The Little red Fox Espresso ON Jan 23rd, 2018 AT 2:00pm, SIEM REAP THINGS…Socially Responsible Travel.
Having spent only a few years living in a country outside our own, we have been blessed with many different experiences from a wide range of cultures. Through these experiences and living in Siem Reap we have come to learn more about the different side effects of tourism on the local economy and community that is Siem Reap. This comes under the umbrella of Sustainable Tourism and it has shown to us the importance of being a Responsible Traveller.
What is Responsible Travel? It means being aware of the choices you make when travelling to different cultures and countries. This can include the accommodation you choose, the bar you drink at, the restaurant you dine in or the tour you partake in. In all of these choices you have an opportunity to discover if your money is going to have the positive impact that you desire.
Here’s our 10 Siem Reap Tips on how you can strive for a sustainable and responsible vacation in the Kingdom of Wonder!
1) Be more eco-conscious as you travel!
There are a lot of great ways to lower your environmental impact when you are travelling.
Siem Reap has a wonderful business community and together as a group local and foreign businesses we are working together to raise awareness of some of the harmful side-effects of tourism on the local environment. We suggest you check out the following Facebook pages.
- Refill Not Landfill – A group of businesses pushing to move the focus away from plastic single-use water bottles with the availability of refillable aluminium bottles and free water refill stations across Siem Reap
- Plastic Free Cambodia – This organisation aims to raise awareness of the damage single-use disposable plastic causes. With the annual Plastic Free July month every year many businesses in town work together to help spread the word of single use plastic alternatives and the damages of plastic pollution.
Also as a whole Siem Reap is a small town with a rather flat landscape. Bicycles are a fantastic way to get around. If you need a bit more oomph you can check out the electric motors of Green-E-Bikes. With recharge stations across Siem Reap you can enjoy the endless back streets and alleyways of this charming little town. You never know what you’ll miss if you take the fast option!
2) Minimise your waste!
With the immense growth of tourism in Siem Reap over the past decade the waste management system in Siem Reap (privately owned GAEA) has a rather large task and sometimes falls short of its goals. Mixed with a lack of education about plastic and styrofoam and their long lasting effects, you can at times feel slightly deflated when travelling through some parts of town.
In recent years we have seen a whole host of awareness campaigns and organised rubbish pick-ups starting up. One of our favourites is the Youth & Rubbish movement that was initiated entirely by young Cambodians actively working at a cleaner Cambodia.
What can you do as a traveller? You can help by being as conscious and aware as possible to lower your waste footprint as you travel. Say no to plastic bags from shops and instead put your items in a backpack or a cloth bag (Check out the green eco bags from the amazing team at Husk Cambodia). Ask you hotel or guesthouse if they recycle their plastic. Eat and drink in the cafe rather than going for take away. Carry a reusable water bottle (Refill Not Landfill) with you and fill up from one of the many #refillnotlandfill stations
3) Respect the local culture!
We believe the best thing about travel is the chance to learn about new cultures, religions and different ways of life. It is this reason we have fallen in love with Cambodia so much. Because of this we would like to explain to you some small ways to show BIG respect to the Khmer culture and life.
Cambodia tends to have a more conservative dress sense (particularly for women) and walking around town in your swimwear or having your shirt off in a cafe or restaurant is considered to be very inappropriate. We generally like to ask ourselves one question if we are unsure of appropriateness. Would I do this in my home country? If the answer is no then why would I do it here?
Take some time to learn about the local culture by reading this guide to ‘Culture and Etiquette‘ by the amazing team from Rough Guides.
Also take the time to watch the video below about the ‘Angkor Code Of Conduct’, your go to guide about how to act and behave in the Kingdoms most sacred and historical sites!
4) Think before you interact with animals!
It may seem like a romantic and exotic idea of riding through the jungle on the back of an elephant watching the ancient temples role by, but we implore you… DON’T!
Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them so in order to tame them this majestical & ancient creature is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush” and is just awful! On top of that their spinal cords are not built to carry the weight of humans day in, day out. Not too long ago one elephant died of heat exhaustion in Angkor from being over worked carrying tourists in the blistering heat.
Ride a bicycle… not an elephant!
