Within my first hour in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I had the most rewarding little travel hiccup. Upon arrival at Siem Reap International Airport, I took out some cash from one of the ATM's by baggage claim. Everywhere in Cambodia accepts both Cambodian riehls and US dollars (USD),
with hostels preferring USD upon arrival, no cards accepted. I arrive at my hostel and at check-in, three different people look at my bill I had just gotten from the ATM. There was the smallest, teeniest, tiniest little tear you have ever seen, but for that reason, they could not accept it. The entire staff was apologetic and as pleasant as could be. They explained even though Cambodian's use USD, the Cambodian banks can't just get new bills to transfer out whenever there are damages to them. They charge fees if you try to exchange a torn larger USD. So they said they would lose money if they accepted that bill from me.
I asked what I should do in order to exchange this bank note for one that would be accepted and the answers were either find an exchange shop or money transfer shop or use the bill and hope the shop owners don't see the tear before I get change back.
I opted on wandering town and hunting down a money transfer spot. I found one that was luckily open since Khmer New Year just officially ended yesterday and most people are still partying and many shops are still closed. A lovely young girl invited me to sit while we waited for her manager to come back from the bank. She offered me a green plant with sharp bumps that you could tear into and get a green seed. The green seed could be pulled apart to reveal a white seed inside that she was munching on continuously. I had never seen one before but figured why not!
Her manager comes back, also notices the tear, but says they'll exchange for a small fee. The same small fee they'll be charged themselves at the bank. A small price to pay to have that sorted! I thank them repeatedly in Khmer for their graciousness, and the delectable treat they had given me.
At the hostel, I ask what it was the young girl had given me to eat. It was a lotus plant! The lotus flower is very closely connected with Buddhism, it is the flower of the Buddha, and is an important plant to the Khmer people. It is often found much more regularly during the New Year. The plants are all over pagoda's and temples, but one variety, the pink flower, turns into the green pad which is then eaten.
Just think, because of the issue with the USD bill, I was able to see town, meet some locals, and eat something I had never had before. The flower that represents purity and what all good Buddhists strive to be. Consider me thankful!
Danielle Desnoyers is a traveling freelance photographer with a focus on humanitarian, travel, and family photography. She currently splits her time between the United States and Vietnam with travels to other countries as well.