IEM REAP - Things have certainly improved since childhood for Tra Yeu when he
spent time shoveling manure on a Khmer Rouge collective farm.
Yeu is a
part of an increasing band of enterprising Khmers spearheading the country's
Yeu's moto: "Looking intimately at any situation to see
if there is an opportunity to produce more prosperity; the limit is only set by
my own imagination and initiative".
After the Vietnamese invasion, at age
13, Yeu returned to the high school in Siem Reap, but he realized early that
learning English and French fluently would be crucial to fulfiling his dream of
earning a decent living through the tourism industry.
"At first I had to
study languages secretly from a wise old man for 10 riel a month as my
stepfather forbid me learning, I think he was jealous."
In June 1986,
while still studying, Yeu together with his mother hired a small plot of land on
the outskirts of Siem Reap for 40 riel a month. In his spare hours Yeu collected
wood from the forest trees and they slowly pieced together a small bark shanty.
By February 1987 the Yeu family restaurant was open to the public.
would be up at 7am to entice incoming tourists to the restaurant, he would study
in the afternoons and then work as the restaurant cook at night.
the restaurant was florishing, earning 80,000 riel per month and Yeu was able to
leave his mother to run the operation so he could pursue other
Yeu's intensive learning of languages was to pay off and
fortune quickly turned favourable for him.
"In October 1992 I landed an
eight month job with Untac as an interpreter, the salary was great, $272 per
month, I was able to save $1600."
Yeu used this money to go into
partnership with his uncle. Together they bought a four walled concrete building
After painting, plastering, remoulding the floor, and $1000
of refurbishments where beds, toilets and showers were installed in the
premises, Guest House 58 was opened to tourists in June 1993.
It is a
small five unit hotel, each room has two beds, fans, fridge and a proper shower