LIFE LESSONS FROM TRAVELLING THE WORLD PART 6: My Least Favorite Travel Destinations

Cambodia – Hell on earth

The Killing Fields, Cambodia

The Killing Fields, Cambodia

WOW. Cambodia is the worst country I’ve ever been to. (Out of 40).

I’ve never had the slightest desire to go to Cambodia but since I was travelling with my best friend and he really wanted to go and see the world famous Angkor Wat temples, I was happy to come along with him to keep him company.

Boy did I regret that.

I hated every second of Cambodia and couldn’t leave quick enough.

Cambodia taught me two things very clearly:

  1. If people are in pain, you’re going to feel it whether you like it or not
  2. If a government doesn’t take care of its people, it’s every man for himself, dog eat dog

I’m very energetically sensitive and Cambodia is intense – and not in a good way.

On our first day in Cambodia we went to the famous Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom temples in the town of Siem Reap.

Did we have a good time?

No we didn’t.

Instead of being able to relax and enjoy our time there we were hassled and harassed about every 30 seconds by a different beggar or vendor for 5 hours straight. I found it absolutely exhausting having to fend off people every 30 seconds or so and we were both glad to finally get the hell out of there.

Some of the beggars we encountered were children. Boys and girls only 5 years old, holding their baby brothers and sisters in their arms would ask us for money and if we refused they would tell us to “fuck off”!

I also encountered fake monks who would try to force incense sticks into our hands against our will and then try to get us to pay $10 USD as a donation for the privilege of waving an incense stick for 3 seconds. It was absolutely ridiculous.

 Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise. One of the 7 wonders of the world. Constructed between 1113 and 1150, 2 million people come to see it each year.

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat close up

Angkor Wat close up

Angkor Wat close up

 Angkor Wat at sunrise

Driving into see Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom close up

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

After spending a day getting hassled nonstop at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom next we went to the Killing fields where Cambodia’s former dictator Pol Pot had more than 1.7 million people tortured and killed (21% of the country’s population) during the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979.

The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields

The 'Magic' Tree

The ‘Magic’ Tree

Unlike other countries where it may seem inconceivable as to how something so tragic like this could have occurred, it didn’t seem like any great mystery to me how something like this could have happened in a country like Cambodia. The atmosphere is dangerous and violence could break out at any moment. It never once felt safe to me at all.

Killing fields where Cambodia

Phnom Penh the capital was even worse. Beggars followed us everywhere and even just leaving our hotel room was dangerous. It didn’t matter where we went either. We were constantly stalked and harassed nonstop for our money from the moment we left our hotel in the morning until the time we went to bed.

We weren’t the only ones either. If you were white or foreign looking you were hassled relentlessly. I remember eating dinner with my friend at a restaurant across the street from our hotel as I didn’t think it would be safe to go any further, only to have one drug dealer after another pull open the plants which separated the people on the street from the patrons eating their meals and having them ask us nonstop every 30 seconds for the entire duration of the meal “Cocaine?” “Opium?” “Heroin?” “Speed?” “What you want?”

I also made the mistake of drinking the tap water when it was served to me in the restaurant and it tasted like poison. Like rusty water.

Lesson learnt: You can’t drink the tap water in Cambodia.

My friend and I ended up cancelling our return tickets and leaving after 3 ½ days instead of staying for the original 2 weeks we’d planned. I was glad to get the hell out of there and I made a firm decision upon leaving Cambodia: No more return trips.

From now on, every country, every city, every town I went to, was going to be one-way. The new rule of travel became “each place for as long as it’s good for”. I would decide how long I wanted to stay in each place once I got there – and not before.

Many female friends of mine seem to be surprised by my experiences in Cambodia because apparently they never got hassled for money and had a “great time”, so if you’re a female reading this you might not have as bad of a time as my friend and I did.

If you’re a white male however, I would advise you NOT to expect a warm welcome like you would in Thailand. Instead expect to be seen as nothing but a walking ATM. Someone to be hassled and harassed until you cough up the cash. Not exactly the most fun way to spend a holiday.

Going into Cambodia for me was like walking into a swarm of flesh eating insects that wouldn’t stop attacking and biting me until I left. All the positive thinking, looking on the bright side, trying to pretend it’s not happening or seeing things from another perspective didn’t work.

Cambodia is a shit hole. The end.

Egypt

The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx

The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx: The last remaining wonders of the ancient world constructed from 2580–2560 BC (Approx. 4, 577 years old). Entry is only $10 USD

Dangerous and dodgy. That’s how I’d best describe Egypt.

When I visited Egypt in 2014 the country was in political turmoil and reports of gang rape, violence and murder were commonly being reported on the news.

Various countries were also issuing travel warnings and discouraging their citizens from going there.

Still I wanted to go to Egypt for the same reason that everyone goes to Egypt: To see the Pyramids.  

But once I got to Egypt it sucked. I didn’t like the people and I didn’t like the place. I went to Cairo to see the Pyramids and to Sharm el Sheik to spend some time at the beach. Both places had a dangerous vibe to them and it felt unsafe to even catch eye contact with anyone because you knew that you would be harassed. Even by cops.

Warnings from TripAdvisor had said it was unsafe to go to the Pyramids without a tour guide and that you would be hassled relentlessly nonstop without one. I didn’t want a repeat of my crappy experience at Angkor Wat at Cambodia so I decided to take the advice and I hired a tour guide even though I’m not a fan of going on tours and generally prefer to go it alone with friends. The advice turned out to be good though and my friend and I managed to get away mostly unscathed as we stayed close to our guide and ignored anyone who tried to hassle us.

