A Cambodian Adventure | An Unfinished Personal Story
My Cambodian adventure started way back in January, 2000 when on a world jaunt I popped over from Thailand to Cambodia for a visa. I booked a flight to Cambodia online and I was meant to be there one day. My one day visa run turned into 10 days as I could not tear myself away. My visa run has now turned into a passionate love affair that has lasted 2 decades with the country, the history and the people. Some of the Cambodian tours I experienced cannot be described – they would be a movie!
Back in 2000 there were very few hotels, bars or restaurants (nothing like pub street in Siem Reap), nor did I know then what I know now about how to book the best value hotel room. Phnom Penh was a fairly desolate place for a traveler. The food was truly horrendous. The hotel had mortar and bullet damage; however, the people were friendly. The staff did help themselves to some of my belongings; however, this did not cause me too much frustration- who needs a Swiss army knife anyway. I think we all know why Cambodia was in such disrepair and this website is dedicated to rejuvenation and not to rake over the graves and memories of a proud and amazing people.
By sharing this website and visiting our global partners
YOU allow us to create a fish farming co-op producing
1,400,000 fish per annum in Cambodia
How to Contribute| Have a Holiday
Do you want to know how to contribute to our platform to help a Cambodia Charity flourish? We firmly believe in asking for nothing for nothing in return. We are not asking you to send us money (although it would be appreciated). What we want from you is to enjoy the information in our website and find the content useful. AND then visit our advertisers; with absolutely no obligation to purchase anything.
Our commitment to you
We want to ensure that YOU gain something by visiting our platform and using the information we have gained over many years working and travelling overseas.
If there is something we missed ask us some questions and we will do our best to satisfy your need for knowledge and information about volunteering abroad. With our particular emphasis on Cambodian charities we are second to none in sourcing information about the Kingdom. You can take a shortcut to the website content by visiting our frequently asked questions page.
What will a contribution cost you?
To "donate" to us will cost you absolutely zero. WE do not charge fees or commissions of any description to those who want to volunteer abroad or to the charities that appear on the voluntouring website. We fund our missions by allowing advertising (where appropriate) that we believe will be useful to ANYONE planning a trip overseas - for any reason. The prices to anyone using our links are exactly the same as the prices you would pay these brands directly or through 3rd parties. However; when you use our website we will receive a commission which goes to maintaining the voluntouring website or directly to our fish farming charity in Battambang.
We say again: It will cost you Nothing, Zero,
Not a Penny to help us achieve our mission.
Does the purpose of your trip matter?
It matters not a jot if you are travelling for a holiday, visiting Angkor Wat, business or to take part in a charitable project abroad. If it involves travel and accommodation, our charities can benefit from your choice to use our website to complete your travel plans and bookings. Every booking will contribute to a Cambodian charity. Just as an example; a 2 week stay in a hotel could buy 800+ fish fry for our fish farm project - that is 800 family meals. A holiday for a group of 4 would pay for an administrator in Siem Reap or Battambang for 1 month. You book a holiday and we employ someone!
Qatar Airways | A Different Class
Booking a flight to Cambodia or any global destination with Qatar Airways will guarantee you a 5 star service. Qatar Airways always deliver on service second to none. With one of the worlds most modern fleets it offers unrivaled reliability. If you can afford to push the boat out - book a business class ticket. Be amazed.
Etihad Flights |Book flights To Anywhere
Etihad offer great value for money and regular routes with modern aircraft.
Flights | Skyscanner
Our information about flights holds good for most destinations. Almost all flights are operated through a GDS system of one description or another. We suggest Skyscanner; however, as we bring on more advertisers we will give you more options. Our advice is always to book your flight first; there are more hotel rooms available than there are flights.
Accommodation | Online Travel Agents
As someone who worked in the hospitality industry, I believe that you might as well opt for one of the top 3 online travel agents (OTA). Visit our information page on the secrets of how to book a great hotel room. Our information is particularly relevant if you are booking accommodation in Siem Reap. However much of the advice stands good for any location. Unlike the accommodation aggregators you see on the TV, the big 3 OTA's have some influence on the hotels they advertise.
