My life in the tourism industry began as a taxi driver where I had my first encounters with Western travelers. At this time, there were very few people visiting Kampot and my English was very poor. But I had a strong desire to learn the English language and my time spent driving guests was a great opportunity for me to improve my English and to begin learn more about the Western tourists, aside from just the language. I knew that I was on the right path - my time spent with the tourists gave me such a nice feeling and my knowledge about so many things was increasing.
It was around this time that the Cambodian Tourism Ministry collected any English-speaking drivers for an official tour guide training, and my next several years were spent as a tour guide.
I really enjoyed very much being a tour guide because it was a personal experience. But as tourism began to grow in the area, I found my tours were getting larger and larger and less personal. I knew it was time for a new direction. For years, I had envisioned beginning my own guest house and restaurant on Rabbit Island, a small remote island off the coast of Kep.
For 4 years I owned and ran a very successful guesthouse and restaurant on Rabbit Island. Unfortunately, I also experienced for the first time the negative aspects of the increasing tourism industry. Different conflicts were arising because of the presence of more tours and I could not continue moving in this direction with the negative energy surrounding what I had created.
A Dream Becoming Realized
As a child, I grew up in a Village. I am very proud of my childhood and I would really love to share this to as many foreigners as I could access. That’s why the idea came about to set up a nice place that was rooted in Cambodian culture and the idea of a ‘Village’. So Westerners could experience a part of the central culture and feel how Cambodian culture was 300 or 400 years ago. This is the idea behind Samon Village. I know that there are so many beautiful aspects of our culture that Westerners can experience and bring back home to apply to bring happiness and peace in their own lives.
I purchased the property for Samon Village from a local family who used the area as a bicycle and motorcycle repair shop. The land and area was quite polluted and we took one month to focus solely on restoration and cleanup. We brought the land and the area by the river back to environmental health and took nine months to build the bungalows we have now.
Samon Village officially opened in 2011 and even as a new property it has been successful because everybody that comes in enjoys and can feel the atmosphere of how we created it and the drive that went into creating this place. We have a 3 year plan for our Village and we are currently one and a half years into it. As we continue to grow, we hope to grow not in size, but rather to progress in cultural richness and positive experience.