An important part of traveling – we would maybe suggest the most crucial – is to engage with the local people of the places we are passing by, trying to understand their way of seeing the world, mingling with their lifestyle and breaking cultural barriers. But of course the first one is always communication. So why not making an attempt to learn some words of Khmer language to start experience Cambodia in a more genuine and engaging way?
Who would not like to exchange some words with these funny children?
So first thing to know is that Cambodians always have a formal and an informal way of saying things. For instance:
Hello, formal – Chomreab sour
Hello, informal – Sous dei
For the majority of situations, including when you are talking with someone on the street or buying something from a shop, the informal version is perfectly fine, but in case you are invited somewhere or talking to older people it will be more polite to use the formal way. Also age is important in terms of social relationships, so normally people address others depending on their age difference. There are endless ways of addressing in Khmer, but as a general rule of thumb you can call younger people by oun, same age or slightly older by bong (like older brother or sister), people with more or less the age to be your parents by ming (if it’s a woman) and poo (if it’s a man), and if older than that you can call them om. Now back to some of the basics:
How are you? – Sok sabai?
Thank you (very much) – Akun (chran)
What’s your name? – Chmuuh ey?
My name is… – Khnhom chmuuh…
I’m from… – Khnhom mau pi…
Please (before asking something) – Som
Sorry – Som toh
No problem – Kmean panhaha té
Happy to meet you – Khnhom sabai ban chub nhék
How old are you? – Ter neak ar yu pun man?
Goodbye, informal – Lee hai
Good bye, formal – Chom reab lea
Have a nice day – Som ouy sok sabbay
Yes – Bat (if it’s a man saying) and cha (if it’s a woman saying)
No – Auté
How much? – Pun man?
One more please – Som muy tit
The bill please – Som katloi
This/that – Ini/inu
Here/there – Tini/tinu
Hot/cold : kdao/tror cheak
Cheap/expensive – thork /thlai
Near/far – Juht/Chngaay
Already/not yet – Howie/at tuan té
Beautiful – Sa art
Delicious – chhnganh
I – Khnhom / You – Neak (if you want to indicate possession you can add robos before: My or mine – Robos khnhom ; Your or yours – Robos neak)
The general construction of a phrase is Subject + Verb (+ other verbs)+ Object/Complement. Examples:
I love you – Khnhom srolanh neak (srolanh is the verb to love)
I like eating rice – Khnhom chol chet nham bai (chol chet is to like, nham is to eat and bai is rice. Fun fact: eating rice in Cambodia is so important that even eating as a general concept is many times said nham bai)
For the negative you can build the phrase by Subject + Aut + Verb + Object + té. Example:
Sorry, I don’t understand – Som toh, khnhom aut yul té (yul as the verb to understand)
And for past you can add ban before the verb. Example:
I ate rice – Khnhom ban nham bai
Some verbs you can start using in phrases: chong – want, have – mean, need – trov kar, buy –tinh, drink – phoek, know – doeng/ches/skol, wait – tchamp, ride – chi, go – tow, can – tché.
And some basic numbers: 1 – Muy, 2 – Pi, 3 – Bai, 4 – Boun, 5 – Pram, 6 – Pram muy, 7 – Pram pi, 8 – Pram bai, 9 – Pram boun, 10 – Dop, 100 – Muy roy, 1000 – Muy puan, 10000 – Muy meun.
And of course, the classic:
Cheers – Tchul muy
Hope this small guide had help you starting to learn some Khmer language and inspired you to talk more with the locals, eating street food or taking the local buses while traveling are always great ways to start it!
It’s true that the Khmer Rouge practically destroyed most of the art and cultural manifestations in Cambodia, killed the kingdom’s artists and intellectuals, the educators, the visionaries. But hope and life always win, and the new generations are restoring the creative capacity of this country. Phnom Penh is now a city increasingly filled with art events and interesting exhibitions of young Khmer artists or expats that decided to settle down here for their creative practices. Stay tuned for some ideas to see Phnom Penh Art!
Detail of a sculpture by Sopheap Pich on an exhibition held by French Institute.
This country was flourishing with art in the sixties with the royal patronage of Norodom, a king that even directed movies and play the saxophone. The local architecture was being modernised by Vann Mollyvann, new and hip Khmer music was being popularized by singers such as Sinn Sisamouth, a kind of Cambodian Elvis, artists were crafting what could be called a new and modern Khmer style. Pol Pot’s regime turned all these advances into a halt, killing most of the population that could read and write, throwing into exile or converting into common farmers its most seminal artists, ripping apart the cultural elite and its activities for many years.
