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Every Cambodia Update August 2001 to the present

Cambodia Update

November 2002

1.) ASEAN summit
2.) Green shirts
3.) The Rotten Durian award
4.) Road updates
5.) Another boat sinks
6.) Koh Kong visa corruption
7.) Internet rates dropping
8.) Parking at Pochentong
9.) Motodop licensing
10.) Intellectual property revisited
11.) Bali bombing and embassy warnings
12.) A concert at Angkor Wat
13.) Siem Reap souvenir shops
14.) Last month's question
15.) This month's question
16.) Perspective


ASEAN summit

The annual ASEAN summit is being held this month in Phnom Penh. This will be a true test of Cambodia's ability to handle an event of such magnitude. As it is, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong is guaranteeing "100% security." Such a claim has me worried. Nobody can make such a claim and back it up.

I was in Phnom Penh for nine days in October. The town was already turning itself upside down as scores of police officers barreled down major thoroughfares in practice motorcade maneuvers. Martini's, the famous nightspot located next to the Hotel Intercontinental, host to the dignitaries, has, for security reasons, been ordered closed until after the conference concludes. Sidewalk eating has also been banned.

It would seem the approach to security will be to surround the dignitaries with 10,001 armed security guards, shut the city down,  make everyone stay home, and who knows what else... Hopefully the results won't be too comical.

Throw in the King's birthday and the Water Festival and it's going to be one silly month in Phnom Penh and one I'm glad I'll be missing.

Green shirts

As Phnom Penh began preparing for the ASEAN summit, one positive change was the arrival of a brigade of laborers, mostly women, clad in long green shirts who have been busily keeping the streets of Phnom Penh clean. Sweeping and scooping, they are seen daily throughout the city, mostly on the main thoroughfares. The difference has been noticeable and let's hope this is a permanent thing. Jobs have been created, streets are cleaner, and perhaps with the sight of a team of street cleaners the rest of the population might start to get a sense of the importance of keeping their city clean and neat.

The Rotten Durian award

This is going to be a new feature - the Rotten Durian award. For those not in the know, the durian is a large spiked fruit famous for its rather strong, okay, it's not rather strong, you need a gasmask to breath after opening one of these things, odor. And a rotten one? Well, that's just about as disgusting of a fruit as you can get.

So, in the interests of maintaining supremacy in negativity here, I'm going to begin doling out the Rotten Durian award to the Cambodian business that shows new lows in customer relations through lying, ripping people off, providing crappy service, and basically being a shining example of everything wrong in Cambodia business.

I suppose I ought to alternatively offer a Golden Mango award to recognize enterprises that are examples of everything business should be and, okay, I'll get to that in due time, but first let me toss out a rotten durian here.

And the winner of the first Rotten Durian award is...

Mealy Chenda/Narin's

Mealy Chenda/Narin's are part of a large chain of guesthouses and budget tourist services, which for some reason, Lonely Planet seems to adore (not that that's relevant to this piece, but I just thought I'd throw that in, anyway). In Koh Kong they are called Phou Mint Koh Kong, in Kampot and Sihanoukville they are Mealy Chenda, in Phnom Penh they have three guesthouses: Narin's, Narin's 2, and TAT. In Siem Reap they are Smiley's.

Their guesthouses are quite popular and for budget travelers who don't have much initiative they generally offer pretty good service (which probably explains the LP popularity). But they hate competition and have been known to be less than cordial with guests who have tried to use other travel services while under the Narin's grips.

They recently began a van service from Koh Kong to Phnom Penh which they charge 600 baht (about $14, but if you pay in dollars they want $15), leaving Koh Kong each morning around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. While they do get you to Phnom Penh, like so many Khmer businesses they are incapable of being straight up with you.

When you cross the border from Thailand you will most certainly be accosted by one or two of their touts asking if you need transport to Phnom Penh. And no matter what the time, they will tell you they can take you right away. Now they have you interested. So, after a little bit of hemming and hawing, they will then explain that well, maybe not today, okay, you spend the night, we leave in the morning, okay, we take you to a guesthouse. And of course they have their own guesthouse/hotel to put you up in.

