Revisit Ratanakiri and beyond

As mentioned in my PS of a previous post, February would be our active month for Let’s Document Cambodia, conducting Docu-FilmCamp Ratanakiri. While you can browse some of our activity snapshots here, let us rather explore other parts of this Northeastern province.

  • Lumkot Lake

Of course, the most important site and lake in Banlung is Yeak Loam. Yet, very few people have gone the extra miles and gotten to Lumkot lake. On our camp’s eve, our trainers and I headed there for our curiosity. This pool comes in a relatively bigger size than Yeak Loam. Yet, it looks more pristine. However, bear with 45 minutes of commuting from town. After reaching that site, our border with Vietnam is 60 kilometers away!

Half-View of Lumkot Lake
  • Svay Hill

Late last year, I’d pass by the bus terminal in Banlung a couple of times. Then, I’d spot a colossal Buddha on top of a nearby hill. Little did I know I could ever get up there and enjoy the town overview. What great moments to enjoy both sunset and sunrise over that sacred hill! For the last several years, that unveiling spot has attracted more locals for their evening outing. (Oh yeah, no sign of food and beverage stores as yet!)

Sunset over Svay Hill
Sunrise over Banlung
  • Restaurants of Choice

Although trivial it may sound, I bet you can get stuck with it comes to places to eat in Banlung. So I’d recommend to you these restaurants for your basic and affordable appetite. We’d enjoy our breakfast at Tanam’s, right in the town hub. Chakriya’s is chosen for our regular lunch, due to its proximity to our training venue. Every evening, we would opt for either Chantrea or Chey Chumneah. The former feels, though, mainstream for both local and international tourists.

Collective Dinner at Chey Chumneah
  • Cafe for a Cause: RNN

If there is a place in Ratanakiri I could call “home”, that would be “RNN“. From the onset, I thought that our local ally, Pisey “privately” owned that cafe. Of course, he works at Save Vulnerable Cambodia after settling down in Banlung for a dozen of years. Only during our camp did I realize the cafe has been financed by Ratanakiri NGOs Network (RNN). This social enterprise also serves as a co-working space for those NGO members and other “social” workers! For ten days in a row, we were blessed to make the most use of that instrumental space πŸ™‚

Outdoor space as RNN Cafe
Inner Room as RNN’s Co-Working Space and Event Venue

Hey, are you expecting more from Ratanakiri? So I am. Then, schedule another visit and, I suggest, roam around this province as close to Nature as its neighbors: Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, Kratie. And my next destination up there is Virak Chey National Park. So stay tuned until that next long-anticipated voyage!

PS: As usual, here’s my bonus clip from my last “camp” to Banlung!

A More Business-Intimate Siem Reap

I moved to Siem Reap twice and that was enough for me to build my professional base – if not home – in that town. My first move was in 2004, when I decided to take up a high-paying job, far from home. I moved there again two years ago, hoping to settle down with my small family. Little did I know my roots in Phnom Penh have been too firm to stretch around! Still, some (business) relationships I’ve built so far in Siem Reap are now worth for me reviewing.

1- Salad House Siem Reap – Iron Coffee & Studio

Co-founder, SAO Sopheak, changed his career from a Bophana-trained documentary maker to a Poipet-based retailer several years ago. Ever since, he’s always found ways to energize Siem Reap with his studio. In 2019, it hosted our Let’s Document Cambodia workshop. Now he switched to a combo concept with a salad garden. Even though I first knew that place as a floral decoration of his cafe, it’s now turned into a small sort of “farm”. Visit it sometimes to refresh your coffee sit-in mood with a touch of veggies!

2- Electric Unicycle Cambodia

I have known CHHEANG Chanroath, from my involvement in JCI Angkor. Although the chapter affiliation fell apart last year, we’ve kept in touch on and off. What surprises me now is his startup of EUC, quite different from his default venture in cosmetic product wholesales! Still, as the idea of electric unicycles feels new to me, I gave it a trial ride. If you come to Siem Reap town, find him or his shop with Angkor’s Eye. I suggest you learn your way from his segway scooter first. Or your unready imbalance might take away your joy of riding that rare unicycle!

