Team Building in Cambodia – an inspection report

Introduction
An old school friend and I left Bangkok by Air Asia on 5th November to Siem Reap. The purpose of the trip was holiday, pure vacation and relaxation, and a chance to meet up and exchange memories with by best childhood friend after living for more than 15 years in different countries. He is the chief editor of a reputable Swiss newspaper and I have been in Thailand for more than 15 years organizing team building events for fortune 500 companies. This was a real boy’s trip and wife and children had to remain at home.

Team Building in Cambodia

Siem Reap – an unknown team building destination
Siem Reap, the ancient capital of Cambodia is a bustling city with a bit of a gold rush atmosphere. More than 150 four and five star hotels and myriads of guest houses mushroomed in the past 5 years, due to UNESCO’s world heritage site Angkor Wat that attracts tourists from all around the world.

Team Building in Cambodia
Four to five thousand tourists, many of them Chinese and Vietnamese visit Angkor Wat daily, generating about 30 Million USD a year in revenue for the local government.
Being aware of the crowed, we booked an early morning sunrise trip and had to wake up at 4.30 a.m.  The tuk-tuk driver and English speaking guide were waiting at the lobby of The Heritage Suite Hotel. It took us only 10-minutes to get to the toll gate of UNESCO territory where a long queue of tourists in pitch darkness was waiting to buy the 20-Dollar-ticket.
Our guide advised us the best place to watch the sunrise avoiding masses of tourists moving towards the entrance portal of Angkor Wat. We waited for the sunrise on an empty piece of land just across the moat of Angkor Wat.

Team Building in Cambodia
Exactly on this spot, every year on 23rd March the sun can be seen rising exactly between the two tallest stupas of Angkor Wat attracting thousands of tourists as well as Buddhist monks for their mysterious prayers. On 6th November 2014 the area was deserted.
After the sunrise and after most tourists have left, we entered Angkor Wat. The impression was mesmerizing. The largest religious monument in the world was both fascinating and spooky.
Plenty of Hindu and Buddhist ornaments were engraved on the temple walls that are turned into cryptic clues for the Mysteries of Angkor Team Building Walk Rally.
We continued our journey to Ta Phrom Temple, 13th century Buddhist monastery. Its photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors.

Team Building in Cambodia
Before the day’s heat came crashing on us we returned to our hotel for a late breakfast.
We stayed at Heritage Suite Hotel in room Champak. The facilities as well as the service were exceeding our expectations (a bit of an understatement). In fact, everything was perfect. From the front office Manager (Eal Mao), who was polite, knowledgeable and service minded, to the smiles and polite wai of the pool attendants; from the exquisite food and service in the restaurant to the well-equipped villas with outdoor shower: Spending USD 180 per night was worth every penny.

Team Building in Cambodia

With direct flights from Ho Chi Min City, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong and catered by both boutique and budget airlines, Siem Reap is the upcoming MICE and team building destination.
The best accommodation for a group of team building enthusiasts is Sofitel hotel, with both luxurious service and spacious conference facilities. But also budget options are available. A 800-room-hotel is currently under construction for large Chinese groups.
As per immediate, Making Teams offers the following three-day team building programs in Siem Reap:

Team Building in Cambodia

Day 1
Morning
• Arrive at Siem Reap International Airport from Bangkok / Singapore / Hong Kong / Ho Chi Minh City
• Transfer to Sofitel Hotel
• Check in and lunch
Afternoon
• ½ day meeting package
• Dinner @ the hotel
• Accommodation @ Sofitel Hotel

Day 2
Morning
• Early morning wake-up call and team building “The Mysteries of Angkor Wat”
• Return transfer to the hotel
• Breakfast @ the hotel
• ½ day meeting package incl. lunch
Afternoon
• ½ day meeting package
• Team Building Casino Royale
• Dinner @ the hotel
• Team Building Casino Royale continued
• Accommodation @ Sofitel Hotel

Day 3
Morning
• Team Building “Learning with Fun.”
• Check out
• Lunch @ the hotel
Afternoon
• Transfer to the airport
• Return flight to Bangkok / Singapore / Hong Kong / Ho Chi Min City

Sihanoukville – Cambodia’s largest seaside resort
As of today (and unfortunately), Sihanoukville can only be reached by Cambodian-Angkor airline from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Having never heard about this airline before, we were a bit wary. We once flew with Myanmar airline, a 40-seater propeller that loses about an aircraft every two years due to crashes. And memories were still fresh in our minds.

