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Homestay in Cambodia

Posted by helz26 on 2/8/2011 at 21:39

Hey guys,

I'm going to Cambodia next week with my boyfriend and I really want to find a good homestay in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. We would like to experience traditional cambodian life. Were flying to BKK on Saturday and I'd really like to book it before then.

I'd really appreciate anyone who has knowledge of this that can help us out.

Thanks
Helen

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Posted by Rasheeed on 2/8/2011 at 22:09

There are some links to homestays at http://cambodianhomestays.webs.com/apps/links/. But nothing in PP or SR I don't think, on that list at least.

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Posted by sayadian on 3/8/2011 at 02:26

I remember my stay in a traditional Cambodian village complete with wooden bed, a diet of prahok and rice and oh, the toilet was a walk in the woods.

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Posted by sayadian on 3/8/2011 at 02:55

I remember my stay in a traditional Cambodian village complete with wooden bed, a diet of prahok and rice and oh, the toilet was a walk in the woods.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 3/8/2011 at 08:59

Nice to know you remember it (x2).

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Posted by sayadian on 3/8/2011 at 14:12

Seriously, Rasheed life in rural Cambodia is pretty rough, a lot rougher than rural life in Thailand. Thai villages have a lot of charm and basic facilities.I'm not a country kind of person so it wouldn't interest me but if I wanted a rural homestay I'd choose Thailand anyday.I was pretty shocked to seethe way many people live in the country in Cambodia.
I remember staying up near Aural and the difficulty we had getting something to eat in the evening was a farce.Ended up with stale rice.I asked if they had any beer and a boy returned after half an hour with an ancient and dusty can of warm panther beer.
Another time the place we stayed was literally a frame with a tarpaulin over the top and it was the rainy season and we all had to huddle in one corner because the tarp was leaking.There were no toilets and just a barrel of water to wash.
I would say many Cambodian farmers have it rough.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 3/8/2011 at 14:54

The OP is looking for a homestay. If your Cambodian village experience was a homestay that you paid for, you should get your money back. You should have food and a place to sleep. Sounds like you had neither. No bathroom though? BFD.

The homestays on the CD's list above have gotten good reviews. Sounds like yours wouldn't have. Yes farmers have it tough. But the OP doesn't want to become a farmer. Just find a homestay.

'sheeed

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Posted by sayadian on 3/8/2011 at 17:19

Point accepted Rasheed. No, I wasn't at a 'homestay' But the OP also said.

'We would like to experience traditional cambodian life.'

If 'homestays' are authentic they would reflect the poverty I have experienced, otherwise they are artificial experiences set up for tourists something like dude Ranches.

Cambodian farmers are dirt poor a lot poorer than the poorest I've seen in Isan.

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Posted by sayadian on 3/8/2011 at 17:21

BTW Rasheed. It wasn't that they didn't have a bathroom, if you read my post again.
I state they didn't have a toilet (latrine)! It was shockingly poor.
On the other hand they were lovely people.

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Posted by CunningMcFar on 3/8/2011 at 20:38

overnight trips to villages on the Tonle Sap can be arranged thru Two Dragons GH in Siem Reap, looks like a great way to visit the lake and stay with a local family:
http://www.twodragons-asia.com/information.html

and there is one listed on the site in Rasheed's post above that is in Takeo Province, not too far from PP.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 3/8/2011 at 22:34

I think there's a middle ground for tourists who want a more "traditional" experience. Not poverty but not OK guesthouse. Like every experience, it can not be accepted as the Cambodian Experience, but one of many.

And sometimes I think the crapping outside would be much better than the shitter I use now.

All love Sayadian...