Then they'll tell you that upon arrival in Phnom Penh they will take you anywhere you want, but that's another lie. They go to Narin's 2 and that's it, and you can complain all you want, but they don't care. If they were charging something like 100 or 200 baht for this ride I could understand, but for 600 baht these jerks ought to take people wherever they want to go, but they won't.

When I tried this service in mid-October, upon arrival in Phnom Penh I raised this point with the manager at Narin's 2. His response to my objections, and I quote, was "I don't care," as he put his arms up in the air and refused to make eye contact with me.

Mealy Chenda/Narin's is a huge chain that by all accounts makes a bucketload of money. If that's the case then there's no need to b.s. with people about where and when you'll take them. Either tell the passengers up front that you're only going to your own guesthouse or go the extra inch, which is about all it takes, and deliver the passenger wherever it is they want to go within the city of Phnom Penh. Considering that when I used them, they brought nine people up from Koh Kong, that's about $130 they pulled in - for that money they could have taken the two of us who already had places to go (the other guy lived here and I have a five-year relationship and long-running arrangement with the Dara Reang Sey Hotel) to our own pre-chosen destinations. But instead it's more lies, more bullshit, and more attitude.

And for being such pompous arrogant jerks, Mealy Chenda/Narin's et al, is the first recipient of the Rotten Durian award. Mealy Chenda/Narin's - enjoy the "fruit" of your efforts, and next time, I'm taking a share taxi and staying in another Koh Kong Hotel. Think about it. How much business are you going to lose because of this? You lose just one customer (which you already did - me!) and it's already cost you more than it would have cost to drive twenty blocks and take me where I wanted to go in Phnom Penh. Think about it.

And one last thing... I will give a free one-month promotional ad on this website to the first transport company that agrees to offer true door to door service without the b.s.

Road updates

Highway 48 (Koh Kong to Sre Ambel) is quite improved as of late. Now with the dry season approaching this road should pose no further problems for overland travel. The Thai Army continues to perform some regular maintenance on the more problematic areas. Thailand here we come!

National Highway 6 between Siem Reap and Sisophon continues to be National Highway Embarrassment. After breaking apart in four locations in mid to late September minimal repair work has been performed. So bad the road became, that the tourist bus services operating the Khao San Road, Bangkok to Siem Reap route (Neak Krorhorm, Sara) decided to suspend service until the time the road is repaired, expected to be some time in November. This will come as a great inconvenience to budget tourists most of whom have decided they can't be bothered to take the initiative and find their own way across Cambodia, instead subjecting themselves to that crappy scamathon service. Another ancillary problem that has developed from this is some dangerous overcrowding on the Siem Reap to Battambang boat route (see below: Another boat sinks).

Some of the Siem Reap guesthouses are hiring pick-up trucks to transfer their guests to the border. However, I would expect the price is probably going to be higher than if you were to go to the market and get your own truck. For the record, the local market price for two seats up front to Poipet is about $7, one seat about $3.50, and no more than $2.00 to ride in the back, though some drivers may add a small surcharge due to the state of the road. If a guesthouse is charging considerably more than this, don't waste your time with them.

To see photos of Highway 6, 35 kilometers west of Siem Reap, taken on October 23, 2002,  look here.

Another boat sinks

With Highway 6 partially out of commission there has been an increase in demand for the boat service to Battambang. Many tourists, walking into Siem Reap travel agents expecting to be sold a bus ticket to Bangkok are needlessly being pushed to the boat service.

A travel agent has two choices. They can accurately explain the situation to the tourist, that the road is still open and local transport is working, that it will only take an extra hour or two additional time to reach the border, and one need only go to the market and get a local truck or taxi there. Some agencies are in fact doing this, as I witnessed in of all places, the Siem Reap office of Neak Krorhorm, the largest tourist bus operator in this part of the country. But some travel agents are recommending that the tourists do the more expensive and time consuming option of taking a boat to Battambang and getting land transport to the border from there. In recommending this option, the agency can then sell the boat ticket and make a buck. A lot of tourists are taking this option and the end result is even more dangerous occurrences of boat overcrowding.