Team Building in Cambodia

But we were positively surprised, the large 200-seater jumbo with comfortable seats and friendly service, seemed to be in excellent conditions.
The aircraft departed and arrived on time at the tiny airport in Sihanoukville. Transfer was arranged by private driver and took only 20 minutes to Sihanoukville town.

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We spent the first night at Sokha Resort, owned by the richest Cambodian, Mr. Sukong (we stayed there because the boutique resort Tamu that was recommended to us was fully booked).
The Sokal Resort is enormous, occupying approx. 800 meters of finest beach front land. With spacious conference rooms and large flat lawns it makes the perfect team building and MICE hotel in Sihanoukville.

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The hotel caters to mostly Asian tourists, Vietnamese, Chinese and local Cambodians and rooms, although spacious and clean seemed to be a bit overpriced for western standards. The service was mediocre: Upon arrival, the safety deposit box was locked and even after calling reception there was no one attending to it. Returning to the room late night, the room key didn’t work and unwilling to do the 500-meter walk to reception (our buggy had already left) we made an international phone call from our mobile phone to reception and asked a porter to attend.

Team Building in Cambodia
We booked one of the most expensive rooms at Sokal, a free-standing villa on stilts over a small muddy tributary with a view to a construction site. This was not the view we would have expected.
The room contained a Jacuzzi with the space for a harem, which I tried out immediately (without the harem unfortunately). After a relaxing bath ready for dinner, the tap didn’t open and water remained in the bath tub until check out.

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In spite of the service deficiencies, the hotel is suitable for large MICE groups and team building enthusiasts from China and Vietnam in the lower price segment.

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Koh Rong Samlem – Survivor in Cambodia
The speed boat to Koh Rong Samloem was delayed for 1.5 hours and took 7 times longer than advertised. A complete disaster for some passengers who booked only a day trip. One hour and forty minutes later, (instead of the 20 that were advertised) and after a complete break-down of the engine we finally arrived at Koh Rong Samlem.
We were indeed not disappointed. Powdery white sand, turquoise clear sea and forested hills: Koh Rong Samlem is undoubtedly paradise on earth.

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The beach resort is one of the more expensive resorts on the island, with a bar, a restaurant (with a real Italian pizza oven and a French chef), and a few simple huts. The accommodation consisted of double beds, safety deposit box (which was locked again), fan and cold shower. The simplicity of the accommodation complimented the natural environment.

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Koh Rong Samlem is occasionally used by Vietnamese groups who stay at Sihanoukville as a team building venue, so the bartender told.

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The long and deserted beach, the shallow flat sea and the remoteness of the island is perfect for a full day “Survivor” team building activity. The calm sea invites water based activity such as “Raft building”, “Catapult” and “Dive the letters”. A jungle treasure hunt to the light house with a spectacular view will be the highlight of the day.
We stayed two nights on Koh Rong Samlem and the return trip to Sihanoukville (this time by large ferry) was this time smooth and without interruption.

Team Building in Cambodia
We were accommodated at the boutique hotel “Tamu” for the next two days approx. 10 kilometers south of Sihanoukville.
Tamu hotel consisted of only a few rooms with a lovely restaurant and small swimming pool. Its warm and welcoming staff, the white sandy beach and the clear blue sea was the highlight of the stay.

Team Building in Cambodia

Thansur Bokor Highland Resort – Team building extravaganza
We hired a driver to take us from Sihanoukville to Kep with the detour to visit Thansur Bokor Highland Resort.
Thansur Bokor is an example of extravaganza that is only possible in a few countries on earth.
A 30-km private road (probably the best in Cambodia) leads up to a mountain that lies in the midst of unexplored jungle.

Team Building in Cambodia
On top of the hill, on 1000 m altitude, a giant casino and convention hotel was built by Mr. Sukong and his Vietnamese investors.
The 500-room hotel includes conference facilities for 2000 people making it the highest and the most remote convention hotel in Cambodia.

Team Building in Cambodia
The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the ruins of the old casino hotel that was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s. The casino was built on the cliff with a remarkable view to Cambodia’s southern coastline from Sihanoukville to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
Other attraction on the hill included a 100 year old Buddhist pagoda, an old Catholic church, a tea farm, the turtle rocks, a water fall and a sacred meditation area.