3- A-Bike Rental

As mentioned in my previous post about Siem Reap recovery, biking has become trendy with its local since COVD-19 crisis. I recommend you to rent your bicycles from this shop, not because of any commission! But your rental will sustain the operations of the NGO the shop owners, CHHORN Bunhom and SAM Leakhena, have co-founded, to provide more free bikes to poor people in remote Siem Reap.

Again, despite the foreign tourist decline, our Angkor home keeps getting back on her knees with varied and creative ways to survive and thrive. If you find other (small) businesses in Siem Reap worth for reviewing, too, please let me know in the comments below πŸ™‚

PS: Let’s head back to Northeastern Cambodia in my next blog posts!

4 Life Lessons for My 40 Years

With an eye’s blink, I turn 40 this year. Wait, some of you may not believe it. Well, you’re right because my current birth date was distorted a couple of times. First, my father made it in 1982 for him to remember it easily. Second, our academic or local authorities recognized it as only 1981, so they could accept my junior high school registration! After all, I don’t think age would matter much to me, as long as I remain alive, valuable and, of course, happy! If you look at my 2019 memoir, you’ll find my takeaway on a non-linear life. I still find this true even for years to come. But it causes us no harm taking some retrospective into 4 decades of my existence, doesn’t it? And I’ve come to prioritize these values above all, in many stages of my life.

Posing at age of 2 with my big sister and parents in Royal Palace

1- Respect Takes Equal Treatment

My young age was marked by my top scores in class, out of an uncle’s motivation and my guilt of losing. Somehow, along the line, I gained some respect this way. Later in “volunteer” years, I realized that my recognition of other people’s strengths would earn more “lasting” respect. If I treat anyone any less than me, that would imply some self-insult. Why? Because I have fallen into this mental trap many times and learned to see people in question the other way around.

Image may contain: 22 people, including Arunreasey Sann, Virak Fantastic, Chea Vannaroth, Velika Pich, Kimhorng Chhay and Choun Keochindara, people standing and outdoor
Group picture on our way to FilmCamp Trip 2014 to Koh Rong

2- Trust Rhymes with Mutual Faith

Subconsciously infected with “high performance attitude”, I would doubt my colleagues’ ability to solve problems of my size. Many a time, I tended to micro-manage their progress, as a double-edged knife. Insecure ones may feel intimidated and scared away to work with me. Confident ones may stick with me, hopefully to share “our” vision. Through some hard realization, I’ve learned to set aside those doubts as to give myself more inner peace and other people more freedom to go their way. After all, they will come back to me if they’re meant to!

If you trust me, trust these brands (and more)!

3- Loyalty Requires Single-Minded Commitment

As you can see so far, my sense of insecurity keeps growing so stronger that it even affected my relationship. I once questioned the loyalty of my significant one, out of jealousy. Actually, looking back, we were both to blame. It was just that I took a step back and let her back into my life. Reason? It was just my evil judgment over her casual comment. Oddly enough, this has manifested in my business life a few times since 2015. The latest one happened last year, which I prudently tolerated, as an ultimatum. Some lines should be drawn or I would end up victimized again and again!

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Shopping in Bangkok after 2 years of our marriage

4- Self-Worth Beats Insecurity

2015 probably signaled my lowest turning point, affecting both my financial and marital cores. That was the year I bit more than I could chew, expecting my team “mates” to support me. Yet, this sense of social comparison hit me so hard that my spirit kept me off track for a few years. Those years, I called my “humblest” as I needed to relearn some old way of life. Meanwhile, I kept my chin up for better days. In late 2019, “guided meditation” has re-aligned my “ego” from relying on people around me to “mastering my own mind” instead.

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Pondering during an ARRI training in Battambang

After all those active years, I came to conclude that the base of every healthy relationship is friendship because it’s been built on reciprocated respect, trust and loyalty.Β I’ve thus called myself lucky to retain some partners, friends, customers, family members that way. Now I don’t need that many “unnecessary” opinions to prove my worth, because, up to this mid-life, I somehow know I am enough πŸ™‚ And it’s been just “my way” like in this favorite song of mine!

PS: Hit me up at Contact if you feel like catching up and growing our next stages of life… together!