In late October a boat left Siem Reap, dangerously overcrowded (according to passengers) and barely before it could get out from Chong Khneas (the port at Siem Reap) it was quite evident the boat was not even going to make it to the other side of the lake, let alone Battambang. The driver headed to the trees and frantic passengers tried to throw their bags in the branches and even throw themselves into the trees as well. Cries for help quickly brought assistance and fortunately there were no injuries, but a lot of bags and property were soaked and it was a frightening experience for the passengers.

This is the second incident (that I know of!) in the past several months. And I have heard numerous reports of near misses and other assorted lesser problems (dangerous driving, breakdowns, etc) on the Battambang - Siem Reap line. This is, to say the least, a dodgy operation that is only being made worse with the suspension of tourist bus service between Siem Reap and Poipet.

As for the boats, I can offer this: Do not take the Battambang boat if your only destination is Poipet. Go to the market in Siem Reap and sort out your own transportation. Ignore anyone that tries to tell you that the only way to Poipet is by boat to Battambang.

Meanwhile, if you do want to go to Battambang, then you will have to consider this dodgy boat option. Meanwhile, is there anything that can be done about these boats before there's a real disaster, like one sinking in the middle of the lake? Well, regulation is always an option, putting a limit on the number of passengers a boat can carry. In theory it's a nice idea, but what's to prevent a boat operator from simply paying off the police to turn a blind eye, jacking up the prices a buck or two to cover that payment, and going back to stuffing 15-20 people in a boat designed to hold 10? This is Scambodia, remember.

Option number two is simple market economics. If passengers refuse to use the boats until the operators improve the maintenance and keep the number of passengers within reason, there is hope for improvement. Unfortunately, when you see how tourists sign up en masse for the crappy Khao San Road to Siem Reap bus service I have little faith in expecting a successful boycott of this boat operation.

So traveler, beware. My recommendation is you do not use this boat service. You've been warned.

Oh, one last thing, I want to be clear that I'm only referring to the Siem Reap - Battambang route and this does not apply to the Phnom Penh - Siem Reap route, the Mekong River route, or the Sihanoukville - Sre Ambel - Koh Kong route.

Koh Kong visa corruption

A Cambodia tourist visa is supposed to be $20, though if coming by land the border guards in Poipet and Koh Kong have been asking for 1000 baht (presently about $23.25) and pocketing the difference. But in Koh Kong greed is becoming more pervasive and the guards are now asking tourists 1100 baht ($25.50) for the visa.

This is getting silly. I realize these guys are on crappy salaries but scamming $5.50 off every tourist is not the answer. My advice to the border officers is that if you don't like your salary, find another job. And my advice to the tourists is if you are planning on entering Cambodia in Koh Kong you either get your visa in Bangkok if for no other reason but to deny these thieves the $5.50 or raise a stink with them at the border.

On a more ingenious note, the guys at the Koh Kong visa office bought themselves a digital camera and printer and will now take the required passport photo for you if you forgot to bring one. For this they charge 100 baht. And this is absolutely fair. The law states that a visa application must be accompanied by a photo. You forget one, they do it for you. Fair service. Fair price. But this 1100 baht visa thing... umm, no.

Internet rates dropping

The internet keeps getting cheaper in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh some shops are down to 2000 riels (50 cents) per hour and in Siem Reap internet is as low as $1.50 an hour. But bear in mind that many, if not most of these internet shops have aged computers that are poorly maintained and while all using the same broadband service, many do not purchase enough bandwidth to accommodate a full shop of customers. So, while 2000 riels an hour may seem like a great rate, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Another price drop is the cost of internet phones. Using these, albeit lower quality, phones it is now possible to call the United States for as little as 300 riels (7 1/2 cents) a minute! Traditional international phone service continues to run at about $3 a minute.