In the past decades the country has been slowly recovering, and we can say now that a new artistic generation has been forged. To explore some of the recent artists and their work, head to places such as Java Café in Sihanouk Boulevard, near the Independence Monument. Being an excellent coffee-shop on the ground floor, its first floor is a carefully curated gallery with a focus on new Cambodian artists. Nearby and also supporting local artists is Metahouse on Sothearos Boulevard, not only a gallery but as well a bar and rooftop cinema with free movie screenings every day, documentaries, talks and discussions. Also on Sothearos, the iconic White Building nurtures in its inside a lively art residency organized by Sa Sa Art Projects, inviting international artists for engaging with the community for their art practice and holding talks and exhibitions with the final results of each art residency. At walkable distance, near the famous hip area of Bassac Lane, is Nowhere space (street 312) with its exquisite design products and creative workshops (also hosting a talk by an artist from time to time) and Cloud bar and gallery, regularly having photography exhibitions and a weekly “drink and draw” session with a live model.
Art students visiting the exhibition Decomposition by artist Yim Maline in Sa Sa Bassac gallery.
Moving a bit north to the area of the Royal Palace, you will be able to find Sa Sa Bassac on Sothearos near the corner with street 178 (sometimes a bit hard to find, but look for a discreet door on the right of a diving shop). Besides a small but very interesting library filled with art books, this is a gallery focused on contemporary and conceptual regional artists, with the occasional talk or other events. Not far, on street 184, Plantation hotel and spa also hosts exhibitions in its lovely outdoor lobby. And following this road to the opposite side of the river and Royal Palace you will find the French Institute, home of interesting exhibitions, cinema, photography course and an extensive library overflowing with incredible art and photography books, in case you are looking for some inspiration. Nearby on the parallel street 200, Bophana center focus on audiovisual archive, exhibitions related with Cambodian history (e.g. the Khmer Rouge) and free movie screenings.
You can also find exhibitions on Asia Foundation on street 242, Inside Gallery in the Intercontinental Hotel on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, and Chinese House on Sisowath Quay, a beautiful old villa recovered in a gorgeous way – probably the most beautiful building in whole Phnom Penh! Moreover you can discover more art events currently happen in the city on Kumnooh website, for instance L Bar on the Boeung Kak lakeside (street 93) hosts a monthly spoken word, Showbox bar on street 330 has an open mic session every Wednesday, and there’s a new creative space in town on a small lane off street 360 (near Tuol Sleng museum) with the premise of organizing events such as talks or workshops.
One of the many graffities on the Boeung kak lake area.
Hope this bring you some options of places to go to gather some inspiration and get to know the local art scene. Don’t miss as well plenty of street art around Phnom Penh, especially in the area of Boeung Kak lake. See you in the next exhibition inauguration!
As much as we love Bangkok and its beautiful chaos, it’s always nice to get out of the city from time to time. Weekend escapes are a nice way to renew the amount of fresh air in our lungs, experience a bit of nature or learn some of the Thai ancient culture that is already not available in its modern and fast-paced capital. If you are looking for weekend escapes around Bangkok, stay tuned to this article to discover more!
Siem Reap is a town filled with cafés and modern stores designed to appeal to everyone, from backpackers to sophisticated expats. But one area that is starting to stand out for its exquisite looking and trendy businesses is Kandal village, located between the old market and the French quarter.
Stretching from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, the Tonlé Sap lake is a vast flooded area connected to the Mekong by the Tonlé Sap river, which during rainy season has its water increasing so much that becomes the largest lake in all Southeast Asia. Definitely worth a visit to observe the traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants, especially one of our favourite spots there, the Kampong Khleang floating village!
Relaxed life on the lake…
During the dry season Tonlé Sap’s water level can be 10 meters lower than during the peak monsoons, making an interesting sight exploring its many floating villages and communities with their houses built on stilts. One of them, Kampong Phluk, is already very much exploited by tourism and is being quite talked about in terms of scams (such as asking 40 dollars in a so-called entrance both in the village) and Chnong Khneas, the community in the part of the lake nearest to Siem Reap, is more like a tourist trap and profitable business for the boat and tour companies there than an interesting site to visit and a way to help the local community (typically the money don’t go much to the locals…)
Smiley kids on the entrance stairs of a local house.
