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Travel Tips

In such a crazy country, with so much potential to ruin you health and wreck your sanity, it’s important to take everything in Cambodia with a sense of calm and moderation. It’s also wise to limit your time in Phnom Penh, which is undoubtedly the center for the county’s most rampant lawlessness and hedonism. Remember that there is an outside world, and that you can return at any time…

There is a weird sort of feeling of being on an island when you’re in Cambodia. Nearly everything is imported and it’s definitely a small, isolated place. Its culture is starkly different than any of its neighbors, the friendly, liberal Thais and Laotians, and the Chinese-like, efficient and ambitious Vietnamese. Cambodians are something different entirely, and the traveler passing through gets that very obvious feeling, even just after crossing the border.

It’s truly a far-flung place, and quite good for a story or two if you ever make it back home. Law and order being at a minimum, a traveler needs to be able to look after himself. Your bags might get stolen on the bus (this is especially common on the cheap local mini-busses, so you need to be vigilant), and no one will seem to know what happened. Quite probably, they won’t: Cambodians are not known for their diligence.

That being said, Cambodia is not a highly dangerous country, in the sense of Colombia or South Africa. Violent crime is uncommon, and female travelers are rarely assaulted. It’s a conservative society, so women (and men) should respect it by wearing long pants and t-shirts at least, if not a shirt with buttons.

Face is an important part of Cambodian society. It is important never to yell at someone or cause them to be publicly embarrassed. Ignoring or smiling and politely saying, “no” is a better option (in the case of someone aggressively soliciting you). In a work setting, when your employer gives you an idiotic or impossible task, it’s far better to say you’ll do it and then just forget about it. If you stand your ground and argue your employer could lose face. In Cambodia, incompetence and laziness is the norm.

A traveler is pretty much completely free to do as he pleases and stay as long as he wants, as long as he doesn’t make anyone who matters angry. Drugs, sex, guns, and wild times are all readily available, for those inclined to indulge. Tuk-tuk drivers and moto-dops will constantly harass, solicit, and annoy the weary traveler, but fortunately, there are lots of rocks and pieces of trash lying around to throw at them if it gets too bad… Then again, you might want to watch your back afterward…

The countryside is nice, but often ungodly polluted and destitute. Serenely beautiful areas, such as waterfalls and beaches, have been thoroughly contaminated by the Cambodians. The villages are often desperately poor, with barefoot, naked and malnourished children kicking trash in the streets next to open sewage.

Mercifully, Cambodia is a small country, and when you’ve had all that you can handle of this weird place, it’s about 8 hours to any of the borders…

M.J. Lloyd

James Tramplefoot has been, and will continue to be on the road indefinitely, for years and probably decades.