Watch Out for the Supposed Tour Guide at Takeo
When I was at Angkor Wat at the Takeo Temple, I was approached by a young gentleman who wore a uniform that appeared to be like a national park ranger uniform for Angkor. He takes you all around the temple without your asking and explains to you a lot of great details about the temple. I assumed that this wasn't out of the goodness of his heart and in the back of my mind I knew I would give him a tip for his services afterwards because I did learn a fair amount of the temple that I wouldn't have known otherwise. However when my husband and I went to tip him $5 US dollars which is quite a large amount of money to the Cambodian people we were met with "That's all I get" and a story about how he feeds ten children back home while trying to attend college at the same time. And he would not accept that was all the cash that we had on us and proceeded to harass us. Thank god for big bald husbands. Anyway in general the Cambodian people were some of the nicest people I have ever met in this wonderful world with smiles that light up the room, but this one young man put a damper on such a wonderful experience.
Floating village - an overpriced attraction
Tourists are advised to visit the floating village near Siem Reap. It is interesting to visit it - for 15-20 min. However, the only option is to rent a boat for 1-1.5 hours at USD 15 per person. This price seems not to be adequate to what you actually see there. In general you are supposed to move around the village for 20-30 min, and spend 30-40 min in floating restaurant in the middle of the village. If you won't do it, there's simply no point to stay in boat for 1 hour as there's not so much things to see.
Unique Suggestions: Don't buy a boat ticket, wait for your mates in car. But be aware that you will spend this time in place where freshly-caught fish is processed, so the smell is fantastic. Maybe you would prefer to go to boat... :-)
Fun Alternatives: Ask your driver to get you to villages around Siem Reap, especially to village markets. It's really fascinating to see the real life of people out there, especially in rural area. But be prepared to see that it is not a tourist attraction, and numerous people (and most sadly children) with legs lost because of landmines just confirm it.
- Adventure Travel
At Angkor Wat I was approached by man dressed up as monk offering to guide me. Initially he said he was a monk working in the area. He seemed a little bit unusual to me and I got suspicious when he couldn`t answer questions about the ruins.
Unique Suggestions: All up I spent about five minutes with this man. In the end he admitted he wasn`t a monk and was trying to earn a few extra dollars. We just had a chat about Siem Reap. I gave him a drink and a couple of dollars and off I went.....
A Penny for your Prayer
Wherever you go at Angkor Wat, you won`t be far away from someone who wants to separate you from your money. If you go in expecting that, it`ll be a lot less frustrating.
This lady was offering blessings for a small contribution. There were many scenes like this at the exit of different areas of the ruins. Sometimes they approach by placing something in your hand, at which point it is harder to refuse.
Unique Suggestions: Just take it in your stride and consider it part of the experience.
- Religious Travel
"Tour guides" at the temples
If you are traveling on a budget, avoid the child tour guides at the temples. Each temple has several children who will follow you around and tell you about the temple even if you don't even acknowledge that the kids are there. As you are leaving the temple, they always ask for money, usually US$2 or 3 (this might not sound like a lot until you realize it's 1/2 a nights lodging or an entire meal--for them more than a day's pay!)!!! After one or two of these encounters, I began sitting down as soon as a kid came up to me. Eventually he would get bored and pester the next tourist that came along.
Fun Alternatives: Be polite, but forceful and tell them no!
Shopping at the temples
The children who sell souvenirs and refreshments at the temples love tourists because we have fat wallets! The best thing to do is not buy from them... you can purchase many of the same souvenirs in town for 1/4 of the price. It will be very hot during you trip so bring water from Siem Reap. If you run out of water, at least talk them down to a reasonable amount! They may ask US$1 or 2 for a bottle of water you can buy in town for 12 cents US!!!! I was almost always able to bring their price down to US$0.25 or 0.33.
Much has been said of the young drink hawkers swarming around thirsty tourists. A child selling soft drinks is one thing, but this nine-year-old was selling beer! Although I found this quite amusing at the time, it is a little disturbing....
Unique Suggestions: One thing to make note of, don`t make any PROMISES to the young vendors. Before entering one section of the ruins, I told one persistent young boy that I`d buy a drink when I came out. Well, two hours later he was at the exit and observed me buy a drink from a different stall. That was a big drama, boy!
Up until that point I thought the lad spoke English fairly well, but this was where he displayed his rich vocabulary of `other` words.
Books are cheap but check first!!
Beware of those books that the local kids are trying to sell to you outside temples area. I bought a guide book with 5 USD, the cover and pages are of real good quality, it's worth the money. But, the moment I open it when reached back in hotel, it was in French!! The next day I bought the same book again in English from another kid, afterall it's still worth buying, for the quality and information you get.
Some kid also sell "replica" of "lonely planet" at around 5USD, well, again... check!! it's all in photocopy pages..
