The Cambodians have my heart!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I have much to explore in the world so I know I can’t make grand statements. With my limited travel experience, I would have to say that the Cambodians are the nicest people I’ve met. Seriously.

You might be thinking, “Hello? Us Filipinos are known for our hospitality and friendliness.” and my own race should rank higher. I don’t negate the grandness of the hospitality of our people; it is one of the endearing things about us. I love the warm smiles and generosity of strangers I’ve experienced while exploring our 7,107 islands. The problem is, we also have a lot of deceitful people. Looking like a foreigner, I’ve experienced the handy work of people with terrible intentions. I’m not saying that other countries don’t have that as well. All I’m saying is that a tourist, local or foreign, has a near equal chance of meeting an absolutely welcoming Filipino and a shady one.

Meet Honda, he was Nix and Del’s tuktuk driver. Of course we were excited when we arrived that we took a lot of photos.

Here’s Honda trying awfully hard not to be seen in the photo. He made such a cute effort to be out of the frame and it was too nice of a gesture that I included him. 

There was a mini grocery next to our hostel so we would often pass by it for supplies. The owner had 2 little boys aged 3 and 7. On our first visit the 3 year old was crying adorably. Later that day, we passed by since we saw the kids. Both boys were in high spirits and proceeded to converse with us. They were just too cute that I wanted to take them home with me! Whenever we would leave the hostel or go back home, we’d always check out the mini grocery to see if the boys were there. If the boys were at the back, their mom or aunt would even call them to say that we were there. I regret not taking their photo! Argh.  Thinking of my interaction with the boys, though short and few, never fails to put a smile on my face.

English is not their second language like us so sometimes it is hard to communicate. I was having trouble with my bike and this Cambodian woman probably in her early 20s or younger just came up to me and helped me without saying a word. She knew I was having problems and just wanted to help with a smile. I tried to talk to her more in English but I could see in her eyes that she wasn’t well versed in the language. I proceeded to say “Aw Khun” (Thank You) and she nodded and gave me another huge smile.

The tuktuk driver assigned to us was Sophara. When he was first introduced to us, I honestly couldn’t understand his name. On our first day, I asked him if I could call him Jun-jun because it was a common Filipino name and he agreed. For the rest of the trip, we were with Jun-jun. Hehe But don’t fret, before we left I called him by his real name. Sophara had such an honest spirit about him. We were pleasantly surprised to be given water and cold towels during our tours. He was always gracious and easy to talk to.

I didn’t book a guide online and got a guide from the hostel. Our group got Yan who has been a guide for several years. It was actually the first time Yan got a gig via our hostel. Yan was fun to be with. You know how sometimes in between temples there’s this awkward moment with your guide? We never had that with him.

He likes telling jokes even if they are corny. Regardless if we knew the answer or not to his joke, he would always laugh after revealing the punch line. He felt like a long time friend, in fact I already know about his love life! Hahaha He’s also witty and fast to pick up on banter. He would talk to the ticketing officer and when we drove away, I would tease him about getting the number of the ticketing officer. His reply? Oh I have it already. Haha That is just one of the many examples of how Yan banters with us and rides along when we tease him.

Being inquisitive, our group would ask a lot of questions during the tour and Yan would answer them with such ease. He’s not like other guides that would just give information; he has rapport with the audience! From time to time during the tour he would make us guess certain trivia. I think he’s like that because he sensed our interest in their history and culture. We would even talk about current events and the political situation in Cambodia.

There is something pure about the people we met in Siem Reap, it’s as though they haven’t been corrupted. Pretty much all of the Cambodians we met were pleasant.

Please go and book our guide Yan and tuktuk driver Sophara not because of their rates but because they are phenomenal people. I can’t stress enough how much I would like to find employment opportunities for them because they are such hard workers. Cambodia is a relatively affordable place so please DO NOT scrimp on giving tips since this is their source of livelihood. You know how sometimes here in the Philippines guides or drivers blatantly hint at asking for a tip?  I never felt obliged to give tips to Sophara and Yan. We were so happy with them that we whole heartedly gave a good one.

* Additional photos from Nix Sionosa, Danix Labudahon and The Siem Reap Hostel.

The rest of my Siem Reap posts are here: 
Part 1: Things I Stubbornly Didn’t Listen to (but should have)
Part 2: Things I Did Listen To Plus Some Tips

Part 3: Artisans d'Angkor
Part 4: The Siem Reap Hostel 
Part 5: Design Overload at Reflections Siem Reap 
Part 7: Siem Reap Post Script

Discover other Siem Reap hotels.  

Btw, I didn’t get the name of the mini grocery but if you want to visit them it’s next to the Siem Reap Hostel.

Yan (Tour Guide)
$25/day for the average tour, rates vary depending on location

Sophara (Tuktuk Driver)
(+855)-12374227; (+855)-976665657
$15/day if the area is within the normal area, rates vary depending on location

Past Photo Walks:

January - Manila Ocean Park
February - Sablayan and San Jose, Mindoro 

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