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    Thread: Ask me about Cambodia

    1. #1
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      Ask me about Cambodia

      Well, since I have lived in Phnom Penh on and off for 5 months in the past year and have now moved in my own place in the city, I figured it would make sense to make a thread for people to ask questions. I guess a lot of people still don't know very much about the country and I do get somewhat of an inside look that differs from what tourists see. I am mainly involved in the media, arts and cultural scene - but you can ask anything.

      I am currently pretty busy due to work and, well, change of scenery, but I should still at least be able to come here regularly, albeit for only short periods of time. But I'll be happy to answer anything as good as I can.
      Last edited by dajo; 09-07-2010 at 05:27 AM.

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      come on, don't be shy now. this is a pretty crazy city. there's lots of interesting stuff I can tell you.

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      Is there still a lot of violence in the country? Most of what I know about Cambodia comes from the Khmer Rouge era... How are the people coping with the massive genocide that took place?

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      Ah yes, good ones.

      The aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime is clearly noticable if you look at the economy. The southeast asia war and the KR have thrown the country back for ages. In terms of development, Cambodia is far behind Thailand and Vietnam for example. But things are changing, many countries invest in Cambodia - but it is questionable how this will play out. For example the money is not equally invested. All the big, nice and modern buidlings are either banks or government. Things will happen and change, we'll see how.

      The government (Hun Sen=Prime Minister) would like to see this topic fade out, which for obvious reasons is not a right approach. Criticism towards the government is not well received, either. Because I work in a center for arts and culture, I am confronted with the KR issue on a regular basis. There is a lot of information (films, art, workshops, etc) to inform and cope with the issues and also keep the awareness up, but the poor, uneducated majority is usually not interested in cultural events, or doesn't have the time or energy.

      Since the genocide happened from 1976 - 1979, there are of course still a lot of people alive that can tell the story. I don't really think it's possible to understand, what they have been through, the events were just horrible. But things have to go on. The challenge is to keep the younger, uneducated populace informed. Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world, but in terms of violence generally safe. Domestic violence is still a problem, as well as gang activity, but if you avoid certain areas you'll never know. Most crimes committed are of smaller nature.

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      How did people react to you, a non-native Cambodian?
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      What's the popular food there?Like hotdogs/burgers in america..
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      Quote Originally Posted by spockman View Post
      How did people react to you, a non-native Cambodian?
      Well, the city is pretty full of expatriates. So in Phnom Penh it is nothing new. And of course there is a pretty big amount of tourists that come in and out every day.

      There are different reactions. Many see foreigners as cash cows to make a living off of, which can get exhausting -but this usually happens most if you're in a touristic area. The city is filled with Tuk Tuks and Moto drivers. I live at kind of a hot spot and above a bus station, so there are really a lot of them right in front of my door. I am going out with a number of them regularly and we have become friends, I get invited to parties, talk to them every day and generally get along with them great.

      That's a Tuk Tuk.


      I guess some also just don't really care and go about their business. Others show curiousity and interest. Many show a lot of respect and strong submissiveness, which really bothers the hell out of me.

      But there are also negative, racist reactions. In some cases understandable, in others it is misdirected hatred. One thing is for sure, you will always be viewed as different here. That's a very interesting experience to make.

      It's a whole different thing at the countryside. People aren't focused on commercialism as much, they are farmers. So I would say the first reaction is a shy curiosity. Depending on where you are, chances are that the people you talk to haven't spoken to a foreigner before. But it is almost certain that you won't get far with English, which is why I'm learning Khmer at the moment.

      Quote Originally Posted by kunfu11
      What's the popular food there?Like hotdogs/burgers in america..
      The general Khmer cuisine is very simple I'd say. If you are sitting with a bunch of Cambodians at a table, there will always be rice, cooked vegetables and meat. Usually everything on a different plate, they are placed in the middle and for everyone to eat from. Each person has an empty plate or bowl in front of them and then you just go ahead an pick whatevery you'd like off with chop sticks. This is usually accompanied by a chillie/spices-lemon mixture and some soy sauce to dip your food in.