Parking at Pochentong

Around the world, airport parking rates are high. We expect that. However, around the world, if you're only dropping someone off at the departure terminal there is no charge. Unless that airport is Pochentong. Continuing to be a pioneer in creative airport services, Pochentong is one of the few airports in the world that require payment just to pull up to the terminal and send someone off.

Motodop licensing

A year ago when the Siem Reap authorities temporarily enforced the old law banning foreign tourists from renting and operating motorbikes it was also announced that motodops wishing to transport passengers around the temples would have to be licensed and display a photo ID card. This seemed like a great idea. It still seems like a great idea because a year later nothing has happened.

Intellectual property revisited

I've discussed intellectual property rights a few times in the past, usually in relating someone's attempt at ripping off the images on my postcards, but I thought it time to bring the issue up once again.

Walk into any market and you'll see dozens of photocopied books of just about anything and everything written about Cambodia. And all available for only a few dollars. Granted, some of the copies are real crap, but others are very good quality knock-offs.

I don't like this. For several reasons. First of all, forget about some rich publishing company, the person ripped-off first and foremost will be the author, as authors are paid by royalties. The publisher can jack up the price to cover the losses caused by the bootleg copies, but do you think they are equitably passing that cash off to the writer? Yeah, sure.

I know some of the authors of Cambodia books and none of them are even remotely rich and every one of them is angered by this blatant theft of their work.

Another argument in favor of these photocopied books is that this is a poor country and we're talking about some kids selling a copied guidebook at the temples. Nonsense. Rule of law is rule of law and either you have it or you don't. And the kids could just as easily sell real versions of the books or sell used versions where the copyright was already paid. And more importantly, why can't these book sellers, whether they are kids at the temples or someone with a large stand in the market, start learning what intellectual property is and the need to respect it?

Let's face it, there is no creativity in this country. None. Music, television, advertising, it's all copied. Turn on the TV, it's Thai TV dubbed in Khmer. Watch a music program, it's a copycat of Thailand or Vietnam, which are copycats of Japanese and western styles. Advertising, ever seen an ad that made you laugh except perhaps for the absurdity? Ads where voices are given so much reverb you can hardly here the words for the echo and the video image looks like it came out of a 1958 US television show? Books, how much original contemporary Khmer literature is there? Cambodia does not create. It borrows. It sponges.

There are many reasons for the dearth of creativity in this country, not the least of which is thirty years of war, but if we're going to see this change for the better than a good place to start is by teaching respect for intellectual property and to encourage Khmers to create their own music, videos, literature, websites, postcards, etc. using their own ideas and not someone else's.

Bali bombing and embassy warnings

With the bombing in Bali last month, we've been hit with a whole slew of embassy warnings that basically say, "Southeast Asia is dangerous - go home." Well, I'm from the States, I even lived and worked in the DC area for eight years. Yeah, real safe that's been.

Sitting around the bars (is there anything else we expats do?) discussing this, many of us do expect there will be another target hit in Southeast Asia. Of course, none of us can agree what that target might be, ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh? Nana Plaza in Bangkok? Khao San Road in Bangkok? South Thailand, say Phuket? somewhere in Malaysia, and so on and so on. Quite frankly you could line up one hundred people and you could get one hundred different suggestions for a suitable target and almost every one of those suggestions could be backed up with legitimate arguments as to why it could be hit.

So the point is, don't be silly and cancel your vacation. The reality is that if you're going to get stressed out over possible terrorist attacks than for you, there is not a safe place on the planet. That is what terrorism is all about, it could be anywhere, anytime, and you can't do a damn thing about it. So get on with life. Live and enjoy. Come to Asia. If God forbid, there's another attack, what could you have done? Nothing really. When our number is up, it's up.

Afraid of a terrorist bombing? Think your safer at home? How many accidents occurred where you live? Traffic? Fire? Injury? Freak, random tragic event? Let's face it, anything can happen anywhere. If the saying is true that most accidents happen at home, then I think logic dictates you should get as far away from home as possible. Southeast Asia would be a good place to start.

