Scenes like this at Boeung Kak lake are no longer possible, and one visitor warns that development there has taken the charm away from an area that once attracted tourists.
I have now taken my holidays in your wonderful country three times. I
have been lucky enough that my work has enabled me to visit every
continent on earth, including even Antarctica on two occasions.
Of all the countries I have seen, my favourite is Cambodia.
On each occasion I have visited Cambodia, I have found the Cambodian
people to be wonderfully friendly and the natural and cultural
landscape of Cambodia to be immensely interesting.
During my previous visits I have spent most of my time in rural areas,
and so I planned to return next month to spend more time in and around
On my second visit, I discovered the friendly and inexpensive
accommodation available around Boeung Kak lake which, despite its
pollution problems, provides an excellent scenic backdrop.
It was the atmosphere of one of these lakeside guesthouses in
particular that led me to decide to base my next holiday in Cambodia.
Because I live overseas, I had not been fully aware of the development plans for this area until recently.
Yesterday, I cancelled my planned holiday to Cambodia because I
realised it will not now be possible to stay in the delightful
guesthouse where I wished again to relax beside the lake.
I know there are plenty of other places to stay in Phnom Penh, but the lake was special.
I recognise that there were many problems at the lake, but am saddened
that rather than work to solve these problems the decision has been
taken simply to destroy this special place.
While it is not my wish to interfere in how Cambodians wish to run
their country, as a visitor who has come to love Cambodia, I thought I
should at least warn you that not all tourists want glitzy modern
developments, and that many of us will actually be driven away by it.
The world is full of cities that are all the same, with hotels and
restaurants and shopping centres that are so similar and Westernised
that one has to stop and think about which country you are really in.
But Phnom Penh has been special because it has not been one of those
monotonous places, instead it has retained a character of its own.
Big spenders may stay briefly in their large, expensive hotels and drink in their fancy bars and restaurants.
But many of us prefer to stay a while longer in more basic accommodation, meeting local people rather than just other tourists.
We spend our money more slowly on the streets where it directly
reaches local people rather than being siphoned off by large
Some other countries in Southeast Asia to which tourists previously
returned again and again are now wondering why tourists are suddenly
only visiting once.
I believe the answer is simply that those countries have sold their
soul in the quest for the mighty dollar, and allowed developments that
have made them so similar that they are no longer the special places
that they once were.
I would not like to see Cambodia disadvantaged by failing to learn from the mistakes that have been made by your neighbours.
Dr Kevin Kiernan
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