Thursday, June 07, 2007

When in Cambodia

Siem Reap

  • As there are many guest houses in Siem Reap, spend some time browsing through websites for the best places to stay from other backpackers. Get your hands on a lonely planet guidebook which offers a list of accommodation. In addition, most guest houses do offer free airport pick up upon reservation, just remember to inform them your date and time of arrival.
  • Choose a guest house that is located within or around the Old Market, where food, entertainment and shopping is available on foot. In other words, you could also save on transportation too.
  • Do try out the Khmer cuisine such as Amok fish to get a taste of the Khmer culture. Most restaurants do offer Khmer food. This place call Angkor Famous, which is located in Old Market (opposite Cambodian BBQ). The price if affordable, however, they offer mineral water, rice and fruits on the house! And the food is good with friendly owner, waiters and waitresses.
  • If you're on a tight budget, or just worry that your expenses might cost more than what you've brought, order a dish and share it with your traveling companion, as the dishes served are sufficient for 2. On the day before you leave, SPLURGE.
  • This place call Asian Kitchen, located on the same row as Dead Fish Guest House is also recommended. They serve not only Khmer cuisine but also other Asian cuisine.
  • As tuk tuks are easily available, transportation is not a problem, but the main problem is having difficulties turning one down after another. Just say "No" politely with a smile and walk away.
  • Need not worry as most of the tuk tuk drivers can converse well in English, just listen and be patient, and you'll have not much of a problem understanding your driver. Do bring along a mask, sunglasses or kharma (Cambodian checkered scarf) while you're traveling, dust could be your major problem.
  • If your guest house offer drinking water, bring them along for your trip to the Angkor Archaeological Park, bottled water prices are charged higher as it is a tourist destination (2 for USD1). Walk along the Old Market and you might able to find the same bottled water which cost USD1 for 4 bottles.
  • Children can be seen approaching tourists, persuading you to buy anything from postcards to T-shirts, some even beg for money. Whatever it is, DO NOT give money to those begging, by doing this, you are actually encouraging them in this activity. Not to mention that this is not a abnormal sight around Cambodia. If you're really keen on helping, head on to the NGOs directly.
  • Hire a tour guide for a better understanding on the history, architecture, culture and people of the place you're visiting.
  • During the rainy season, bring along a folded umbrella or a rain coat, as you'll never know when will be the next rainfall.

Phnom Penh
  • Surprisingly, Mandarin is quite widely spoken in Phnom Penh as there are more Cambodian Chinese traders around. This scenario was also caused by the Chinese national school which is located in the city. And if the traders from the next shop you stepped into speak Khmer to you (which happens quite often especially based on the colour of your skin) try responding in Mandarin or English, more often than not, they'll respond to you in Mandarin.
  • Compare to Siem Reap, you'll tend to get more confused when it comes to handling money in Phnom Penh, this is because the Cambodian currency, riel is more widely used in trading. (USD1= 4000 riel) The reason as told to us, is that crime rates in the city is high, and carrying the amount of Benjamins might attract some unwanted attention.
  • When in Phnom Penh, do try this omelette with mushrooms, onions, carrots filling, served with half a baguette, costs only USD1.25 or 5000 riel. The shop is located at No.77, St 214. They do have chicken rice too, but it is tasteless.

    p/s: In case you need any contacts for tuk tuk drivers, guesthouses or restaurants, do drop me a msg before your trip.

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