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Cambodia with our country expert Jake

by Philly Baines

When designing our signature experiences in Cambodia around Angkor and beyond, we sought out the expertise and suggestions of old friend and country expert Jake. Travelling around Southeast Asia when he was younger, he fell in love with Cambodia and developed an incredible knowledge of how best to experience the country. Here he talks about his work with Experience Travel Group and love of travel. 

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I first visited Southeast Asia in 1992 aged 19. While my friends slept off the journey, I woke with the sun and went to explore my surroundings in Legian, Bali. The smells, the colours, the smiles that greeted me blew me away. The pretty flowers in banana leaf offerings, the beautiful sarongs on the ladies and the thatched roofed bamboo homes I passed belonged to another world. From that moment I was hooked.

I re-visited Southeast Asia many times and it was 1999 when I first stumbled into Cambodia from Vietnam. I love all of Southeast Asia but this was different. Cambodia is synonymous with temples and genocide and both stirred feelings and emotions within me that I can still not put into words. But there is so much more to Cambodia and to this day, it is the people that have the most magical spell over me. The joyful laughing of the children playing on the backs of water buffaloes, the gorgeous beetle stained smiles of wizened old ladies in the markets, the serenity of the saffron robed monks chanting in the wats.

Delicious food at Heritage Suites, Siem Reap
Traditional dancers

A new world beckoned and I was hopelessly addicted.”

I started to lead tours around Cambodia in 2002. The more time I spent here, and the more I learned about this country and its mystical past, the more I realized that I wanted to live here. So in 2010 I decided to give up my nomadic lifestyle to put down roots in the only country where I have ever truly felt at home. I found a job as Adventure Manager for a well-respected travel company in Phnom Penh and kept developing my knowledge of the country.

It was through my tour leading connections that I first met Experience Travel Group co-founder Tom Armstong. And I introduced Tom to the charms of Phnom Penh when he was first travelling on a reconnaissance mission to Southeast Asia just as Experience Travel Group was developing its experiences in the region. Tom and I have been close friends and travelling companions ever since. Often venturing into deepest darkest Cambodia looking for new and exciting experiences for his valued customers.

Southern Cambodian family on the back of a fishing boat, Kep
Tom on his research trip to southern Cambodia

My working relationship with Tom, Sam Clark, and the Experience Travel Group team continued to grow, as did our friendship. I have been fortunate enough to work with them not only in Cambodia but also Burma. These are my 2 favorite countries in the world, and I believe two of the very finest destinations in Asia. I am proud for the part I have played in helping Experience Travel Group lead the way in magical and imaginative travel in Southeast Asia and the region.

My travels have taught me endless things about the world we live in.”

I still consider myself a traveller to this day. My first sniff of Asia was a blessing and a curse at the same time. I knew from that first sight of banana leaf and jasmine offerings that I could never stay idle in my homeland (England) again. A new world beckoned and I was hopelessly addicted. My travels have taught me endless things about the world we live in. It has brought an awareness that we should celebrate our differences and search for knowledge, respect, tolerance and understanding of others. It has also taught me a lot about myself and my place in this world!

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Jake, Tom and friends in Cambodia

Travel broadens our horizons in every way, it nourishes the soul and brings opportunities to both hosts and visitors. Responsible travel can bring massive benefits to host communities while creating magical experiences for travellers. And this positive interaction makes the world a better place for everyone!


Many thanks to Jake for sharing his story with us! If you were interested in experiencing some of our signature activities developed with him, do have a look here:


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