Going to Cambodia Feb–May 2014

  • The_Guruburu

    Posts: 895

    Feb 10, 2014 8:55 AM GMT
    Hey guys,

    Has anyone recently been to (or lived in) Cambodia? I'll be in Phnom Penh for the next few months and would appreciate any first-hand advice from RJ's seasoned travellers.

    I found some posts about Cambodia from a few years back, but any updates would be good. What places do you recommend to vist (besides Angkor Wat and the killing fields)? I really like cultural sites and seeing where locals hang out. What's the quickest way that I can learn enough Khmer to buy stuff in the markets? What's the gay scene like there?

    What about places to live? I'm looking to spend around $300 a month on a 1 bedroom apartment and from what I can tell, that's pretty reasonable for a comfortable but not luxurious spot.

    I'd also appreciate any ideas you have for cheap/day/weekend trips to other SE Asian countries while I'm there.

    Thanks!
  • DCEric

    Posts: 3713

    Feb 10, 2014 12:51 PM GMT
    1) $300/month will be sufficient, although you should live close to work. Traffic is a nightmare in parts of the city.
    2) You won't need to learn Khmer to buy stuff, gestures will more than get you buy.
    3) The Russian Market, Royal Palace and Phenom Wat are all decent attractions in the city.
    4) There is no gay scene as far as I know, that may have changed.
    5) You can easily grab a short flight to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Singapore (almost nothing to do there but shop). A longer flight will get you to Taiwan.
    6) You're black. When I was there I was with a black woman (one of my closer friends) she had a few incidents, usually stares, and one time when she got separated from the group a woman began shaking her baby in Angel's face. Nothing violent every happened. No one verbally said anything to her. She was largely treated as a curiosity, rather than any actual animosity. We were there to lead instruction for professionals, no one there batted an eye. However (and I told her this too) in many parts of Asia people are unaware that the term "Negro" is offensive.* Be ready to hear someone say it to you, and keep in mind they think they are saying "Black".

    *The things you learn when married to a South Asian. Sigh.
  • Bunjamon

    Posts: 3161

    Feb 10, 2014 3:32 PM GMT
    I loved visiting Sihanoukville and Battambang. We took a boat from Siem Reap to Battambang, and I even had a baby waved in my face and her mother insisted that I hold her. The trip was long, but really cool. I have a friend living in Phnom Penh working for the UN and he's having a great time. I think Cambodian food is also way more interesting than Thai and Vietnamese, too. It seemed like there was a pretty vibrant expat community there as well.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Feb 10, 2014 10:25 PM GMT
    I have zero desire to visit any countries around there but hey say hi to the King of Cambodia.He is a gayboy lol icon_smile.gif Ryan.
  • Syphon

    Posts: 366

    Feb 10, 2014 10:58 PM GMT
    I spent some time throughout Cambodia in October.

    Traffic is really bad, so live near where you're going to work.

    There's really no gay scene, I think there's one gay club, but ehhh. Unless you're into SE Asians, be prepared for a looonnnng dry spell. Also, just be extra careful with sex over there, SE Asia is an HIV/hepatitis endemic region. Also you really need to protect yourself from the skeeters, they carry an assortment of awesome diseases you don't want to catch. Dengue is very common in the city at certain times of the year and there is no vaccination.

    Don't touch any animals, period. Since you're going there for such a long time, you should get vaccinated for rabies. Hospital care is pretty terrible in Cambodia so you should make a plan for getting to Thailand for emergency care if needed - they have better facilities and care. If you get bitten or scratched by stray dogs, cats, or especially bats, you need to get to a hospital - preferably in Thailand immediately for rabies treatment or you will die.

    They don't see very many black people at all in Cambodia, so you will get stares in Phnom Penh, and just be cautious. I was with a bunch of white people and in rural areas people would stare at us like we were from another planet, it's kinda awkward, but you'll get used to it. If you're going out at night, do not go out alone. Going out at night isn't the best choice in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap on the otherhand... great fun.

    Don't drink the tap water. You're probably going to be pissing out your ass for the first few weeks anyways, but seriously, don't let any of the tap water go in your mouth.

    You don't need to learn Khmer to get around in Phnom Penh or other tourist areas, only if you're hitting areas less traveled.

    In any market areas, I always kept my hands on my wallet and phone, there are expert pick pockets and they will get taken if you aren't extra careful.

    Flights to nearby places aren't that expensive. You can even cab it for $50 to Sihanoukville or Siem Reap. Probably best to fly to Thailand or Vietnam.

