Nearly 30 years after the genocide, Cambodia still faces social challenges and a fragile economy, but tourism is playing an important role in accelerating growth. Traveling to Siem Reap? There are plenty of ways to make sure your trip has a positive impact. Start by supporting local restaurants, shops, hotels and tour operators who are working hard to build a prosperous, peaceful community. Here are six of our favorite options for those looking to travel responsibly in Siem Reap.
1. Eat Lunch at Spoons
The newest addition to Siem Reap’s vibrant restaurant scene, Spoons is a café and educational facility located on the campus of EGBOK, a non-profit that helps prepare underserved Cambodian young adults for careers in hospitality. Spoons serves as an extension of the classroom, allowing hands-on training for the students. Revenue helps sustain EGBOK, and the space doubles as a community center to showcase local arts and culture. The menu features authentic Cambodian dishes, sourced entirely from local food suppliers. Don’t miss the specialty cocktails: the signature ‘Spoonatini’ incorporates a custom-blend rice wine made right down the road at Sombai.
2. Buy a Gift at the Artisans Angkor Workshop
Established in 1999, Artisans Angkor is a social enterprise with a dual mission: preserve and advance Cambodia’s artistic traditions while providing opportunity for rural Cambodian youth. The organization employs more than 1,000 people in workshops across the country, combining artistic skills training with professional development classes. Students produce traditional Khmer crafts from wood and stone carvings to silk paintings to lacquer ware. Visitors can take a free tour of the workshop from 7:30am to 5:30pm daily.
3. Bike the Temples
Angkor Archaeological Park is the main draw for many visitors to Siem Reap. Avoid the tuk-tuk tour crowds in favor of a bicycle excursion run by a local outfit. Not only will you help reduce pollution, you’ll support a small business and get a great workout along the way. Several options are available on PlacePass.com, including excellent local guides and refreshments from local restaurants.
4. Grab Coffee at Sister Srey
Behind this welcoming, friendly café is a dynamic sister duo committed to supporting the local community. All staff are given hospitality, language, and personal development training, and the team actively participates in the “Clean Up Temple Town” initiative, which picks up rubbish and works to create a cleaner environment across Siem Reap.
5. Stay in a ChildSafe-Certified Hotel
Do your part to help combat sexual exploitation and abuse by staying in a ChildSafe-certified hotel. In cooperation with Friends International, ChildSafe helps educate the hospitality industry about the sexual exploitation of Cambodian children for tourism, and offers a hotline to report instances of suspected abuse trafficking, or other risks. ChildSafe properties take an active role in this effort by not allowing tourists to bring local children into the property. They also distribute materials about the ChildSafe initiative and will alert authorities if a traveler is seen with a local child. Look for the ChildSafe logo on the hotel’s website or in the lobby.
6. Ditch the Plastic Water Bottle
Instead of buying one-time use plastic water bottles, utilize a refillable aluminum water bottle from Refill not Landfill Cambodia. This brand-new initiative helps fight plastic pollution by encouraging businesses across Siem Reap to sell or offer the eco-friendly bottle and host free refill stations for thirsty guests. Each bottle has a map of refill points across the city as well as the participant’s logo. Refill not Landfill estimates the initiative will help eliminate the use of more than 175 million plastic bottles over the next four years.
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