One of the best and worst things to happen to Cambodia’s tourism industry is the fact that people often compare it to Thailand. The endless comparisons benefits Cambodia in some way because, for the most part, Cambodia is a better price value compared to Thailand. Also, the former Khmer Kingdom is relatively unspoiled and pristine compared to highly commercialized and tourist-saturated Thailand. With that said, Cambodia often gets the short end of the stick when people compare it with its more popular neighbor. That is the reality of life-you always get compared to those closest to you. Cambodia is no exception. It has less infrastructure than Thailand. Its tourism industry, and related accommodations, is not as developed as Thailand’s. And so on down the line. In fact, in the eyes of some people, Cambodia’s list of negatives is longer than Thailand’s. However, to take such comparisons to their logical extremes would be to truly miss the point about Cambodia.
Comparisons are useful… up to a point
There are no two ways about it-comparisons can be useful. They help us size things up fairly quickly. They help us quickly zero in on certain elements something has when we compare it with another thing that doesn’t have those things. These are great but there is a point where you have to stop comparing. There is a point where you have to look at the individual merits of something and compare it to itself. This is the type of comparison a person should do with Cambodia tours. The initial point of departure should be resolving the point that Cambodia is not Thailand and that Cambodia should be evaluated solely on its own merits.
Cambodia as its own reward
The problem with constantly comparing Cambodia to Thailand is that such comparisons leave out the fact that Cambodia is worth visiting precisely because it is Cambodia and not someplace else. In other words, there is an intrinsic value to going on Cambodia tours just to see Cambodia as it is. And this is the key to approaching Cambodia tours in general. You are not out to visit it so you can compare. You are not looking at it from the pale reflection of someplace else. You are not visiting it because you can’t visit your first choice. In other words, you visit because of its intrinsic value. There is something liberating about this realization. When you start viewing Cambodia tours and other tour destinations from this lens, you have morphed from yet another tourist looking for a travel destination to safely ‘consume’ to an actual traveler. Travelers don’t look at destinations as existential McDonald’s stops. They look at each destination as having its own separate and autonomous reason for existing. Travelers come to share in the life that is already there and disturb the scene as little as possible. Those with a ‘tourist’ mentality come to sample. It’s like tasting the broth but never really appreciating the feast. Thankfully, people can choose either a traveler or tourist mentality. And it all begins with the decision to stop comparing.