Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cambodia for Kids

I have been asked to answer a few questions for the kids that are following this blog. Who knows, maybe the adults will like it also. These are just my observations and the information I received when I asked adults in Cambodia.

How do you get money?
In 2013, it is very simple to do all our transactions through ATM's, just like at home. The only difference is the money comes out in their currency. So, you have to be good at math to remember how much you are spending. Otherwise, it can seem like you are playing with Monopoly money and before you know it....all your money is spent and you have to go back to the ATM.

In Cambodia, they use the American dollar or the Cambodian Riel. The ATM gave only US dollars.  Cambodians do not have the US coins. So, you would get some change in US dollar bills and the coins in the Cambodian Riel. The exchange rate for US $1 = 4000 Riel. So, if something cost $5.50 and you gave them $10 your change would be 2000 Riel and $4 in US money. See, you will need to be good at math if you want to travel.

Here is a picture of the Cambodian Riel. You will see they have pictures of famous sites on their money. It is more colorful than the US dollar and smaller too. We also noticed the different amounts were different sizes.
Cambodian Riel

How do I get where I want to go?
Cambodia travel was easy because I arranged my bus travel at the hotels. They were very helpful and ask about your plans and will arrange a bus to pick you up at the hotel. I have also been able to arrange for the hotel to pick me up at the bus station if it is too far to walk. Bus tickets in Cambodia are cheap. The 6 hour trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap cost $10 and a 15 hour trip from Siem Reap to Saigon, Vietnam cost $25. It was a long bus trip but at least it was a sleeping bus. Some buses have seats that lie flat so you can sleep.
Tuk-tuk driver sleeping in a hammock.
Cambodians travel by motor scooter, cars or tuk-tuks. What is a tuk-tuk? It is a motor scooter with cart attached which can haul 4-6 passengers. We hired a driver for a day to go to the temples for $15.

Anywhere else I want to go I walk. You see people walking or riding bikes all over the country.
What about the bathrooms?
Bathrooms are always an experience when you travel. In Cambodia, the bathrooms in hotels and restaurants are just like the ones in your house. The only difference is there typically is not a shower curtain or tub. The bathrooms are covered in tile and you just shower and let the water go... wherever it goes. Your mom can not complain you are making a mess because it just flows to the drain. The only thing you have to be careful about is that the toilet paper does not get wet! That could be really bad!

When you travel to tourist sights or across the country by bus, the toilets are the same as you have at home but they do not have running water. So, when you walk in to the bathroom, you will see the toilet and a bucket of water or a huge trough of water with a large scoop. After you use the toilet, you scoop water into the toilet to make it flush. Away goes the dirty water and now you have clean water left. It isn't bad or stinky. I find they are cleaner than the porta-potties in the USA. 
There is usually a woman that sits outside the toilet to make sure they stay clean and the bucket is full of water.

How much is a hotel room? Is it nice?
Cambodia is just like any other country. There are really expensive hotel rooms ($300-500/night), hostels which are cheaper options with dorm style bunk beds and shared bathrooms ($5/night) or budget hotels that have private rooms and bathrooms which is what I have chosen. My hotels rooms have cost $10-15/night for each person. We have had two beds and a nice bathroom. The only pet I have found was a gecko that got in when we left the window open. At least they don't bite you!

How do you do laundry?
Laundry was really easy. The hotel we stayed at arranged for our laundry to be sent out and returned the next day. It is the greatest! You put all your stinky clothes in a bag and the next day they give it back to you. It is clean, ironed and folded in a nice little bag. The hotel weighs your clothes and charges by the kilo. It typically costs $1-2/kilo. Then, you just put it back in your backpack and you are ready to go again.
All my belongings are in my backpacks.
Can I get McDonald's?
No, I can tell you we have not seen any McDonald's in Cambodia. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the only western food chain that we saw in Cambodia. But, we were not looking for western food. So, we may have missed it. The food available is delicious and in cities with lots of tourists, you can find something that is better than McDonald's. Many restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap had menus that included pizza, hamburgers and sandwiches. You would not starve to death. But you really should try the food when you travel. You may find something new that you like.

You will also notice that the variety of snack foods and sweets are not available like they are in your grocery store. You will see a few options such as chips, Ritz crackers, Kit-Kat and Mentos. We have limited sweets when we eat because they are expensive. We stopped for ice cream one day and it cost the same as our food for lunch and dinner together! Most of the desserts are fruit based.
Dragon fruit (left) and mango sticky rice (right). Very yummy!

What is life like for a child in Cambodia?
Children in Cambodia can go to government school unless a family has the money to send them to private school. The children start school at 8 am and go home for lunch at 11:30 am. Then they return at 1:30PM and stay until 5PM. We did not see any school buses. The children walked or rode their bikes to school. We saw a few children on motorbikes with their mom's or dad's. All of the children wear uniforms (white shirt and blue pants for boys or blue skirt for girls). Some children do not go to school. They work with their families because they need the money. We have seen small children selling postcards, books and key chains to tourists. It is sad they do not get to go to school. Many of the children told me they were working so they could afford to go to school someday. There is a huge push to get tourists to stop buying from the children. We saw posters that said "Parents Earn, Children Learn". It is hard to say no to the children but they should be in school. It makes you realize the choices you make as a tourist effect a generation of children and the country even after you have gone home.

This little girl was playing quietly as here mother worked cleaning the temple area. See all the holes in the rock? Those once had diamonds. Some people came and stole the diamonds.

I was amazed at the knowledge the children had about America. They always ask "Where are you from?" When you tell them the USA then, they will spout off all of the facts they know about America. They could tell me the Presidents name, the capital of the USA, the state capitals, largest and smallest state. I was amazed at the knowledge they had of my country and the lack of knowledge I had of their country. Do you know the capital and leader of Cambodia? They all spoke really well and enjoyed practicing their English with us. Most spoke at least 2-3 languages.

What animals have you seen?
I have seen elephants, monkeys, snakes and crocodiles! The snake scared me the most but I was ok. Only because there were 3 people in front of me it could bite! Yikes! The monkeys were playing at a temple. It was fun to watch the babies...they fight like little kids. You have to be careful of the monkeys because they like to steal things from your bag. Naughty little monkeys!
The elephants are used for rides around the temples of Angkor Wat. It is expensive and the line is long. But, if you really want to do it then save your money.
Elephant ride in Angkor Wat
Monkeys playing at Angkor Wat

What games do the children play? Do they have tv?
I have seen a lot of children playing volleyball, soccer and jumping rope. They race each other on their bikes and sometimes give rides to their friends or siblings on the back of their bikes. We saw several swimming in lakes and ponds to cool off in the afternoon.
Yes, they have tv in their homes and watch cartoons too. As we were riding in the bus, we could see into the homes in the rural areas.

I hope this has answered some of the questions you have. Travel is a great learning experience and I am happy to share what I am learning as I go. Please contact me if you have any other questions. Do not hesitate to ask. Goodnight and peace and love to you all!


  1. Thank you so much.....that even helps me understand as I am clueless!!!!

  2. HI Michelle
    Thanks for the updates. How interesting to read of your adventures and learning!
    I have a question. Do you think the US will ever convert to the metric system?
    Take good care!
    p.s. It is quiet around the office, and a lot less laughter! You're missed!