Their tried and trusted model is to book your accommodation today and pay on arrival (or departure). Which is great if you want to guarantee a great room, but do not want to fork out a lump of cash today. They have a sophisticated yet easy to use filter tool to help you get the exact hotel you want. Book TODAY
Their booking model is pay now, which is great if you want to get the expense out of the way and focus on spending money. They have a no nonsense refund guarantee. If you have a problem with a hotel they are quite aggressive in obtaining a refund for you (I know from experience as a hotel manager). They do this by simply paying (or not paying) the hotel once you have checked out at the end of your stay. If you complain during your stay they do not pay the hotel. The hotel is not prepaid - it is kept in escrow. Far safer than paying a hotel in advance. We siggest that you never pay a hotel a deposit unless you know them very well.
Their booking process focuses on the whole shebang; flight, hotel and car hire. Another great way of paying for the biggest expense and focusing on spending money. As with Agoda any payment made to them is held in escrow until you check out. We will donate the commission received to our charitable work in Cambodia
Travel Insurance | World Nomads
We believe that travel insurance is essential. by the by even if you do not use our recommendation; invest in travel insurance. All to often you will hear horror stories of travellers who though it was not really required. Our choice of travel insurance is World Nomad as we believe they understand the independent traveler and those who are on volunteering missions.
Using airport lounges are a great way to start or end a journey. Get yourself and your group away from the hustle bustle of the main airport concourse. Less queues means less hassle. Whilst you are enjoying complimentary drinks and snacks you are actually making a donation to our mission and charity. How cool is it to donate to charity by relaxing. A win/win situation for everyone!
How cool would it be to be met at the airport and be whisked through immigration? Or relax and enjoy First Class service instead of the manic conditions in some airports? YOU DESERVE IT. It is a lot cheaper than you might think.
An awesome way to donate even more!
Really simple and super easy. Copy the URL and send it to your friends, family and colleagues; maybe one of them needs a holiday or wants to volunteer abroad. Visit the Voluntouring Abroad Facebook page and follow us. Now your contacts can donate to our missions by enjoying a much needed holiday abroad or at home. Go on a vacation or enjoy a staycation!
If you can think of a better way to donate to charity please send me an email or call me.
My first visit to Cambodia
My abiding memory of Phnom Penh to this day is of a place I can barely talk about and a testament to evil I am not even keen to write about. Tuol Sleng prison or as it was before the genocide, a children’s high school, also known as S21 and is without a shadow of a doubt the most evil place I have visited. I have vowed never to return. I was taken there by my taxi driver and as usual (when I am with locals anywhere in the world) I invited him in. His face changed and he simply stated “if we (Khmers) go in that place we do not come back out”. So I went in on my own. Never in my life have I ever felt like I was stepping into a place pervasive of so much evil – everyone there was completely silent, apart from a few sobs.
There are mundane pictures of the victims, of the brutal governor known as Duch, displayed in all corners of the prison. I remember their blank faces vividly. Staring back with eyes that could see no hope and filled with abject terror. Not a place I will ever return to; however, a place you should visit.
The Killing Fields
By comparison the killing fields of Choeung Ek seemed almost peaceful – if that is the appropriate word. The Stupa that is there now is completely different from the simple monument from early 2000. Of course this killing field was not peaceful, which I suppose means full of peace. This is an evil yet rural place where people died in huge numbers at the hands of ignorant peasants led by monsters. The killing fields are what they say they are; fields where people were murdered.
That is as much as we need to write about those obscene places.