- Historical Travel
A Lesson About Humility
At Angkor you will come across these little girls and boys who try to sell you anything from books about Pol Pot and the Killing Fields to buddhist jewerly to t-shirts. These girls are very persistent and reminded me a lot of the Black Hmong girls who hocked their wares in Sapa, Vietnam. Try not to buy from them because they should be in school instead of their families making them go to the temples to make money for the family. Our taxi driver told us that these little kids never end up going to school. But if you do decide to buy their wares, don't get too carried away with the bargaining. Remember after all they are children and they are poor. My husband learned a good lesson in humility when this young 16 year old girl kept begging him to buy a t-shirt from her for $4 US dollars, which is quite a bit of money to the Cambodian people. But at the same time he would never have found a shirt at that price in the US. He kept telling her the price was too much and insisted on only paying $2 because he loved to bargain with the girls. He ended up buying a shirt from another little girl. The 16 year old girl began crying because she was so frustrated because she tried so hard to get my husband to buy. My husband felt so miserable the rest of the day for having made her cry and for getting carried away with the bargaining.
Don't tip the incense temple minders.
I appeared to offend my guide when I tipped an older woman who was minding a makeshift temple. He commented that people shouldn't profit from religion. It seems I was in bad form.
Fun Alternatives: DO TIP the kids if you take their photo or otherwise "use" them. No need to tip them all, though. You'll run out of money.
Bring hard candy. too. Much of the money they collect goes to adult handlers; candy they can enjoy on their own.
Woman Shopkeepers and Kid Salesmen
I almost don't feel like putting this under tourist trap because of how I feel about the whole experience of the kid salesmen, but I feel that to be adeqautely forewarned this was the most appropriate place. First the women shop keepers. These ladies are very aggressive. They grab you, they follow you, they are annoying. Have a sense of humor. Joke around, bargain hard, but only what you want and move on. Have fun with it. I even resorted to running away from these people to see if they'd chase me ( and they did) but make it fun for yourself and enjoy it as part of the experience.
Next are the kids. I traveled with a buddy and he wasn't as fond of the kids, but I freaking loved the kids. They are just fun, have a sense of humor, joke around and spare $1 and bring home a trinket that you can tell the funny story of that little Cambodian kid that wouldn't leave you alone. These kids are smart and fun, they are part of the experience, enjoy it. General rule of thumb, they will sit and harass you to buy until your food comes when you sit at the food stalls for lunch break between temples, and they will follow you around the temples a bit to get you to buy their stuff. I thought the kids were awesome and enjoyed every bit and don't miss the 5$ I spent on their goods. Oh and if you feel the urge to snap a photo do it and pay the kid 1$ and when you go home and upload your pics you will be definately glad you made that investment!
Multilingual Junior Guides
There are many young children in the complex offering to guide you. Sometimes it`s enough to simply rebuff their offer by saying `no, I`m ok` but every now and then they are a bit persistent.
Most of them only expect a dollar or two but it`s up to you. There are official guides in the park and technically the youngsters are taking business away from them.
Unique Suggestions: Even if I`m not interested, I don`t like to be rude. The kid on the right asked me `Mister, where do you live?`. Truthfully, I replied `Japan`. He immediately broke into Japanese! We then chatted away a bit and I must admit I was pretty impressed. He never queried why I didn`t `look` Japanese but did ask innocently `Do you have an American father?`.
In most cases hawkers and touts are pests, but at least in this case I felt I took something away from it.
Beware of the Little Old Ladies
When I was at Angkor, I thought it would be nice to be blessed and make an offering at one of the many buddha that are in the temple. As soon as I arrived I saw this little old lady next to a buddha holding incense beckoning me to come over and pray. This being a sacred and holy place I said why not. After I made my small prayer, afterwards the lady asked me for $5 US dollars. So beware these ladies are out for your money. If you want to make a prayer bring your own incense.
Kids, Drink Stands, Etc.
Outside of nearly every temple is a horde of drink sellers and kids pawning postcards and purses. In every case, prices are at least double what you would pay in Siem Reap. But you knew that. And yet still you pay. You didn't bring enough water with you; you didn't think about postcards ahead of time; and let's face it, kids selling stuff will make anyone's heart melt.
Well don't get too soft-hearted. Most of these kids see very little of the postcard proceeds. They work long hours and as a result, don't get the school education they need. Your postcard money would be better spent on charity efforts in Cambodia to help schools and children's programs.
Average food pricing
As I'm from Malaysia, and with the US$ not to M'sian advantages in Mar'09, The price of avg food in Siem Riep is actually worst than KL!!
Normal fried rice is at US$1.50 at non aircon small restaurants & at dirty wet market it's much cheaper at US$1.
However those restaurants at the floating village or even at Sras Slang is overpriced at US$4/plate!! Becareful!! We actually almost wanted to skip our luch at Sra Slang until thye restaurant owner willing to reduce the price to "Asian" rate of US$1/50....At floating market, as I was too hungry I managed to bargain the price to US$3..thats 2.5X the price of avg Kuala Lumpur fried rice!!
Unique Suggestions: Beware of those tourist attraction restaurants..price cant be more than US$2!!
Fun Alternatives: Goto restaurants at Siem Riep town..cheaper & cleaner there
- Budget Travel
- Arts and Culture