As a side note… don’t feed the monkeys. Yes, their cute but there also full of disease and love to bite! We cannot count how many times we have heard from hotel owners the amount of tourists who end up going to hospital from playing with the monkeys in Angkor. They are wild creatures so just let them be.
5) Choose sustainable accommodation and travel operators.
It can feel that there are a million options available in Temple Town when it comes to a place to put up your feet up for the night. It can also be a difficult decision when deciding which tour operator to take you on your Cambodian adventure. In reality it is quite easy to find businesses that actively works with the community and works off sustainable tourism practices. It is these kind of businesses that should be supported and rewarded.
How can you spot tour operators like this? They may choose to only employ local guides or workers from nearby villages, or provide extra training to help their staff improve their skills. Some places even donate part of their profits to charitable enterprises, or pay their local staff above-average wages, without you having to do any extra work!
(Check out our blog coming soon about our recent experience with Ayana Journeys on their ‘Secrets of Siem Reap’ tour.)
6) Take a look at yourself when bargaining.
In Cambodia bartering on a price is definitely a part of the local culture and can often be an enjoyable experience. We once again ask you to look at the bigger picture before you start arguing over 50 cents or a dollar. You must always bargain with a smile. Strong words and harsh responses get you nowhere in Cambodia and a nice smile and friendly disposition can go a long, long way. Also trying to get cheaper prices at hotels, cafes, restaurants, tours and bars comes off as incredibly cheap and rude. Please think of the impression you are making. A quality product has costs involved. Just because this is Asia doesn’t mean it should always be dirt cheap.
7) Giving to beggars.
We admit, this is tricky as most of you are really lovely people and most will feel shattered when you see those (most likely children) begging on the streets. Please take a moment to consider that this is a cycle, giving to beggars only encourages locals to continue asking tourists for money. When it comes to young children who ask for money it is often the parents who remove them from their schooling and tell them to beg for money as bringing in cash has a quicker result than what education offers. The worst cases; children may be part of a large, corrupt network who keep all that money for themselves. Check out this blog about the ‘Baby Milk Scam‘ written by the team from Move To Cambodia for example.
If you want to help there are a number of local charities the provide various types of sustainable assistance to those who need it. Please find guidance through the ChildSafe Movement (thinkchildsafe.org)!
8) Shop Locally.
The amount of restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops in Siem Reap can be overwhelming and, like everywhere in the world, you want your money to go to businesses with ethics and, ideally, some kind of social responsibility.
So what is the best way to find out where you should spend your holiday dollars? Our suggestion is quite simple. Do your research! A quick look at google should give you an insight into how the business is received by others and also what they might do in the community.
Spending your dollars at small businesses that practice socially responsible businesses ethics can have a major impact. By going for small businesses you not only support the local economy but also the Cambodians that make these places so special.
We guarentee this will create a more authentic travel experiance for yourself and also help someone else create a better life for themselves.
9) Volunteer responsibly!
Visiting for a short period of time with the idea of spending a day or two teaching children in a local school might seem like a lovely idea and that your doing good in the moment, however the sustainability of short term volunteering (especially with children) can have drastic, long term impacts. As we mentioned above we love to ask ourselves a simple question. Would I do this in my home country?
We do not mean to be a betty buzz kill with this point. More often than not locals and foreigners alike have their heart in the right place. But having the brain and the heart working together is the only way to truly help someone. Instead look at other way you can make more of an impact during your time in Siem Reap.
If you have a skill that you feel you would like to share, think about working with local teachers or directors of schools or NGO’s. Educating and empowering Cambodians to educate their fellow citizens is a powerful thing and will help to break the cycle of short term voluntourism.
During your Siem Reap travels if you spot another traveller who isn’t aware of themselves doing something that is detrimental to the environment or the local culture don’t be afraid to mention it to them in a friendly way.
Start an open chat about the ideas behind responsible travel with people at your place of accommodation or on your tour. Education and conversation is the only way that we can spread the word about sustainable tourism!
So… before you travel to the Kingdom of Wonder be sure to educate yourself in HOW you can be an ethical and sustainable traveller. Your holiday will be a more of a rich and cultural EXPERIENCE AS A RESULT!
If you have any questions feel free to contact us at The Little Red Fox Espresso or The Little Red Fox Bar & Cafe to have a bit of a chat!