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Culture Shock in Cambodia

Cambodia was probably the most interesting country i’ve ever seen. I hated it. No it wasnt THAT bad, but and i really enjoyed my stay and can recommend anyone nearby to visit it but i also recommend to plan it short because it can get boring, except you are the siem raep party crowd type.

But lets get back to the start

Going to cambodia

I never really planned to go there, like everything on my trip so far the decission was based on lazyness and curiosity. In short my Thai visa, which i mostly spent in Chiang Mai, run finally out and i needed a cheap short term flight to anywhere. In the middle of a project i did not care much about the touristy aspect i just wanted to see some new things and work on my stuff while sight seeing once in a while.

My flight from Chiang Mai to Cambodia went trough Bangkok at night, a view which i fell in love with and you can read more about in my next blog post, and just took 3 shy hours or something. Once arrived in Siem Reap Cambodia a tuk tuk took me to my semi luxury hotel and except some food i did not much more on that evening.

Living between lotus

Lotus field

It was only the next day when i realized i was living in the middle of a lotus field. To that point not really knowing what about lotus is so special except the nice big flowers i just enjoyed the view & drive down to siem reap. The first highlight was when i bought a pack of camel for only $1. Only later realizing that i can even buy them for half of that.

I kind of expected siem reap to be like this, but not like that. It was a 100% tourist focused city. Food is expensive and mostly badly done western food, beer is super cheap tho especially coming from thailand so there is also that.

That Monk/Teacher/Recruiter guy

Exploring Siem Reap on my own i met this random guy who was nice and offered me to show me around a bit. I am a big guy, especially compared to a average cambodian, and he was super nice so i just accepted his offer and got a tour out of town on his old motorcycle.

We found ourself in yet another huge lotus field type restaurant. Something i wish i had a picture of because i will never be able to explain the relaxed atmosphere in those simple, semi private, bunaglows spread all around a lotus field somewhere outside of cambodia.

But this is not when my new experiences ended that day. The nice guy, who i learned to be a ex-monk and now teacher in his own school, insisted that i try fried frogs. Never having heard anything bad about frog meat i accepted and got served these delicious things:

Fried frog

And honestly fried frog is seriously great. I was confusied at first to eat the whole thing with bones and everything but it tasted delicious and i would do it everytime again. I also eat seafood, some squid kind stuff and other random things that day. But the highlight were lotus nuts. I never knew these existed and while they are quite a lot of work to eat they taste amazing and make a perfect healthy snack.

The human zoo

Cambodia Human zoo

I dont like to plan, so when my hotel guy offered me a day trip for only like $16 that he promised is super interesting and a must see i agreed and went to this interesting road trip to a bunch of boats, which then drove us to a huge lake to see the sunset that was not actually visible due to the weather.

But before we went to the lake we stopped at a floating village, which turned out to be the main attraction of the tour. The floating village was a poor cambodia village which was beautiful but also sad to see. When we left the boat and the people started to throw candy at the kids what resulted in shouting and fighting and then proceed to take pictures of everything and everyone as if we were in some kind of human zoo.

Sadly the people there seemed very used to this and it made me feel like a terrible kind of human. I really enjoyed the boating around tho so i consider these $16 well spent at least.

New year in backpackers heaven

Again not really planned i was still in siem reap for new year. I was not really in party mode and while the vibe was great in the town or better said bar street i did not really feel like cheap beer and loud terrible music that day. On my way home (by foot that day) i nearly got eaten by several dogs but in the end i enjoyed the fireworks on my balcony next to the pool with a few spliffs.

Btw, siem reap really has “happy pizza” on every other corner. And yes you can find weed just as easy if that is what you are looking for. Without saying to much, its not the best ganja you can find.

Enough of siem reap, lets see cambodia

Lets face it, siem reap is where the backpackers and short time travelers go to see ankor wat (which i btw also passed after my human zoo experience) and get drunk on cheap beer. It is obvious that it does not tell anything about the real cambodia. After nearly a week of having burned trash smell of different flavors behind every corner it was also time to get somewhere less toxic.

Battambang is something i got recommended that sounded like the place to go, especially as it is nearby and easily plus cheap reachable with a bus. The hotel i booked was terrible and i highly suspect involved in some shady stuff but i found something, again way to luxury for my taste, just in the next street the same day.

Battambang surely was different to siem reap. And finally i was able to really enjoy it and see some real cambodian life. Turns out this also can be pretty depressing. The country is beautiful the resources rather rich, the problem is most things (read tourist traps) are owned privately and the local people seem to have no way to really profit from it. Curruption on all levels does not really make this better. The week i spent in battambang they celebrated new year every single day (i still dont really understand why) and this was basically in front of my door and gladly not build as a tourist trap as the far majority of the people there were locals.

Tourist things in Battambang

Luckily for me and my work efficiency there is not so much to do in Battambang on the touristy side so i could fit all 3 relevant things into a nice day. My highlight, and one of the highlights of my whole asia trip was the bamboo train.


Not only the scenic views and the surprisingly high speed of these things made this ride awesome. But also to know that since the war and the breakdown of the regular trains this is the main meaning to transport people and goods around in this area.

After that i went on some kind of hill in the middle of flatland that contained a few temples, the killing caves, had monkeys and a scenic view as well.

Hill view

No monkey attacked me, gladly, the only monkey i saw was busy opening a bottle of coke given by a careless tourist. Also no snakes or crazy spiders were seen that day even thought the hill had several warnings for those.

Food in cambodia

This is kind of unfair because i was coming from thailand but as someone who does not eat fish or seafood the food selection was super dissapointing. Street food looked often shady and more often then not, if they had something other than fish and seafood, it was pig ears or chicken feed or even whole ducks. It was not easy to find a simple meaty snack so i ended up spending way to much money in mostly bad “western” tourist restaurants.

Overall experience

I liked my trip. I dont like how the country works but i appreciate the beauty of the country. It is not easy to say dont go to cambodia, nether is to claim its worth to visit for anyone. I think if you know what to expect or why you go there and dont plan to much time it is a very interesting experience. If you just look for a place to relax or even work you may find better options anywhere else.

Written: 01.03.2017
Keywords: digitalnomad, cambodia, battambang, siem reap

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About me

My name is Roman Pramberger, i am a 20something years old developer from Austria, spending my youth in Bern, Switzerland. I spend my days creating *things.

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