pretty much able to see all of it in that space of time. Siem Reap very much has the feel of a boom-town, fuelled by all the money pouring in from tourism. I expect in a few years I won’t recognize the place. It is arguably more developed than Phnom Penh, and is already more expensive. There is not much I thought worth visiting; some hotels, some souvenir shops, restaurants, a few bars. There are plenty of motodops lurking around who will offer you are ride; if you are a foreign male, they will want to take you to a ‘sexy massage’ place – so, there is indeed sanuk available in Siem Reap.
11. Going Back Home
I choose to fly from Siem Reap back to Phnom Penh rather then take the boat back – I had already done the boat ride and didn’t look forward to it again. My hotel booked a ticket for me with Royal Phnom Penh Airlines; $55 USD + $5 USD domestic departure tax. A bit more than double the cost of the boat ride, but a whole lot more comfortable. The Siem Reap airport is very modern and efficient. If you are a total wimp and can’t handle long overland trips through developing countries (I’m a bit like this), flying to and from Siem Reap is the way to go.
The aircraft I flew was twin-engine propeller aircraft, model Y7-100C, about 50 seats. I think it is of Chinese manufacture. I have always flown in jets before, so this was my first time in a propeller-driven passenger plane. It’s a bit more noisy than a jet, and seems to vibrate a lot more, but it is of little consequence for a one-hour ride. I think these planes fly lower then the jets. The skies were clear during the flight, and I had a good view of the Cambodian countryside and the Tonle Sap river below me.
When I arrived in Phnom Penh, I spent a couple of days loafing around the city. I did take the time to see the National Museum. This is a good compliment to a visit to the Angkor Temples. Many of the statues at Angkor have “walked away” (apparently Bangkok is a major centre for stolen Angkor-era art). Hence, the most valuable statues are kept in this museum for safekeeping. Some of them are on display, and they are more meaningful to look at after visiting Angkor itself.
I had booked a round-trip ticket BKK-PP via Bangkok Airways. Originally I had planned to be in Cambodia a full two weeks, but this was an overestimation and I wanted to return a couple of days early. I went to the Bangkok Airways office in Phnom Penh and they were able to change the booking with a day’s notice, no problems nor any extra changes. The flights were not anywhere near full in either direction – something to keep in mind if you are not sure how long you want to stay. I could have, for example, rebooked a later flight back to Bangkok and made a side trip to Sihanoukville.
12. Final Impressions:
As I mentioned, Cambodia is quite a poor country, but is a relatively easy place for an English-speaking Westerner to visit. I am certain that it will change a great deal in the next 5 to 10 years. I saw the same thing happen in China from 1990 to 2000. If you are interested in seeing a place “with a few rough edges to it”, go see Cambodia now before it develops any further. Please don’t get me wrong; I truly hope that the Cambodian people have put their troubled past behind them, and can soon enjoy freedom, stability and material luxury in their lives.
This is not a country where I would want to stay for a long time. Here in Bangkok, I get enough of an exotic foreign experience, but can still enjoy the luxuries and conveniences I am used to. Of course, some Westerners do very much take to Cambodia; I am not saying these people are the misfits of society, but they are certainly are different. I think Cambodia would appeal to people who chafe at an over-regulated society, people who like uncertainty and perhaps a touch of danger in their lives, or people who are not wealthy but still like to visit prostitutes often.
It is natural for me to think that Cambodia will be like Thailand in 10 to 20 years. I believe this is true in terms of economic development, but I think, or perhaps even hope a little, that Cambodia will not turn into another Thailand or Vietnam in terms of society. I don’t mean this as a criticism of Cambodia’s neighbours, just the Kymers are not Thais or Viets, their history and culture is different, and diversity is what makes our world so interesting. Perhaps the Angkor temples are the key to this – a symbol that Kymers can look to to remind themselves of their heritage as they rebuild their country.
Superb, top notch information.