But for the real thing, you can head to Kampong Khleang, a more authentic and less touristic village situated around 50 km from Siem Reap, around one hour by road or, if you are traveling along the Siem Reap-Phnom Penh highway, you can ask to be dropped off the bus on Dandek town, already quite near to the border of the lake and an easy place to find a tuk-tuk from there. This community is the largest one in the lake (around 10 times bigger than Kampong Phluk, for instance) and it’s the perfect place for observing the traditional life in Tonlé Sap. This lake is responsible for some of the main livelihoods in Cambodia, fishing and fish farming, and the fish caught here are the biggest source of protein in Cambodian diet and food culture. So don’t forget to eat some while you are there!
General view of Kampong Khleang during the dry season and from one of its streets.
You can explore the village by boat or foot depending on the season you go, and especially if you are going in the dry season you will be able to catch quite an impressive sight with all the houses built on 10 meter height stilts. From there you can take a boat tour with a local driver to go to a more central location of the lake where you will find other communities living in floating houses, lots of fishermen in their boats and even floating schools for their kids!
View while taking a boat trip along the main canal that leads Kampong Khleang to the larger lake.
It’s an ideal day trip from Siem Reap or, even better, to stay for a night or two in order to fully experience the village and its surroundings. There is at least one Homestay and restaurant in the community, a lovely wooden house refurbished in a stylist way, making it a great way to immerse yourself in the community while helping a local family. From there you can walk around and meet friendly locals, visit the market or the pagoda, enjoy a beautiful sunset by the lake and relax in a rural and authentic setting.
Sleeping a couple of nights in this cute house seems quite a welcoming experience.
If you are looking to mingle with the locals and experience the typical lifestyle of Cambodian people, the Kampong Khleang floating village will be a great addition to your trip, and an interesting way to explore the Tonlé Sap, the largest lake in all Southeast Asia. Have a look in the Camboticket website to know how to go there from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, and don’t forget to ask the driver to be dropped off in Damdek, from there is just a short ride to the village. And share your pictures by the lake with us!
Being one of the most typical images that people associate with the exoticism of Thailand, Bangkok’s floating markets are a common attraction on every traveller ‘to see list’, a treat not only for the eyes but for all the senses. Colourful sights, tasty food, interesting smells… it’s a whole package to spice up your journey with a day well spent.
Views from Amphawa and Tha Ka floating markets.
The most famous one, and honestly the most exploited in a sense, is Damnoen Saduak market, around 100 km and accessible mainly through tours advertised in any travel agency around the city. This makes it the most tourist-oriented of all the floating markets and not very genuine, you will see only foreigners buying products and the prices are definitely over charged. But even so, it’s still great for colourful pictures that look like the ones you see in brochures about Thailand, and to immerse yourself into the beautiful confusion of endless boats competing for a space to sell you literally everything. One disadvantage is its location, making it more common to go there by a tour agency to facilitate the transportation.
On the other side, a great value due to its location is the Taling Chan market, just a short twenty minutes bus drive from the area around Democracy monument and Khao San road. It’s not as big as other floating markets, and it’s only open on weekends, but is quite an interesting place to have a look, with great food in case you are looking for a seafood breakfast! You can also take a boat trip along the small canals around the market, and nearby you also have the tiny Khlong Lat Mayom market, worth exploring for its local feeling and non-tourist quality. If you’re staying at Khao San road, take the bus 79 on Ratchadamnoen Klang road (around 10 or 15 bahts for the journey) that will drop you off at Taling Chan entrance.
Entrance to the Taling Chan market.
Around 90 km southwest of Bangkok you can find one of the most famous floating market, the Amphawa with its good balance between locals and tourists, the prettiness of the surroundings and the quality/price of its food. Another advantage is that very close by there’s the Tha Ka market, not much visited by tourists and with a very local and picturesque feeling. The best option will be combine both in order to have an overall experience of what are the traditional Thai floating markets.
And close by you can find one of the most exquisite markets in the whole country, the Maeklong railway market. It’s located in a small town crossed by one train track in the middle, where the street vendors spread their stalls along the railway (and on top of it!) and only when the train is coming they quickly dismantle to let it pass and calmly put everything in place again when it’s gone. A great sight and probably making it our favourite day tour in terms of markets in Bangkok: Amphawa, Tha Ka and Maeklong are all very close and easy to access through mini-van from Southern Bus Terminal.