      Since this is a tropical country, there are of course also many fruits.

      It might look something like this:



      or like this:



      or this:



      Popluar dishes that are symbolic would probably be:

      first and foremost Amok Trey:


      It is fish coated in a thick coconut milk with kroeung, either steamed or baked in a cup made from banana leaves.

      Bok l'hong:



      Which is basically a papaya salad.

      and Samlor machu



      A popular sour soup with a tamarind base. Includes meat such as chicken or fish, tomatoes, lotus roots, water greens, herbs and may be flavored with prahok. (wiki)

      Me being a strict vegetarian excludes me from most of the typical khmer food.
      Last edited by dajo; 09-14-2010 at 04:37 AM.

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      Just as a quick explanation. The guy in the Lexus is some imporant dude. Then there were
      two policeman stopping him, because he was driving in the opposite direction of the traffic.
      To keep him from driving off, he parks his bike in front, but the dude doesn't really feel like
      waiting so he takes off. The weirdest part, though, is that the cop then proceeds to shoot
      the bike, I don't really know what that's about, maybe he wanted to put it out of its misery?
      Last edited by dajo; 11-01-2010 at 05:38 AM.

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      I just wanted to up this, after almost ten more months here since I posted.

      I have recently been quite busy with writing a thesis about the development sector and networking between ngos. So I would probably be able to give some insights regarding development aid in cambodia* (and to an extend development issues generally, history, media). Cambodia is one of the countries with a tremendous amount of aid organisations present (ca.2000 ngos, foreign governments, united nations, banks). There are also many critical issues at the moment that come up in international news.

      *just to give you some ideas:
      HIV, funding, governments, united nations, KR Trial, recent development issues - some of your tax money is here, too - some of those may spawn an interesting debate

      Another thing is - while many people associate Cambodia only with the khmer rouge - it is a very interesting country. That aside, I am living in a 2 million people city, with a HUGE international community. There is a lot of interesting shit going on and it is mostly pretty crazy as well. Anybody got questions, don't be shy to ask. Personal Questions? My reflections on a massive change of scenery? What kinds of people are living here? What are they doing? What am I doing? Drugs? Art? Politics? Sex Tourism? Prejudices,... or things you know from Thailand or Vietnam? Or something completely unrelated? Shoot.
      Last edited by dajo; 07-06-2011 at 08:20 PM.

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      How do common diseases and pathogens affect your life as an expatriate in a third world country? What kind of precautions did you take or still take? As a foreigner taking the proper precautions, what are the risks of contracting malaria or other tropical diseases?

      I ask because I may have the opportunity to work for extended periods of time in remote parts of undeveloped countries in the near future (especially Africa). I'd rather not come back with a lifelong illness...

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      Quote Originally Posted by Spartiate View Post
      How do common diseases and pathogens affect your life as an expatriate in a third world country? What kind of precautions did you take or still take? As a foreigner taking the proper precautions, what are the risks of contracting malaria or other tropical diseases?

      I ask because I may have the opportunity to work for extended periods of time in remote parts of undeveloped countries in the near future (especially Africa). I'd rather not come back with a lifelong illness...
      Great opportunity, very popular question. I haven't been to Africa yet, but of course the precautions you will have to take are dependent on the exact area you go to. Especially when you work in really remote areas. So, if you weren't thinking of it already, stop by at a Tropical institute. As for my personal experience with Cambodia:

      The only precautions I really took was to get my vaccinations up to date (hepatitis, typhus, rabies, tetanus). In the areas I usually am and especially in the capital, there is no malaria, really. If you travel into areas that are at risk, you can take precautionary medicine, but they are quite strong, so not advisable for an extended period of time. What you could do is to take some prophylaxis with you and take it once the symptoms start. What is more common here, but I have been lucky to avoid, is Dengue Fever. Friends had it and it is no fun, but if you take antibiotics, it's painful but not too dangerous.

