WELCOME TO PHNOM PENH | Sharon Henry
Have you ever woken through the night having dreamt about work? Admittedly not all of us would be so conscientious and don’t care one iota for our jobs after 5pm.
This cannot be said of hotel receptionist, Kanaha Diamond Pich (24) who finds work is invading her sleep. “Sometimes I feel I have to change the room for guests!” she laughs. “Like I’ll dream; ‘room 1012 has to change to 917!’ My colleagues are also like this.” She then mimics sleep talking on a phone, ” ‘Oh we need a taxi to pick up guests, what time? Yeah, yeah, 7.30 from hotel to airport.’ I dream about it!”
Diamond as she is known (easier for guests to remember), works at the Frangipani Living Arts & Spa Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and for us she is the ‘face’ of the city.
That’s because we think hotel staff are the frontline of any country or place and are usually good indicators of its people. Diamond is one of them; hard-working, friendly and modest. She’s also soft spoken which matches her angelic face.
We’re sat by the hotel pool, surrounded by the sweet fragrance of white frangipani trees.
“I really love my job,” she tells us. “I get to meet people from all around the world; Australia, America, Korea, China, like you from St Helena and I’ve improved my English speaking a lot.
“We get compliments and complaints. Let’s say no one thinks things are perfect! Some guests are rude but we bear it, even when guests are wrong, we let them be right.”
Diamond’s been in the hospitality industry for two years and likes to go that extra mile. “Sometimes I work from 9am to 9pm or come in on my day off. They don’t force me,” she smiles brushing the fringe away from her eyes, “but our colleagues might have a last minute day off so I come and help. I’m happy to, I enjoy it.”
Like many working in the Frangipani hotels, Diamond is very appreciative of place in the team. “I love my boss, the CEO,” she says, telling us he trains all the hotel personnel. He is well-known Cambodian entrepreneur Din Somethearith (Ritz), an advocate for education who has an inspiring ‘rags to riches’ story.
“We have three hotel owners,” she says. “The CEO, he’s travelled all around the world and worked for the UN. Between them they’ve studied architecture, finance and tourism. They then combined their ideas to make hotels, so we now have eight.
“Their goal is for Khmer people to have a job. So they offer poor Khmer people opportunities.”
Diamond feels completely settled at this particular hotel. “Here is the best for me, no need to go anywhere because I improve so much here. Also I’ll be moving to reservations and sales in six months time.”
Diamond’s hometown is the Pursat province, a five hour bus ride west.
She visits her parents twice a year and is the youngest in a family of five. “I miss my mum but she calls me five times a day. If I’m out at a party until 11pm, she won’t sleep; she’ll wait until she knows I’m home. Then she can sleep.”
Pursat is also home to Wat Bakan, an 800 year old temple and one of the oldest active pagodas in Cambodia. It is revered as one of the most holy sites of Cambodian Buddhism.
It was also the setting where she met her boyfriend five years ago. They ‘clicked’ and formed a relationship with the blessing of their families. He also now lives in Phnom Penh and is currently studying law. “We’re going to get married in two years time,” her face flushes when she says this.
Diamond arrived in the big city five years ago to study Accounting and lives with an older brother. “I used to work as an assistant accountant but I really didn’t like it,” she laughs shaking her head saying she “wasted” three years gaining a bachelor’s degree in a subject she doesn’t like.
“But now finally I have a place I enjoy and am happy. I will work here forever. Let’s say the hotel is my life. Maybe I’ll work here until I die!” Now that is some serious job satisfaction.
We ask what places she likes in the city. “Royal Palace and the Riverfront. Most young people go to the clubs, drink at restaurants, or go skating or shopping. But for me, it’s just work, home; home, work; work, home!”
What would she like to see changed about Phnom Penh? “I would want the government to fix the roads. They are very bad and we have a lot of traffic jams. Also the rubbish on the street, it does not look good to the foreigners.” Darrin and I also think litter is a problem in the city.
“I haven’t travelled outside Cambodia but I would like to go to Thailand, because it’s nearby my country; and Australia, because we have so many guests from there.”
So what food should we try whilst in Cambodia? “Brohok. It’s made from a small fish. Then we keep it to get a bad smell!” she laughs wrinkling her nose. “Most of our food we put Brohok in. And it’s very salty. So it’s salty bad fish with bad smell – but tastes very good!”
Hmm, we wonder if it’s going to be on her wedding menu.
For more of our photo stories from Cambodia, click here.