7 random things I didn’t know before going to Cambodia

(and that you probably don’t need to know either)

We were only in Siem Reap while in Cambodia. I can’t say much for the rest of the country, but I do hope to visit more of Cambodia in the future and find out other things that surprised me.

1. There are a lot of Indian tourists in Siem Reap / Angkor Wat

I didn’t see so many Indian tourists in Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia (in Malaysia, they were lots of Indians…but they’re all locals). However, there were a lot of Indian tourists in Angkor Wat. This is probably due to the religious influence that was apparent all across Angkor Wat. Since there were a lot of Indian tourists, there were also a lot of Indian owned stores selling items from India.

2. Food offered in Siem Reap tasted and looked like Food Court Asian food

I’ve never really heard much about Cambodian cuisine. I thought it was because the neighbouring countries just had stronger and more famous cuisines. Therefore before going, I read up a lot of Cambodian cuisine before arriving and even rewatched the two Anthony Bourdain trips to Cambodia. I also asked my mom what she ate there and she said the tuk tuk driver took her to restaurants where she had sandwiches.

It really just seemed like I couldn’t find anything that special about Cambodian food. Unfortunately, it proved to be true once we got there. The food offered looked and tasted like food court food. All the restaurants offered the same dishes and they all looked the same as well – bowl of rice with stir fried protein with vegetable topped with a sauce.

Perhaps it’s not like this in other parts of Cambodia. However, it felt like food in Siem Reap was really dumbed down for tourists.


3. ATMs give you cash in USD

We only brought $100 USD with us. After paying for the two visas and the cab ride to the hotel, we didn’t have any more USDs on us. So we went to find an ATM to take some cash out and it was a total surprise when the machine asked me how much USDs I would like to take out. On one hand it’s good, but…

4. …since all prices are in USD, the 3 days in Cambodia was actually expensive

We took out $300 USD and spent it all by the time we left. Every single dollar. So that was $100USD/day for the two of us, whichis comparable to the daily cost of travelling in Japan or Europe. Furthermore, it was strange because Cambodia has a lower GDP/capita compared to its neighbours.

5. Even though there are a lot of tourists, you often find yourself alone

No one in sight!

The area around Siem Reap had so many different temples, which meant that people would be scattered everywhere. That being the case, there were a lot of places where you could take pictures in peace without trying to crop people out.

Even in Angkor Wat there were a lot of places that were quiet and peaceful.

6. BBQ chicken costs $8 USD

On the way to the Roluos Group, there were a lot of stalls selling BBQ chicken. Being the glutton that I am, I wanted to buy a BBQ chicken for dinner before we go to the airport. So on the way back to Siem Reap, I asked the tuk tuk driver to just stop at any one of them so that we could grab a chicken. I asked about the price and after the tuk tuk driver translated what I asked, the stall owner said the chicken was $8 USD. I was totally taken by surprise and walked away. The stall owner then tried to pull out a smaller chicken and say that one costs $6 USD. Still, no way I would pay that much especially since a normal rotisserie chicken in Germany costs 6EUR.

For those who have a better idea – how much would a BBQ chicken cost? Is $8 USD a reasonable price or did the stall owner try to pull some wool over my eyes?

7. There are a lot of sugar sellers along the way to Banteay Srei

No chickens here, but still, a typical day on a tuk tuk in Siem Reap

On the way to Banteay Srei we saw a lot of women beside smoking woks and containers full of brown shaped cubes. It took a while for me to realize what it was. If you have time, ask your (tuk tuk) driver to stop by one of these stands so that you could watch how these women create cane sugar cubes and into other shapes.

Ah yes, Cambodia (Siem Reap), you definitely surprised me a lot.

What were your expectations before going to Cambodia? What stories and observations did you have when you were there that’s interesting to know but might not be too useful for travelling?

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