Published on February 17th, 2014 | by Ganna Pogrebna

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Destination Cambodia or How to Stay Connected without the Internet

This past January, I returned to Cambodia for the first time since 2008 for a family vacation.

In over six years, Siem Reap (a major tourist destination) has changed a great deal apart from maybe one thing – brilliant weather. For two weeks when my husband and I were wandering around the jungle in pursuit of hidden Khmer temples, it was sunny and the temperature never fell below 25 ºC (which of course greatly contrasted with alarming TV reports about frost and flooding in the UK).

Compared to my last visit, Siem Reap has made a serious step towards developing appropriate infrastructure for tourism, with restaurants, shops and even supermarkets accessible at virtually every corner. Combined with breathtaking landscapes and magnificent temples, it is a real paradise for a wondering traveller like me. Yet, despite its developments, staying connected in many areas of Cambodia is a challenge. For the most part, Internet connections are not reliable and quite slow even in places advertising quick and free Wi-Fi. My husband, who has a lot more patience than me, managed to post reviews on TripAdvisor after waiting for hours to upload pages on his smartphone. I pretty much gave up on the Internet after I could not send any e-mails even with tiny attachments.

In Ukraine, we have a saying that people never appreciate something they have until it is gone. I guess most of us feel quite powerless when we lose Internet connection at home. But there is an obvious difference between not having Internet at home and while on vacation in another country. On the one hand, when we are at home, the feeling of powerlessness is easy to explain: after all, if you cannot get online, it is surprising. On the other hand, when we travel to a different country, especially a developing country, we probably should not expect Wi-Fi to be readily available. Yet, we seem to be surprised and even upset when we cannot upload a Facebook page, post a quick snap on Instagram, chat withfriends and relatives on Skpye or write a review on TripAdvisor when we are surrounded by desert sands, jungle forests or arctic ice.

However, even in these conditions, modern technology allows you to create an illusion of staying connected. One of the things my husband and I wanted to do during our trip in Cambodia was to explore and map out on Google Maps, all (including really small and hidden) the temples in Siem Reap. And we were able to do just that! How? We did it offline… Well, kind of offline.

Unlike me, my husband did not expect much of a Wi-Fi and uploaded maps of Siem Reap to his smartphone beforehand (if you are wondering about how to do this, have a look here http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2014/02/offline-google-maps/?cid=18477944 for a quick guide). This allowed us to use GPS to direct our driver as well as walk for hours in the jungle away from tourist spots without the fear of getting lost. In the end, we did take pictures of hidden temples and uploaded them to Google Maps as soon as we landed in Singapore on our way back to the UK.

I have to confess, living for two weeks without Internet is a challenge. Yet, it is definitely not the end of the world and some people even prefer to stay away from the Internet while on vacation. Several of my friends deliberately leave their smartphones and laptops at home when they go away on holidays. It is definitely not my way but if you prefer an offline vacation, get a ticket to Siem Reap ASAP – it is amazing and the weather is still gorgeous out there!

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Ganna Pogrebna is an Associate Professor with the Service Systems research group at WMG. Ganna studies how decision-makers reveal their preferences, learn, co-ordinate and make trade-offs in static and dynamic risk and uncertain environments with policy applications to innovation, leadership, finance and healthcare.

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