'sheeed

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Posted by sayadian on 3/8/2011 at 22:45

The people I stayed with lost everything because of doctor's bills and ended up in this tarp hut.They were lovely people but I've seen so much of this poverty in Cambodia it was not unusual.
Yes, I can understand people wanting to experience the countryside, cooking, language etc of Cambodia and wanting to do it in relative comfort just as long as they are aware of what they are getting. I suppose I find a lot of people idealise Cambodia when they only come for a short visit.
I often walk down passed the gardens near Psar Char early in the morning and it's shocking to see naked children running around whilst their parents are sniffing glue out of a plastic bag nearby. I suppose I'd better leave politics alone but in the last few years The Lexus seems everywhere when I can remember the ancient Camry being the only thing on the road.The money is there it just hasn't reached the rural poor.
Still, Cambodia is a lovely country and the people of the rural areas are so friendly it's well worth a visit.

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Posted by MADMAC on 4/8/2011 at 11:17

I am afraid I fall down with Sayadian on this one - perhaps because I have spent so much time in an Issan village and therefore have gotten an up close look at the lifestyle there and the challenges associated with it. Most people don't want to spend their vacation (Holiday for some of you) really roughing it. Here are some of the challenges which I will list succinctly:

1. Food. This is not like going to a Thai restaraunt. And you probably won't have any influence concerning what's on the menu. Typically I am looking at a plate with a fried or boiled fish staring at me (the eyes are still there), some unidentified vegetable matter and a bowl of sticky rice. The vegetable matter smells bad. After a while you get sick of eating rice with every single meal.
2. Of course you can bring your own mosquito net and hang it - and you had better. But the crawling insects remain a problem. Last month I was bitten by two fire ants (this despite the fact I was sleeping on an elevated platform). Not only did this wake me up, but it hurt like hell. The ants are seemingly everywhere, and you have to be omni cautious with them.
3. It's pretty warm at times - and there ain't no AC. So you just stay pretty warm until you take your cold shower, at which point you are pretty cold. For a short time, you reach happy medium, then you are pretty warm again.
4. "Locals" mostly where flip flops or the like, and often are bitten by something. My friend was bitten by a centipede (it was huge) which wrapped around the "footwear" and bit him on the side of the foot. He was in real pain for a while and it took seemingly forever to heal. Watch out for the scorpions too. Scorpions suck.
5. Language. You won't be able to say hardly anything to anyone. And they won't be able to say anything to you. Until you learn the local language, which is tonal and tricky, you will be almost unable to communicate at all. You won't be able to read signs either. You will be isolated if you don't bring a friend.
6. Bathroom. If you are doing the real thing, it will be dirty. People here generally maintain good personal hygiene, but houses are cluttered, dirty and poorly maintained. The bathroom might well not have been cleaned in months, or even years. My wife cleans dads once in a while when we are there, but often I go in and there are spider webbs everywhere, a procession of ants marching down the wall, and mosquitos flying formation near the water container. The walls are stained and mold is growing up the base of the wall as well. You got the idea. The "kitchen", or the spot where food is prepared, will be the same added to that lots of grease in the vicinity.

This thread is of course on Cambodia, so I can only assume Sayadian (who has experiences in both places) is correct and that these elements will be even more extreme.

Having said all that, the first time I ever came to Thailand was to meet my wife's family. That was ten years ago (almost). I had never been to Asia prior to that. But I was a professional soldier who had lived like an animal in the Deserts of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, then spent a year living in Somalia and half a year in Haiti (the worst of the lot). Life (or the Army) had prepared me for just about any living environment, and my wife had warned me what things would be like. Also, I very much loved my wife and so being there with her added a little romance. I spent four weeks there, never left the province during that time, and I ejoyed it. But like I said, I was going there with a purpose and my wife facillitated a lot of interaction with indigenous people. Most people don't want to live like that on vacation, and I would not have wanted to either were it not for my wife. It's why I find the "Homestay" phenomenon so cuious. But a friend of mine in the travel business who arranges homestays makes sure the targets are interesting places, that the food prepared will suite a normal palate, and that they are clean. In short, the homestays are carefully prepared and the experience is deliberately altered so that it's not really authentic anymore.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 4/8/2011 at 12:33

People who do the homestay thing are looking to live a little differently than those on the guesthouse tour. They don't mind roughing it some to experience something more "authentic."

