A countries wealth is measured in GNP (aka Gross National Product)
Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries as measured by its GNP. Strangely, in the tiny country of Bhutan, an alternative index of wealth is measured in GNH. (Gross National Happiness). If Cambodia’s wealth was also measured on the same GNH index, then it too would score quite high on this wealth indicator.
Southeast Asia is known to have the friendliest people but I found Cambodians especially nice. The people in Cambodia just seem genuinely happy and content which given the recent tragic history of the country is a real miracle. Despite this, the people are courteous, honest and sincere when you communicate with them. One of the things I particularly take notice of when traveling to various countries is the eye contact the locals engage you with. I can visually see the sincerity in each of the Cambodian’s eyes. If you make the effort to smile at someone you are guaranteed a smile in return. Never once were we even remotely ripped off or scammed which is quite unusual when on the travelers circuit thru Southeast Asia. Strangely, the only thing remotely dodgy or creepy I saw in Phnom Penh were some of the westerners and expats that were visiting.
I saw a unique comaraderie where the Cambodians all seemed to look out for each other regardless of whether they were family or friends. I wondered if this was a direct result of them living through the years of horrific genocide under the Khmer Rouge. Despite this, a sense of unrelenting friendliness pervaded. The Cambodians have had difficult past but have really come together to rally for a better future.
One of the things that is great about Cambodia is that it does small boutique hotels/guesthouses really well. There are loads of them in every city and they provide excellent value coupled with an atmosphere that makes you feel kinda like you are living amongst friends and family…..with an occasional few international stragglers and drifters from all over the world thrown in to provide some color. Shacking up in these small boutique guesthouses seem to always lead to encounters with many eccentric people which, in turn, inevitably led to good laughs. Staying in the massive generic hotel chains that exist in America were completely avoided by us as they really have absolutely zero charm and little interaction.
As a traveler, Cambodia has so much natural beauty and is truly a great place to experience. Every now and then, there are transcendent moments while traveling that you will remember forever and our time spent in Cambodia provided many of those moments. I will always remember our month in Cambodia and will like to return to experience more of the unique serenity this country has on tap.
Overall, a good place with good people. Now onto Singapore to live the fashionable high life on this pristine ‘island country’. I better shine up my flip flops and iron my board shorts in order to somewhat look the part of a classy flashpacker.
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