“Oh laaady, buy from me! Lady, buy from me” you’ll hear those Cambodian vendors pitch like an over-played pop tune on the radio. They do it so much you’ll think they’re doing it just to annoy you. But Khmer lady, you still rock my heart!
In my last post, I kicked on Cambodia’s world famous site (maybe I’m more travel-jaded than I thought) but the truth is, I actually really fell in love with the country. Call me a sucker for rice paddie fields, stilted houses and hard-working and earnest people who still have a smile on their face at the end of the day.
What would you like about Cambodia? Well, aside from being one of the best budget destinations in Southeast Asia, here’s a quick roundup!
10 Reasons to Love Cambodia:
1. Khmer people
Cambodia’s had a rough and violent history in the 70’s and the Khmer folk endured a lot, but their spirit hasn’t been broken. Instead, it’s bounced back with a childlike demeanor and sincere charm. The people appear content with the simplicity of their lives. Many appear a bit shy with foreigners, and yet, but throw them a smile and they’ll come back with a grin to melt your heart.
While crime is always a possibility in any country, as a solo female, I’ve found Cambodia as a relatively safe country, even when walking around at night.
The Rural Lifestyles
2. Stilted houses
Traditional Cambodian houses are raised on stilt columns. This has several effects: it keeps the house cool, allows for shaded social and rest activities underneath and is protected in the case of floods. Personally, I just find them beautiful and orderly.
3. Floating Villages
Tonle Sap lake is the Southeast Asia’s largest lake and it’s home to over a 100 types of waterbirds, turtles, otter, crocodiles, etc… and floating villages. There are three main communities who make their houses and lifestyles on the lake: Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang. Read here.
4. Farming, Rice Paddy fields and green green grass
Rice paddy fields and farm land never turned me on…until now. My eyes went into “Technicolor vibrance” shock the first time I saw it. The farmlands stretch impressively long, wide and flat and looks as if someone has laid brilliant green astroturf over it.
In Southeast Asian countries, hammocks are common and it makes sense to perk one up between two trees at or in your tuk-tuk to take a rest, when the day is hot and business is slow. But no one can rock it like Khmer folk. The hammock seems to be well-integrated into their lifestyles. Perching your hammock up in your shop at marketplace (like Kampong Cham) takes first prize!
Style & Sport
6. Volleyball is the favorite pasttime.
Cambodia loves volleyball to the extent it’s almost a national sport! Passing through the countryside and small towns, I’ve seen at least a handful of volleyball courts set up on the roadsides.
Huge crowds of men gather around a humble net set up between two stick poles, to watch and wait for their turn to play. I’m not sure why the sport is so popular but it is.
7. Western Clothes and Pajamas
Khmer daily apparel styles are mostly western in style. Most men, old and young, seem to prefer long- sleeved, starched and collared shirts over t-shirts and are for the most part, are neatly groomed. By day, women don a contemporary dress style; while formal or evening affairs, can lead towards well-faded 80s style prom dresses.
Just as every country has their unique sense of glam, there’s always a ‘loose-cannon’ style somewhere, which makes you scratch your head. Take Cambodia’s ‘Pajama’ style for example…
8. Self-respect and pride
Cambodia may be Southeast Asia’s poorest brother, but you wouldn’t think it when you see how clean and orderly Khmer folk like to keep things. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are surprisingly well run. Sidewalks, buildings, roads and houses may feel a little dated from time to time, but are never in shambles. Things have a clean swept and trimmed appearance and people take pride in the few things they own, exercising great care and maintenance over their property.
9. SUV s are the rich man’s car
Like most places, Cambodia has it’s social classes of rich and poor. A common vehicle for affluent Khmer folk to drive is symbolic of wealthy status and prestige; and thus, are big and bulky SUV’s.
But these aren’t just any SUV’s. Cambodian SUVs come with its dealers’ logo prominently branded for all to see.
What is the most popular brand on the market? Lexus.
10. Motorbikes are for everyone else!
If you’re not rich enough to afford a big chariot like an SUV, then you probably drive what the rest of the population drives… a motorbike. Cambodians aren’t as die-hard bikers as the Vietnamese however, so you won’t see them converting their motorbikes into beds, packing mountainous crates and household appliances nor drive long distances on them .
But they do treat them like precious horses.
What are some things you’ve loved about Cambodia?