Gin for me please | The FCC
There were only 3 bars that travelers could go to back then. Two I will mention and one that I have erased from my memory. The first was the FCC – foreign correspondents club of Cambodia. This is where – approaching 40 – I had my first gin and tonic. It felt so exotic drinking G&T whilst overlooking the Tonle Sap. Even now – 20 years later – every time I drink or smell gin takes me back to pleasant memories of PP. Back then the FCC was one of the few places I could find affordable and edible food. Sadly it has changed since then. The food is still edible.
Would you like herbs?
The other bar which I often frequented ( every night) was the Heart of Darkness, and evenings there were filled with fun and the occasional danger. On one occasion trying to find the bar late at night and a little the worse for the local beer, I found myself in a darkened street being “helped” by 3 guys with guns. Suddenly sobering up and having a distinct lack of firepower (not that I would know how to handle a weapon sober) I was rescued by an older chap who indicated that I should give each of my “helpers” 1 dollar and off he took me to the Heart of Darkness for want of nothing but a thank you.
On my first evening at the bar I noticed that the bar tender was handing over some small bits of vegetation to some regulars and a rather odd smell coming from their cigarettes – yes, I am that naive. When I asked the barman what it was he was giving the other customers he looked at me in disbelief and asked if I wanted some – I refused but did ask how much he charged. To my surprise I found out to my astonishment that this herbal offering was free to anyone who wanted it. There I was paying a dollar for a drink and half the pub was getting stoned for free. Did I say half? More like 90%.
No helicopter gunship for me!
My driver, who has now become my shadow, took me to a gun range which was only a short distance away from my bullet riddled hotel. It was a farmers mile, so roughly 2 hours sitting on the back of a bike that had lost it’s suspension many decades previously. The gun range was a field with a couple of tables and every personal hand held weapon known to man. By this time, I am hot and knackered and just want to get it over with. I duly paid for an AK 47 and 30 rounds of ammo. After single shots, we turned the rifle onto automatic. In hindsight not a good idea, as the attendant had to hold the rifle down by its barrel so I did not shoot low flying aircraft.
Two things then happened. One at the gun range (big field) and another the following day. I was asked:
Do you want to shoot a chicken? No, was my reply. Do you want to shoot a pig? Once again a definite no. Do you want to shoot a cow? Things were getting bigger and less likely for me to accept and I replied that I did not want to shoot any live animals. Do you want to shoot anything? NO! – Goodness knows what he meant. Do you want to hire a helicopter gunship! NO NO NO. I still cannot believe they had one.
Sun ( my driver) takes me to the Heart of Darkness so that I can calm down and relax with a sun-downer. I have to admit back then I did enjoy a glass of beer and the odd tequila; 3, 5, 7 or 15. The next day when I surfaced I had huge, painful bruises that I did not have the previous day, so I assumed I had fallen off the motorbike taking the driver with me. The next morning Sun was waiting outside the hotel as usual for me. I apologised for possibly trying to kill us both by falling off the motorbike. He looks puzzled and I show him my bruises. He then explains it was the recoil from the AK47 – ah, that makes complete sense, though nonetheless painful.
Cambodian adventure continues
My Cambodian adventure now moves to 2014 and to Siem Reap. I had to admit that I had never heard of Siem Reap and I was thinking, was it famous for anything? Apparently there are some temples there that are worth seeing. Not being into man made structures I tried to give them a miss. However, by this time I have a Khmer partner who absolutely insists that I go see a “temple”. Filled with unabated apathy, I went to Angkor Wat – was it a WOW moment, yes it was. This is up there with the Pyramids at Giza and probably the Great Wall of China. It is unfathomable to truly understand how man could make these structures with what we believe are primitive tools. The sheer manpower must have been immense. Everyone talks about Angkor Wat as though it is a single entity; however, there are 100’s of temples and several stories of why the complex existed. This is a must see part of the touring in voluntouring. The book to buy before you visit is Angkor Wat & Siem Reap.
Where has the money gone?
Whilst on the 2014 leg of my Cambodian adventure in Siem Reap, I was contemplating moving to the Kingdom to settle down – as if settling down is in my vocabulary. However, I had to find some work. My time running a 4 star hotel in Thailand had come to and end and I was up for a challenge.
