Cambodia – A Shocker of A Place

Spider Dish – a rare delicacy

When you just read about Cambodia or worse still learn of it from films only, you would be lucky to escape stereotyping it as a war ravaged country, surrounded by dense forests and deep, boggy marshes. Where   rural people wear wide palm leave hats and toil away in rice fields. That’s what I thought about the country before I visited it.

So when I got the invitation to attend a regional workshop in Cambodia, my first thoughts were how I was to fair in such a land? Well, it must be like Uganda, no big deal, I consoled myself!

My stereotypes were not helped by stories of restaurants serving Spiders, frogs, snails etc. So, I knew I was in a for a real ride. But then, things changed, and rapidly too! The hotel I stayed had some of the best rooms I ever slept in, another had toilets that clean you after your business (The Toto washlet), I was picked by an electric car for breakfast, and treated like a king from the start.

TukTuk Ride

Cambodia is a country of diversity, of inequality, of living side by Side. A land where menacing 4-Wheel drive cars run side by side with Tuk-tuk, giant chain supermarkets exist alongside small kiosks; where modern world class hotels compete with small time lodges; local and international cuisines are served in the same restaurant; it is a land where the old – the very ancient, meets the new. It is a land where dollars and local currency are used  on the streets in equal measure, where you can buy roasted maize on the street with dollars and get change back in local currency if you wish. It is a land where the ultra modern 21st century Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) complete eLearning Platforms shares a bed with twelveth century Angkor Wat temples!

Angkor Wat

Downtown Phnon Penh (the capital city) is called Russian Market! Stories abound of cheap stuff peddled in the market. So, off I went aboard a Tuktuk, riding through the town perched on it like a real tourist! What a feeling!! It is indeed downtown! It reminded me of downtown Kampala. The cacophony of voices was infectious, the bustle and hustle of city life tickled my every sense. Yes, I was home!

Some of The Tall buildings of Phnom Penh

Cambodia leaves beautiful memories etched in my mind; the smiles of the receptionists, the humble nature of their professors, educated as they are. I will remember for a long time the trot along the Mekong river, the night trek through Phnon Penh City; the  dance at Rockbar, the Kareoke in the wee hours of the night in Siem Reap, and the solid friendship with Mr. Khem Horn (, whom we came to nickname as “Mr. President”

Yes, Cambodia had a nasty war that claimed many lives, but they have long moved on. I take away from Cambodia the incredible resilience of the Khmer people, their reluctance to blame anyone for their troubles much as we know they had been through a lot and their willingness to help those in need!


  1. Denis Ochan says

    Beautiful write up, just wanna know how they have managed to conserve their environment.

    • They deeply value their history. And some of the temples have are supported by metal bars to preserve them. What surprised me most is that you are not allowed to alter old buildings in the city without permission to make sure they preserve them

      And they earn big from the tourists industry. You part with US$ 20 for a day’s permit to visit the ancient temples. Man, they receive droves of tourists, helping them generate the income needed to preserve such.

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Kalema Golooba Ayub