      Common diseases are a lot more aggressive than they are in first world countries. You can get a cough that just won't go away, diarrhea you're likely to get a few times, I've had food poisoning, parasites are a possibility. Just another example that shows how things are different: I've had a few mosquito bites on my feet that I scratched a little too much. They were very small wounds, but they started to grow bigger and bigger and filled up with pus and I just couldn't handle them, so I had to eventually go to the doctor. After two years, I still have scars on my feet. Small things can turn into something big if you don't keep an eye on them.

      That said, I worry very little about this kind of stuff and am healthy most of the time. Just be conscious about what's going on with your body and don't wait too long to take action if something is wrong. There is always the chance of catching something nasty, but if you are informed and take precautions, you can keep the risks to a minimum. And it's worth it for sure.

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      1. What percentage of expats living there are sex tourists or worse? I don't mean just dating Cambodian girls, but real full time sex tourists.

      Nothing against you, it's a stereotype you often read about expats in Cambodia.

      2. Do you find lucid dreaming easy there, are there a lot of temples and open meditation classes?

      MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution) and clay, is good for a lot of tropical diseases, I wouldn't be without it.
      Last edited by Dowzen; 07-07-2011 at 06:18 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dowzen View Post
      1. What percentage of expats living there are sex tourists or worse? I don't mean just dating Cambodian girls, but real full time sex tourists.

      Nothing against you, it's a stereotype you often read about expats in Cambodia.
      I don't know any expats here that are "full time sex tourists". Although many are no saints either.

      I would say that most of the sex tourists are actually tourists that come to Cambodia only occasionally. What you will see a lot - in touristic areas - are older men with relatively young and pretty Cambodian girls. That takes some getting used to. As I said, this seems to be a more common occurrence among tourists more so than expats. People that actually move here have mostly different motives. I have met a few people that came over from Thailand that seemed to be quite into it. (You have to leave Thailand every three months or so to extend your visa, some take a vacation in Cambodia)

      One explanation about bars - many of those located in touristic areas are filled with hostesses. That means they're paid by the bar to give you company (if you want) and get paid additionally, somewhat like a commission on drinks that you buy her. I personally always found it somewhat uncomfortable, really not my thing. Sex is not involved in the job, but many of them will, on their own terms, go occasionally home with foreigners, expats and tourists alike, for either fun, some extra cash or in hopes of a regular thing or even better a relationship. Some of the girls really play the field and have a few people that support her on the side. Relationships actually do start here sometimes, too.

      The expatriate scene is very big and incredibly diverse. So sure, you have people here that occasionally take a girl home after a night out. I'm sure a bunch are also visiting a brothel once a while. But it's not the majority, many also frown upon it or take a strong stance against it. I have seen worse behavior from tourists coming to the country, most of the expats are quite respectful (and at least understanding of the culture), but of course there are always exceptions. I personally, while not doing it myself, am not judging anybody when they go home with a girl, usually alcohol is involved and the girls are no saints either. What I absolutely cannot stand is people that come here and see Cambodia as nothing but a paradise to get laid - the so called sex tourists.

      Cambodia's sex image is really unfair to the country in my opinion and something that I would really like to be changed.


      2. Do you find lucid dreaming easy there, are there a lot of temples and open meditation classes?
      For me lucid dreaming is about the same as in any country. The same obstacles as anywhere - do I get enough sleep/ do I get to sleep in? Stress? Time to focus? etc. In the city I don't go to pagodas, I have meditated in a temples in the provinces beore. I know there are meditation classes, but I am not taking part in any. A few friends are going on regular retreats, usually silent meditation, strict diet under the guidance of Buddhist monks for a couple of weeks. This is something I wanted to do if I have the time, but just didn't get around to it yet.

      To the question if there are a lot of pagodas - yes! they're everywhere.
      Last edited by dajo; 07-07-2011 at 07:37 AM.

