I recently came back from a trip to Cambodia in October this year and I wanted to look at some precious stones since Cambodia is known for having sapphires, emerals and ruby mines. So the guide took us to a store called CITY GEMS, located in Siem Reap. He told us the store was guaranteed by the Cambodian Government and that we should be very careful about buying stones anywhere else. The day we went was the last day we were staying since we were taking a flight to another place that same day so I didnt even bothered checking on internet about them, however when I came back home and enter in the internet their name, horror stories of people that have been scam started surfacing, I read about people that went and had their jewelry appraised and found out it was only colored glass. I contacted my travel agency whom with their local contacts went to the store and they told me to send the stones back that they were refunding only 50%, I told them that I didnt think there was a need for me to pay a courier to send those pieces of glass back and that since they are fake they should refund me 100% my money back, we bought a set of what were suppossed to be sapphire and another emerald set. I wrote to the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I have sent already 3 emails with no response from them which to me is a lack of respect because these people are doing this to tourist and they are not putting a stop to those thieves, I am very upset and want my money back which I am still struggling to get, but definitely I wanted to get the word out so people can be aware of these scam, and not to go to this store and be careful if shopping precious stones in those countries I asked them to give a certificate and they said they will send it with the guide but all they sent was a card saying basically nothing, but not a certificate from GIA or else, all I have is my credit card receipt and those cards they sent.
If you'd like to visit a floating village during your visit to Siem Reap, it is an interesting experience, but please avoid the Chong Kneas floating village. It is probably the biggest tourist trap in town. Not only is it a tourist trap, which I kind of expect in tourist areas, but the level of exploitation as whoever is collecting the $20/person entrance fee is raking in cash off bus loads of korean/chinese/vietnamese and other tourists while the locals see little or nothing of the cash.
It only takes a short stroll past the imposing new fabricated gates of the boat area to witness the conditions of the locals and the squalor they endure. I understand well poverty and I expect it in a poor country but come on, can't these greedy people who collect 20 bucks a pop spread some money out a bit more. So please don't support the owners of the entrance with your money. Then once you do get on the boat and start touring the village, your guide will take you to a place to buy way overpriced rice to feed the poor children at the school, which is another scam. They just sell the rice back to the store and wait for the next round of suckers to arrive.
Years ago when i visited Chong Kneas floating villages, it was pretty awesome. You went to the water's edge, walked down a mucky path, discussed the price for the boat with the driver, and away you went. The scams were not in place and the authorities had yet built their horrendous entrance toll gate to reap millions off the biggest tourist trap in Siem Reap.
I know what you're thinking, floating village tour sounds like a fun, exotic, and a unique once in a lifetime experience. And this is true. It is a wonderful and unique experience. So do your homework and find another village to visit. There are many more on the Tonle Sap just outside of Siem Reap. I guarantee they'll be much less crowded , your money will go to the locals and you'll save yourself getting stuck in a tourist trap. Let the package tourists do that.
Guided tours in the floating market with boat cost aprox. 15 USD for each person. But this is not necessary to take part in, because the main riverboat from Siem Reap to Phom Penh passes through the same area.
Fun Alternatives: Take the riverboat to Phnom Penh instead!
I would say the biggest tourist Trap in Siem Reap seems to be the Gift/Souvineer shops near the Angor Wat. The prices are all in US$ and marked up considerabally. I spent a lot of money only to realize later in Bangkok that the exact same gifts could be purchased for 1/5 the price but too late.
Fun Alternatives: Shop when you are in Siem Reap and also ask the driver to take you ariounbd town. The biggers and frashier the shop the bigger the mark up.
If you've been to a "cultural village" in neighboring Thailand - such as Phuket Fantasea or the like, the Cambodian Cultural Village is quite a boring let down. For the price of $11/$12 foreigners have to pay - it's not worth it at all. Your 12 bucks is better off spent at the Angkor Museum.
Fun Alternatives: The Angkor Museum is certainly alot better.
This corrupt fat man, brought us to buy overpriced water filters for his school. note that he's the only one benefitting from tourists' donations. the teacher receives no salary, nor does the children get anything. PhansyRos actually sells the donated items after the volunteers leave!
He also demanded US$35 at the end of the day, when we agreed on US$25. firstname.lastname@example.org is a SCAM
SCAMOBODIA http://www.arcep-kh.org/, email@example.com,(855) 98899927, firstname.lastname@example.org ANGKOR RURAL CHILDREN EDUCATION PROJECT
Unique Suggestions: Do not give Phan sy ros any money. Buy food from sellers directly for the students instead