Let’s put $30 USD in Cambodia into perspective. $20 can buy you a double room at a pretty sweet hotel including air conditioning, free water and breakfast every day. $18 can buy you a delicious meal for two where both you and your partner make “good food” noise – you know the noise (the Sun restaurant in Siem Reap in case you’re wondering). $20 can buy you a single day at one of the greatest sights on this planet, Angkor Wat.
So, when a sight charges $15 USD per person, $30 for a couple, you’re expecting something… great. The Cambodian Cultural Village was horrific. So horrific that yes, I feel it deserves it’s own blog post.
To be fair, I should have looked at TripAdvisor, but to be honest TripAdvisor has been hit or miss on our journey through Southeast Asia so far. HAD we looked at TripAdvisor we would have seen the Cambodian Cultural Village described as “dire”, “vile”, “better to burn your money.” I can’t help but agree with these poor (literally poor, they’re down $30) travelers.
The way Cambodian Cultural Village describe themselves makes it seem like you’re seeing miniature glimpses into Cambodian life. It’s theme-park-esque. What they neglect to tell you is that the only way to experience this is to be there for their performances. There’s one performance for 20 minutes in the morning, and the rest start at 2:30. So, when you arrive at noon, which we did, there is sweet eff all to do. You look at the map and think surely the performances are just part of the attraction, otherwise why would they sell you a ticket in good faith when there will be nothing to do for two hours. Oh and did I mention it’s not central? While they tout that their ticket is available all day, well you’d have to pay a small fortune in tuk tuks to go there and back to make it worthwhile.
What do you see if you arrive out with the performance schedule? Empty buildings. Empty buildings with no description (other than the 2 lines in the brochure) describing what it’s meant to be. What exactly is cultural about that? I’m looking at an empty building and learning… nothing. I’m looking at what is meant to be a floating village and learning… nothing. No placards describing what life was like. No guide explaining the village to you. Nothing. It’s a ghost town
Walking around I could see all the other tourists, including families that paid the rip-off price of $60 as their kids were above a metre tall (yes…) looking as miserable as us. The only thing we could do to attempt to remain positive was play in the kids play park which even children couldn’t be motivated to engage with.
I would almost feel bad about writing such a scathing review if I hadn’t tried very hard to get our money back. Tip #1, if the ticket office has a sign saying tickets are non-refundable, it means everybody and their mother has tried to claw their hard-earned dollars back. The woman simply smiled at me and said “no refund”. The man behind the desk pushed the performance schedule through the window at me. “Show at 2:30.” Yes, well… DON’T OPEN UNTIL 2:30 THEN!
Once upon a time in the very near past the Cambodia Cultural Village ticket cost was $9 per person. Still a rip off, but I can guess what happened here. I’m going to guess that by opening early, they have to hire a crazy number of staff to man the restaurant, the ticket office, and the gardens. By failing to keep tourists attention during their two and a half hour break, they lose money because people complain. To try and make more money back, the Cambodian Cultural Village charge more. Do you know what this is? It’s a vicious tourist-money-sucking circle. Again, I’m sure, if you arrive at 2:30, you’ll have a vastly different experience, but you know where that isn’t advertised? Anywhere. Because they want to get you into their restaurant, into their spa, into their shop.
Fun fact – locals are only charged $8 USD per person? Why? Because a local wouldn’t even pay $15 for this waste of time.
If you want real Cambodian culture, spend that $30 on a guide for the day to drive you through the countryside, the town, etc. You’ll learn way more, meet great people and I’m sure leave with a much more realistic, pure view of what Cambodia actually is.