Let’s check out some pics:

The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx

The view from my hotel room in Cairo, just 1-minute walk from the Pyramids

The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx

How high are they Pyramids? This will give you an idea. Check out the human to Pyramid ratio. PS: 139 metres/456 feet high

The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx

There are 3 main pyramids. This is the baby one.

From the roof of our hotel we practically had a front row seat to the night show where the Pyramids and Sphinx light up and a story is told to accompanying fireworks.

The Great Pyramids and the SphinxThe Sphinx

Why did Egypt suck? The people. 95% of the people we met in Egypt tried to rip us off or scam us in some way.

Let’s look at a few examples:

After we had finished seeing the Pyramids we decided to buy a couple of bottles of water from a local store to take back to our hotel.

However, as my friend handed over the money to the store owner, an older man of about 70, upon seeing my friend pay with a larger note tried to get sneaky and short change him by about $30 USD. (Pretending that he had paid with a $20 instead of a $50). The funny thing was that the store owner wasn’t even kind of subtle about the fact that he was trying to rip us off.

We argued with the store owner for a few moments until he returned the money and we told our Egyptian tour guide who was waiting for us in the van what had happened. The store owner however followed us to the van and told our guide that we had short changed him!

Our guide could tell that the store owner was lying but still opened his wallet and offered to pay him the money we ‘owed’ him. But the shopkeeper refused and tried to act as if it wasn’t really about the money but the principle of the thing.

The situation then escalated when our tour guide tried to hand some money to the store owner to pay the imaginary difference (that we didn’t owe him) and the shop owner started wrestling with our guide to put the money back in his wallet.

When I say wrestling – I mean wrestling!

Again this man was about 70 years old!

It was ridiculous.

When I got back in the van I asked the tour guide why the shopkeeper had tried that crap on with us and he said that it happened all the time.

It wasn’t just Cairo that sucked either.

Next we went to Sharm el Sheik and almost everyone we met tried to rip us off or scam us in some way. People on the street, local store owners, the police, airport security staff and baggage handlers, the hotel where I stayed, even the staff at McDonalds.

I remember standing in line at the local McDonalds and seeing two arguments break out simultaneously both in my line and the other when the cashiers tried to short change the customers placing their orders.

Surely both of those instances were coincidences?

Surely the local Maccas wouldn’t try to short change every single customer?

Turns out they did.

As soon as we ordered our food, the staff member immediately tried to short change us. I couldn’t believe it. Really? Even the Manager was doing it.

It wasn’t just in stores either. Random people would follow us with bad intentions aggressively stalking and harassing us wherever we went. If we crossed the street – so did they. If we sped up – so did they. If we said “not interested”, “no thank you” or “you’re making me uncomfortable”, they just kept on following us and wouldn’t leave us alone.

The Red Sea

The red sea at Sharm el Sheik where I swam every day

Even when we were leaving Egypt the scams still hadn’t finished. We had only been inside Cairo airport for 2 minutes when a dodgy airport security staff member ran up behind my friend and quickly snatched our bags from our baggage trolley and then THREW them about 3 meters through the security scanners and then tried to get us to pay bribes to get our bags back. Then as we went through the security scanners to get our bags back the police officer on duty looked around to make sure no one else was watching and then began to tap on my wallet to get me to offer him a bribe.

I couldn’t wait to leave this 3rd world shit hole!

I encountered a lot of other crap in Egypt and many friends I met around the world shared similar – or worse stories. One friend from South Africa told me that he caught a hotel staff member masturbating to his blonde girlfriend out in the open in broad daylight!

Egypt – you suck. I won’t be going back.

Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the most dangerous city I’ve ever been to anywhere in the world.

It was my own fault for going there in the first place. I should have done my homework before going. (Although to be fair I was booking from Sharm el Sheik in Egypt and the WIFI connection I was using was so slow that it took 5 minutes to open up just one page).

All I knew was that I wanted to go to South Africa and I had friends from Johannesburg in Australia so I figured it must be OK.

Boy was I wrong. I didn’t know that Johannesburg was one of the most dangerous cities on earth and that it was full of murder, violence, rape, hijackings, house robberies, vehicle theft and every other form of crime imaginable.

One of the first things I noticed immediately in the taxi on my way over to the hotel was that every home had either a barbed wire fence or an electric fence and there were guards patrolling streets with machine guns. That was alarming. It was the first time in my life I ever felt that it would be too dangerous to stop at a red light. If any of the lights had gone red, I would have asked the taxi to drive straight through and to not stop anywhere even for a second.

When I arrived at the hotel I asked the staff if it was safe for me to go into the city but they just laughed and shook their heads and said “No sir you can’t go into the city it’s not safe”.

Even taking an Uber isn’t safe in Johannesburg. Drivers are kidnapping, robbing, assaulting and raping people. The situation is so out of control that Uber has installed a panic button onto the app in South Africa in case you get in trouble with your driver.

Johannesburg is a shit hole. You can’t go anywhere. You can’t do anything. The only thing you can do is to take the first flight out of there. I didn’t feel safe walking down the street, and when I was outside I couldn’t wait to get back inside. I couldn’t wait to leave.

I went to Cape Town a week later and although it’s safer than Johannesburg it’s currently the murder capital of South Africa and is one of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world.

South Africa has a lot of very friendly, warm and welcoming people. I love the people and I have a lot of South African friends. But the place itself is dangerous.

This is part 6 of a 9 part series: Life Lessons from Traveling the World

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 1: Don’t believe the hype

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 2: Wherever you go, there you are

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 3: Things that surprised me

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 4: Highlights of the trip

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 5: My favorite travel destinations

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 7: Travel tips – Part 1

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 8: Travel tips – Part 2

Life Lessons from Traveling the World – Part 9: Why you should travel the world

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