Random shots on the peculiar Maeklong railyway market.
But in case you are in Bangkok on a weekend and without much time for trips to the surroundings, Taling Chan will be our suggestion for seeing a floating market. Nevertheless, you will always have great markets to explore in the city itself and get some delicious local food and great photos for your travel album! Hope our suggestions inspired you to go experience some of the most famous Bangkokian floating markets and the exquisite Maeklong railway market, and while there have some seafood for us!
The rise of social entrepreneurship is arriving strong in Cambodia, with a lot of great examples of social enterprises and shops providing high quality and trendy products made by underprivileged communities and supporting various social empowerment projects. And having Cambodia such a great culture of weaving, exquisite fabrics like silk and iconic items such as the krama (the traditional Khmer scarf), of course this trend will reach as well fashion and accessories industry. While passing through Phnom Penh, have a look on some of these ideas of places to do your shopping while supporting the development of this beautiful country!
One of the best features of big cities is how the flow of millions of people affects the general mindset of its inhabitants, the consequence of different cultures mixing together and creativity sparkling on every corner. And, of course, how this supports the growth of an art scene. The Bangkok Art Scene is a great example of this, being one of the most interesting art capitals in Asia. Dig deep on its art galleries and cultural centres to learn more about Asian art and see for yourself some of the work of the best artists from the region!
Bangkok is a huge and dynamic city that goes way beyond the ‘chaotic city full of traffic and prostitution’ kind of generalisation that many travellers give to it. Being one of the largest and fast growing capitals in Asia, there is a rich mix of cultures and experiences to be explored, an intense rhythm of life and wide variety of influences to savour. This is our selection of some of the things not to miss while in Bangkok!
- The markets
From the picturesque floating markets in narrow river canals to the Maeklong market just outside Bangkok, where all the stalls are placed along a railway track and only when the train comes the vendors quickly dismantle everything, to mount all the stalls back after the train had passed (like nothing had happened!). Bangkok is full of interesting places to buy food and observe the local life, with infinite food markets scattered along the city with endless variety of snacks and Thai dishes, or others more focused on crafts, clothes and other random items. For the last option explore the famous Chatuchak weekend market, the biggest one in the world.
Some of the interesting characters you can find on any market…
- Spotting some cool street art
Walk around the city to have a look on some of the most exquisite street art you can ever find, an eclectic mix of international and local artists with a great variety of topics and styles. For instance have a glimpse of one of the most recognizable Thai artists in the present moment, Alex Face.
- Street food
Avoiding tourist areas such as Khao San road as the advantage of finding genuine Thai food for less than one dollar per meal, besides eating with the locals and have nice conversations in broken English that will for sure give a different depth to your trip! Do not miss treats such as som tam (green papaya salad) or one of the unique Thai curries such as gang keow wan (green curry with chicken).
What the hell is this? We don’t know, but is probably worth to try.
- Immerse yourself into the city’s art world
Bangkok is one of the most dynamic art capitals in Asia, filled with contemporary art galleries and interesting cultural centers. Try to grab a copy of Bangkok Art Map to navigate through the galleries of each neighborhood, and make sure not to miss the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center.
- Experiment different types of transportation
From the ubiquitous tuk-tuks so ingrained to the Bangkokian experience to the futuristic BTS skytrain, the city has to offer loads of different ways to move around. Don’t forget to try one of the cheap ferries on the Chao Phraya river to travel across the whole city and see some of its different sceneries through a different perspective.
- Enjoy the general street life and the city vibe
Walk around and immerse yourself into the intense life existing in every street or local market, every park or street food joint, the colors and the smells, a journey for all the senses. The famous Thai smile lives here.
What’s not to like in this city?
- Visit the temples
Of course this is a cliché, but if there’s a city that deserves to be known for its temples Bangkok is definitely one. Wat Phra Kaew (inside the Grand Palace and also know as the Emerald Buddha temple), Wat Pho (with a gigantic reclined Buddha) and Wat Benchamabophit (also known as the Marble temple) are some of the most famous, but you can also find Hindu temples, Christian old churches and other hidden pearls.
- Watch the sunset across the Wat Arun: this one doesn’t deserve any more words…
Worth seeing also during the night where they turn the lights on, resulting in quite a golden sight.
Bangkok is definitely a city worth spending some time to discover its charm, with welcoming locals, vibrant art scene and intense street life to explore. Probably there is no other place in the world with such a variety of experiences, from the traditional to the modern, from pure Asian to Westernised influence, from culture to entertainment… have a look on CamboTicket website for options on how to get there and enjoy your Bangkok time!
