Without shame, I am reproducing an article I wrote for a former website of mine – the Siem Reap Post . com. The site has now been discontinued. I’m not sorry about that. It was a great project for over three years. However, as you can judge from the article itself, it’s time to move on. Still, this is a look into my life in 2013 …
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Apocryphally attributed to Mark Twain.
“You’ve moved where? Cambodia? That’s where they have no electricity or running water. Everyone sleeps in bamboo huts and has malaria. And why are you, a web-designer moving to a country with no internet? You don’t speak the language, and you’ll never make friends.” That was the typical reaction I got when I told people I had moved to Siem Reap. When I mentioned Angkor Wat, most people said “Oh yes, it’s a town full of old temples, you’ll be fed up in a month. It’s full of wasters and lost backpackers who haven’t found their way home yet. Oh, and don’t forget Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, mass poverty …” One friend even invited me to call in to see him as he was close by in the USA; confusing Cambodia with Colombia. How wrong could the perception of a city be????
I am currently sitting in a bar; Frank Sinatra is crooning in the background. The air conditioning is pleasantly cool. I have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the Stony Bay vineyard in front of me. I am currently typing this story on my tablet computer, straight into Google Drive via the wireless connection. I could have chosen any of 20 wines by the glass. The sun has just set in a blaze of colour above the town and having been here five months life is very good.
The problem is one of perception. Yes, it is true that the country has had a terrible past. Yes, it is true that a FEW villagers still live in bamboo huts (although most now are wooden). Malaria is around, but it’s not a problem, and certainly not endemic in the City. Siem Reap is a town of the 2010s. You can live in five-star luxury at the Raffles Grand Hotel, or stay for $2 a night in a backpacker’s hostel. But this is my story and not a travelogue. I am an active person and love looking for new and different experiences. One of my good friends (and yes, it is very easy to make new ones), suggested to me that I might like to investigate the possibility of starting a website which he could offer to his hotel guests. A single source for different things to do, places to eat, cool bars, etc. Being a website designer, and somewhat a journalist, I checked available domain names and the Siem Reap Post was born.
Right from the beginning, the stories were easy to find. Initially, I went on Trip Advisor and selected a few of the higher rated activities. My first personal story was my walk to Phnom Bok. I love long walks, and it sure was a long way to Phnom Bok. Then a friend told me about a new show opening on April 1st. He told me about the circus, Phare, and the fact I could use his complimentary ticket at the opening night of Tchamlaek. I went and had a great time. I wondered about the backgrounds of the performers, and eventually through a new friendship with Dara arranged an interview with Chamroeun. His story amazed me, and a new page was added to the site – “My Story”. Today this is one of the more popular sections, and each interview is an eye-opener to me. There are so many stories in the hearts of the Cambodians, whether they are a 12-year-old schoolboy, a motorbike taxi driver or a successful jeweller; they all have their story. Now, four months on, I don’t have to hunt for the stories. They tend to come to me. “Have you thought about including …”, “Please come and write about … “, “You really ought to interview … they have a fascinating story …”.
The association with the circus has blossomed. Peter Phoeng, an American Khmer became a friend through his amazing photos of the circus show, “Eclipse”. One specific picture has almost become our logo, appearing on the front of our flyer, sign boards and even on the back of tuk tuks.
I suppose the question will arise “How long will I stay here?” When I interviewed Cassie from the Sister Srey cafe, she said she would stay in Siem Reap as long as she was happy. That’s my life philosophy too. I have lived in the USA, London, Amsterdam, Thailand and now here. By training, I’m a scientist. At university, I studied computer programming as a side subject. I can still remember the big notice that went up, announcing the opening of the new WING of the computer lab. They proudly told us it housed the 4th MEGABYTE of R.A.M. for the monster machine we used. Now my tablet computer has memory measured in gigabytes.
In the early part of this year, I got bored and for a number of reasons decided to move on from Pattaya where I was living. I had a week at the end of February visiting, to recce the place, and this was followed by a mere three days back in Pattaya to clear things. Then in the first week of March, I piled all my luggage into a taxi and moved.
I had found a nice room in a residence and settled. Quickly, I made friends. I established a favourite “local” bar. Somewhere to sit and work, chat with friends and watch the thrice-weekly show. The performers at the Station Wine Bar provided some of my very first interviews.
I have been asked why the name, Siem Reap Post? Very simply it is a blog, written using “posts“. Sort of makes sense now doesn’t it?
The next question I would ask anyone else would be to do with their favourites. For me, so far, there have been many highlights. The blessing by the monks at the Angkor Bodhi Tree Retreat and the meal at the Sugar Palm – both yet to appear on the blog; Flight of the Gibbon; Under Construction Bar; The interview with Ly Pisith, and Tip’s Story; and always anything to do with Phare, the circus. But my number one experience so far has to be the day out with Dani Jump of Bees Unlimited. Being 2 metres away from thousands of giant honey bees, with only smoke to protect me, watching two villagers cut out a honey head was a day I will never forget.
I would take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given me time and the benefit of their experience during the making of this blog. To name anyone specifically risks offending those I miss out, and this is not an Oscar thank you call. So I will merely say thanks. My special friends know who they are, and “I love you all”.
What of the future? There are a lot of articles planned. A trip to Kbal Spean gave me plenty of places to write about. It wrapped three places to visit in one day out. On a recent Monday, my trips included a visit to a Pagoda, where they are setting up a “be-a-monk-for-a-week” scheme in the morning. A meeting with a fine art jeweller, with an amazing story in the afternoon. And to finish? Boxing in the evening. Never let it be said that my life is boring, or that there’s nothing to do in Siem Reap apart from look at old temples.
So, stay another day, or come back again and enjoy the city. I came back and, like so many people I’ve interviewed, I’ve not left yet… Oh and if you fancy a drink, pop in to the Station Wine Bar, and look for the chap sitting on the sofa, tapping into a tablet computer. It might just be me.