A concert at Angkor Wat

December 6, 2002, Jose Carreras will be giving a concert at Angkor Wat. And the ticket prices? How about $500, $1000, and $1500 a pop!!!!!! I don't imagine too many local Khmers will be coming out for this one. Well, at least wine and dinner are included with the ticket. But for this price, they ought to throw in a chauffeured limo, a room at the Grand, and a one-week pass to the temples with a guide.

Siem Reap souvenir shops

Visiting a souvenir shop in Siem Reap? Even one in a hotel? Try to ditch your tour guide, driver, tout, random person attaching themselves to you before you go in. Many of the larger shops and some of the smaller ones pay an across the board commission to your escort that can be as high as 30%, but I've recently learned that on some items, such as silver, that figure can be as much as 40%!!!!!

Shop with caution, and bear in mind as well, that some shops do sell bogus gems.

Last month's question

Three good replies to last month's question. The question being:

Do you support active United States involvement in a regime change in Cambodia? Why or why not? And if so, to what extent would you want this involvement?

Here are the answers:

Answer from reader #1:

Only if the government of Cambodia has a gross disregard for human rights should the UN or some other assembly of nations get involved. But not the US... why do we have to get our noses in everything? I'd say that about 1/2 of the people in the US don't even follow politics, and of the other 1/2, many Americans are completely embarrassed by our President's actions. I know of many people, including myself, who have never thought "America is #1" or "America is the greatest nation on Earth". I personally think that the President is making us look terribly arrogant and conceded and jaded. I think he's a terrible, evil man who has many investments in both oil and defense companies and stands to gain a lot from war. Forget the fact that we're near the bottom of the chart of the top 25 industrialized nations when it comes to: wasting energy, adult literacy, teenage pregnancy, murder, gun violence, education, infant mortality, nutrition, obesity, etc., etc. We should focus more on our own problems right now, and start calling ourselves "America is not #1".


Answer from reader #2:

Personally, I would like to see the US presence in Cambodia. By that I mean the US should do more for Cambodia through it foreign policy i.e., assist Cambodia in the forms of education, social welfare, technology, and especially INFRASTRUCTURES. I feel the US gov't is still obligated to Cambodian people for past destruction to Cambodia; therefore, it is only fair that the US should renew her interest for Cambodia.

Cambodia prefers assistance from Western countries, particularly the USA, with the exception of Japan and South Korea in Asia. The US can put a lot of pressure on the Cambodian gov't to reform its bureaucracy by influencing Cambodia's educational system to adopt new paradigms in order to raise her standard of living. I truly believe that the US can have a lot of influence in Cambodia.

If I have a choice I would like to see the US make a military treaty with Cambodia because, look, the US have military treaty with Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Korea and why not Cambodia? The US should resume her commercial treaty with Cambodia in order to attract a lot of US businesses to Cambodia.

I favor America because every country where the US make treaty with, those countries are very prosperous in everything from infrastructures to the economy. And I feel Cambodia missed out.

Of course, the US has no right to dictate to a sovereign country like Cambodia, however, in exchange for American expertise, Khmers (both overseas and locals) would like to get the US gov't to involve in the affairs of Cambodia in order to provide education and assistance to her people. For this reason, the US and Cambodia could become eternal friends. I think Cambodia missed out a lot, and the US should give Cambodia a chance to expose herself to the world. I advocate the USA's involvement in Cambodia for the benefit of mankinds.


Answer from reader #3

As is often the case with senators, McConnell was “thinking locally, acting globally”. There are a number of people of Cambodian origin in his state, and to ensure their support in the upcoming election (almost all Cambodians in the US despise the Hun Sen regime), he will make an off the cuff remark trashing the current regime and advocate change – he is just using the current rhetoric of “regime change”. McConnell, like any senator, expects everyone to forget these words once he is elected.

