Posted by: Anna | June 27, 2011

Goodbye Cambodia

I can’t say I’m sorry to see you go. Angkor Wat is awesome. We found a decent Mexican restaurant with actually decent margaritas. We ate there twice. We enjoyed our night out at Temple Club – $8 pitcher of mixed drinks with a free tshirt is a good time. That about sums up the high points of Cambodia for us.

There were a lot of things not to like. The food was incredibly mediocre, even bad sometimes. That’s how we ended up with Mexican for a second time. Hey – at least it’s tasty! The border was a pain. I hate being asked for bribes, and I strongly dislike scams that try to take advantage of the fact that I am a tourist and don’t know the ropes. Constantly, at the temples and on the street, people are approaching you for something. Tuk-tuk? Tshirt? Eat at my restaurant? Cold drink? Massage? And on and on and on. It was the hassliest place since Luxor, Egypt. Ugh. It wears on you. It makes you suspicious of every local person, which is a bad way to travel. I felt skeptical of entering into conversation with anyone because it’s only a set up until they ask me to buy something I don’t actually want. Kids surround the tuk-tuk every time we stop. A five year old repeating over and over, “hey lady, buy some bracelets. 10 for $1. (counting them) 1,2,3,etc. 10 for $1. Hey lady, buy some bracelets.” Just repeating, until you walk away or yell, which is considered extremely rude. So annoying and sad.

After a long day of being hassled at temples for cold drinks, tuk-tuks (even though we had one for the whole day, and how would I have gotten there if I didn’t?), scarves, and miscellaneous other crap, Tommy and I decided to visit the spa. I opted for a foot massage (nine hours of wandering up and down temples made that sound very appealing), and he opted for a hot herbal compress massage (discovered that does wonders for his aching back). I settled into my reclining chair and put my feet up.

The masseuse started working, half-heartedly. She rubbed my ankle in the same spot, on and on, while spinning her sob story. “Do you know how much I make? How much did your pedicure cost? (my toes are neatly painted silver right now) How much did it cost you to go to Angkor Wat? I have six children. And so on and so on. I started to get suspicious, and I was already worn down from an entire day of hassling and saying no. She kept building. My son wants to go to school but we can’t afford it.” Finally, I decided I didn’t want to sit there. This is not relaxing, and she was doing a terrible job because all her energy was focused on her story. I stood up, about eight minutes in, and said I was leaving. I put on my shoes and went to the massage room to tell Tommy I was leaving. On the one hand, compassion makes me feel sorry for her. But on the other hand, I would have tipped her well if she had done a good job. She didn’t give me the chance and instead tried to manipulate me into giving her money. I don’t know why I was so annoyed; perhaps it was just the last straw. For the first time in my life, I walked out of a spa treatment.

And that was really the problem with Cambodia. It is incredibly poor. Is it poorer than India, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Laos? I don’t know. It certainly manifested in a much less pleasant way for me, as a visitor. That is too bad, because I left thinking that I could not recommend Cambodia as a destination, even with Angkor Wat. There’s really only one other country we have been to on our trip that I would say that about – Mozambique. As a counter point, we only spent three days, in the most touristy area. If we had only visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, we would have left with a bad impression of India. Maybe the rest of Cambodia is better. I may never know; there are so many other wonderful places I want to go for the the first time or revisit to see what I missed. I cannot imagine I’ll ever go back to Cambodia.

To end on a positive note, we did try bugs for the first time on our trip. A couple of quick pictures for you to salivate over.

Grasshoppers for sale on the street. We had to stop and look (and take a picture).

Tommy eating his first fried grasshopper. It tasted like chili and lemongrass, very crunchy. The girls selling them thought we were really funny, and they gave us each a free one to try. Tommy pressured me into trying one too, against my better judgement. After we tried grasshoppers, they asked us if we had ever had peanuts. I think we disappointed them when we told them we had peanuts in America.

Haiku for Cambodia

Angkor Wat sunrise

Margaritas save the day.

Buy something from me!

–Anna

Bribe me! Buy from me!

Demanding for tourists, but

picturesque temples.

-Tommy

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Responses

  1. Great post. Also, I love the fact that Tommy is always wearing the same Longhorns t-shirt in every photo. It proves that you are true, legit round-the-world backpackers!

  2. Wjhat would your trip be without bugs? So glad you got to try them. Perfect food for a country that “bugged” you. Ha, ha.


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