Situated along National Highway No 6. that connects Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is the district of Baray. And in Baray, there is a brightly coloured house with a brightly coloured gate housing a variety of homestay accommodations, and a cafe that serves one of the best home-cooked meals away from home.
Khmer Homestay Baray was started as a way to promote the rich culture of Cambodia and its local industry, as a means of alleviating rural poverty in Cambodia.
The founder, Esther Ding, has been living in Baray for the past 15 years, serving the community through the provision of a brand new school (opened late last year!), sourcing out volunteers to help out in the infrastructural improvements of many homes and schools, sponsoring the education for children and youth, and making small loans to villagers to start new businesses. She’s the light of the community and is affectionately known by everyone in the village.
Esther and her team believes that a visit to Khmer Homestay is a chance to help alleviate poverty in Baray and ensure that tourism is good news for the environment and the people living there.
Having spent 2 nights with Esther and her community, I have seen the obvious impact she made and continues to make. Esther ensured that guests meet and speak to different people of the community.
We went on home visitations to learn about their way of life, and distributed some basic necessities as a small blessing. (I was alone so I tagged along with a group of lovely visitors from Malaysia, and they were kind enough to let me do so 😀 )
We checked out home businesses and learnt how Khmer noodles and rice cakes were made:
There were many interesting local-led activities – oxcart-riding to the paddy fields with a neighbour who owns the oxen, and a guided trip to the wet market and Baray Dam.
Below are two short videos – the bumpy ride to the paddy fields & the very majestic Baray Dam with high water levels!
It was an unexpectedly heartwarming 3 days hearing the stories of the villagers, the impact Esther has made on the lives of sooo many people, and learning the other needs of the community.
Right now, there are many village schools and homes that require infrastructural improvements. A public hospital with a ponding issue when it rains, which can pose as a potential health risk to patients there. The lack of access to medical facilities is also an issue: there’s a need for doctors and dentists to provide healthcare services for people in the outlying villages.
Actxplorer hopes to engage with anyone – organisations, schools, and businesses who have the capacity and are willing to learn about, and work with Esther to support the growth of Baray and its people. Please contact us on our facebook page if you know of people who are keen!!
If you’re travelling from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or the other way around, I highly recommend spending a day or two at Baray for a truly meaningful Khmer experience that gives back directly to the community. You can request to book a trip with Esther for 2D1N or 3D2N! No regrets!
written and experienced by: Mindy