Cambodia – Summer Break
Many years ago, Monthy Python lambasted British holiday makers abroad and at home as eating only fish and chips, drinking Watney’s Red Barrel and wearing a knotted handkerchief on their heads while on the beach. I’ve only traveled on package type holidays twice, in 1986 to Tangier, Morocco, and in 2009, to the Canaries and though I spotted no handkerchiefs or even saw Watney’s Red Barrel beer, there was a proliferation of restaurants, fish and chip shops, ‘English’ sandwich bars, ‘English’ Sunday dinners and ‘English’ pubs aimed at the less adventurous. I’ve even had friends who refused to eat rice because they deemed it ‘foreign.’
Traveling to Siem Reap, Cambodia with a Korean package holiday provide an interesting insight into Koreans abroad as well as the expected adventure of being in another country. Even before I’d paid for my ticket the tour company advised me to pack ramyeon and cans of tuna because Cambodian food ‘wasn’t tasty.’
For many years, an old school friend of mine was the local milkman and after he’d told me he was off on his fourth trip to Cyprus, I asked whether he went to the Greek or Turkish part of the island? Since the re-unification of Germany, many people regard Korea as the only remaining divided country but Cyprus was divided in two, in 1974 and remains so to this day with the Turkish part only recognised as being Turkish, by Turkey. My school friend laughed at my question and told me he had no idea which part of the island he went, he simply went to get pissed. Unlike many Brits, who seek lazing in the sun with a beach or pool on-hand, and who are content to spend two weeks in a resort which could be Spain, Portugal, Turkey or even Cyprus, but the destination of which is unimportant because they have little or no desire to actually see anything beyond the confines of what is basically a holiday camp, my Korean tour was a whirled wind of exhausting activity from dawn until dusk.
My hotel, Angkor Goldiana, was large and apart from a couple of westerners, the clientele were predominantly Korean. The hotel had a large, enticing swimming pool but during my five-day vacation, I failed to see anyone use it. The same can be said of the bar. At 8 am every morning the various tour groups assembled in the lobby to depart on sightseeing trips and most didn’t return until the late afternoon. Most tours included evening activities so by the time you did get back to your hotel room, you were exhausted. Touring under the organisation of a Korean tour company is a little short of being a student where ‘free time’ is almost unheard of.
All but one meal was Cambodian, the remainder were all Korean and included Pyongyang naengmyon (cold noodles) Korean barbecue, Bulgogi (fire beef), kimchi stew, chicken feet, fried spicy squid and the usually side dishes and ever-present kimchi. All of our food, bar the Cambodia meal and breakfasts, were served in local Korean restaurants.
The first excursion of day one took us straight to the renowned Angkor Wat complex and after spending most of the morning here we went to four other temples in Angkor. The heat and humidity were draining but even after some eight hours of walking my Korean companions were eager to climb a large hill to visit another temple; Phnom Bakheng. Needless to say, apart from a very few westerners, the majority of those enduring the climb were Koreans.
Royal Cambodian Independence Park
Wat Thmei temple and stupa to the victims of the killing fields.
cambodia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodia
The Korean tour company was Modu Tours and provided an excellent service.
© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.