I wanted to change US$ into Riel at Guest House Chey. The fat owner of the guest house also owns the pharmacy on the ground floor manned by his son. He has a currency exchange counter outside the pharmacy. I gave him US$8, instead of giving me the correct change of 33,600 Riels, he gave me only 30200. When I enlightened him of the 200 Riels as simple calculation told me that it must be at least 32000 Riels as one US$ can get at least 4000 Riels. He went back in to replace the 200 Riels with 2000 Riels. Again, simple calculation told me that it must be more than 32000 Riels. By then he had already disappeared into the next shop, which is also owned by him. I went into the pharmacy to show his son the 32000 Riels given by his father. His son, who is as fat as his father, gave me another 1600 Riels.
Fun Alternatives: Avoid Guest House Chey as the owner is not an honest guy. Always count the Riels before leaving.
This is sad if my suspicions are correct. I followed a fellow vt advice and went down and volunteered for the ETO. It was both a great experience and a terrible experience. It was great because I had contact with eager, but poor students. The bad part was I doubt the true motivations of the Heng Chum, the person who is in charge of his "organization". I wrote an email back to him after I spent a few days down there teaching. I tried to remain objective.
Please first read the letter. I wrote this to heng after volunteering
Sorry for leaving so abruptly. Thank you for the opportunity to work with the children. Can I give you some advice though?
I would have stayed for much longer had a couple of these been more satisfactorily met.
1) The class materials... you gave me the materials with no more than an hours time to prepare. You should have given them to me earlier.
2) You made me uncomfortable at times staying at your house. You would be absent, and there would be nothing I could do. I couldn't plan for teaching. Just sit around and wait. You need to remember although I am there volunteering, I am completely unfamiliar with the area and what I am supposed to do.
3) The fact that you were absent during the lesson itself was alarming. Although you say you devote yourself to the cause, and you have many other schools, all I saw was 8 students. Why were you gone all day? Why could you have not sat with me for 10 minutes and explained roughly what to do? Why did I not see these other schools?
4) If you want the children to learn, you have to structure your organization. Having a sign that says ETO and a dream is not enough. Structuring is not something that costs money, just your time.
5) The volunteers I was sent to pick up were alarmed by the fact that you were not there to pick them up. They would have like to learn about the organization, and because of this decided not to volunteer.
6) When you offer to pick someone up in town, asking
Unique Suggestions: continued...
them to pay for the whole taxi fare for 80 km is both unexpected and deceiving. It is understandable there there is not much money in the organization, but some volunteers would prefer to rent a motorbike or some alternate mode of transportation.
7) You placed great stress on receiving money for accommodation and donations, but none on the teaching itself.
As it is being operated right now, it seems like you are using tourists to support yourself, your family, and extended family under the false pretense of "volunteering to teach" which is something that tourists would like to do to HELP your country.
I may be wrong in doubting your intentions or suspecting ulterior motives, but perhaps with a little stronger organization, structure, and handling of your volunteers, future volunteers would not have this impression. I hope for the children's sake that I am wrong, and that this email may prove to only help you improve the effectiveness of your organization.
With utmost sincerity,
Subject: RE: Volunteer
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2006 02:40:22 +0000
Thank you so much Erik for your messages, I'm so glade to hear from you
Educational Training Organization is charity school free of charge to poor students who live in Cambodia countryside, if you are interested please call to me I will tell to the taxi driver to pick you up from the guesthouse or hotel, my numbers: 092 670 948 or 016 35 61 12, I am looking forward to hear from you as soon as possible
Today I came to Phnom Penh city with taxi if you want to come with me please call and let me know the name of your guesthouse and room number.
Mr. Heng Chum
Fun Alternatives: Continued..
Ok now that you have read that, think about it. It is pretty much summed up by what I said
"As it is being operated right now, it seems like you are using tourists to support yourself, your family, and extended family under the false pretense of "volunteering to teach" which is something that tourists would like to do to HELP your country. "
It is sad, because the children are the victims from this person. Think about this logically though. Accomodation was 6 dollars a night. That included two meals, but he never indicated when, or if there was going to be a meal. I ran out of money because he made me pay for the taxi, and then the next day he took me into the small neighboring town and said we would go to phnom penh so I could use an atm to pay him. I insisted on not going because it was already agreed that I would go into town the next day anyways to pick up two volunteers, and I could get money at that point. He then put me on a communal taxi which he said would go back to the village, but it did not, and I had to walk back to main town and then walk back to his house, where he did not show up for several hours. I had no money (as I needed to use the atm), and really had the faintest idea of where to go. I have been traveling for about 7 months... (most of europe, and now most of se asia) and that was the hairiest situation I was in. In addition, in the countryside noone speaks english and assumes that I had money, so were unwilling or unable to help due to the language barrier or the fact that I couldn't pay anything for help.
