My Conversation with a Monk in Cambodia

My conversation with a Monk in Cambodia

One of the most amazing things that can come from traveling the world is when you are confronted with a ‘pinch yourself’ moment.  A place in time when you cannot believe you are doing what you are doing, that you are where you are in that moment, and everything just hits you with a sense of awe and wonder.  I had one of those moments back in 2006 when I was visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia with my mum.  

Until that time Cambodia had been one of my top ‘must go to’ places on my wanderlust list. There were so many great memories that I love to talk about in conversation with people about my time in this beautiful country in South East Asia.  My initial flight into the country and going through customs with a height of excitement to have finally arrived, the local children we met, and the amazing khmer food that we had the opportunity to eat.  Yet there is one story that still stick out in my mind as so awesome to have experienced while in Cambodia: my conversation with a monk.

We were at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia that day in 2006.  I could hardly believe my eyes when we first walked up to that postcard perfect view of Angkor Wat, which I had seen so often in photographs online.  There was so much to explore and finally my mum and I found ourselves sitting to relax and just take in the moment.  It was then that I realized we were in the presence of one of the monks, dressed in his brightly coloured orange robe.  He could not make direct eye contact with nor talk with me, so I was able to ask him questions through a male friend as an interpreter.  It was a surreal moment that I wish I could just replay over.


  • Dress Modestly.  Shorts are only worn in Cambodia by school children.  Combat the heat and still be modest by wearing a long skirt.  From personal experience I suggest wearing trousers in light weight material as it can be windy and not as practical to be in a skirt when visiting the sites. When choosing your outfit, be considerate to the fact that you should have your shoulders covered. A light weight scarf an be a great way to keep covered.
  • Be Respectful.  If you enter a worship area be mindful and remove your shoes and hats.  Tourists are not exempt from this.  Leave loud conversations to outside the temples and have any electronic devices turned off.
  • Be Mindful.  If a monk is seated, do not speak to them from a standing position. Sit down first and avoid sitting higher than the monks.  Women should never touch a monk or hand anything to them.
  • When at visiting the wats and temples.  Do not touch the Buddha statues. Ask for permission before taking photos and drop small donations if there is a place for one. 

Linking up with Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes 

  • Jackie

    I have a love-hate relationship with Cambodia. In fact, traveling through this country was by and large one of my most difficult travel experiences to date. That said, I know I will be back just to visit this monumental place again. I don’t even think I can find the words to express how profoundly moving it was to wander through this maze of temples and monks and tuk-tuk drivers and tourists. It’s one of those things that demands your full attention and I certainly plan to be back to be captivated once again! If I had to choose, exploring Angkor Wat would be at the top of my “pinch me moments” too!

    • Bonnie Rose

      How wonderful Jackie that despite having difficult travel experiences in country, it has not stopped you from wanting to go back. I too cannot wait to return as my husband and sons have not been there and honestly I want to just travel all over South East asia again soon. You are so right, there are so many aspects that really deserve full attention. Theres so much I did document that I know I’ve forgotten about so returning would be like seeing Cambodia through renewed eyes. Thank you for visiting ACR today! x

  • Polly Davies

    I’d love to visit Ankor Wat one day, it looks like such an amazing place to visit x

    • Bonnie Rose

      It is so surreal to walk around and definitely recommend trying to visit places during less peak times like during golden hours of the day for beautiful photographs! x

  • Shobha George

    How wonderful! I’d love to visit Cambodia – your tips will come in handy. It’s on my 2015 wish list. OK, so sad that I’ve moved on from 2014 already!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh no, I love that you are looking so forward with your travel, very refreshing! I want to get back to there in 2015 too! Would love to find a way to get closer to that part of the world too. Ahh…so many travels and so ready to get back out there. I would love to know what else you have on your list too!

      • Shobha George

        my 2014 list was part of the last link up. other than cambodia, i’m mulling over the middle east – Jordan, Israel and/or Egypt. Now the kids are getting older, we are ready for some adventure travel with them!

  • Robert Wareham

    Wow, what an experience! I can sort of imagine how you feel. When I was in China last year I went to a tiny temple on the outskirts of Beijing. There was nobody around when I arrived, so I was just strolling around taking it all in, then all of a sudden 10 or so monks appeared in bright orange robes and began some sort of ceremony. I just stood and watched in the background and that was an amazing experience itself, but to have chatted to them would have been even better! I’m not sure my Chinese would have allowed for my conversation though :/ lol

    • Bonnie Rose

      Wow…that scene sounds so serendipitous. How wonderful that must have been to have that moment of solitude turn into one with such beautiful colour and the ceremony. How cinematic it all seems. Right now I can only say a handful of words, a few colours, and numbers up to five. Even then I’m not sure I’m saying them correctly. 😉 Would love to be in China sometime soon. Robert I loved your post on Amanda’s site…that experience with the roasted spiders. adventurous!

