They say that home is where the heart is, and for British traveller, Mike Brodribb, it’s been various countries around the world - from a quaint agricultural province of France to a small, but vibrant coastal town in South Africa. Now home is the historically rich country of Cambodia, where he has opened Arboretum Guesthouse, inviting guests from around the world to explore the country’s beautiful ruins and famously-friendly culture, before coming ‘home’ to relax in the comforts of a traveller’s dream. In an interview about his experience of owning a guesthouse in a foreign country, Mike obliged our curiosity about life in Cambodia and what makes a traveller set down roots.
Essential Travel: What made you decide to open a guesthouse in Cambodia?
Mike: My wanderlust bug was given to me by my parents: my father, being an archeologist, travelled extensively and always brought me along in the summer holidays. After several visits to South East Asia, I found that Cambodia, a relatively young country, offered so much. Having always been in the hospitality industry - whether it was running hotels in London or owning pubs in the English countryside - I decided to combine my two great loves, travel and hospitality. Siem Reap, with its tropical backdrop, unforgettable cuisine and quite possibly unmatched tranquility of life, seemed very appropriate.
Essential Travel: How long has the guesthouse been running for?
Mike: About 18 months. It was closed for 3 months whilst the refurbishment was being carried out.
Essential Travel: What are your own favourite aspects about Arboretum Guesthouse?
Mike:The fact that it is so close to Sok San Road where all the action takes place, yet two minutes walk away you have a place like this to relax, have a cool drink and chill out.
Essential Travel: How would you best describe Cambodia to someone who’s never been there?
Mike: A genuine friendliness of its people, a diverse landscape, and of course being rich in historical value.
Essential Travel: What are the main travel attractions easily accessible for guests of Arboretum Guesthouse?
Mike: Sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat - one of my favourite things to do - there are no words to describe it. Hot Air Balloon tours are also available over the temples. You can also rent a bicycle and wonder around the many markets dotted throughout Siem Reap. Cruise the famous Tonlé Sap Lake and observe the floating houses and people who live there - it's a great eye opener. Read a book along the river front or enjoy the vast selection of restaurants that are at hand, making sure to try a local Khmer Curry.
Essential Travel: You must meet many interesting people in this line of work...
Mike: Yes, people come here to write, paint and to photograph the ancient monuments. Many of our guests are seasoned travellers and come with interesting tales of places they have been to. Our guests tend to mingle and we encourage this, as it means that information and stories from around the world are shared.
Essential Travel: Do you have guests from all around the world or is one nationality more prominent?
Mike: There’s very much a global customer base, which makes this experience all so very interesting. One minute you can be talking to somebody from Nepal and the next to someone who lives near to where I lived in France, the UK or South Africa.
Essential Travel: You’re a traveller yourself, do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring travellers?
Mike: Find a good bed, a good bar, a good restaurant and always expect the unexpected, just go with the flow.
We'd like to thank Mike for chatting to us. If you'd like first-hand advice about travelling and life in Cambodia, you can contact him at email@example.com or check out Arboretum Guesthouse.more blog posts