Top 10 ways to not be a dick these holidays
School holidays and mid semester break are just around the corner and Aussies country-wide are preparing to make their yearly north-west migration over the Indian Ocean to hotter and cheaper shores. South East Asia is Australia’s self-confessed playground, Cambodia included. A few hours on a plane brings you right to the door of heart stopping wonders, cheap booze and food and incredibly friendly locals who make this region great.
Most of the Angkor beer-singlet-wearing, fish-foot-spaing, amok-guzzling adventure seekers treat their host country with utmost respect. But there are still always some who think that leaving Australian shores gives them a pass to act like an outright dick. So if you’re planning on heading Cambodia’s way anytime soon and you don’t want the impression you leave to be a phallic one, then here are some tips on how to turn your dick-o-metre down these holidays.
1. Learn some local lingo
Yes, a lot of Cambodian’s who you’ll deal with on the tourist trail will be able to speak English, but that doesn’t give you a lazy pass. Don’t be that guy who thinks that louder equals clearer – it just equals really, really annoying. Start off with “Okun” (thank you) and “Chol moi!” (cheers!) and bring some smiles to Cambodian’s dials.
2. Chow down Khmer style
One of the best ways to support the local economy is by eating local. And that means REALLY local. No, the “local” McDonalds does not count. Yes, it’s cool that it does delivery, but seriously – walk outside onto the sidewalk and buy a bowl of something yummy from that guy clanging his drums. It’s way cheaper and probably a lot tastier! By doing this you’re putting money straight into local’s pockets and not the coffers of huge multi national corporations. This keeps these small economies kicking for all the tourists who follow in your path.
3. Don’t save the children
The kids begging in the street are heartbreaking. You think you’re being a good guy by giving them a few thousand Riel, or buying those crappy bracelets. But honestly, you’re making the situation worse. Donating your time and money to a legitimate organisation with proper child protection policies and a clear, transparent structure (like Sunrise Cambodia!) is the only way to know that the money is directly benefiting the child. Read this article with lots of cute pictures for more info about this.
4. Leave the kitchen sink at home
Have you ever tried to drag a bunch of tourists plus their house-sized luggage around on a 250cc motorised tuk tuk? Neither have I, but it doesn’t look like fun and I bet the drivers hate you. Just pack the staples and you’re set to go. (No, you don’t need a hair straightener. Humidity will win every time.)
5. Be Buddhist, dude
In Cambodia and the surrounding countries, the main religion is Buddhism. So treat all creatures great and small with respect, or you’ll end up as one of them in your next life. If you really need that snap of you riding an elephant or cuddling a tiger, go to a place that supports good treatment of animals. Not only will you be supporting organisations willing to protect these beautiful creatures, but you’ll probably come back as a stunning pink flamingo in your next life instead of a mangy sewer rat.
6. Put your phone away, champ
There are some phenomenal photography opportunities in Cambodia, but before you whip out your snazzy iPhone 6 for the shot that’s going to make you insta-famous, just remember that you’re going public with people’s lives. Always ask before taking a photo. And remember: everyone else at Angkor Watt is there for that sunrise shot too, so click once and then get out of everyone else’s way.
7. Don’t be a tosser
Plastic waste is a big NO! Every plastic drink bottle you use has to go somewhere and most of the time that ‘somewhere’ is the ocean or other water systems. Plastic is not biodegradable; it usually lives longer than you. You’ll find that a lot of guesthouses and restaurants allow you to refill a bottle for a fraction of the price of a whole new bottle. So take a reusable drink bottle, it’s easy, it’s cheaper and it’s better!
8. Don’t fall for “voluntourism”
Short-term, unsustainable voluntourism actually creates more orphans. There. I said it. Check out this blog post about why that’s a fact and how you can volunteer your time or money to make a real difference this holidays.
9. Hold onto your feelings and pass them on
When you come back from your life changing adventure you’ll experience some feelings. Hope, sympathy and a deadening exhaustion that comes from witnessing a country with a tragic past scrambling to try to put itself back together in a rough, tough world. Don’t let those feelings go. Take them and pass them on. These feelings will fade in a few weeks when you settle back into life and your own #firstworldproblems, so do something now. Organise a fundraising event that funds the work of a great not-for-profit you crossed paths with. Work out how you can volunteer your time and skills to make a real difference. Just be a better person, all round.
10. Cough up
You’ve just holidayed in paradise so always leave a place better than you found it. Make a donation to Sunrise Cambodia and leave your mark in the best way possible. You can pay a visit to one of our projects in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kampong Speu to make your donation in person (that is if you don’t need a tax deductible receipt), or just do it online to get one. The cost of your insurance policy for this trip alone would equate to the cost of deworming and vaccinating ten poor kids. Your bus ticket from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is the same price as a school uniform for a Cambodian child. Your two dollar Angkor beer is enough to feed a child for a day. How’s that for perspective? Enjoy your holiday but leave your mark in a good way.