PHNOM PENH —
Hem Sophoan, a former guide for tourists, has taken his knowledge of Angkor Wat and put it into writing. He has finished a second book, “Angkor Kingdom Guide Book,” but the road to its publication was a long one.
Heng Sophoan is the fifth child of six, born in Bek Chan village, Ang Snuol district, Kandal province. He received a bachelor’s degree from a university in Phnom Penh, majoring in tourism and hospitality. He eventually found his way to Siem Reap, but he failed a guide exam in 2007. A year later, he passed. He has taken other training since then, and has begun teaching at a local university. To write, he researches online and reads books.
But the real secret to his success, he says, is that people trust him. He is trusted as a source, including on Facebook, where he has a page for his guidebook. “The reason that many people are interested and supported me is that all the services I have given them never cause them any problems,” he says.
He writes for the next generation, so that they will know more about national and international communities, he says. His first book, a how-to on becoming a tour guide, was published in 2011. He has three more in the works.
“Since I started to be a tourist guide, I faced many difficulties, including the lack of documents related to tourist guide skills,” he says. “Moreover, it’s hard for me to get some answers from old tourists whenever I want to ask them. So I promised myself that when I became a tourist guide with high knowledge and experience, I would write a book for the general public.”
He spent about one year writing his most recent book, which drew from his own experience and his research. This book tells the history of the Angkor kingdom and temples. This book too is meant to help tour guides, not with their own profession but with guiding people through the historic temples.
Pen Sophy, a bookseller at the International Book Center, said most people who buy Heng Sophoan’s books are students and tour guides.
Ho Vandy, co-president of the Government-Private Sector Tourism Working Group and a former guide, said the job can be difficult, so a book that helps guides is good for tourists, too.
“Frankly speaking, tour guides can't please their clients 100 percent of the time,” he said. “I was a tour guide for over 20 years, and it’s not easy to please all the clients. For instance, 10 clients have different minds.”
Nearly 2 million people visited Cambodia from January to May this year. That’s a small increase from last year, and an increasing market for Hem Sophoan, who says he hopes soon to translate his works into English.