a-dtay arkun means no thank you
Updated: Apr 23
“a-dtay arkun” pronounced “dey Ock-on and translates as “no thank you” in Khmer. If you go to any tourist site in Cambodia you will need this phrase more than any other.
Angkor Wat is considered to be one the seven man made wonders of the world and as soon as you see it you can understand why. It is a collection of simply astonishing 1,000 year old temples.
The problem arrives as soon as I arrive. In front of me is an incredible ancient temple and before I have a chance to step out the tuk tuk there are a dozen ‘sellers’. Scaff? a-dtay arkun. Trowsahs? a-dtay arkun. T shirt? a-dtay arkun. Hats, vests, drinks, food, books, pens, badges, more scarves, book marks, little flags and so it goes on and on and on. a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun.
It doesn’t matter how many times you say a-dtay arkun they won’t stop. They just don’t take a-dtay arkun for what it means, no thank you I don’t want to buy any of your crap. Still doesn’t make any difference. So long as you are there they will keep going, you want this, that, this, that free dollah too dollah, wun dollah.
You start walking they follow you, wun scaff, silk you like this cullah that cullah you like anka wot you buy from me I give you good price discount. On and on and on a-dtay arkun.
The children are the worst. They are as dirty as the ground they seem to appear from. Postcard sir you won postcard ten for a dollah wun too free … ten or un deux trois or Italian or German or Korean. They hold your arm and they whine. Oh how they whine a long monotone monotonous whine. They don’t listen either. They follow you ten for wun dollah they whine wun too free, a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun as you hurry away.
You have come to the most amazing heritage site in Cambodia and they get in the way, ruin the site, the experience and get in the way of you trying to take a photo. All temples sir look wun too free a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun a-dtay arkun.
Then the stories.
Okay I am sorry you are hungry and your family are hungry and your little baby sister is hungry but I still don’t want your postcards even ten for a dollar so a-dtay arkun.
I am sorry I can’t buy your postcards because after you is him and her and him and her.
I am sorry that white men like me used all our intelligence, education, effort and tax to build land mines and bomblets which sit unexploded in your fields 30 years later and I am sorry your daddy had his legs blown off and now all he can do is play music in the limbless band hoping rich tourists will have sympathy and I am sorry you have sell postcards instead of go to school but a-dtay arkun.
a-dtay arkun might translate as “no thank you” but it means my heart is breaking.