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QUIRKY SOUTH EAST ASIA: CAMBODIA EDITION

Cambodia | Wednesday, 13 January 2016 | 4 photos


1. Pajama party! Not sure if this is a trend - why not, can't be worse than Crocs or Uggs! Seems to be a localized custom because we never saw it in Thailand. Cambodian women love their pajamas! They love them so much they walk around in them all day long. They work in pajamas, they ride motorbikes in pajamas, they make fried rice in pajamas, they book bus tickets ... in pajamas.

2. Corruption. Well, let's just say it's kind of like India here. People often aren't very honest and try and make money from tourists as much as possible. But Cambodia has this funny "efficiency" that's tricky to understand. Example; if you shop around to travel agents you can get a 6$ bus ticket including free hotel pickup to the station but if you buy the ticket directly from the bus station you will pay 15$ What!?! Normally we always buy direct to avoid commissions and scam artists but that never works in Cambodia. Why? They have perfected a system where everyone (bus companies, travel agents, tuk tuk drivers) collaborate. Going in person you pay a tuk tuk driver 3 times (he'll never charge you the local price anyways), there, back and there again. Then the bus company will lie to you and refuse to sell you the ticket at the real price - trust us, we insisted, we waited, we screamed, then gave up. Bus companies only sell for 6$ if they can share these smaller profits with their friends (their tuk tuk drivers and their travel agents) plus it supports a system that keeps tourists in "their place", at their hotel naively unaware of the real system going on.

3. Good corruption. Corruption is such a strong word, when it works to your advantage you don't so much care anymore! We're going to tell you how we bought our Vietnam visas for 1/2 price and with a 24 hour express service to boot! Cambodia has the worlds cheapest Vietnam visas. Bargain basement prices, 1/2 price of Laos, Thailand, Canada, France, etc. Already bought one? Too bad! I think it's best for all of us not to know all the details because there's clearly something dishonest going on. You need to give your passport the night before. Why? Because they send it on an overnight bus to a smallish Cambodian city with an extremely "efficient" (i.e. corrupt) and cheap Vietnamese consulate. You're processed on the spot then they immediately send it back on another 6 hour bus to Phnom Penh. What!?! Yes, it's 1/2 price but that's after they pay 4 tuk tuk rides, 2 very long buses, and 1 likely rather corrupt but cheap consulate officer. Moral of the story? Never do anything on your own in Cambodia, shop around and pay someone else who has the connections to do it for you. I guarantee if we had shown up to the consulate in person we would have paid the full price.

4. Tuk tuk drivers: Cambodia has some of the worlds most annoying tuk tuk drivers! Don't worry, after a few days you get used to it. They actually give up very easily - unlike in India!! They constantly call out to you, "tuk tuk!", "hey mister, where are you going?". On every street there are 3-4 just sitting around, often they're sleeping in hammocks strung up inside the tuk tuk but still manage to shout to you and never mind the ones who drive by also propositioning you. It actually becomes rather like a song, hearing the choir of different pitches and tones of "tuk tuk!", "tuk tuk!", as you walk around all day. For many a driver this is the only English word they know so they tend to emphasize it a lot. Smiling drivers faces, taking naps and chants of "tuk tuk!" are what Kurt's going to miss.

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Hawaii Nov. 2014

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