Things I have learnt in Cambodia

There are some things you read about in books but there are some things that you learn about when you get there. These are some of the things I have discovered in a list with an arbitrary amount of numbers (I bet that’s going to annoy a few of you).

  1. Cafes and restaurants usually have valet parking. What I mean by that is there is usually a man that moves your moto into place and helps you get it back out again when you leave. (At this moment you point down the street in the direction that you will be heading.)
  2. There aren’t any pavements in Phnom Penh (well there are, but very few). If there are any they probably have motos parked on it.
  3. Cambodia has loads of dragonflies. When I went to Angkor Wat, I think I was more impressed by the sheer number of dragonflies than the architecture. Seriously, there were thousands. Quite often there will be swarms around my house.
  4. Decisions about footwear are more complex than I thought they would be. In Cambodia (as in most South East-Asian cultures, I think), you take your shoes off before you enter homes (schools, some restaurants and shops and religious buildings). So they should be easy to take on or off. Also, you want to be cool so open shoes are good. Now you’re probably thinking, haven’t you heard of flip flops you idiot? Yes, of course I have! That is what I normally wear. However, it rains a lot here, and that can make flip flops less than ideal. They have no grip and the entrances to shops and buildings are often smooth paving slabs and supermarket floors are often tiled. I have often almost slipped over on numerous occasions and, as Khmer tend to have a very slapstick sense of humour, I have also provided a few laughs. The roads often flood up to your ankles, so it’s really easy to lose flip flops then (I usually carry them at this point). However, the worst time to wear them is after it has rained. You just end up flicking mud up the back of your legs. The other day I felt really pleased with myself as I hadn’t felt the horrible sensation of dirty water against my calves. “I must have learnt to walk in mud with flip flops,” I proudly thought. Then it dawned on me: I was wearing trousers.
  5. A good fan in the right direction will help against mosquito bites.
  6. Ants don’t like rain. I notice fewer ants when it’s wet.
  7. There are foreigners everywhere! This is in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, at least. 
  8. Cambodian builders wear shirts to work. 
  9. Most products in shops don’t have Khmer on them. Usually you will see Thai (which is similar to Khmer), Vietnamese (which is Latin characters with squiggles on top, which I presume are tonal markers), or English.
  10. It’s quite easy to work out where things are in Phnom Penh. The streets are mostly in a grid pattern. All the even numbers go east to west, the odd numbers go north to south. This is thanks to the French.
  11. I should probably avoid phrases like, “That’s a shame” and “that’s mental”. 
  12. The spoon goes to your mouth, not the fork. Unless it’s a western style cafe/restaurant (of which there are many), you won’t always get a knife.
  13. You will usually get given a glass of water in a cafe or restaurant almost as soon as you sit down.

There you go.

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