On a company trip to Asia, London-based Deborah Yule of Buffalo Tours sheds light on the story behind the Chansor Village Cambodia Homestay Experience, a Buffalo Tours’ exclusive excursion a stone’s throw from Siem Reap. Go behind-the-scenes to see how we create some of our most in-depth tours yet.
Early in 2013, the Buffalo Team gathered together from all corners of the world for our 4th annual General Managers Conference, centered in the sleepy temple town of Siem Reap. After an inspiring few days of planning and discussions within the serene settings of this historic city, we split into six groups, mixed across countries and departments for a team building treasure hunt among the magical kingdom of the Angkor Temple Complex.
Now, one thing we Buffaloes pride ourselves on is our pioneering approach towards the discovery of new, fresh and inspiring experiences and ideas. I’ll say myself that this story is a charming one, and begins not with a company initiative or an office desk. Instead, it begins with the wedding of a Cambodian employee.
Held at their home village of Chansor, the wedding was about an hour out of Siem Reap. This beautiful village was far off of the beaten track – undiscovered, and offering a real intrepid view of traditional Khmer culture. As more and more travellers flock to the historic temple ruins of Angkor, finding that kind of in-depth experience not so far from the highlights is a hard thing to do.
In these charming surroundings, it wasn’t long before our Cambodian team members attending the wedding began to wonder if this was an opportunity to offer our clients an unspoilt taster of Cambodian village life. More importantly, they wondered if this could be an experience not based or constructed solely around tourism.
The answer? Of course, it was a definitive “yes”.
Fast forward a few months and several rolls of red tape later and we had successfully created an exclusive product our clients would adore: an insight into Cambodian village life with an option of an overnight homestay in a simple Khmer family home. In great timing as a team of managers, we grouped together to sample our new adventure.
Bringing it to Life
We set off at around 10am in the direction of Chansor – the site of our brand new Cambodia homestay – stopping briefly to view and support a local NGO where intricate handicrafts are lovingly created and sold in support of human trafficking victims. After we had all filled our packs with gifts for back home, we were on the road again. Next stop, a brief wander around Kampong Kleang a fascinating village set on the side of the infamous giant lake of Tonle Sap.
A few moments later and we were off again for our destination of Chansor. Upon our approach, the roads became narrower until finally, we were driving along a stretch of fresh red soil – one side offering an insight into village life, the other crisp green paddy fields guarded by stern looking buffalo.
We continued on past Ox led farm carts and amused children. With limited time and airplanes waiting to take us back to all four corners of the globe, we were able only to sample a taste of what was on offer: ox cart rides through the heart of the village, broom making from bamboo and palm leaves, a meander in the paddy fields, making friends with the locals, some friendly (re: the villagers), some not so (re: the grumpy water buffalo).
Making the Connection
Thankfully, we managed to prioritise some time for lunch at this unique Cambodia homestay run by a local village family. It was at this point in our experience that we realized something profound: this exceptional experience was something truly unique, truly in-depth and spectacularly insightful. Over our lightly-fried sweet chilli chicken with fresh steamed green leaves, we’d gotten a taste of something we couldn’t wait to bring to our clients.
After a short stroll through the paddies and time taken to snap the memories of this charming place, we were back on the road en route to our return flights. By night fall most of us were homebound. All heading to different countries, places and families, all full of new and beautiful memories of the day we spent at Chansor Village. There was no doubt, though, that all of us had Cambodia well and truly stamped within our hearts.