    You should also sign up for alerts from your embassy. The Canadian one texted me with places/events to avoid.

    Also, if you're using an ATM machine, use one that is physically attached to a bank during business hours. It's really stressful having your card captured by a random ATM and not having access to any money.
  • The_Guruburu

    Posts: 895

    Feb 11, 2014 11:22 AM GMT
    DCEric said1) $300/month will be sufficient, although you should live close to work. Traffic is a nightmare in parts of the city.
    2) You won't need to learn Khmer to buy stuff, gestures will more than get you buy.
    3) The Russian Market, Royal Palace and Phenom Wat are all decent attractions in the city.
    4) There is no gay scene as far as I know, that may have changed.
    5) You can easily grab a short flight to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Singapore (almost nothing to do there but shop). A longer flight will get you to Taiwan.
    6) You're black. When I was there I was with a black woman (one of my closer friends) she had a few incidents, usually stares, and one time when she got separated from the group a woman began shaking her baby in Angel's face. Nothing violent every happened. No one verbally said anything to her. She was largely treated as a curiosity, rather than any actual animosity. We were there to lead instruction for professionals, no one there batted an eye. However (and I told her this too) in many parts of Asia people are unaware that the term "Negro" is offensive.* Be ready to hear someone say it to you, and keep in mind they think they are saying "Black".

    *The things you learn when married to a South Asian. Sigh.


    Thanks for your response. Yeah, I want to live close to work. I like walking when possible, though if traffic is as dangerous as I've heard, it might not be the best idea... I feel awful when I travel to places and can't speak the language. Even if it's basic, like hello, how much, and thanks, I'd still like to learn something. Maybe Rosetta Stone has something. I've heard different stories about LWB (Living while Black) in Cambodia. Some have had the experience your friend did (this person also happened to be rather curvy, too, which I'm sure added to it), while others didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Then again, I don't know what their "ordinary" experience is like in the US, so maybe getting gawked at istypical. I appreciate the validation, though.

    Ha ha, Negro...I don't find it inherently offensive (unlike another "n" word), but it's so outdated, unless you're 95 yrs old, there's no reason for you to use it. I guess its offensive in the sense that one is so out of touch with modern Black people that they don't know the right way to address us.

    When we're you in Cambodia, if I may ask?
  • The_Guruburu

    Posts: 895

    Feb 11, 2014 11:26 AM GMT
    Bunjamon saidI loved visiting Sihanoukville and Battambang. We took a boat from Siem Reap to Battambang, and I even had a baby waved in my face and her mother insisted that I hold her. The trip was long, but really cool. I have a friend living in Phnom Penh working for the UN and he's having a great time. I think Cambodian food is also way more interesting than Thai and Vietnamese, too. It seemed like there was a pretty vibrant expat community there as well.


    Babies waved in the face seems to be a thing, huh?

    I've never had Cambodian food, so I'm excited to try it and see how it compares to Thai food. What does your friend do at the UN? How long has he been there?
  • The_Guruburu

    Posts: 895

    Feb 11, 2014 11:38 AM GMT
    Syphon saidI spent some time throughout Cambodia in October.

    Traffic is really bad, so live near where you're going to work.

    There's really no gay scene, I think there's one gay club, but ehhh. Unless you're into SE Asians, be prepared for a looonnnng dry spell. Also, just be extra careful with sex over there, SE Asia is an HIV/hepatitis endemic region. Also you really need to protect yourself from the skeeters, they carry an assortment of awesome diseases you don't want to catch. Dengue is very common in the city at certain times of the year and there is no vaccination.

    Don't touch any animals, period. Since you're going there for such a long time, you should get vaccinated for rabies. Hospital care is pretty terrible in Cambodia so you should make a plan for getting to Thailand for emergency care if needed - they have better facilities and care. If you get bitten or scratched by stray dogs, cats, or especially bats, you need to get to a hospital - preferably in Thailand immediately for rabies treatment or you will die.

    They don't see very many black people at all in Cambodia, so you will get stares in Phnom Penh, and just be cautious. I was with a bunch of white people and in rural areas people would stare at us like we were from another planet, it's kinda awkward, but you'll get used to it. If you're going out at night, do not go out alone. Going out at night isn't the best choice in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap on the otherhand... great fun.

    Don't drink the tap water. You're probably going to be pissing out your ass for the first few weeks anyways, but seriously, don't let any of the tap water go in your mouth.

    You don't need to learn Khmer to get around in Phnom Penh or other tourist areas, only if you're hitting areas less traveled.

