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Musings from Siem Reap, Cambodia

Being English Gentleman of Leisure

English Gents marauding around Asia

English Gents marauding around Asia

we purchased a 7 day entry pass for the the Angkor Archeological Park. Most people buy a 1 or 3 day pass, but we wanted to take in the temples and ruins at a more relaxed pace, slow it down a little. Turns out, it’s a full time job due to the sheer number of historically important and impressive sites that archeologists have uncovered in the Siem Reap area over the last 100 or so years.

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Temple Girls at Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Temple Girls at Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

As I write this it is 7am and we are waiting for our Tuk Tuk driver to take us for 2 hours down a bumpy, dust track to visit a temple ruin that has been claimed by the jungle (Beng Melea).

My Best Buy in Cambodia

My Best Buy in Cambodia

Back in England, few eyebrows were raised when I rolled into work at 9.40am every morning, so this feels like the middle of the night to me. The tourist guides tell you Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of cambodian people, however members of the older generation would disagree. They have no interest in seeing Angkor Wat and on a number of occasions we have heard people say “Why do I care about stone? I want food. The heart and soul of Cambodian people is not Angkor Wat. It is just in trying to survive.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Fortunately, I will never begin to comprehend the attrocities that the Khmer Rouge committed against it’s own people. At The Killing Fields Genocide Memorial close to the capital city Phnom Penh an inscription in the exhibition there reads:

“The method of masacre which the clique of Pol Pot Criminals was carried upon the innocent people of Kampuchea cannot be described fully and clearly in words because the invention of this killing method was strangely cruel so it is difficult for us to determine who they are for. They have the human form, but, their hearts are demon’s hearts”.

Genocide Memorial Phnom Penh

Genocide Memorial Phnom Penh

Genocide Memorial, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Genocide Memorial, Phnom Penh, Cambodia


The aftermath of this darkness is haunting and I can feel it thick in the air where ever I go. When it comes to genocide, if Hitler and Stalin et al were neuro-surgeons, Pol pot and his Khmer Rouge were back street abortionists.

Despite the continued poverty of the Cambodian people, a tourism industry has sprung up over the last decade and Angkor Wat is the Pin up Boy of Cambodian Temples, a beast of architectual endeavor. Whilst it is undoubtably impressive in size and grandeur, for me it is surpassed by the truly magical qualities of a couple of the other temples and ruins that left me completely awestruck.

Angkor Watt, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Watt, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I was blown away by Ta Prohm (the Tree Temple used in Tomb Raider)

Angelina Jolie on Tomb Raider set, Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angelina Jolie on Tomb Raider set, Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

and even more so by Beng Melea, which felt like discovering a lost ancient civilisation swallowed by the jungle. The whole experience was like a massive game of Lara Croft, clambering over ruins pursued by local kids (who may or may not have been packing darts with poisoned tips) whilst continuously dropping Indiana Jones quotes with Dave.

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Having a seven day pass to the temples allowed us to spend time hunting down Japenese and Korean girls (hitting them with our best English Gentleman’s Japenese/Korean pick up lines) and to have an interesting discussion with a flute playing South American guy, about shifting world power, the imminant collapse of the American dollar and a new world order. All this in a small room surrounded by 40 buddah carvings in a quiet minor temple off the beaten track a bit.

Angkor Watt Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Watt Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

A few days in Siem Reap visiting the temples and ruins can leave you with the impression that the country is developing and business is booming. Sadly that is not the case. Many of the older generation that survived the genocide are damaged beyond reprieve. Some of the younger generation are beginning to pick up the pieces and find a voice for change, but any grievences with the corruption and abuse of power by the government (many of the senior officials being former Khmer Rouge) are only whispers as to shout loudly would likely land you in a hole in a field.

To give you an idea of how corrupt the government is over here, they have called upon the services of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is currently exiled in Dubai awaiting trial in Thailand for stealing from his own people. Asking Thaksin to become economic advisor to your country is like asking a wealthy businessman with a repuation for human rights attrocities to take over your football club. Nothing in Cambodia makes much sense.

Close enough to "Frank" Shinawatra at COMS Manchester City FC

Close enough to "Frank" Shinawatra at COMS Manchester City FC

However, many of the young people we have met have less political aspirations and a sheer drive and determination to drag themselves out of poverty. One girl we met wanted to be a journalist, but had wisely decided on a less dangerous career path. Whilst us English Gentleman were busy taking a leisurely stroll around ancient ruins perusing over women, films, music and the philosophies of the east and west, this girl was up at 4am everyday making breakfast for her family, before starting work at 6am for a 13 hour shift in a hotel then straight to school in the evening to study business and English. As the Older generation state, the heart and soul of Cambodian people is not in stone or the pure madness and evil of it’s harrowing past. The heart and soul of Cambodian people is in survival and only the younger generations determination for change and to make a brighter future for themselves will allow this to happen.

Cheers

Roger

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Top 10 Tips for a New Life in Phuket

This is something I did back in January 2010, so if you are thinking of doing the same, here are some Tips based on my experiences.

1. Get your Travelling out the way first

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

because once you find a job in Phuket, you will be working your ass off. If you go the TEFL route you still have to work hard, but at least you get time off for travel during school holidays. For a job in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry expect to be working a minimum 5-6 days a week.

