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A taste of Cambodia… our first impressions

A taste of Cambodia… our first impressions

Last Updated on January 31, 2023

We fell head over heels for Cambodia – which caught us completely by surprise. This South East Asian country isn’t perfect, definitely rough around the edges. Here are our first impressions we made – and some fun facts about Cambodia! Enjoy!

Cambodia fun facts and random observations

The famous temples of Angkor Wat
These are Cambodia’s greatest pride and an interesting Cambodia fact we noticed within hours upon arriving in the country. The temples of Angkor Wat are resembled everywhere! On the money, on the beer, in hotel names & restaurant names, and it is the national symbol on Cambodia’s flag.

cambodia angkor

Water buffaloes as common in Cambodia as sheep are in Scotland!

water buffalos

Cambodians love to cycle
While it’s all about moto-scooters in neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, Cambodians cycle everywhere – between villages, in town, to get to school or to work, or to transport goods.

cambodia facts

Old-fashioned cyclos are still used in everyday life of Phnom Penh and other towns.

phnom penh cyclo

While we weren’t the biggest fans of the fruit whose odor is best described as ‘pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock’, Cambodians LOVE durians! The Durian is the national fruit of Cambodia and we even found an entire statue dedicated to this interesting fruit.

cambodians love durians

Monks get up late in Cambodia
We’ve seen monks receiving their alms very early in the morning in neighboring Laos (6.30am), the monks in Cambodia make their way around time much later – we usually saw them around 9.30am!

cambodian buddhist monks

Pigs on motorbikes are a common sight…


…so are cows in the streets. cambodia cows in the streets

Cambodia’s terrible past is still ‘tangible’ everywhere you go.
Almost ¼ of the population was killed during the Khmer Rouge’s regime 1975 -1979 and there is a distinct lack of people between 45 and 65. You can read about our visit to the Killing Fields here.

phom penh killing fields skulls

Buses? Nah…
In the capital, and most other cities, there are no inner city buses. Instead, they have shared pick-ups or trucks.

cambodian taxis

Cambodians love fresh-squeezed lime juice
So did we! A fantastic thirst quencher in the sweltering heat!

kampot lime juices

The beaches in the South and on the islands are stunning!

A surprising Cambodia fact: Who knew that the country had so many gorgeous beaches?!koh rong long beach cambodia

Motorbikes pull anything!

cambodia motorbike loads

The typical Khmer dish ‘Amok’ (similar to a Thai curry, but with egg added in the sauce) is delicious!

phnom penh vegetarian amok

Smoking is ridiculously cheap in Cambodia.

cambodia cigarettes

Sadly, Cambodia is dirty.
We see piles of garbage everywhere. People just don’t seem to realize that throwing their garbage out in front of their house means it will rot there for eternity. This is one of the most frustrating observations of Cambodia, and a fact about Cambodia we did not know before we arrived here.

cambodia garbage

Most of the gas stations still look like this:

cambodian gas stations

Gas at a ‘real’ gas station is expensive!
It costs $1.29 per liter ($4.88 per gallon) in a country where the average GDP is $912 per person per year.

cambodian gas prices

Barbershops are open-air on the side of a road or in the market.

cambodia barber shops

People in Cambodia love to wear pajamas.
Not sure why, but we saw people in PJs everywhere we went! (We are aware that these gowns are not actual PJs worn at night, but the PJs still describes them best.)

cambodian ladies in pajamas

Dirt roads leading to a temple are often marked with detailed gates at the start. The countryside is full of these!

cambodia facts

Ice is usually transported on the back of a tractor, uncovered. The ice transport stops in front of every shop / house and then cuts off as much ice as needed with a rusty old saw. More ‘Western’ places thankfully make their own ice with filtered water in house.

cambodian ice transport

Cambodians love karaoke on public buses. These low-budget videos blare constantly, even on long-distance rides, and while we really, really don’t like Khmer music, we’d sing-a-long if we could…but we can not read Khmer so we are left to observe…

cambodia facts

Need a new external hard-drive? Pick one up for the same price in Cambodia as at home, but these come filled with hundreds of TV shows, movies and music of your choice – a traveler’s dream!

cambodia facts

Dawn Punter

Monday 16th of March 2015

We loved Cambodia which we visited 2 months ago & preferred it to Vietnam. We are now in Laos. loveyour photos which bring it all back. Did you visit Kampot & Kep, we loved it there.


Monday 16th of March 2015

Thanks, Dawn! I loved Kampot (wrote this guide about it back in 2012) which i think needs some updating.. heading down there in a couple of days :) Enjoy Laos!!

Andrew Darwitan

Saturday 11th of October 2014

I totally love the Amok too! It's super yummy. Did you get to try those fried snakes and spiders that they sell in street markets? =)


Monday 20th of October 2014

Andrew - yes, I did find some rather disgusting 'foods' - yes! The skinned frogs grossed me out the most, I have to say. I think I'll stick to amok instead ;-)


Sunday 3rd of June 2012

I'm a big fan of your first impression posts! Love this one. I was in Cambodia just last month and your memories are making me want to go back. The country is developing at a good pace. I like what I saw in the capital. I only hope that with the growth in business, that money trickles down to the children. The saddest things I saw there were the street children being forced to beg every where I went. The cigs in Cambodia are so cheap because they are knock offs from China. Not the real deal, so be careful if you're a cigarette smoker and think you are getting your favorite brand. I like durian ice cream. I haven't taste the actual fruit yet though. And yes, the lime juice was my favorite there. They know how to sweeten it just right. And this blog is sweet!

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Thursday 31st of May 2012

I find it particularly disturbing that people from developed countries are traveling to an impoverished country like Cambodia to prey on children. Cambodians generally look up to foreigners, particularly Westerners, as role models for fairness, benevolence, freedom and justice. The acts of the sex tourists are threatening to undermine the good deeds of those foreigners who are in Cambodia to do good.


Sunday 3rd of June 2012

Hey there - yes, everything that you are saying is true. We had some really strong feelings about this part of Cambodian life and we are still sort of synthesizing our feelings and how to express it. Thanks for your comment and raising awareness of all the good that foreigners are doing to help Cambodia get on its feet!


Wednesday 30th of May 2012

They really look like PJs :) I think some of the Texan girls on campus here would fit right in with that trend :) Also... I smelled a durian in China - not a fan either. Maybe it's an acquired taste?!


Thursday 31st of May 2012

People saaaaaay that Durian is an acquired taste, but in my opinion that means you would have to eat it more than once and that is definitely NOT happening for me! :)