    In any market areas, I always kept my hands on my wallet and phone, there are expert pick pockets and they will get taken if you aren't extra careful.

    Flights to nearby places aren't that expensive. You can even cab it for $50 to Sihanoukville or Siem Reap. Probably best to fly to Thailand or Vietnam.

    You should also sign up for alerts from your embassy. The Canadian one texted me with places/events to avoid.

    Also, if you're using an ATM machine, use one that is physically attached to a bank during business hours. It's really stressful having your card captured by a random ATM and not having access to any money.


    This is all really helpful, thanks. I already signed up for alerts, but you've given me plenty of other things to consider.

    Ha ha, I've come to realize I actually have a thing for SE Asians, so I don't think that'll be a problem. But yeah, always good to be careful, no matter where or who I'm playing with.

    I'm glad you mentioned animals because I would have definitely tried petting some while there. Rabies shot, eh? I'll have to figure out how to arrange to get medical care in Thailand, since I'm getting insurance covered through my school. Is travelling there safe right now? Did you have to go to the hospital while you were there?

    I might have to change my plans; I've been eyeing a flight  that arrives at 11 at night. I'd be heading straight to a hotel, but it might make sense to arrive earlier just to be safe.
  • Syphon

    Posts: 366

    Feb 11, 2014 10:51 PM GMT
    Rabies vaccinations are not cheap and you need multiple shots over time, so you need to get on with that ASAP if you're going to. But really, as long as you don't touch any animals you should be fine. Stay out of caves, rabies can be spread through the air with high concentrations of bats shitting everywhere.

    No, I was with some friends who lived in Cambodia for a number of years and they know first hand how medical care goes over there. And just driving past the hospitals, there are lines that go outside and down the street just to get in. My travel doctor gave me specific hospitals to go to in Bangkok in the event of rabies as they have the human post exposure drug, whereas in Cambodia they have the veterinary grade drug instead, so yeah. I mean, if you are seriously injured you'll get taken to a Cambodian hospital, but if you aren't immediately going to die you should try to get to Bangkok. You should visit a travel doctor before you go, they will be able to equip you with all the information you need, and vaccinations.

    Pinkeye is pretty common, especially during dry times of the year when there's dust blowing everywhere (exposed to open sewage). You can just go to a pharmacy and pick up eyedrops (or any drug you want) without an Rx. Keep wounds clean.

    When you order drinks, make sure your ice cubes have holes in them... sounds weird, I know, but the holes indicate they were made with clean water, not tap water. I usually just tried to drink everything before the ice melted just to be safe.

    There are a lot of stray dogs and cats everywhere, don't touch any of them. Just ignore them. There are monkeys all around the Angkor site, lots of tourists like them because I mean, yeah they're monkeys, you don't see that shit often over here. But they are wild animals and can seriously injure or disease you without warning, so stay away.

    When I was there, they were just beginning to have some political drama starting up, it may have escalated since the fall, I don't know. Best to listen to your alerts and avoid any political/mass gatherings as a rule of thumb.

    You'll be able to get a tuktuk from the airport late at night, Phnom Penh is big so maybe have a map ready on your phone to show the driver in case they don't know your hotel specifically. And you shouldn't be paying more than $5 to go anywhere in the city. Might be a bit more from the airport though.
  • The_Guruburu

    Posts: 895

    Mar 03, 2014 8:52 PM GMT
    Here's an update for anyone who cares:

    I've been here a week and it's been good so far. No rabies or dengue yet. Got a nice apartment not too far from work for under $250 a month. I'm slowly learning Khmer and can say basic greetings and count to 19, which people appreciate even if I am butchering it with my accent. Got friendly with a few of the Tuk Tuk drivers (no, not like that...) so I've got some people to call on if I need help. One driver was actually the one who found my apartment and even helped me move in and buy a lock for my door.

    Pretty much every guy here is hot or close to hot, and apparently I managed to get myself a place near a lot of the gay bars. I found some great info on local gay life from Utopia-Asia—I'd suggest anyone travelling to Asia check it out. It has an interactive map and lists places that are gay-owned or gay-friendly, and you can add locations or reviews, too. I might purchase a lifetime membership to support it, it's really a good resource.

    Oh and being Black hasn't been a problem. At. All. I've actually been asked if I was Cambodian, despite my bad Khmer. One guy said I have the same skin color, and another was heavily flirting with me (or my money, I don't know). But whatever, it's refreshing not to be submersed in white-supremacist society for a change. And I'm finally a normal height/size!

    I don't know why I didn't come sooner. That's it for now.icon_biggrin.gif