Sitting by the pool at my hotel I got chatting to a young woman in her thirties. As a child she had been sent out of Cambodia to China when things were not too good and is planning her return as many of these children who are now in their thirties are. To my surprise she and her mother were investing in a hotel in Sok San Road in Siem Reap and were looking for a European manager. This young lady was an investment banker based out of Shanghai and after some financial wizardry $180,000 investment loan was arranged. Both she and myself would be liable in equal share. As she did not know me that well she sent the first tranche of the loan to her mother’s bank account. Needles to say the $50,000 USD disappeared, the venture fell apart and I decided to head back to the UK.
Recharge and rethink – back in UK
2014 to late 2016 seen me back in the UK trying to get back into my profession. After a few false starts and a realisation I did not want to be involved in finance and being that I was “over qualified” (which i believe to be too old! I have always been fascinated by the internet and eCommerce. I studied SEO and content marketing. However i was once again called back to Thailand and Cambodia and off i went on yet another adventure.
We should have checked more thoroughly!
In 2017 when visiting Siem Reap with a friend with a plan to launch an content marketing and SEO venture, we ended up leasing a hotel! Once again good fortune was not smiling on us. The details given during due diligence did not match the reality of running a hotel and yet another venture came tumbling down. The odds were definitely stacked against us and once again retreating back to the UK was the better option.
Now we are at 2018 and my determination to do something worthwhile in Cambodia has not diminished ( I am not easily put off) and a friend introduced me to the idea of volunteering abroad. I considered the best plan of action and decided it was not for me to volunteer but to arrange for volunteers to come and work for charities in Siem Reap and the broader Khmer community.
Looking at how worldwide charity programs focusing on volunteers companies were operating out of the United Kingdom, USA and New Zealand to mention a few countries, I was unimpressed with some of the commercialism. Research revealed that up to 1,000,000 searches are made by potential volunteers on a monthly basis; which got me thinking. I could build a website that provided willing volunteers with charities in Cambodia. Attracting volunteers who want to work with children, kids with special needs, teaching English in Cambodia or a multitude of other charities.
Volunteering or Voluntouring
One of the things I found time and again when meeting volunteers when I lived in Siem Reap is that volunteers come in many varieties; age, stage in life, abilities and the time they can spend helping those less fortunate than themselves. However, one aspect of volunteering for a charity abroad was obvious, they needed to have some time away from the charities to relax and enjoy the cultures that surrounded them on a daily basis.
Further research into the process of volunteering showed significant flaws in signing up for a project abroad and the “sales” processes causing unnecessary expense on the part of the part of the volunteers.
Hence the creation of this website, the name voluntouring and the 7 step process to volunteer abroad. We have created a central knowledge bank for anyone wanting to volunteer for a charity abroad in a country of their choice; however, we are focused on Cambodia. We show you which steps to take, in what order to take them and how to get the best value for you and your chosen charity.
Battambang Fish Farm
Notwithstanding the other charities we are helping in Cambodia: providing fish farms in Battambang is our own personal project. The plan is to commence digging ponds in early 2019, with the project being ongoing and self funding after 5 years. Projected set up costs and 2 years funding is $400,000 and with the support of visitors to this website we are confident that this will be a life changing project for 1,000’s of Cambodians. Providing fish for personal consumption and selling surplus produce into Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.
Need more information about Cambodian Charities?
Ask me absolutely anything if you cannot find it on the website and I will be more than willing to answer any questions or find a solution for you. If you want to find anything out about a Cambodian charity we have resources to make discreet investigations.
Your email address will only be used to reply to you; on that you have my word.
Need more information about me?
You can find additional information on the about us page or in my LinkedIn profile or my visit my TripAdvisor profile.
More information about Cambodia
Sex Tourism and Child Exploitation
Do not even consider it and read our warning carefully.