(I use the word "authentic" because that is how they describe it. I personally am not going to tell the tourguides in my town trying to scrape a living together to support their families that they are any less authentic than anyone else in Cambodia)

Anywho. They are looking for interactions with people and places that they feel that you don't find in guesthouses or hotels. Of course, as you've said many times Mac, you can only go so far without speaking the language, but I've seen some people do pretty well and have a great time trying to communicate.

Another thing, these are not plop you down in a random house in a random village accommodations. These houses usually have a room designed so that homestay customers have a place to sleep. Some of the homestays on CD's list above are nicer than others (and more expensive), but none of them want you to leave unhappy (though whether they know what makes westerners happy in another question). According to CD, all those homestays were recommended to him in one way or another. People enjoyed them.

Quick point by point on what you said Macdaddy...


1. Food. This is not like going to a Thai restaraunt. And you probably won't have any influence concerning what's on the menu. Typically I am looking at a plate with a fried or boiled fish staring at me (the eyes are still there), some unidentified vegetable matter and a bowl of sticky rice. The vegetable matter smells bad. After a while you get sick of eating rice with every single meal.
True. You will be stuck with what your host family makes you. Like everywhere else there are good cooks. And bad cooks. No banana pancakes.

2. Of course you can bring your own mosquito net and hang it - and you had better. But the crawling insects remain a problem. Last month I was bitten by two fire ants (this despite the fact I was sleeping on an elevated platform). Not only did this wake me up, but it hurt like hell. The ants are seemingly everywhere, and you have to be omni cautious with them.
Some of the homestays have pictures of the rooms and already have nets. Not a bad idea to ask about this in advance.

3. It's pretty warm at times - and there ain't no AC. So you just stay pretty warm until you take your cold shower, at which point you are pretty cold. For a short time, you reach happy medium, then you are pretty warm again.
True. This one... just suck it up.

4. "Locals" mostly where flip flops or the like, and often are bitten by something. My friend was bitten by a centipede (it was huge) which wrapped around the "footwear" and bit him on the side of the foot. He was in real pain for a while and it took seemingly forever to heal. Watch out for the scorpions too. Scorpions suck.
Stuff that bites suck. Your safer with closed shoes wherever you go. But you get more cred with flip-flops.

5. Language. You won't be able to say hardly anything to anyone. And they won't be able to say anything to you. Until you learn the local language, which is tonal and tricky, you will be almost unable to communicate at all. You won't be able to read signs either. You will be isolated if you don't bring a friend.
True, but the homestays are used to this. They make due. And this is the kind of challenge people looking into doing a homestay might appreciate.

6. Bathroom. If you are doing the real thing, it will be dirty. People here generally maintain good personal hygiene, but houses are cluttered, dirty and poorly maintained. The bathroom might well not have been cleaned in months, or even years. My wife cleans dads once in a while when we are there, but often I go in and there are spider webbs everywhere, a procession of ants marching down the wall, and mosquitos flying formation near the water container. The walls are stained and mold is growing up the base of the wall as well. You got the idea. The "kitchen", or the spot where food is prepared, will be the same added to that lots of grease in the vicinity.
Cheap guesthouses have some nasty bathrooms to though. You might have an outhouse, or nowhere. Once again, I think folks doing the homestay thing are not expecting Le Royale.


'sheeed

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Posted by MADMAC on 4/8/2011 at 13:20

As long as they go in with their eyes open, it's all good. I have to admit, it's not the way I would want to spend precious vacation days were I working... but to each his own.

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Posted by sayadian on 4/8/2011 at 14:23

'As long as they go in with their eyes open,'
Ditto on that. That was exactly the point I was making.

Madmac in my experience the Thais have much better hygiene than the Khmer. I think the Thais used to, or still have basic programs, to teach rural people to wash their hands etc.
In Cambodia that is not the case.So I would say be very careful that your hosts have basic hygiene standards otherwise you're going to spend most of your homestay on that delectable toilet we've been mentioning.