  • The Owl and the Accordion

    I had loads of those moments when I was travelling in New Zealand – nothing that compares to talking with a monk though! Loving your blog, it gives me seriously itchy feet!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh New Zealand! Another place on my wanderlust list. I got to Australia but did not make it to land of the Kiwis yet. Thank you girl! x

  • KC Saling

    Cambodia is high up on my must-travel list. I blame watching “Tomb Raider” when I was deployed, and listening to Angelina Jolie talk about how the life of the place made her fall in love with it and its people and get involved in humanitarian aid. You’re making me itch to go buy plane tickets!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh I know! Angelina Jolie is who put light on Cambodia for me too. I really enjoyed getting to hear her story and still own the book she wrote about her life as UNHCR ambassador. Have you read that one?

      • KC Saling

        I have! It’s one of the things that got me interested in humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, which is a big part of my current assignment!

  • abigail

    Sounds like an amazing trip! I often have surreal moments where memories and scenes of my travels suddenly creep up on me and transport me to the places I’ve visited. It’s great to be able to reminisce and share the memories too!

    • Bonnie Rose

      I love being able to reminisce too. Which is why I love the expat and travel blogging community. x

  • Nicole // A Life Less Beige

    I loved Angkor Wat. Such an incredible place. Fantastic pinch me moment :) The monks always look so photogenic in their bright orange robes against the contrast of the stone temples.

    • Bonnie Rose

      So incredible! I love the contrast against the temples too, the colour makes for great composition.

  • Vanishing Point

    What a lovely moment! I can understand why this one sticks out in memory.

    • Bonnie Rose

      Thank you. It is moments like these that make traveling to new places addicting.

  • fritha strickland

    wow what an amazing experience! x

    • Bonnie Rose

      Thank you Fritha, I really loved Cambodia. My heart is still there. x

  • Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo

    Great experience. Sadly, not every tourist cares about respect in such places. I remember at the Vatican people were trying to get in with inappropriate clothing and in the Sistine Chapel, people were ignoring the requests for silence. If they don’t want to respect such requests, why go?

    • Bonnie Rose

      Right? When we were in Naples Ryan and I had our tour of a church interrupted a gazillion times because our tour guide had to stop women and girls coming in with their shoulders bared. Luckily this church had shawls that people could borrow, but our guide had to address that with everyone.

  • Sarah Shumate

    So what did you talk about with the monk? I would have had so many questions for him! What a cool experience, Bonnie!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Mummy brain fails me to be able to share this moment fully for the blog, but now I have so many more questions as girl in my 30’s from my 20’s. I have to get back! Thank you for stopping by Sarah x

  • Kelly Michelle

    I’m with Sarah – what did you talk about with the monk? You are leaving us hanging young lady! I loved that you offered the travel tips at the end of the post – so many people forget just the simple things like covering up while travelling; you need to respect the surroundings xx

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh I know I wish I could remember all the questions and answers from 2006. Means I will have to get back to Cambodia and make more memories. I’ll journal and photograph more this time. Yes, I am glad so many liked the tips. I wore a long skirt when I went and ended up not being able to climb up the steps in one area because it was so windy. I had a marilyn monroe moment, but luckily no one was around. 😉

  • Jessi

    What a great moment. I haven’t made it to Cambodia yet but it’s high on my list!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Thank you Jessi and I hope you get to get to Cambodia too. x

  • Rachel Murphree

    Cambodia is definitely on my wanderlust list. I am so curious about what you talked about with the monk! These tips are great too; I would have never known some of these customs.

    – Rachel @ With Love, Rachel

    • Bonnie Rose

      There are so many good things to know about interacting in Cambodia if you go. I hope you get to see Angkor Wat in person one day too. x

  • Brooke Neal

    We are headed to Thailand/AnkorWat in April–good to know tips.

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh I am so happy for you! I hope you will share the photos with me, let me know when you get back. x

  • heatherbquinn

    I hope there’s going to be a follow-up about the questions you asked the monk!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh I would love too. My ‘mummy brain’ fails me to all that we talked about back in 2006. It reminds me how much I wish I took more photos and did more journaling on my trips in the past.

  • adventuresofalondonkiwi

    What an astonishing memory to have!

  • Holly Nelson

    I would love to know what was said too – what an experience!