The Long Wander in Cambobia © Sahand Sedghi

Tourist vs. Traveler

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Sahand blending in

In most places, there is still a distinction between the foreigner and the local. There is a name for those with pale skin in every country. The line between distinction and discrimination is incredibly thin. In the midst of a group of ‘barang’, get ready to be hustled. On a bus, on a boat, and in the markets foreigners pay a higher price for the same seat or product. Those with more money pay more. But it is impossible to blame the locals for this differentiation, because in most places there is also a distinction between travelers and tourists.

Tourists. I worked the tourist industry for two summers in my own country and locals in my mountain town made the distinction. Tourists became “tourons”. They were groups of big, dumb people who got lost in the woods, fell down hillsides, capsized boats in the lake, and provoked the bears. They were stupid and we grouped them. It was impossible not to. Now, I travel. I have become a member of a classifiable group. Foreigners. Tourists. They show up and take pictures, wreck motorbikes, and pay double or triple the price for a kilo of mango steen. They are stupid and the locals group them. It would be impossible not to. Travelers fight to distinguish themselves. There are distinguishing characteristics between tourists and travelers.

Travelers. They take the non-air-con-mini-bus. They cram a western ass into a seat with three other people in the back of the bus and chat up the young Khmer in the next seat who is studying to be a police officer. They learn to count, say hello, thank you and good luck in ten different languages, one language for every country visited. They are amazed at the level of English proficiency throughout the developing world, including Cambodia. For God’s sake, they haggle in the markets. They watch the locals buying kilos of fruit and then still ask for a discount, but they do it with a big smile and know when to pay. They leave the guesthouse. They spend the entire day out in the streets of whatever town or city they find themselves in. They get to know the places they visit and they understand and become a part of each new place, even for a short time. They don’t come to buy cheap goods, get drunk in the guesthouse bar, take pictures and fly home in two weeks. Anyone can be a tourist. It takes a little more time and effort, but don’t be a tourist in Cambodia. Be a traveler.


Cambodia is still trying to get on its escape from the Khmer Rouge. If you visit please have some patience and try to visit more than just Angkor Wat.

From the Photo gallery

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