The Tourist Influx Scam Show

It’s a good psychological trick, but it didn’t quite work on us.

Here is the idea: you start by apologizing for all the lies that the tour group has been told by the last guide, reveal a single truth to gain the group’s trust then proceed to tell more blatant lies. Scams include but are certainly not limited to: there are no ATM’s in Cambodia, there is no place to change Thai Baht in Cambodia, an 800 meter taxi ride will cost $25 and no, although I drove the bus here, I can not under any circumstances point to where we are on the map.

Cambodia is getting used to its role as a backpacker mecca, tourist hot spot, non-fascist society flirting with democracy. The sudden influx of naive tourists seems to draw the inner con artist out of everyone. US dollars are the preferred currency (“But no I have no change for that twenty and I have no intention of giving it back.”) and everyone wants a piece.

It’s understandable, but difficult. The horrors of the country’s recent history can forgive it’s citizen’s eagerness to move on and up. But in the past few days we’ve grown so cynical and suspicious and have had to grow a thicker skin to buffer the barrage of Tuk Tuk come-ons and the like.

Despite the growing pains, Cambodia has so much to offer that the tourists will surely keep pouring in. Angkor Wat is reason enough to brave the dusty, unpaved roads. It is a sight! One of the truly iconic ones that makes you draw a deep breath and say to no one in particular: “I’m here.”

And Dad, I was so close to getting you a giant neon painting of the ruins, but somehow I thought you may already have one or two.


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