The Spotlight On: Mr. Leheng, Feels “At Home” in the Chi Pat Jungle
Every month, we put the spotlight on one of the key players who make it happen for your privileged clients. This month, get to know Mr. Leheng, a nature tour guide in Cambodia.
What can you tell us about your work at Khiri Travel?
I work for Community Based Eco Tourism (CBET), a company supported by the Wildlife Alliance and partnering with Khiri Travel Cambodia. I lead tours into the jungle and to white water rapids near my village in Chi Pat. I have been guiding for one year since my return from Thailand where I studied English and Tourism. I enjoy working with people, using my English and making sure the clients’ arrival and departure from Chi Pat runs smoothly.
Please tell us a little bit about your personal life.
I am married and have a 3-year old daughter who goes to the local school. We live in the same village as my parents. My wife manages a small shop while I do the tour guiding. In my free time, I like to walk in the jungle to try to find new things to show people. I also like to spend time with my family and play volleyball.
Can you explain a little about your traditions and what place you like most in your country?
The tradition of my country is very much one of community and living close to nature. There is evidence of this in ancient carvings. The jungle is the place in which I feel most at home and where life is truly the most exciting. The sound is very peaceful and taking clients trekking in the jungle is always an adventure to experience nature in surprising ways. I just hope my people remember this tradition as we cut down the forest and sell the land for development. Our success is to live with nature, not destroy it.
Can you recommend some favorite foods to try and your country’s best festival?
The water festival is my favorite time of year. It is a good time to celebrate down by the waterfalls and river rapids in Chi Pat. It is important to celebrate water, as Cambodia would be a very different place without all of our water resources. My favorite food, sweet and sour chicken, is not available in Chi Pat. However, the CBET office has cooks trained in Phnom Penh. They make some really good food that clients can eat before or after trekking or swimming at the rapids.
What is important for travelers to Cambodia to be aware of when they visit your country?
I would like to advise that visitors try to buy Cambodian made items to help the local economy such as souvenir bracelets, honey and hammocks. In remote places, there are opportunities to buy local and try new things such as sugar can juice and potato cakes. Travelers must also remember when visiting the jungle that these remote areas are best left they way they found it. For example, what you bring in, you must also carry it away.