It’s not only the increased focus on ‘flygskam’ and the environmental benefits of travelling by train. We’ve always been fascinated with train travel and epic railway journeys. From Thomas Cook and the first excursions by train to the heydays of train travel, it conjures up images of early adventurers exploring new and exciting places suitcase in hand. Rather than getting on a plane we’ve often talked about doing the Trans-Siberian Railway from Cambodia back to Europe via Vietnam, China and Mongolia.
Culminating with celebrations across the country on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Cambodian (Khmer) calendar, Pchum Ben (បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ) is one of the biggest and most important religious festivals in Cambodia.
Aiming to provide a platform for local artist to share their experience, skills and talent, Khmer Art Connections is a Social Enterprise offering interactive arts and crafts classes for locals and visitors to Siem Reap.
Founder and director Samnieng Roun is very excited as he tells us how the initial idea was to connect talented and promising local artists with local people and visitors interested in traditional arts and crafts, as well as different painting, wood carving and iron sketching techniques.
Just over ten years ago, we first met Billy Gorter, Founder and Executive Director of This Life Cambodia (TLC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We still remember his excitement and enthusiasm when he first told us about how he was approached by members of a community just outside the centre of Siem Reap who had big dreams of starting a community centre in their village.
It’s been 3 years since I was last here in Siem Reap and I was expecting more tourists, more hotels and restaurants, but what I wasn’t expecting to see were less bicycles. There does seem an ever larger circle of expats, who are cycling but anything with an engine is by far the most preferred mode of transport.
I held fond memories of my travels through South East Asia. The grind of city living and 9-5 was taking it’s toll on my natural state of wanderlust. I wanted to explore, adventure, learn – and throw myself in the deep end of a wild experience. My teenage dream to live and work in a developing country was still in the forefront of my mind. As a strong willed young woman, I knew I would see my dream into fruition – I just hadn’t worked out how to yet.
Flat on my back, I lay there, in the darkness, looking up on what reminded me of a bridal veil just about a meter above my head. It was slightly lit up by the bright light bulb on the outside. Bugs were dancing in the beam of light. Dogs were barking in the distance. A noisy motor boat was passing by, and seconds later the small, rapid waves hit the platform. I could hear the wings of insects that were swirling around. My nose was filled by the smell of my own sweat and mosquito repellent.
In 2009 I found myself being made redundant twice in the course of six months due to the recession in the UK. Taking what little savings I had, I hopped on a plane and started working my way around the world, working and volunteering as I went along. I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand, Australia, Japan, before landing in South East Asia. After travelling by road through Vietnam, I found myself in the beauty of Cambodia, and I fell in love with the people and the country instantly.
I was looking forward to our trip to Mondulkiri. I had heard a lot about the forests, the waterfalls and the wildlife – even the thrill of possibly meeting a tiger! We were heading for Sen Monorom, known as the final frontier before the wilderness of forest and rivers stretching beyond the eastern border with Vietnam and the border with Ratanakiri Province to the north. It was in Sen Monorom that we would stock up with supplies for the ranger camp and the final bits and pieces we would need to carry in our own packs.
I have only been in Cambodia for 3 months but from the beginning I have been continually intrigued and drawn to the amazing businesses, organisations and individuals doing amazing work in the country.
Cambodia has the second largest number of NGOs in the world, coming in only after Rwanda. That’s not even including the many social enterprises and increasingly responsibly minded businesses operating here which are all part of a huge community dedicating their time to growing and improving Cambodia’s future.