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Thread: Thailand and Cambodia differences

  1. #1

    Thailand and Cambodia differences

    I have been coming to Thailand for about 12 years. I always thought I would visit Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, but never did until a week ago. Now that I have retired in Thailand I want to explore the countries around here. For those of you that have never been to Cambodia other than a Visa run, I would encourage you to see Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Since you can read about these places online or in tour books I want to post the differences that I saw between Thailand and the two cities I visited. I want to thank "Gone fishing" for the PM and recommendations.

    My Thai friend and I flew on Air Asia to Phnom Penh. The flight was about an hour and was comfortable. After take off they gave us many forms to fill out for immigration and customs and a visa on arrival. The airport in Phnom Penh is very small compared to Bangkok. It is new and very efficient. It took almost a minute to de-plane and get to the immigration desk. Most stopped at the Visa on arrival desk but we had gone one line and secured our visa ahead of time. The e-visa is very easy to apply for online but those that stopped to get one on arrival were processed very quickly. The passport control desks were all manned. I think there were 11 stations. Our flight was the only flight being processed. Waited maybe 5 minutes for processing. Returning to Bangkok I waited 70 minutes and it took another 15 minutes to get to the car park in Bangkok.

    As you exit the arrival hall in Phnom Penh you are greeted immediately by taxi drivers with signs with your name on them if you had prearranged a car pickup. Our driver met us. His car seemed well maintained for a 20 year old Toyota. It cost $7 dollars for the 20 minute ride to our hotel. The US dollar is the main currency. Those that think the driving in Pattaya is risky must experience Phnom Penh. In Pattaya most of the motorbikes stay close to the curb side but in Phnom Penh cars and motorbikes are not so orderly. Several times on a 4 lane road cars were coming head on towards us at fast speeds. Our driver simply moved over into on coming traffic pitting us against on coming traffic. Most cars are left hand drive cars as in the US. The cheap imports (my friend's words...meaning stolen from Thailand) are plentiful however.

    The main tourist district that contains the King's Palace and National Museum is a very small area. It seemed to be only 3 or 4 blocks in each direction. Most of the hotels in this area are old French Colonial buildings. The area is a bit cluttered but there are upscale resorts nearby. We stayed at the FCC. This place has 7 rooms and is really nice for the price. It has a great restaurant on the roof over looking the river. Very full of expats and tourists. No air conditioning as in most places in this area except for the guest rooms. No tall buildings that we saw. Much different from Bangkok.

    Most tourist travel from place to place by Tuk-Tuk. These are much more comfortable than those I have ridden in here in Thailand. They are more like chariots pulled by a motor bike. The motorbikes have a large plastic "gas tank" strapped to them and run fairly slowly. The bikes are small cc. We paid $1 to go from our hotel to the Blue Chili bar.....which is only 2 blocks away but we did not know. The driver was named Len. Spoke fairly good English and said he had a Dutch boyfriend. He is a nice guy and is always in front of FCC. We invited him to have a drink with us. The owner of the Blue Chili is from Pattaya. He is the former boyfriend of one of the frequent posters of this board. His current boyfriend is Cambodian.

    The next day we met our "English speaking" driver who would drive us the 4 hours to Siem Reap. He did not speak a word of English. We had arranged this driver through Ben Wee who a poster had heard about from the internet. I called Ben Wee before we left Thailand and asked about his services. What he promised and what we got were not the same. Just like in Thailand. Ben Wee asked to talk to the driver and then told me the driver he arranged was a different driver and the one driving was a friend of that driver. We continued on. The roads between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is 2 lanes but in very good condition. The driver blew his horn all the way to Siem Reap but no one on the road paid attention. The Motorbike drivers do not move to the curb side of the road. They stay in the middle of the lane. Usually in Thailand they move over. I noticed than NONE of the motorbikes had rear view mirrors as the bikes in Thailand do. Also many are only 50cc and up. The most common bike I saw was like a Honda Cub. I have not seen this model in Thailand. There also were not many trucks over 2 axles. The vehicles carrying Cambodia passengers were packed. Over full inside and others sitting on packages that were strapped to the roof. It seemed really dangerous.We did not hit any traffic lights until we reached Siem Reap.

    We stayed at a GREAT hotel called Steung Siem Reap. ( I spelled the hotel wrong on my original post....sorry)The cost was $50 a night with a very good buffet breakfast included. The hotel room was large very well air conditioned and the hotel had a nice salt water pool. I can not imagine a better deal. The hotel is located right off "bar street" which has MANY very good restaurants. None are are conditioned that we found. Most meals were between $2 and $4 per person before drinks. Many places have "Happy Hours" where draft beer is $.75 for a good sized mug (less than 25 baht). One meal I had consisted of a whole boneless chicken breast topped with ham and cheese, it came with great mashed potatoes, fresh cooked vegetables and bread for $3.50 (110 baht). That was not a special. Normal price. I think the same meal here in Pattaya would have been 250 baht. Another meal of large Greek salad, large bowl of Pumpkin soup and a baguette with butter cost $2.00 (60 baht). At a popular Mexican Restaurant the price of a meal for both of us which included a shared plate of chicken nachos, chips with salsa, a burrito with Mexican rice and refried beans for each of us, 2 pitchers of margaritas was $13.00 (450 baht total) These meals were all eaten at tourist restaurants. Pattaya is much more expensive.

