From Angkor to Sihanouk Ville: 500 km to See the Ocean for the First Time
World Monuments Fund has been working in Angkor for almost three decades. In February 2017 the team took a trip to Sihanouk Ville as a reward to the workers for their hard work. In this blog post, WMF Regional Representative in Southeast Asia Ginevra Boatto talks about this experience.
As a reward for achievements in the many years of work together, a few weeks ago the World Monuments Fund team at Angkor went on its first staff trip to Sihanouk Ville. The destination of the trip was suggested by the workers themselves. Most of them had never been to the seaside before, as it is over 500 km away from Siem Reap!
There was a lot of excitement among the 100 participants, and people were thrilled at the idea of buying a new suitcase for one of their first long-distance travels. Nobody was late for the 3am meeting to take the bus (!), and the ride was filled with songs and laughter, in pure Cambodian style, during the entire twelve-hour trip to Sihanouk Ville.
Our first day in Sihanouk Ville was entirely dedicated to swimming, playing instruments on the beach, and dancing. Some workers even went on a boat trip to an isle nearby. We also had a banner saying “WMF Staff Trip,” and everyone was proud to take pictures next to it.
Besides the fun all members of the team had, the trip was also a new way to spend time together and get to know each other. I got a chance to appreciate new facets of some people, which do not often emerge while working. For instance, I was surprised to discover that our senior driver Boura is a good mediator who knows how to solve misunderstandings between people, though he generally doesn’t speak much. I was also impressed to see how many among our staff have some knowledge of English. Thanks to the more relaxed atmosphere many of them came to me to show their skills and practice. I’m always so amazed of the Cambodians’ will to improve their language command!
The trip was also a good opportunity for me to see that our conversations about plastic pollution and waste management in 2016 were not forgotten. It was rewarding that, wherever we were, people helped each other to keep the place in order and remove all of our garbage, helping the local cleaners recycle too.
On our way back to Angkor, we stopped at Bokor National Park for breakfast. We passed by a newly built luxury complex (of which everyone seemed to be aware of!) and by the ruins of a former French climate station. The trip back home was long (we spent about twenty hours on the bus!) but this didn’t curb the enthusiasm of the travelers.
When we arrived back to Siem Reap we were all a bit sunburnt and exhausted, but definitely happy. Many wondered if there will be another opportunity like this in the future. While we can’t tell what will happen next year, this trip gave us all some special memories that we won’t forget in a long time.