November 15, 2008 at 10:05 am 2 comments

I’m becoming disenchanted with my guest house. I’m leaving Phnom Penh Monday morning for Siem Riep so there’s no point of changing but here is what i dislike. The Khmer staff have shown where their interests lie. They are running a business – a very successful one flooded with travelers daily – but the interests of the travelers remain secondary to their social ties (with the taxi drivers outside, for example). On my first day in Cambodia i asked the manager what the fair price for a taxi was and the price he quoted (and i paid later) was more than twice inflated. It’s possible that his idea of “fair”and mine don’t match, but in a country where an hour massage costs $5, a 10 minute moto-taxi ride should not cost $2. Now that i’ve been here, i’ve had guys accept 75 cents for longer distances. (Though in the end, i pay $1-2 because the guys were either fun to chat with or we got so lost that i wanted to compensate for the driver’s stress)

Then, they have this system whereby when you order food from their kitchen, it is your responsiblity to write in your room’s notebook what you took and how much it cost, and all this to be calculated and paid for upon your leave. They even have a sign above the notebooks “In God we trust.” How nice to be staying in a place where genuineness is expected, i had thought when i first arrived. But as soon as you order anything they remind you to write in your notebook. And they don’t do it once, but minimum thrice. This leaves me with a sour feeling. If you don’t trust your guests than get rid of the notebook system!

And then this morning. I ordered a vegetable curry (i don’t like breakfast foods) and it arrived almost 3 minutes later. Left overs (they could have been more suave about it) but hopefully it was at least fresh. It tasted ok. I did a quick swirl with the spoon to make sure there was no meat and the curry passed the test. It wasn’t until i reached the bottom half of the bowl that i found the chicken. I’m not sure what the manager was planning to do to solve the dilemma, he just sort of looked at me blankly, muttered sorry and left. Worried that he’d replace the order i sought him out and told him that i was leaving now and that i wasn’t going to pay for the meal. “You pay half” he asserted. Hating clashes i almost agreed, but my pride and sense of “right” propelled me to carry on and i insisted that they had disrespected me by violating my beliefs. When that had no effect, i said “and how are you going to compensate me later when my stomach hurts because of this?” Annoyed, he aceded.

I doubt that my stomach will suffer, i’ve eaten worse things in the past three months than chicken broth, but it’s the indifference and disrespect for other values that irks me. It’s not like i came into his home and demanded to be served what i wanted. I’m in a restaurant and he’s working… for me! But this is an American way of thinking. In Asia it’s not like this, at least not in most of the places i visit. Usually i accept this, but when i stay in a guest house as popular as this one, with staff who are fluent in English (and therefore, i assume, versed in the ways of Westerners) i want to be treated as a customer (in the western sense of “customer”) This is part of the reason i am choosing to frequent places owned by westerners more often now than i did in the beginning of my trip. I want to feel that if something is wrong that i can complain and have things settled, instead of swallowing the problem and pretending all is fine and then making a note in my head never to return. This is a luxury i took for granted when i was in the USA.


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , .

Legacy Khmer rouge volunteering

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dima  |  November 16, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Happy Birthday! I had sent you a text on your mobile, but it seems you do not have it with you. It was fun to read your road blog. Dad is at my apartment and linked me to it. I wish you all the best in your travels and travails, meet more good friends and interesting people, have less assholes and roaches than usual in those places and never lack vegetarian food they are supposed to eat themselves mostly. Come back when you want, but we all miss you anyway! Dima, Sonia, Josh, and Alena

  • 2. Dina  |  November 19, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Did you get something from my friend for your birthday?


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