Of course, you can remind your readers that previous US involvement in regime change in Cambodia (installing the Lon Nol government) cleared the way for the Khmer Rouge domination of the countryside by ensuring a friendly government that would wipe out much (but not all) Marxist-Leninist forces. One of the more obscure factions, led by Left Bank philosophe-manquee Pol Pot, was then able to fill the vacuum so conveniently opened.

Regime change implies actively working with locals interested in assuming power. These local politicians are pursuing their own agenda, fitting in US interests only so far as it benefits their own goals. American politicians tend to forget this aspect of political reality. Unintended consequences are always the consequence of “regime change” as the locals know, and can manipulate, their local situation far more effectively than bureaucrats sitting in Washington. Regime change should only be attempted if the local government is so repugnant to your foreign and humanitarian policy objectives that any, I mean any, regime is better – and be prepared to live with the consequences.

This month's question

Seeing as I managed to get three whole responses to last month's question, let's try this again, I throw out a question, you answer it and I publish the answers next month. The question is open to everyone, Khmers, Overseas Khmers, non-Khmers, everyone.

The question of the month:

Cambodia is an impoverished nation. We can all agree. Therefore, where do you draw the line on petty corruption (i.e. border guards charging extra money for visas), laxity in law enforcement (i.e. lack or respect of intellectual property, wide-scale book photocopying, etc), and dishonest behavior from businesses (i.e., small lies such as what I outline in the Rotten Durian award above). Do you draw the line at zero tolerance, some tolerance, or hey, anything goes, it's a poor country and folks gotta make a buck?

E-mail responses to: gordon@talesofasia.com

And look for the answers next month. Thanks to the folks who responded to last month's query.


A new monthly feature will appear on talesofasia.com, Cambodia Today, beginning the 15th of November. On the 15th of every month I will be publishing in-depth interviews with people living and working in Cambodia. The debut conversation is with Anthony Alderson, Operations Director for the FCCC - the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Cambodia, who will discuss the ascension of the FCC to its status as the most well known restaurant in Cambodia, the present and future expansion plans of the company, and some of his own opinions on doing business in Cambodia and on the state of the tourism industry here.

Check back to Cambodia Today on the 15th of November for the interview.


On-line ordering

It's a done deal. I now have a Visa merchant's account and if you want to purchase a photograph from me you may now do so on this website using your Visa card. Go to the Photography section for more details.


A reminder. I have published on this website a considerable-sized FAQ file on Cambodia that should answer a majority of questions tourists and would-be expats might have. While I welcome e-mail questions from readers and I try to answer them all promptly and properly, the answers you are looking for might be found in the FAQ file. Have a look.



We're back in business here...

Cambodia and money:

I wanted to say that you really should emphasize on your site the importance of not choosing the cheapest means of travel. Why not a quote like "Consider how much you'd pay in your own country for transportation, tours, hotels, meals, etc. and you will realize how inexpensive Cambodia is. Now, choose something that is a good deal to you, but don't go to the lowest prices, ever... a dollar or two or five can make all the difference in the world." When I'm there I won't be bargaining too much - if it sounds like a good deal, I won't mind paying. I just expect to receive good service and reasonable comfort in return. Listening to stories of $3 bus rides that take all day and include many, many hassles makes me more than happy to fork over $150 for a flight from BKK to REP, although it really sounds like the flight 'value' is about $75 or so.

I'd like to think I do this already. In fact, in my Overland section I generally caution against using the super cheap KSR-based bus service, but I provide the information on it as many people will choose this service regardless of what I say about it. Still, the contributor does raise a valid point. But I'd like to make one point about bargaining in respect to transport. I'm adamantly opposed to any kind of two-tiered pricing when everybody is subjected to the same conditions in the same vehicle. Thus, in my Overland section when sharing a truck or taxi with locals, I offer what the local prices are and how one can get them. Obviously, if you and two friends are chartering your own taxi from Siem Reap to the border and you take a liking to the driver and feel like handing him an extra 100 or 200 baht, then by all means do so. I've done it myself.

