I left for Cambodia on the last day of 2015 and despite the short stay, I got quite an eye-opening experience. This is why travel is so important to me. 😀 Cambodia is about 1253km away from Singapore, the time there is exactly one hour behind Singapore’s time, and while they have their own local currency (the Cambodian Riel), payments usually involve USD! So bring your US dollars instead of trying to get Cambodian currency in Singapore. If you’d like to pay using their local currency, just convert the prices (in USD) by multiplying them by 4 to get the rough equivalent in Riel.
A two-way ticket flight from Singapore to Cambodia, via JetStar, can cost something like S$286, depending on when you fly. Flight time is approximately 2 hours. You’ll need to fill in an arrival card and a departure card before you enter the country (the departure portion will be stapled to your passport). There’s no need to apply for a visa if you hold a Singapore passport. There’s also no departure tax at the airport when you leave, unlike in some Indonesian airports.
Once you get to Cambodian customs, go through the checks briskly. Do not hover at the exit as you may get picked up for more checks. I’ve been told by my travel companions that some items can get confiscated for no apparent rhyme or reason. Nothing like that happened on this trip, thankfully.
And you may want to purchase a SIM card at any of these booths. My pals got theirs at the one in green – USD5 for 4GB of data. It’s pretty cheap.
I decided not to purchase a SIM card because (1) If I can save USD5, why not? (2) There’ll be wifi in the guest house we’re staying at and (3) it’s best to limit your handphone usage within the country. My local pals tell me that snatch thefts involving handphones occur pretty frequently. So think twice before you stop to take a picture along the roads or to reply to whatsapp messages when you are out!
Thanks to Bong’s recommendation, we got to visit Brown Coffee’s HQ for a study tour. Brown is a popular coffee chain in Cambodia. And before we go into the business / entrepreneurship side of things (which may or may not interest you), I must say that Brown serves amazing food and drinks! I got to try their egg tarts, cake, and brownies. And their brownies are truly phenomenal! Probably better than any brownie I ate in 2015. So let’s just say that I had a really good, sweet start to the new year! Hehe! When you are in Cambodia, do pop by any of the (currently) 11 Brown outlets – more outlets will open this year!
Here’s one of the corporate videos put together by Brown:
Thank you Bong & Tiffany for being awesome pals!
Bunleang Chang, the young man who conducted the presentation, is one of 5 co-founders (all cousins) of Brown. Bunleang is the face of the brand and the one who is featured in media interviews. 🙂 He’s rather cute, and I was tempted to ask him for a photo. Haha! He’s one of many young Cambodians who have studied overseas (Sydney) and returned to their homeland to help the country improve.
After facing difficulties while working in the non-profit sector, which was his original calling, Bunleang and his cousins decided to create a brand based on their passion for coffee, and create employment opportunities for the Cambodians instead. I’ve read in one report that half the country’s population is under 25 years old. So this ‘cafe culture’ is definitely one to capitalize on. 😀 And in case you were wondering, I’ve also found out that the name Brown is “t’not” in the local Khmer language, which is “the name of Cambodia’s beloved national sugar palm tree”. So while it may be Western-sounding (and easy for expats and tourists to appreciate), it is still very ‘Cambodian’.
Brown was set up in October 2009, and they opened their 11th outlet in October 2015. In 2016, the aim is to open 5 more outlets. Some reasons for their success include: building a strong supply chain (and learning to handle more aspects themselves, e.g. doing the roasting of the green beans instead of having them roasted in Thailand), investing in Training & Development, innovating processes and products, and by building a strong company culture with a clear vision and mission.
Brown will even hire locals with absolutely no experience in this F&B line and train them. Barista training takes 10 days, and will equip new hires with knowledge on how to operate the machinery and other equipment, train them to make expressos, explain SOPs and workflow, teach them basic English and hospitality skills, and also ensure they understand the importance of food hygiene and safety.
We got a tour of the facility: checked out where the beans are stored, how they are roasted, how the beans are tested for quality, how the coffee is brewed, and received a quick introduction to latte art and coffee appreciation too! 🙂
A video about the Brown Roastery (from YouTube) –
Brown Coffee & Bakery has 11 outlets, and the company also manages Gong Cha (there are 5 outlets in Cambodia) and FOX wine bistro (1 outlet). I certainly did not expect Cambodia to have Gong Cha! What a pleasant surprise! 🙂
LOTS OF THANKS to Brown for the awesome study tour!
~ The Guest House We Stayed In: Golden Celestial Guest House ~
The guest house is just a 5 minute drive away from the airport! The location is pretty awesome, as one of the things I tend to fear would happen during my overseas trips is missing a flight because I get to the airport late. It has only happened once in my entire life, but once is already one time too many. 😛
In Cambodia, you can book a stay at either a hotel, motel or guest house. Most of them are very new, having been set up in recent years. Golden Celestial is owned by the parents of one of our pals. So it’s great to know that we’re staying at an establishment owned and managed by Singaporeans. 🙂 At the vegetarian restaurant on level 1, you’ll find Mandarin-speaking aunties and uncles, at all times of the day. 😀
I’m leaving out any commentary on the rooms we stayed in, as those are not usually rented out to guests. They are reserved for the owners and their friends.
Contact information for this guest house:
Here’s a picture of a sunset in Cambodia, taken at one of the places we had dinner together. In the background, you see taller buildings (a sign that change has come to Cambodia), water fountains in the middle (many parts of this country are not at all ‘backward’) and there’s a balloon vendor at the corner of the street (balloons are the current fad – I’ll share more about it in another blogpost), and slicing through the picture are the overhead cables. 😄
Check out my earlier posts regarding this Cambodian trip. I visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and also spent a memorable afternoon volunteering at a Cambodian Orphanage. And stay tuned for more regarding the food, culture and sights of Cambodia. 🙂