Promises, promises: Tourists high and dry in Siam Reap Rip

siam reap scam

I think it’s about time to expose this little scam for what it’s worth.

In early April my friend and I were in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we booked a large, comfortable Airbnb room with a stone tub and small balcony at Bella Mia Villa on Sak Son Road.

The host, Maude, advertised in the Airbnb notice that she could arrange tours with trusted tuk-tuk drivers that would alleviate any of her guests’ concerns about scams.

The same notice was emphasized in the impressive amount of printed information that was provided to guests in the room.

Soon after our arrival, we received a friendly email from Maude inviting us up to the rooftop dining area for breakfast the following morning where she offered us each a fruit smoothie and a discussion about tours and activities we might want to book in Siem Reap.

We met Maude the next morning, enjoyed the smoothies, thanked her for them, bought breakfast and talked with several other guests.

Later we booked three days of touring the wonderful temples and ruins of Siem Reap, including the legendary Angkor Wat, with one of the tuk-tuk drivers that Maude had recommended. The first two days went well.

On the third day, we were set to visit some of the ruins farther away from the center of activity. As we finished our second day, the driver said we’d also have the opportunity to visit a stream and waterfall suitable for swimming, though it was some distance away from the farthest ruins.

Nevertheless, we were eager and excited about it after spending the first two-and-a-half days touring ruins in the oppressive heat.

That third morning we packed our swimming gear and towels and took off in the tuk-tuk again. When we finally finished seeing all the ruins, we were more than ready for a refreshing swim and cool shower in the falls.

When we arrived, we discovered that to get to the stream and falls, we needed to hike about 40 minutes up a rocky mountain trail from where the tuk-tuk parked.

Well, OK, we’d come that far, it was sure to be worth the extra effort, right?

banteaysrei siam reap scam

Wrong. After stumbling up the mountain, all we found were a couple of stagnant pools in a rocky streambed and a cliff that would have made a great waterfall had there been any water flowing over it.

banteaysrei siam reap scam

Disappointed, we poked around a bit and then clambered back down the mountain trail to the tuk-tuk, where our driver at that point didn’t seem interested in anything but getting us back to our room.

On our return, we complained at the desk where the clerk and the driver thought it quite amusing that the streambed was dry to our disappointment. We reported this to Maude, who was contrite in her reply, offering us a $10 rebate on the $40 price of the tour which we’d already paid to the driver. We accepted and offered our thanks for her concern.

Then, when we checked out at 6 a.m. the next day, the cost of the smoothies we had been offered was included in our bill! The clerk said he knew nothing about it, but rather than make a fuss at that hour, which, in retrospect, we probably should have, we paid and left to catch our bus.

Thinking that Maude ultimately would make good on her offer, I commented diplomatically in the Airbnb review of our stay, saying, “the room was spacious, clean and comfortable, but communication and provision of services were lacking.”

A few days later I sent another message to Maude describing what happened with the smoothies and reminding her about the promise of a rebate on the tour.

We never heard from Maude again.

Big scam? No, but a scam, nevertheless, and all the more egregious from an Airbnb host who went out of her way to assure her guests that it would not happen at her place.


Special thanks to David Hunter Bishop for sharing his bad experience in Siam Reap helping other travelers not to be scammed.


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