On tourism, and an e-mail that well addresses this month's question, coming from an Overseas Khmer:

I read the October articles. I would like to respond to the way the local merchants treated and ripped off tourists. You're right about that. I don't think it is fair that they treat the tourists that way. The tourists visit Cambodia for leisure and instead they have to deal with a lot of hassle and "crap" from the locals. I am Khmer over sea and I like Cambodia and Angkor Wat and other temples. But I don't like the way I was treated over there. Everybody wanted my money and they didn't deliver good service in return.

The first time I visited Cambodia I had to put ten dollars in my passport in order for a guy to give an ok and I not have to wait for him to check my baggage. I then had a bad experience with transportation. When I bought a boat ticket back to Phnom Penh, the ticket seller told me that for one dollar more I would get a ride to the boat and I said, "ok that's cheap" but I didn't know they were loading 15 people including more luggage into a small Toyota truck like that. I felt really bad for all those tourists. They sat quietly and didn't say a word and I was quiet, too. Well, one guy was very angry, he started cursing and kicking things and walked out.

The second time I went I took my family with me. There were four of us and a guy that worked at the airport told us that we need entry visas and he said it cost twenty dollars for each person. I found out later that he ripped me off because I didn't really need a visa. [Gordon here: Overseas Khmers do not need to purchase a visa to visit Cambodia, they are given gratis.]

When we got to Siem Reap they sold souvenir items of low quality and claimed that they were made from special items. My American friend bought some jewelry from the Central Market in Siem Reap and they turned out be fake stones and gold plated instead of real gold. We were really disappointed. Cambodia government must train the locals how to deal with tourists in order for the tourist business to flourish in the long run. They must have good quality products and decent prices, not the rip-off ones. I was afraid to buy things from Cambodia. I went to Cambodia two times. I didn't buy anything from anybody.

When I came back, the workers at the airport asked me for money and I said 'no' because I knew that they were not poor but they were just greedy and corrupted. I spent a lot of money in Cambodia and I want to enjoy the trip. Despite all of that my friend loves Cambodia and very much interested in its people, culture and the turmoil history. She really enjoyed the trip probably more than I did since it was her first time.

Gordon to the Cambodia government: See the last sentence of paragraph four: "I didn't buy anything from anybody."

While I don't normally publish congratulatory e-mails, I thought this one was at least worth a read as it emphasizes a few points I've been trying to make on this website:

After stumbling onto your site, I just wanted to express how satisfying it was to finally read something so unbiased, balanced, and current. My first 'exposure' to Cambodia was Fielding's Dangerfinder you alluded to in one of your columns. Even then it smelled suspect. I re-read it after returning and now it looks completely ridiculous. I also found your treatise on taxi girls immensely interesting. With my western Catholic upbringing (for what it's worth I'm not a very good Catholic) it took awhile for me to get my head around the non-western moral implications of this complicated issue. I finally decided that while one shouldn't think in terms of absolutes when travelling abroad, some of the things going on in Cambodia come pretty close to being just plain wrong: for me, pedophilia and indentured servitude. Without droning on ad nauseum, I wanted to say how, well, reassuring it was to read something that jived so often with my own attitudes on this and other subjects. Maybe we're both wrong but keep up the great work anyway. :)

Here's to an open mind:

I am happy to say that on December 15th we are heading out to Cambodia for 11 days. I am keeping a totally open mind about what I will experience. I feel a little sad when I read that people have had a bad experience and say they will never come back and I am hoping we don't suffer from souvenir/moto overload to THAT point. But hey, we will see. I don't want any preconceived ideas like 'it will be like this....' But I hope like you the authorities soon realise that looking after tourists is the way forward.

My sentiments exactly:

Finally got my hands on the 4th edition of the Cambodia LP and was disappointed to see that talesofasia was not listed as one of their recommended internet resources. I hope that the rest of the guide does not contain such glaring omissions.

In closing

Bangkok, Thailand
October 31, 2002.




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