    The men we met were all friendly. However no host or go-go bars. I asked this one guy who was very handsome if he liked men or women, Without hesitation he winked and said "both". At another place we went upstairs where they served dinner. We looked at the menu and decided to go eat somewhere else and the very attractive waiter said with the nicest of smiles, "Where are you going? Don't you like me?" I said "Yes you are very handsome, but we want a bigger menu." His smile became bigger as he said, "I don't think you'll find anyone bigger than me!"

    Even though I found only 2 host bars (Blue Chili and Salt Lounge) in Phnom Penh and 1 in Siem Reap (Golden Banana, which is a VERY mixed hotel with a great staff and wonderful owner....who arranged a fantastic massage for me), the men of Cambodia are very friendly and many very stunning. Driving through the villages to Siem Reap I saw some of the best looking men. Fairly tall (compared to many Thais) and very well defined bodies. The skin looked almost golden.....

    The last comparison I would make is that the English speaking level of those working in the tourist areas is outstanding. Many had graduated from University and knew English very well. Even the younger children that sell trinkets and books around the temples have impressive English language skills. One young girl (9 or 10 years old) who was trying to sell me 10 post cards for a dollar said "Look you can write on these and send them to your friends." I jokingly said, "I am sorry I have no friends" to which she replied, "I will be your friend and you can send one to me". All in perfect English! (Yes I did give her the $1 without taking the postcards....very smart girl)

    Some people have complained about small children begging. I did not have anyone approach me begging. There are young children selling books and things to earn money. But none of them were rude or pushy or bothersome. Cambodia is a very poor country. But the people I met were great. It is certainly a country of great need. The temples in Siem Reap are fantastic

  2. #2
    Thanks for the report.

    Did you try the Linga bar in Siem Reap? That's a good place to meet the locals....

  3. #3
    Thanks for a great and very informative post PM.


  4. #4
    Forum's veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Liked: 1
    I have started to archive "Nice Stories" on my server in the same manner that I saved the old Pattayagay board's stories.

    The pattayagay ones are on my site and webblog.

    The newer ones are only on my site. Use the www button to find then.

  5. #5
    Forum's veteran TrongpaiExpat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Nice report, very nice.

    I too noticed that some of the Cambodians seem to speak English much better than their Thai counterparts. They conjugate verbs and use the correct tense. I wonder why? I did ask when I was surprised by their skill and was told, school, and not it was not pronounced like most Thais say, sa-scool.
    E Dok Tong

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by TrongpaiExpat
    I too noticed that some of the Cambodians seem to speak English much better than their Thai counterparts. They conjugate verbs and use the correct tense. I wonder why? I did ask when I was surprised by their skill and was told, school, and not it was not pronounced like most Thais say, sa-scool.
    Colonised by the French and forced to learn a language structured that way has had long-term spillover effects into the Cambodian education system

  7. #7
    Senior member Dick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    A very useful and worthwhile post, PM. Thank You.
    Looking forward to the next chapter.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Thank you for an excellent report, PM. Stories and posts like these continue to be what I find so helpful about this board. Thanks for sharing.

    And Jinks....
    Quote Originally Posted by jinks
    The newer ones are only on my site. Use the www button to find then.
    Thank you so much for this archiving! Frankly, I had never before noticed the "www button" --- (fairly unobservant of me!). From time to time I see posts, such as PM's, that I'd like to stash away for future reference and I have a tiresome manner of 'copying and saving'. Now seeing your archiving, that's a must better resource for me. Thanks!

  9. #9
    The reason most Thais speak English poorly and Cambodians speak English much better is deeply embedded within Thai culture. It is not culturally accepted to criticize, even when the criticism is constructive, therefore Thai English teachers have never had their English skills critically evaluated or corrected. I remember trying to talk to one of the BF's aunts who is an English teacher in Chiang Rai, and I could not even carry on a simple,"Hello, how are you today?" conversation with her. I watched as she tutored some of her regular day time English students in a small after school English class at her home.....and nearly pulled my hair out.....I still have no idea what was being said or read in English. My father -in-law, who is American, tried to hire an English teacher for the kids at home...and finally gave up because not even one of the applicants could speak to him on any level in English. He decided to teach English on his own and the kids are doing great, and speaking real English. He had absolutely no training as a teacher and only the few English educational materials I brought to him from America.

    This Thai cultural issue with saving face and not criticizing even when it is beneficial will continue to hold Thailand back.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Soi 10 Tom
    This Thai cultural issue with saving face and not criticizing even when it is beneficial will continue to hold Thailand back.
    You think it's purely a Thai issue? A friend of mine (ethnic Chinese, born and raised in Canada) makes an interesting comparison between the Singaporean Chinese and the Malaysian Chinese, with both of whom she has worked as a consultant for one of the Fat Four accounting firms). She says the Singaporeans are much, much more conformist and interested in saving face than the Malaysians and believes it has to do with majority/minority ethnic status. Isn't "face" after all an Asian value, not just a Thai one? http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/face/

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