In many of the previous posts I mentioned our tour guide’s name, Chea Vanna. Having him as our private tour guide definitely made a great difference to enhance our experience exploring Siem Reap. He was very knowledgeable about the history and cultural background behind many of the places that we visited, and he was quite personable and engaging. I thought I would write a blog post about him as I’m closing in to the conclusion of the Siem Reap part of my Southeast Asia trip.
When we started our sightseeing on the first day, Vanna introduced himself and told us a little bit about his background. He grew up in a village near Phnom Penh. After graduating from the university, he worked in an office job for a couple of years, and then decided to switch career to become a tour guide. He learned English and read a lot on the Khmer history, and then he went through the certification process to become an official tour guide (you have to be licensed in order to serve as a tour guide in the Angkor Archaeological Park area). When he guided us, he had been a tour guide for around three years, and he said he loved his job as it allowed him to meet people from around the world and learned about other cultures from his customers.
I asked Vanna if he was employed by Derleng Tours, the tour company that arranged our visit to Siem Reap. He said he did tours for Derleng quite frequently, but he was actually an independent guide. He worked with a couple of other tour companies in addition to Derleng Tours. He said he liked working with Derleng as it was a locally-owned company; he preferred that than some big tour companies that are foreign-owned.
During our tour there were times when Vanna excused himself for having to check his phone for text messages. That’s how he arranged bookings for future tours. Typical engagement was similar to ours, about three days. Sometimes it’s as short as only a day trip, or as long as a whole week. The size of the group he led varied from small group (2 people) like ours to larger group (15 people). I asked him if that pretty much made it a full-time job. He said yes, though there were days when he purposefully left open on his schedule so he could rest and volunteer teaching English at a local school. I thought that’s great that he used his knowledge and skills to help others to also improve their lives.
During the three days that we spent in Siem Reap, I enjoyed visiting to the places and having conversations with Vanna along the way and learned a little bit about life in Cambodia. In turn he also asked me about how life is like in both the United States and Indonesia, and it’s quite an interesting conversation comparing and contrasting the life and culture as we knew them.
I took the photo below when we were exploring the Terrace of the Elephants inside Angkor Thom. Here was Vanna explaining about the three-headed elephants to Kristi.