One of the things I love best about travelling is that I meet amazing people. One of the most fascinating of these was in Cambodia.
Then a high-ranking monk and now a public servant, Hoeurn Somnieng has a story that would make an incredible movie.
Thanks to the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, I met this amazing man and had a tearful afternoon chat with him as he told me about the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge, how he survived, and what he and his fellow monks at Wat Damnak were doing to revitalize Cambodia.
Our tears weren’t about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge or about how the trauma they inflicted on Cambodia still affects people more than three decades later. Our tears were about hope and about how the smallest of helping hands can turn individual lives around and even re-build a nation.
I turned our chat into this (too) short “Four questions with” profile of Hoeurn Somnieng for Singapore Airlines’ regional inflight magazine, SilkWinds: Turning life around.
I’m thrilled that I’m letting more people learn about Hoeurn Somnieng, Wat Damnak, and wonderful NGOs like the Park Hyatt Sewing School and the Life and Hope Association that are helping Cambodia and its people.
If you want to help make a big difference in people’s lives, these organizations would welcome your donations. Or consider donating to a micro-loan NGO like Kiva.
It is meeting people like Hoeurn Somnieng (and finally getting an editor to publish his story, thank you Ming Rodrigues!) that gives purpose to my lemon pie life. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity I have to travel is amazing. But writing about luxury hotels would be kind of empty and meaningless if it didn’t allow me to meet people like Hoeurn Somnieng and to share stories that can help make responsible and sustainable tourism the norm.
The article was in the May 2016 issue of SilkWinds which also features my cover story about how to pack for a trip to Southeast Asia.