LESSONS IN HAPPINESS FROM A CAMBODIAN GUIDE

I was introduced to Mr. D in Cambodia as my tour guide by Borei Angkor (fantastic place to stay btw). For the next three days, Mr. D and I were to tour Siem Reap and temples at the Angkor.

What I found was a man in his early thirties, all smiles, jazz hands extended up in the air trying his best to pronounce my name. When we met, he said, “I’m Solomon Di. You can call me Mr. D.” With some real Bond swag, he then put on his sunglasses and said, “Follow me.”

Totally amused by this character, I quietly followed him as he rattled off a list of places we will cover, things to do, and instructions. After 2 days of trying to match Mr. D’s energy, comparing history notes and exploring every temple at the Angkor, we settled down in the car for a conversation about life.

I had come to Siem Reap after spending a week at Phnom Penh. Touring the genocide center, killing fields and talking to people about horrifying stories of the Pol Pot regime, which ended as recent as 1979, the emotions I had associated with Cambodia were heavy. Every person I spoke to, from the tuk tuk driver to my hostel’s receptionist, had a sad and gut wrenching family story about Pol Pot’s evil regime. He did kill 1.5 million people out of 7 million within 2 years.

Two days of familiarity was good enough to ask Mr. D about his story. So I asked,

“Mr. D, how did Pol Pot affect your life?
Mr. D said, “He was a horrible man. Lot of unhappiness. The generation that is growing up now is young but we have heard of his stories. Our parents generation suffered a lot.”
“But now, it’s ok. It’s a new life for us. We are young and we want to be happy.”
“How are you always so happy? Not once have I seen that smile fade away from your face,” I asked.
“Why should we not be happy? I love my parents and I love my wife. She is from another province, and she walked out of her home for me. When I’m not a guide, she and I take bike rides around the beautiful Cambodian roads.
My wife is now pregnant and she is with her parents. Last week I started missing her. So I took my bike and rode 200kms to see her. Life is short. Why do something you don’t want to do? Why not just be happy?”
“What about money?” I asked. “I’m sure you would want to earn more?”
“I love my country and being a guide is a great job! I get to meet different people all the time. Some nice, some not so nice. But you learn from everybody. And money will come and go. But time won’t.”

It’s been 4 years since I met Mr. D, but his wise words are still as clear as day in my mind.

Cambodia is a beautiful place to see and a treat for history lovers. Especially if you have a teenager at home, this place is a great travel destination to learn about life and its value. Drop in a message to me for Mr. D’s email id and I can direct travelers to this wonderful man.

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