Being such a long journey, and with so many rumours of being a bumpy and troubled one (especially while crossing the border), going from Cambodia to Thailand by bus can be an itchy experience. How surprised were we to actually go through it without any hassles and in a quite comfortable way! This is our experience of travelling with Nattakan bus from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, a company that provides a direct journey without having to change transport on the border.
A modern and comfy bus for a more than twelve hours trip can be a way better option than traveling by minivan.
The journey starts at 6 AM so better to arrive at least half hour before to the departure point. In this case we went to Rithy Mony Bus Station on street 102, quite near to Wat Phnom, the Night Market and the beautiful old colonial building that now functions as the main post office of Phnom Penh. There weren’t so many travellers so the bus left on time and the smooth ride and the conditions of the bus itself were more than an invitation to spend most of the journey sleeping. The seats are wide and soft, with a lot of space for legs and with the possibility of changing the inclination to almost becoming beds. The staff, even if not speaking much English, were helpful and provided a small box with a wet towel, a bottle of water, a packet of juice and a small cake (in the street of the bus station you also can find a couple of noodle soup restaurants, in case you want to eat your breakfast before getting into the bus). Anyway, next stop is already on the border so better to eat and sleep, Thailand is awaiting us!
What a sleeping beauty nest!
In case you need to use the toilet there’s actually one on the bus, so no time to waste, very soon we will arrive to the border. The journey was really smooth, despite the typical bumpiness of Cambodian roads, so a long nap was actually not a difficult thing to achieve. As soon as we arrive to the border the staff asked us to leave to take care of the visa, not before giving some name cards to hang on the neck in order to identify us on the border and let people now we belong to the same bus after taking care of the paperwork. The first step is the Cambodian immigration office on the right of the road, where they will give you the stamp out of the country. From there you just have to walk straight through a kind of white tunnel, as shown below…
… then cross a sort of gate imitating Angkor Wat style…
… and arrive to the Thai side where you will find a building on the left of the road to take care of the visa on arrival. Depending on your country of origin you can get from fifteen days to several months free of charge, and depending on your luck and the amount of people in line, the process can be quite straightforward. We end up not spending more than fifteen minutes waiting in line, then a quick two or three minutes process with the immigration officer before getting out of the building and seeing one member of the Nattakan staff waiting to lead us back to the bus.
After waiting for everyone else to arrive to the bus as well, we drove for a couple of kilometres where we stopped again and the staff gave us a box of fried rice and more bottles of water. Then straight again to Bangkok with no more stops, reaching there a few minutes later than 6 PM. The place of arrival was Mo Chit Bus Terminal, quite a central hub in terms of transportation to the rest of the city: there’s a BTS station nearby (the Bangkokian fancy skytrain!), plenty of buses and also lot of cabs available (make sure you take one that follows the taxi meter otherwise you will probably be ripped off!). If you are going to Khao San Road you actually have free bus from the station, ask in the information office for the bus numbers.
The return journey was pretty much the same, starting on Mo Chit at 5 AM and arriving Phnom Penh between 5 and 6 PM. Again quite smooth and with no troubles at the border.
On the Thai side…
… and on the Cambodian side.
The only care you need to have is, while there, not paying attention to random guys trying to convince you there is some kind of problem regarding the visa and that they have the solution for you (of course, they always have). If they start the conversation asking you some kind of payment don’t believe them, even if they are from the police (actually, especially if they are from the police). With us, we had the funny situation of a Cambodian police officer randomly asking on the street for 300 bahts to get us the visa (it’s mandatory, he said!) and with us insisting we don’t want and that we prefer to go to the immigration office itself, he ended up saying it was just to facilitate the process and get us the visa faster, for us not having to wait in line… no thank you! (There was almost no one in line at the moment, by the way). So be always aware, only believe in people inside the immigration offices themselves, both on the Thai and on the Cambodian side, no matter what uniform some random dude appears to you on the street.
And after that, just enjoy the ride through the sleepy Cambodian landscapes…
In case you are planning to go from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, or the other way around, Nattakan is an interesting choice to explore, with a high level of comfort and with the advantage of not having to change bus on the border – it’s direct from one capital to another in just around twelve hours. Have a look on Camboticket website for this or other options of traveling between the two cities and enjoy your trip!