Most visitors to Cambodia have seen pictures of Angkor Wat and know something of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. Those with a little understanding of history will remember the Killing Fields and may even have seen the movie which depicts the murder of millions at the hands of the brutal dictator, Pol Pot, and his communist army. The Cambodia of recent years conjures images of extreme poverty, the sexual exploitation of children and a land littered with UXO (acronym for Unexploded Ordnance).
The Cambodia I discovered was an idyllic tropical getaway where people were friendly and the cities uncorrupted by the likes of Starbucks or McDonalds. I was pleasantly surprised to find many young Cambodians speaking fluent English; couples, each on a motorcycle out on a date; and trendy restaurants serving French and local cuisine.
In and around Siem Reap, tourism is big, and arguably the only business. If you’re an independent traveler, the options range from 5-star hotels to a dormitory in a backpacker hotel. The Angkor complex is massive and while it’s very well laid-out and route-finding is not an issue, you may not want to find yourself in the middle of a torrential downpour miles away from your hotel.
Most Angkor visitors hire a tuk-tuk driver to take them around. Hundreds of tuk-tuks ply the roads leading to the temples. Most of them speak some English and many may also speak Chinese, Japanese, French and German. Tuk-tuks compete fiercely for foreign visitors and you are the target. While some operators may be unscrupulous or unsafe drivers, many of these young men are honest, hardworking and enterprising entrepreneurs.
During my stay, I had the privilege of getting to know Phat Sok. He is an upstanding and caring young man who works 7 days a week showing tourists around on his tuk-tuk and still finds time to attend English lessons in the evening.
In addition to Angkor tours, Phat arranges and leads trips to the Flooded Forest, Tonle Sap Lake, more distant temples and even to Phnom Penh. He also knows the best places in town to sample authentic local cuisine, without an English menu.
You will not only experience great customer service with Phat but probably make a new friend.
Contact him on Facebook. www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=1272497418&ref=ts
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