A storytelling series that shares the voice, perspective and narrative of an industry professional. The warming and inspiring tales told from the standpoint of the protagonist invite you in to live through their personal experience. We hope that by sharing these anecdotes, together, we can inspire, connect and converge with a united purpose to build a community of hoteliers.
I held on to her hand so tightly, I could feel the print of my fingers etching into hers. We were escaping the Khmer Rouge war in Chikreng district when we arrived at Siem Reap, Cambodia, in 1990. I was ten years old and those were days I will never forget. One memory that persists is me clenching on to my Mother’s hand as we walked, trekked and bussed for three days to reach the city. Watching her from behind, I always felt that her shoulders were wide and boundless, carrying all that weight.
When we arrived at Siem Reap, we spent the first few months living with my Mother’s friend in a 12 sqm room. My Mother found an opportunity collecting trash and selling them for some cash. Every morning, I would wake at 5:00 AM, get dressed and join her to scout the streets for gems to collect. Day after day, month after month would pass and we would follow the same routine every day to keep the roof above our temporary home in-tact.
That morning felt like any other, I woke up, got dressed and left the house to collect scraps with my Mother. This day, however, was destined to be different because we walked down Charles De Gaulle lane along the Siem Reap river.
White and pale-yellow cement external walls, the kind that would stain almost immediately upon contact. Massive brick-red tiled roofs that slanted at 45 degrees, “majestic” would be an understatement to describe its grandeur. It was the Raffles Grand Hôtel d’Angkor. At the time, the property was the only luxury hotel of its kind in the city and I was absolutely in awe, just being able to observe its magnificence with my mortal eyes.
Trudging along the pristinely-paved road, I steadied my pace when I reached the front entrance. Watching the guests come and go, like tides inching in and then out, my naïve self could not wrap my head around what the interior could possibly look like. Were there stately Reception Halls? Decadent Suites? I wondered.
“My pleasure, sir”
The doorman replied kindly to its guests as he aided them with their luggage. As they swiftly made their way into the glistening palace, he returned back to his post. In a sharp suit with golden embroidery on both sides of his chest, he stood proudly wearing a traditional Cambodian hat. His ensemble was like that worn by the dignified men serving at the Cambodian Royal Palace. You could imagine, I stood there, utterly star-struck by his presence.
I turned to my mother and I declared longingly, “I want to be just like him one day.”
Koy Kol is the Hotel Manager at Jaya House River Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia. He began his journey to become a hotelier by learning English from local monks in the area. In 2002, Koy achieved his aspiration to be a doorman at Royal Angkor Resort Siem Reap. He continues to persevere in the hospitality industry and spends the majority of his time mentoring his team, devising methods to improve customer experience and implementing CSR initiatives that would benefit the local community. Notably, during his tenure, he, along with his team, cleared the nearby river of trash and pollution. Koy was a finalist in the category of Hotel Manager of the Year 2018, The Hotelier Awards (now known as Stelliers).