We come to these exotic parts of the world, to experience new cultures and wonderous things

Tah Prom Temple Ruins, Siem Reap

Tah Prom Temple Ruins, Siem Reap

and of course to hang out in some cool places.

Chilling out in Koh Phangnan, Thailand

Chilling out in Koh Phangnan, Thailand

but it is best to do this before you knuckle down in a job, so you are not thinking 6 months down the line, I wish I had more time to visit these places. (Of course you will still be thinking this, we all do, but at least some experience of travelling will soften the blow).

2. Establish a base and a plan to find a job.

Once you arrive in Phuket it’s time to get a semi-business head on. I decided to stay at a guest house in Karon Beach, which actually turned out to be a little bit like this

Chilling out in Koh Phangnan, Thailand

Chilling out in Koh Phangnan, Thailand

but for the most part I behaved and stuck to my plan, which was to hit all the 4-5 star resorts along the coastline and to hand out my Resume and Covering Letter. I chose Karon Beach, as it was pretty central to where I wanted to be looking for work with Patong, Kamala, Surin beaches to the north , to the south, Kata, Kata Noi, Nai Harn, Panwa and also Phuket Town to the east.

I didn’t want to land in party central Patong Beach and begin my job search from there as that would have lead to distraction.

3. Avoid distractions.

Because there are plenty here in Phuket.

distraction

It doesn’t project the right image if you turn up to a 5 star resort with your CV, bloodshot eyes, reeking of Sangsom and Red Bull buckets and with an entourage of pretty girls from the night before. That’s not to say you cannot enjoy the lively nightlife in Phuket, but maybe just on the weekends hey. Treat your Job Search like a Working Week.

4. Get a monthly Rental on a Motorbike or Car.

You will need your own transport when looking for a job in Phuket and this is by far the cheapest and easiest option of getting between the different beach resorts. Plus it looks better when you turn up for interviews. I figured I could walk from resort to resort along Karon Beach

Job Hunting in Karon Beach

Job Hunting in Karon Beach

but again, it is not a good look turning up to meet with the General Manager, dripping with sweat and sun stroke. Although, you will probably be offered a refreshing drink and a cold towel, it is unlikely you will be offered the job.

No, I'm fine - please take a look at my CV

No, I'm fine - please take a look at my CV

5. Local Thai Mobile Sim Card

This is essential, so get yourself one from the nearest 7 11 store when you arrive. Add your new number to your CV and your Covering Letter and try not to lose your mobile on a booze fuelled night on Soi Bangla. If a resort is interested in employing you they will need to be able to get hold of you, and it looks more professional to have a Thai mobile number and shows perspective employers that you are here to stay and mean business.

6. Resumes, Covering Letters and Recent Passport Photos

You will need a lot of copies of your CV and Covering Letter to hand out at the resorts, so the cheapest way to do this is print out a copy of each at an internet cafe and then go to a print shop and photocopy as many as you think you’ll need for 2 THB per copy. I also scanned a recent passport photo and duplicated it about 50 times onto an A4 sheet using Photoshop. I then printed this out at a Kodak shop and again it saved me alot of money rather than getting passport photos done at a shop each time I needed them.

7. Prepare a Job Search Spreadsheet

It helps to have a plan and keep organised when looking for a job in Phuket. I created a spreadsheet of all the resorts I wanted to visit including location, contact details etc. I then planned on which day I would visit each location i.e. Kata and Karon one day, Surin and Kamala the next. I printed this out and then updated the spreadsheet with Names, Numbers and notes about each place I visited, so I could keep track of the places I had been and also any new leads I generated.

8. Check the online job market first

Before you go out cold calling with your CV it is worth seeing which of the resorts on your spreadsheet are actually recruiting. You can then make adjustments to your CV to transform you into the ideal candidate and also write and print off a Letter of Application for that specific job vacancy.

9. Cold Calling works

Having said that, cold calling is an affective way for finding a job in Phuket (it worked for me) and most hotels and resorts are happy to keep your details on file if they haven’t any current vacancies, which could lead to opportunities further down the line. Always dress like you’re attending a Job Interview when you visit a resort i.e. no shorts and flipflops. Smart shirt, shoes and smart trousers/jeans should do it. Try and speak to the General Manager or Human Resources Manager as leaving your CV at the Front Desk is unlikely to achieve anything. If a manager is not available, then find out when they will be and go back at a later date. Update your spreadsheet straight after every visit so it’s fresh in your mind, keep business cards, make notes, remember names, follow up on tips or recommendations.

10. Networking

Phuket has a large Ex-pat community, so it is worth frequenting the usual haunts, such as Irish Bars, Sports Bars etc to see what opportunities are about. Remember, everyone’s personal circumstances are different and some people can afford to sit in a bar all day and night. Not You! If you are serious about finding a job in Phuket, remember to treat this as a Networking exercise and be careful of the pitfalls associated with Tip No 3.

distraction

While the quality of life out here in Phuket is fantastic, don’t be under the impression it will be constant girls, partying, hamoks and palm trees. Unless your lucky 😉 My experience is you will work as hard as you have ever done anywhere else, but when your work is done for the day, you can enjoy your new life in Phuket and all the benefits that living on a tropical paradise island brings.

The good life in Phuket

The good life in Phuket

On a side note, I am currently looking for talented native speakers of English to come and join our Social Media Team. If you are interested in starting a new life in Phuket, you can contact me via Facebook or Twitter, see below

Cheers

Roger

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