We were once invited for a meal by a very nice girl who, although village raised, had moved to Tuol Kok (a suburb of Phnom Penh) to work in the factory. She took us home. It consisted of a room about 3 metres by 4 metres and that included a 2 metre high wall surrounding a basic toilet with a hole in the ground .There were 4 people living there.Her uncle, sister and sister's husband. The only furniture was one bed and a TV. It was quite embarassing as everybody else had to go outside in the alley fronting the room whilst we were there as there just wasn't enough room. Along with the people went the bicycle. The noise from the neighbours was loud as the dividing walls don't go all the way to the ceiling.
Anyway, to get to the point, because of lack of room she took the meat for our meal into the toilet and began chopping it up on the porcelain foot plate. Horrified, but aware of my obligation as a guest I told her it was our custom to eat meat very well cooked, in fact, she was puzzled that I let mine go black from the heat before I was ready to eat it. This is your average Cambodian village girl.So beware.

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Posted by MADMAC on 4/8/2011 at 16:10

I forgot to mention, if you were seeking the "authentic' experience, you would not get your own room. You sleep on a mat on the floor with everyone else in the family. I left that out didn't I?

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Posted by sayadian on 4/8/2011 at 17:03

Well when I stayed in the village in Isan we had a little curtain for privacy. What amazes me is how the women can change from one outfit to another, holding the sarong with their teeth and retain complete modesty.
I can't say that these days I would enjoy sitting cross-legged on the mat with half the village watching some inane Thai soap either.I prefer the comfort of a good armchair.
In Cambodia they haven't even got this luxury.There'll be a coffee shop in the larger villages with all the chairs facing the TV and they sit there making the coffee last for hours.

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Posted by MADMAC on 10/8/2011 at 13:56

The last three days I was staying at my "homestay" out on the farm, and in the middle of the night the dog was barking non-stop, so I went to check on him. I came within one step of stepping on this in the dark before I saw the movement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5adKXtGSGX4&feature=related

It was some sort of pit viper - listed here as the Mangrove Pit Viper. Needless to say, that would have sucked.

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Posted by sayadian on 10/8/2011 at 17:51

?????

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/8/2011 at 10:11

So the lesson learned - when staying in the countryside, always keep one eye open for snakes!

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Posted by Rasheeed on 11/8/2011 at 10:18

Oh, ok.

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/8/2011 at 10:59

OK, I'll admit it's a blindling flash of the obvious.

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Posted by busylizzy on 11/8/2011 at 13:37

Hmmmm... maybe not so obvious. I was waiting for the salsa-dancing viper snake, but alas, it wasn't to be.

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/8/2011 at 14:08

No. Just a nasty creature who's bite I am sure would have been painful.

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Posted by kiaraangus on 14/8/2011 at 05:53

I know the OP was requesting somewhere close to S.R or P.P but this may be of help to others-
On our last trip over our fiance and i were lucky to meet Jack in the first week or so of our holiday- he was running 'two poor fat boys' in Kampot and a friend of ours (from Australia) was helping out at the bar in exchange for lodging at the village-
anyway... long story short- we had a great time, stayed out in the village, partied with the locals- ate way to many things that i could not identify and made some good friends-
i have stayed in contact with jack and received an email from him this morning saying that he has set up a few Bungalow's on his block just outside of kampot town-
If anyone is after what i felt to be the true Cambodia this might be as close you will get- http://www.kampot-ecovillage.com/bungalows.html-
hope this helps a few people- Gus

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Posted by kiaraangus on 14/8/2011 at 17:11

sorry i was really tired this morning- my slack typing has resulted in a really 'spammy' looking post- im not a tout im just not good before a coffee.

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Posted by harrycobber on 6/9/2011 at 18:20

just got back from a stay on the tara riverboat anchored on the lake in siem reap,stayed 3 days/2 nights and really enjoyed the quite nights .it certainly would not suit many as the lights go out at 10pm but playing cards with the villages was fun.the village has around 5000 people so limited things to do but have a few beer places and pool tables.its a fishing village and everyone lives in little floating homes.duing the day you can just hire a boat and head off to different places .flooded forrest,bird sanctuary or just different villages

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Posted by phuphum on 7/12/2011 at 21:13

The notion that a visitor has to suffer at a home sty instead of choosing a home stay is totally ridiculous. Do you have to undergo interrogation, torture and execution to understand the tragedy ofS21?