Team Building in Cambodia
Should you wish to organize your upcoming meeting or seminar in a destination entirely unknown to the Western world in a place that is so unique, so mysterious and breathtakingly mesmerizing, you should choose Thansur Bokor Highland Resort.

Kep – The cote d’azure of Cambodia
The trip continued downhill along the winding roads to the flatland. Our next destination was Kep. Kep can be reached in a two-hours ride from Sihanoukville (without the detour to Thansur Bokor). In the 1960’s before Pol Pot’s terror regime, Kep was something like the cote d’azure of Cambodia. A seaside resort for the rich and wealthy.
Kep was completely destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and has only recently been re-built. The road was still under construction, and according to our local tour guide, has been like this for the past two years.

Team Building in Cambodia
Kep is still a long way from its past glory. Downtown Kep boasts only a handful of western cafés and restaurants and the roads at 7 p.m. were predominantly deserted. The resorts for western travelers are located in the north of Kep’s one and only beach (which is very small approx. 200 m long) like our Knai Bang Chatt boutique resort.
Knai Bang Chatt boutique resort is a real jewel. With only a handful of rooms and a wonderful garden, it was one of the most adorable hotels I have ever seen. The picturesque tropical garden with a spacious lawn and a romantic restaurant.

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The rooms were a bit small for 240 USD / night but the public garden with the view to the sea and its enchanting atmosphere makes up for it.
Knai Bang Chatt Resort is excellent for executive outings and small groups can charter the entire resort. The spacious lawn and its attached villas are perfect for a Five dysfunctions work shop, executive training, leadership, Six Thinking Hats and DISC. The larger villas can be built into private conference areas, the swimming pool and garden are perfect for outdoor team building activities.
Kep can be reached from Sihanoukville within two hours and from Phnom Penh with a three-hour trip.

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Phnom Penh – Amazing Chase and other team building activities
We left Kep at 10 a.m. to Phnom Penh and we asked our driver to stop at the Choeung Ek Killing Field, approx. 11 Km south of the capital. Choeung Ek is a place where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979.
The site which is now a museum is well equipped with audio tapes available in different languages.
The museum further depicts a stupa filled with skulls and mass graveyards with bones of the victims killed by the Khmer Rouge.

Team Building in Cambodia
Nowadays, hundreds of tourists visit the Killing fields every day and are reminded of one of humanities biggest tragedies; the genocide of the Cambodian people during Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970’s, killing approx. 1.7 Million people or a third of the country’s population.
We left the site with unease and continued our journey to the city center. The last hotel on our trip with the Plantation, a colorful and welcoming 70-room boutique resort, located just behind the king’s palace.

Team Building in Cambodia
In the last evening of our journey we went to eat Swiss food and invited our local tour guide to join us for a cheese fondue complemented by a bottle of Riesling.
Strolling along the bustling promenade of the Mekong River at night, with a multitude of bars and bistros across the road, the city seems friendly and optimistic. It’s hard to imagine that just 40 years ago, Phnom Penh was a ghost town (the entire city’s population of 2 million was evacuated by the Khmer Rouge within 24 hours resulting in the longest caravan of human beings described as the death march).

Team Building in Cambodia
We were so amazed about Cambodia, its people, natural beauty and historic sights that Making Teams per immediate launches team building programs in Cambodia.
Phnom Penh is well connected to other SE-Asian cities by Air Asia, Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines and Vietnam Airlines and will be the upcoming MICE destination.
The Phnom Penh Amazing Chase includes stops at the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, Sisowath Quai, Railway station and Silver Pagoda.

Team Building in Cambodia

Our programme:
Day 1
Morning
• Arrive at Phnom Penh International airport from Bangkok / Kuala Lumpur / Ho Chi Minh City
• Transfer to the hotel
• Check in and lunch
Afternoon
• ½ day meeting package
• Dinner @ the hotel
• Accommodation @ the Sofitel Phnom Penh
Day 2
Morning
• Phnom Penh Amazing Chase
Afternoon
• ½ day meeting package
• Dinner @ the hotel
• Accommodation @ the Sofitel Phnom Penh

Day 3
Morning
• Team Building “Learning with Fun.”
• Check out
• Lunch @ the hotel
Afternoon
• Transfer to the airport
• Return flight to Bangkok / Singapore / Hong Kong / Ho Chi Min City

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