A recent trip to South East Asia -Cambodia, ignited certain pertinent thoughts that had already been in my head for a while now – this just made it stronger; strong enough to write about it.
Cut to Sihanoukville – a lovely beach destination in Cambodia which has its mix of peace, serenity, the happening shacks, watersports, some mind-blowing food and HAPPY Pizzas 🙂
The bus dropped us off at the main city centre and within minutes of us unloading our luggage, a foreigner came up to us (couldn’t figure the origin – but seemed to be Eastern European), holding out pamphlets for a “Zeppelin” hostel/dorm at 5$ a night, not something that we were particularly interested in.
We eventually checked in to a nice hotel that fit our budget and ticked all the other boxes for us. It was around 2100 hrs and we decided to visit the beach. While walking to the beach a British girl (very evident from the accent), rather excitable and jumpy walked, no ran up to us and went “Are you guys going to the beach”, and to our affirmative response, “Please visit Dolphin shack, we have a party all night there today, oh and get a free drink when you present this flyer” – she said to us while handing each one of us a flyer. We thought to ourselves, “damn! We are lucky – free drinks”, and that was for the three of us, while the fourth was already in love with her! Anyway, while walking down the beach we crossed multiple shacks (just like our very own Goa), and what caught my eye was the fact that majority of these shacks were being run by foreigners (ranging from Italian, French, Australian to even people from the United States). In front of some of the shacks were signage’s reading “Western staff wanted – will give food, accommodation and hourly wage”.
Cut to Koh Rong – a 45 minute boat ride from Sihanoukville and arguably one of the most beautiful beach destinations I have seen in my life – white sand, pristine blue waters – a feeling of calm the moment you set foot on that island.
At Koh Rong, you get off the boat and either you walk to the left of the island or the right – and you will find plenty of places to stay – ranging from dorms, hostels to fancy bungalows.
We got off the boat and once again -approached by foreigners, all offering us a place to stay, walked down the length of the beach and again noticed the same thing- in fact here all the shacks were run by foreigners. Came out for a drink in the evening- and had these Australian boys manning the bar at one shack, you could make out that they were new at their job as complex orders made them struggle (also my rather annoying habit of maybe scrutinizing that little bit extra when it comes to anything related to food & beverage). Stopped for ice cream at the beach- a small little operation run by an extremely enterprising French gentleman, 0400 hrs extreme hunger pangs- the island has only one place that serves food and alcohol 24/7 (the food was to die for) run by an Italian couple.
By now I think you would have some idea of what I am getting at over here. The five days that I spent at Sihanoukville and Koh Rong, and the multiple conversations at these shacks with the foreigners, gave me further insight. These guys had been here for a while- anything ranging from a month to maybe even a few years. They came with some savings and maybe with a plan to stay for a month, invariably no one did that-they all stayed on longer. The issue with staying on longer was not something like the Visa- Cambodia lets you get an extension-no questions asked, it was the fact that they had probably exhausted their savings. So now what to do?? Simple let me find a way to make some money and get a roof on my head, get some food to eat and still have a good time here. So where do they turn to-the shacks, the bars, the eating joints-cos hey-that’s where the money is (all tourism), start doing odd jobs over there and hence begins the trend which was up in all its glory for us to see. So much so that now some of them visit these places with the sole purpose of working at shacks, bars, eating joints for brief periods of time-just to get away, a change of scene, something different.
You know the part which amazed me the most- they all seemed happy with what they were doing and trust me they were not faking it. They were mostly doing jobs which were related to the hospitality sector and if you don’t enjoy it-this is one job you can’t do, whether its serving people, selling rooms, promoting a party and so on and so forth. They always had a smile, they were always willing to strike conversation and never in my short stint there did I see a foul experience or a disgruntled customer
I then asked myself a question- “Would I be willing to do this” – I still haven’t found an answer. A couple of friends who I was travelling with went like “I also really want to do this”, “I am going to do this for sure”-B****S****, the people in question also know that it ain’t going to happen. No offence to my friends in question here, but if you guys do actually end up acting on your word- Good on you.
In my head I still trying to figure out- what is it that’s holding me back? I actually seem to be the perfect candidate for something like this- I have no one who is dependent on me, fending only for myself, I have enough prior experience of the hospitality industry to handle any of these jobs with ease. So what is it that holds me back- is it our culture, is it the way we are brought up, is it what we see around us, is it rigidity, is it job security, or is it just me – I don’t know
So give it a thought,
Dreamer, Hotelier, Restauranter & Hospitality Trainer