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      Thanks for an enlightening post...

      The only thing I've read about Cambodia was 'Guns, Girls and Ganja' - a book about a group of ****heads who (among other things) sit around smoking drugs and sleeping with 13-14 year old girls. I admit that's probably a pretty distorted view of the whole of Cambodia + the foreigners there, I just wondered how often this went on.

      I don't like to judge much either. People are going to go to clubs and sleep with each other, its up to them and a part the human experience. The only thing which I don't like is older guys (or any guys) sleeping with girls younger than 16 or 15 for money. That just seems wrong, and I hope it stops one day. I've heard some of the brothel owners torture their girls too, and that turns my stomach.

      If a girl goes home with a guy from a bar that's not my business or my problem. It's only the more extreme stories that I don't like to hear, and I wanted to know how prevalent this actually was.

      I'm sure that there are a lot of other things going on in Cambodia too, and there's many interesting things to discover. Yes, the expat scene will be pretty diverse and there will be all sorts of people.

      *

      Its great that there's temple retreats and plenty of places to meditate out there. I always thought there was something special about the country.

      I asked if it was 'easy' to meditate or do lucid dreaming because I have found that some places are more conducive to these sorts of practices than others. The veil seems to be thinner in some areas.

      Thanks for giving us a window into an interesting country.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dowzen
      Thanks for an enlightening post...
      You are very welcome. That's why I created the thread.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dowzen View Post
      The only thing I've read about Cambodia was 'Guns, Girls and Ganja' - a book about a group of ****heads who (among other things) sit around smoking drugs and sleeping with 13-14 year old girls. I admit that's probably a pretty distorted view of the whole of Cambodia + the foreigners there, I just wondered how often this went on.
      I am sure a bunch of people that are living in Cambodia also somewhat stay under the radar, especially if they are involved in dubious behavior. Sadly child prostitution, sex trafficking and abuse are a reality. Also drugs are accessible and if you are not actively engaged in Phnom Penh's social life, it is easy to get lost, the city has some rough edges to it. But the vast majority of people I know are between decent and wonderful human beings. Most of my friends and colleges are musicians, NGO workers, artists, filmmakers and bar/restaurant owners. The expat scene is very active (and interconnected) and many are engaged in activities with a social focus. They are usually not part of the "drug crowd" and outspoken in regards of the issues in Cambodia.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dowzen View Post
      I don't like to judge much either. People are going to go to clubs and sleep with each other, its up to them and a part the human experience. The only thing which I don't like is older guys (or any guys) sleeping with girls younger than 16 or 15 for money. That just seems wrong, and I hope it stops one day. I've heard some of the brothel owners torture their girls too, and that turns my stomach.
      Child prostitution is of course widely illegal and of course horribly wrong, people are being thrown into jail for it here - and that's something you most likely want to avoid. Despite of a corrupt government that censors criticism, Cambodia is one of the freest countries I have been in. Sadly this also seems to attract "shady" people. Although changes in the city are happening at an increasingly rapid speed. I, too, hope that brothels and hostess bars would be more on the decline in the future.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dowzen
      Its great that there's temple retreats and plenty of places to meditate out there. I always thought there was something special about the country.
      Phnom Penh is a noisy and crowded city. While I enjoy the fact that it is full of life, it's not the most peaceful place on earth. Cambodia has some very beautiful parts in the countryside that are perfect to relax and meditate, I just haven't been getting out of the city enough. Everytime I do - I remind myself to get out more often in the future. I have found dreaming to be easier in the more remote areas. Sometimes I spend some time in an orphanage that is right by a pagoda - I have previously meditated there before and felt to have more vivid dreams at nights. There are some retreats that are being offered in Cambodia, but many more in Thailand, which is just one hour by plane or ten hours by bus away for as little as $15. (Phnom Penh - Bangkok)
      Last edited by dajo; 07-09-2011 at 07:07 PM.

