Untac Nem has come a long way from his humble roots in rural Battambang. Born to a poor family in Thmokol district, he has cycled from Bangkok to Bali, won a full scholarship to study nuclear science in Cambodia and was even National Barista Champion 2012. He is currently on a cycling tour in Australia, from Ballarat to Port Douglas.
How did you come to cycle in earnest?
I spent my first two years of my university studies working part time to pay off my living costs, so I was working as a barista. In 2012, I became the best coffee maker in Cambodia and was representing Cambodia to compete on the international stage. Once I got to that level, I stopped working in the cafe but instead trained people in the cafe to make coffee. But I don’t train people every day, so I work as a cycling tour guide in Battambang and Siem Reap.
What first inspired you to cycle?
My dad. He loves sports and he bought me the best bike in my village... and he supports me doing sports.
Why should people cycle?
I strongly recommend cycling and sports, because scientifically, sports make people have creative thinking, which makes people smarter and healthier. I think bicycling is a very good sport and it’s environmentally good.
Do you see Cambodia opening up bicycle lanes?
I don’t see it happening in the five years ahead of us, as we have got [few] roads and we can’t even keep them [maintained].