Harold Unland, 47, a native of Brownsville, Texas, had everything packed in containers and was ready to move back home after a seven-year stay in Bangkok, when he discovered Cambodia.
“I saw that it was a place that was easy to do business, was welcoming to investors, and because I’d spent my entire life in the US working in the hospitality business, I decided to set up a bar, restaurant guesthouse.”
That was 3 and a half years ago, and the result is Sundance Inn and Saloon: a 12-room budget hotel with comforts, a swimming pool and a bustling bar.
Unland describes his bar clientele as “diverse – everyone from local businesspeople to backpackers.”
The Texan got his start in the hospitality business washing dishes at the age of 12 and first fell in love with Asia on a diving trip to the Philippines. In Phnom Penh, he narrowed his search for a location down to Street 178 because he could see that the exodus from the once popular backpacker area of Boeung Kak Lake – controversially filled in for a property development that continues to languish – was heading in the direction of a street that is now emerging as a mini Khao San Road.
“At that time, a lot of the property owners didn’t realise what was going on, but it was still difficult to find a property of the size I needed,” he says.
Unland’s search finally yielded a 480-square-metre family house that he took a long-term lease on and remodelled. With his 12 rooms almost permanently fully occupied, he is now planning to add an additional 24 rooms.
“Business grew fast – first via [the online booking site]Agoda, but now it’s mostly word of mouth,” he says.
To celebrate US Indepen-dence Day today, Sundance will be hosting a poolside barbecue party from early afternoon through the night, with live music, ribs, burgers, hot dogs and drink specials.
Sundance Inn and Saloon
#61 AB, Street 172, Sangkat Chey Chumneah, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Tel: 016 80 20 90