Humanity

Random thoughts about life, love, science and what it means to be human

Battambang

Cycled around a bit and got to see the countryside today. Visited the fish sauce  market and tried some bamboo sticky rice, both specialties of this province. Got to talk to a few bright Cambodian kids too. Tha is understudying to take over the nascent bicycle co-op/tour company. And a couple more kids whose names I can’t spell were hanging around the bat cave at Phnom Sampeau trying to practice English with the foreigners who were waiting for the bats to come out. It was refreshing to be able to strike up a conversation without feeling like someone wanted something from me.  I also  discovered two good places to eat nearby on buffalo alley close to the White Rose restaurant which is a local landmark. Both are Chinese style noodle shops but one specializes in southern style and the other northern style handpulled noodles. The noodle broth was spectacular at the former and dumplings were great at the latter! Both places had printed menus so no haggling required. Noodle dishes were $1.50. Getting about 10 delicious dumplings for $1.50 is pretty awesome. There is a sizeable Chinese community in Battambang. I keep seeing Chinese foods and businesses and buildings but all of them seem to have greatly assimilated and it was hard to strike up a conversation even though I’m pretty sure they understood me. I think this is unusual for a Chinese diaspora and wonder if it has anything to do with the Khmer Rouge years. By all accounts sticking out in any way shape or form would have been a really bad idea.

Tourist price

There are a few reasons why the exponentially higher prices on everything rubs me the wrong way here in Cambodia.

First of all the value of goods and services is contextual. Just because I can afford it doesn’t mean I should pay the same price for a bowl of noodles in Cambodia as in Singapore. The cost of materials and the rent for shop space is not the same here. 

Secondly it is really unfriendly. It creates and reinforces this us vs them mentality. Already there are language, cultural barriers, and xenophobia to penetrate. So really this viral capitalist mentality isn’t helping, and I fear that the natural friendly tendency of the village people I meet is slowly eroding away in face of exhortation by less scrupulous official types. I was trying to negotiate a deal with a local coconut vendor in broken Khmer/English and there were some “helpful” other guys there including one in uniform who decided to gang up on me. In the end I walked away so it was not a happy ending for all.

Third it is unfair, and creates bad feelings. If you want to have a tourist surcharge, like with a lot of the attractions here why not price fairly across the board and put it up in writing?

Last I think my personal philosophy leans towards communal not for profit causes and crowd sourcing, and this burgeoning out of control capitalism in Cambodia’s nascent tourism economy just rubs me the wrong way. It erodes the niceness out of being human. It’s like what happens when you feed wild animals and they subsequently mob humans for food and have to be put down. I honestly do think humans can do better though.

Bottom line: Forcing me to pay 200-500% the price on items means I will not be coming back to Cambodia. Nor will I be recommending it to my friends.