6 comments on “Phnom Penh, once the pearl of Asia

  1. I went to Cambodia in 2009, you brought me back good memories 🙂 I really liked the country, especially the people.
    I came across less beggars than I was expecting, btw.

    And I have been to several cities that claim to be “the pearl of Asia”… it is a disputed title, hahaha.

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    • I’m glad you liked the post too. I wish I felt the same way as you did about the country and people (I did meet decent people such as my tuktuk driver who drove me to the genocide sites, hotel staff, and the staff at a school inside Angkor who I asked to let my friend use the washroom) but there was just too much of a sad vibe overall.

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      • Oh really? That is quite different from my experience! It’s true that I was in Phnom Penh just for a day and a half, the rest of the time I was in Siem Reap, but the feeling I got was of hope and happiness. Everybody smiled and chatted with us, and we made friends with basically all the kids in Angkor. BTW our tuk tuk driver was also a very nice guy, he even invited us to have dinner at his aunt’s house (a wooden log, to say the truth) because it was Chinese New Year. He sent me an email a couple of months ago, he learned Korean and is now working in Korea. Smart kid.

        Overall the impression I got from Cambodia was similar to the Philippines. Poor countries, crappy economies, corrupt governments but happy and smiling people.

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        • Yes, I’m afraid that was my impression. I was in Phnom Penh for just two days, so not much longer. At Siem Reap, it didn’t feel as bad, though within Angkor there were many child vendors. They weren’t as wretched (and I don’t mean that as an insult) as the child beggars in Phnom Penh, mostly because they were selling things and were kind of amusing, especially when some of them spoke in Chinese as well – “yi kuai (1 RMB), liang kuai, ni kan hen pianyi (look how cheap)” etc. In my post, I described being chased by little girls near the Palace, begging me while holding little babies (probably their siblings of course). It was a very shocking and troubling experience for me, though it wasn’t the only reason I felt how I did about Cambodia.
          Actually in Angkor, there was one site where there were several kid vendors, ranging from 10 to maybe 3. I found the little ones kind of cute especially since they could barely talk, but there was one point where a European family with 2 little kids were there, and when one of the little vendors walked up to one of the European kids (it was a cute scene but it was also a stark contrast), the mother hurriedly grabbed her child and walked away. Things like that color my memory. The other question is whether kids should be selling, though I visited in late June so perhaps the school term had ended.
          This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t visit of course, especially as tourism does bring in revenue and allows us to appreciate these countries and people.
          Having just come over from Vietnam, I found the countries to be so different. I found Vietnam to be more “happier” even though it’s not a well-off country as well.

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