Basically for someone very inexperienced, this could have been an extremely frightening experience.
I recommend volunteering in Siam Reep, right where the Angkor Wat temples are. There are a couple organizations up here. One of them is the museum of landmine something or other, but I heard very positive remarks about this volunteer organization and its legitimacy.
Also to the three british volunteers...what do you make of this? Does any of it seem familiar?
be careful when you ride tuk-tuks. They will charge u 4,000 riel or US$1 in just a short distance. Locals used to pay 1000 or less. U must bargain before you hop-on, esp if u are on a tight budget. Because of that, i didnt dare ride a tuk-tuk in my Pnom Penh adventure, exept when i went to killing fields. Its too far to walk!
Unique Suggestions: bargain the price or just walk away.
Fun Alternatives: get a map and walk!
The prices are lower than at a US hotel, but still high.
Unique Suggestions: Well don't pay their prices.
Fun Alternatives: Instead take your laundry to one of the many local ones near the river. You'll support the local economy and save a LOT of money. Just be sure you have a clear agreement on when your clothes will be done [and build in some wiggle time]. I paid $1.75 for what the hotel wanted $27. !!!! Besides you have the fun of seeing your underpants flapping in the Phnom Penh breeze.
Be aware of the motorbike driver on the street. They will give you wrong info if you DON'T take their service. ASK someone else instead of the motorbike driver who approach to offer you their service.
I'm not 100% sure whether this is a real rip-off of tourists, but to me it appeared as one: Wat Phnom, the place where (according to the legend) Phnom Penh was founded. It's a rather uninteresting hill in Phnom Penh's center, but there are people walking around and demanding money from you to climb that hill.They don't look official, and I doubt that they're! As you can climb the hill from any side, I guess that there's no entry fee. Nevertheless, on one side there's a woman selling tickets from a little hut - for $1. I paid her, but I think that she's also only selling fake tickets.
Unique Suggestions: Try to get up the hill without paying for fake tickets. Or remember that these people just want to make a living somehow, and be generous in paying them.
Fun Alternatives: The place is not very interesting, so a good alternative might be skipping it.
Though the elephant being used did not seem particularly ill-treated, it seems silly to ride an elephant around the base of Wat Phnom just to get a photo of yourself on one of these majestic beasts of burden. At least they aren’t making them lug tourists up to the top of the 27 meter hilltop temple.
Vendors will charge you 4 times the amount that the item you want it worth. once they tell you how much it is, tell them how much you'd pay & then bargin from there. You might want to brush up on a couple Khmer terms like "too expensive" "how much" & numbers.
You will see beggars at every exit of every major tourist attraction in Phnom Penh. Many of them are very young (or very old) and there are many amputees.
Whether you want to give money or not is up to you. They are very persistent and if you give to one, the others will feel like you have to give to them too.
Unique Suggestions: I gave a dollar or two here and there until one man said "you are cheap" so I gave up after that.
Be prepared whenever you leave anywhere.
These Cyclo Drivers cheat you and try to get as much money out of you as they can. They never take you directly to the place u want. They'll go around n around and after 20 mins they'll take you to the place where u want to reach. After this they'll over charge u even if u have decided before you sat in the Cyclo. I was in big trouble so I'll recommend u to avoid cyclos as much a possible.
I thought this place was a tourist trap. Chock full of the dreadlocked masses trying to outdo each other with their travellers tales. I was appalled to overhear a young English traveller regaling two aussie girls with his tales of how he could live on 2$ per day. All this while drinking beer that they were paying for. If someone else bought my beer for me i could probably live on 2$ too!
Unique Suggestions: Have a beer, enjoy the view and move on.
So, this is probably the biggest trap in the whole Cambodia and also in VTs. Somewhere before Phnow Penh, our bus pass by a small farming village and I saw some women bathing outside their house. The woman in the drawing is washing her hair but she is about 50 meters away from us, so I think she didn't notice anybody looking at her. Anyway it's my sketches for you. Warning!! This is a man, not woman, big trap!
Raffles Hotel Le Royal is the premier hotel in Phnom Penh. The hotel was first established in 1929...more
Arrived at the hotel in the late morning via taxi from Phnom Penh International Airport at USD$9...more
it is very near to the river fr0nt and the royal palace, not to mention near the stinky market....more