Equally absurd is the notion that all Cambodian farmers are poor. Many are of course, but only someone who has never lived in rural Cambodia would reveal their ignorance so blithely.

So, if you want to experience the realities of rural Cambodia stay
in a guesthouse in urban Cambodia an talk with other foreigners.

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Posted by MADMAC on 8/12/2011 at 02:27

Again, I can't speak to Cambodia, but in my wife's village there are no affluent rice farmers. If you are affluent, you don't work a rice farm. It's back breaking work.

And I would disagree that the intent of the homestay is not to be an experience, but rather a voyeur. When you go to S-21, you are going to a museum to see things. When you go to a homestay, you are going to someone's home to experience them. Two completely different things. If there were a homestay version of Tuol Sleng it would be an operational prison and you would be a prisoner who "lived" there for a week at the "S-21 homestay".

Now, I'll admit that a lot of places that call themselves "homestays" are, in fact, places that are being modified as guesthouses (in the original sense of that term) and therefore made comfortable for Western tastes. But the reality is the description I gave above, as least for Issan, is a very accurrate description of the way the vaste majority of village people here live. I've lived here over four years now with plenty of exposure. And Sayadian didn't just exactly get off the banana boat either.

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Posted by phuphum on 10/12/2011 at 20:42

Because of your dogmatic view of what a village is you take the the most impoverished as the only honest example and completely ignore those who engage in aquaculture, raise cattle or other livestock, teach school, have small stores, are nurses or truck, bus or taxi drivers, etc.
Most farmers in our village are part-time rice farmers growing only enough for their families and trading for other commodities when there is a surplus. The bleak picture you present most certainly exists, but it is NOT representative of our village. What western visitors might consider impoverished could well be lower middle class by local standards. Most residents in our village have electricity; in fact I am one of a handful that doesn't and I consider our standard of living comfortable and our lives fufilling. My Cambodian wife, our two kids and I also run the homestay as an adjunct to our mango orchard and small chicken farm.


While your idea of what real rural life is like in Cambodia overlaps part of my experience, it does not coincide with it. Further your curious notion that observing something ( "voyeurism" in your condescending statement) does not equate with learning I find especially peculiar. And again the idea they one must search out the most squalid environment to have a genuine experience is laughable. We do not run a boot camp or a reality TV show, but a business that means more than just money to us. We want them to meet our neighbors and the latter are also highly interested in our guests. NO, you're not just off the boat, you missed it entirely.

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/12/2011 at 05:42

Look, I am simply relating my own personal experience of observations of Issan villages after coming and going for six years and living here for four. I wouldn't use the word "impoverished", as almost all villages here have electricity, running water and functioning schools, security and health care systems. Impoverished is what I experienced in East Africa, where there was massive physical and food insecurity, often no power disctribution or water distributions systems and little or no public health care.
But I stand by my description of rural Issan life. For a kid coming from western civilization, the standards for everything are going to be radically different from where they come from, and they should go in eyes wide open. No experiences are going to be universal, but the description I gave of village life (in Issan) is accurate, and if you are going to rural Issan that is the kind of environment you should expect. Now I have a friend who owns a "homestay" here in a Thai village - that is, it is marketed as a "homestay". But it is unlike any home for any normal rural Thai farmer and is lightyears away from an average Thai home. It has a swimming pool, the rooms are well appointed, the construction is teak... It's a "homestay" in name only. He does a nice job showing people around the environment, his wife gives cooking classes, they do village tours, etc. It's a nice place. But it doesn't come close to resembling a normal Thai home. Certainly not a normal Issan home.
So again, if you seek an "authentic experience" then it's going to be the kind of lifestyle I described when I stayed at my father in laws "homestay".

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