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      Wow, sir, I'm glad you have this up. I just clicked your signature. Cambodia is top of my list of places I could potentially spend vast stretches of my life in. I quite seriously may move there in a year or so. I have no questions off the top of my head but be prepared, my friend, be prepared. Hahahaha!

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      Yes, it's a good thread.

      Thanks for the follow up Dajo. I'm sure there are lots of cool people in Phnom Penh and the creeps are a minority.

      I love living in the chaos of a big city. It'd be cool to meditate in a pagoda.

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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      Wow, sir, I'm glad you have this up. I just clicked your signature. Cambodia is top of my list of places I could potentially spend vast stretches of my life in. I quite seriously may move there in a year or so. I have no questions off the top of my head but be prepared, my friend, be prepared. Hahahaha!
      Now look at that.

      Once you do let me know. I can help you out in the beginning with a variety of things and can introduce you to people and stuff like that. Lets turn this thread around for a second. Have you visited before? What made you decide, or seriously consider moving here?

      Quote Originally Posted by Dowzen View Post
      I love living in the chaos of a big city.
      It is quite chaotic.


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      Quote Originally Posted by dajo View Post
      Now look at that.

      Once you do let me know. I can help you out in the beginning with a variety of things and can introduce you to people and stuff like that. Lets turn this thread around for a second. Have you visited before? What made you decide, or seriously consider moving here?
      Well, if you insist I'll do my best.

      No, I haven't visited that area of the globe as of yet. As far as why would I consider moving there, that's a tough one because there are so many things I want to do with my life, so there are many ways I could go about answering. I suppose Cambodia seems a good 'composite' solution to multiple problems.

      I guess I would say it's the combination of natural beauty and the extreme dissimilarity from my current comfort zone. I'm a complete sucker for the "tropical paradise" ideal. And the precious few times in my life that I've ventured outside my comfort zone can only be described as... full of whatever the exact opposite of 'regret' is.

      It just seems like a place I could appreciate. I'm a very chill person, I keep to myself, I have no particular attachment to where I'm from, and I am staggeringly affected by the truly beautiful places on earth. Plus, I have been led to believe that it's very easy to live in there.

      Anyway, I won't be responsible for hijacking your worthy thread any further. If plans ever become more realistic (which is no long shot), I know I'll have 1,001 questions.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 07-23-2011 at 02:28 AM.

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      Let me ask the most obvious question-- How did you come to be in Cambodia?

      What kind of job do you have?

      Also, have you lived in other foreign countries before?

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      Anyway, I won't be responsible for hijacking your worthy thread any further. If plans ever become more realistic (which is no long shot), I know I'll have 1,001 questions.
      There's no hijacking. Your questions are on-topic, and open up a bunch of discussions.

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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      Plus, I have been led to believe that it's very easy to live in there.
      It can be. Living here is not a problem. Making a living depends on what you do and what you want to do.

      Personally, I love it. I won't go into any details, since I wasn't asked.

      Don't worry about hijacking though. Thanks for your answer.



      Quote Originally Posted by Savy View Post
      Let me ask the most obvious question-- How did you come to be in Cambodia?
      Hope this answers your question:

      During my time studying in Germany I decided that I didn't and couldn't go a regular 'corporate path', or just get a regular job in my home country (due to my chosen subject, it would have been a pr/marketing/event agency, advertisement, communication management in a business - no thanks). I decided that I wanted to ultimately do something that I felt helps others and I wanted to expand my horizon culturally and personally. I also wanted to do something that ultimately would make me happy. I have been trying as best as I can to go about it strategically, so I would be able to work in and with different cultures as a lifelong profession. (Similar to a corporate career - education, experience and a network also stand in the center of being able to do this successfully) I have been in Indonesia many times on vacation before and felt a connection to SE Asia. The actual connection to Cambodia I got through my sister, who worked for a year at an orphanage. That was my way in and I was able to make the contact I was looking for. (my current employer)

      There are a few more aspects that pushed me into taking more risks to further my experiences and to seek out a path of life that I would not end up regretting on my death bed. I did a lot of reading and thinking at the time, tried to travel more as I have always loved it, got somewhat into psychedelics and slightly into activism. I also felt some disgust with the direction we as a society seemed to be heading and just could not take part in something I didn't believe in. There was no 'escapism' involved in my decision, though.

