Sustainability & Local Culture in Cambodia

Tim Gillespie
January 16, 2024

Yes, Cambodia’s countryside is filled with ancient pagodas that date back to the 12th Century.  Yes, there are beautiful white sand beaches that dot the southern coast along the Gulf of Thailand.  And yes, there are still wild jungles to explore in the mountains of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces. Go and get lost amongst these treasures but take some time to learn about what else is going on in this fascinating country.

Angkor Thom, Siem Reap

Sustainability Efforts

Of course one of your main stops will be in Siem Reap which hosted over 2 million visitors just last year!  The growing number of tourists coming into the city has caused a major increase in hotels.  With visitors staying in these rooms for only 2-3 nights, do you ever wonder where the remnants of soap bars go?  That’s where Eco-Soap Bank steps in to recycle and sanitize excess soap then supply the new products to hospitals and remote communities.

Making soap at Eco-Soap Bank

Ever wonder what happens with all those plastic bags that we use so sparingly?  We have all heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other detrimental environmental effects of single use plastic bags.  In Siem Reap, Rehash Trash is turning these plastic bags into stylish household items such as coasters, shoulder bags, and floor mats.  Take a few hours while in Siem Reap and join one of their workshops or simply stop by and purchase an item from their shop.

Support Local Culture & Social Development

Cambodia isn’t as famous for its cuisine as neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, but that doesn’t mean you should not eat.  In fact, when you do, seek out some of the social business restaurants that are training young students in the hospitality trade. Friends the Restaurant, located in the capital city of Phnom Penh serves up delicious cuisine while fostering confidence in young children to become chefs.  Connecting Hands Training Cafe is empowering women to create a future for themselves by training them as cooks, baristas, and customer service staff.  Stop in for iced-coffee on a hot afternoon and learn more.

As you travel through Cambodia you slowly feel yourself in awe of their deep heritage for arts and performance.  You can see the intricate artwork in the design of the temples, the thorough detail in traditional clothing and unique movements of the Apsara dance performances. Nowadays, Cambodians are given a new twist and revamping their love for performance.  One organization, Tiny Toones, uses break-dancing and the culture of hip-hop to engage, inspire and educate young people.  While Phare Ponleu Selpak, in Battambang, provides access to education through art and music classes to help tackle the social conditions that face the countryside of Cambodia.

So, if you find yourself in Cambodia (hopefully on our new trip) remember to slow down a little and get into the flow of the local people.  Then with your free time look into ways to get involved and support this vibrant culture as they continue to grow into being one of the world’s top visited destinations.

Tim Gillespie
Tim is U30X's Thailand Manager & Community Builder, and has been living, traveling and accumulating experiences in SE Asia since 2009. He loves being in the outdoors, immersing himself in local cultures, and tasting exotic foods.


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