Even when trying to avoid riding elephants, things are not so cut and dry. More and more people are wizening up to the fact that riding elephants is not a good thing, so tour companies are offering trips that involve feeding, cleaning and watching elephants rather than riding. The problem is that some tour companies hire elephants both to be ridden or cared for, depending on what the tourists want to pay for. So one day the elephant might have a leisurely time. The next day – unbeknownst to tourists – the same elephant will be forced to carry tourists.
When it comes to coffee, Cambodia will probably never be able to compete with the scale of neighboring Vietnam’s vast operations. Although Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, Cambodia has been carving out its own niche with some decent and inexpensive coffee that’s mostly produced in the cooler province of Mondulkiri.
Phnom Penh’s streets are clogged and chaotic. If it isn’t traffic that’s blocking the way, it’s an impromptu flood during the rainy season. The roads can be dangerous, with everyone on a motorbike or driving an SUV seemingly on their phones and oblivious to their surroundings. Despite all the danger and the tropical heat, I fell in love with bicycling for the first time after riding through the city daily.
Some 40,000 people suffer from dengue fever annually in Cambodia, and now I’m one of them. Top-notch treatment is available at the new Royal Phnom Penh Hospital, but you’re going to need to pay top dollar for this level of care.
The Areng Valley in Cambodia is threatened by a Chinese-backed dam that will destroy the entire area. A unique tour by an activist NGO gives an inside look at life in the beautiful valley.
Dive shops are a dime a dozen these days in coastal Sihanoukville, Cambodia (of course, the actual price is a lot more than that). The quality – and prices – seems to vary greatly depending on whom you go with, and a number of these companies specialize in fun dives rather than teaching and certification. Scuba Nation, however, specializes in the latter.
One FC made its much-hyped debut in Phnom Penh with its Sept. 12 “Rise of the Kingdom” event. The Singapore-based MMA promotion is the largest in Asia and its arrival to Phnom Penh was meant to symbolize that Cambodia’s arrival on the international martial arts scene. The end result wasn’t as grand as some hoped, but its a promising start that hopefully means One FC will be back to Phnom Penh the future.
Work is almost finished on a four-star hotel near the Royal Palace deemed so offensive – and so illegal – that Phnom Penh authorities demanded it be torn down. The order, given almost a year ago in October 2013, has unsurprisingly gone ignored. Now, the unambitiously named “Okay Boutique Hotel” is set to open on an alleyway behind the Royal University of Fine Arts with 56 rooms, a restaurant and a murky backstory involving the highest levels of Cambodia’s government.
About ten kilomers up the western bank of the Kampot river from the town is a shabby zoo that looks like it’s fallen on hard times once again. Despite being featuring a variety of A-list animals (lions, tigers, bears, elephants and much more) and a seemingly well-intended staff, the privately-owned Teuk Chhou Zoo is in need of some overhauls. This isn’t the first time the zoo has faced problems.
Koh Kong, just ten kilometers from the Thai-Cambodia border, is something of a pitstop to travelers heading east to Sihanoukville or west to the Thai island of Koh Kong. It’s less known as an actual tourist destination, but it’s a nice waterfront town with some unique outdoors attractions that can be reached by bicycle.