      What kind of job do you have?
      I am trying to combine what I have studied with what I want to do, my field of studies are Media Sciences, Communication and PR - which is a relatively wide field. My thesis I wrote on the Cambodian development sector (focus on coordination and networking) and finished only recently (evaluation should be in any day now). I work at a German Cambodian Culture and Media Center (did internships before) and am additionally signed under contract with a relatively prestigious German Institution focused on cultural exchange. This for me is a great opportunity of getting work experience, extending my network and adding some very good references to my CV. After a few years of experience in this sector I would like to continue studying in a anthropological direction and maybe concentrate more on non-profit in the future, yet I try to stay open for whatever may happen.

      Also, have you lived in other foreign countries before?
      The closest would be:

      I have lived in the USA for one year and visited the senior year of high school in 2002. (Student Exchange)

      I consider Cambodia being my first foreign country as a resident, yet hope that there will be many more to come.
      Last edited by dajo; 07-25-2011 at 04:02 PM.
      Savy likes this.

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      I'm trying to get my head together and think of some questions that I could ask now. I'll be in the UK until late next year studying at Durham but after that, who knows.

      Are there any good opportunities to support yourself teaching English? I'm willing to do it in a more rural setting, not necessarily in the capitol.

      What is the regional transportation like? You mentioned that there is easy access to Bangkok by train, but what about other places?

      That's all for now.

    24. #24
      not so sure.. Achievements:
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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      Are there any good opportunities to support yourself teaching English? I'm willing to do it in a more rural setting, not necessarily in the capitol.
      Many come here and teach English. It's relatively easy to sustain yourself doing it.

      Your best bet would be Phnom Penh, though.

      Just don't turn into the drunk English teacher from US cliché

      Depending on what you studied - there are many different job opportunities here.

      One source for these may be:

      Jobs and Classified Ads in Cambodia - Bong Thom Dot Com

      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      What is the regional transportation like? You mentioned that there is easy access to Bangkok by train, but what about other places?
      Where did I say train? There currently is no train system in Cambodia aside from the 'bamboo train'. Although it is planned to revive the train infrastructure, it will still be quite a while until this happens. You can travel by train in most of the rest of Asia though.

      There are several ways to travel.
      For shorter distances there are many motos and tuk tuks all over the city/country. But it is probably the best idea (assuming you stay longer) to buy or rent a scooter. Taxis are also a possibility. For example you can decide to rent a taxi and fill it with 4-5 people and share the costs. This is if you want the most comfortable and quickest way to go to the beach for example.

      Example for driving on a moto:



      or a Tuk Tuk in the picture posted in the beginning of the thread.

      If you want to get to other areas in the country, or to Thailand, Laos or Vietnam, you can always get a relatively cheap bus ticket. They go every day and you have a choice of three to four different companies. It also doesn't take too long to get to Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok for example.

      Then there are countless blue mini vans driving around all the time. You can just basically go on and get a cheap ride to different destinations. You can also get in by standing on the side of the road waving. But it is quite likely that they will be packed as full as possible, which can make for the most uncomfortable, but fun traveling experience.
      Last edited by dajo; 07-26-2011 at 03:20 AM.

    25. #25
      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by dajo View Post
      Just don't turn into the drunk English teacher from US cliché
      Valuable advice, right there. I'm all too susceptible to falling into any clichés that I don't know about.

      Where did I say train? There currently is no train system in Cambodia aside from the 'bamboo train'.
      Bus. Of course you said bus. Herp I'm a derp.

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