Lessons from Mr. Lim Pengkhun, our Tourist Driver from Cambodia

It was definitely destiny that brought us this man, Mr. Lim Pengkhun, that late night in Cambodia when we were looking for a ride to our hotel. Our hotel was not able to send us our pickup service (totally my fault because I was not able to give them the exact time of our arrival) and we were approached by this good-natured man who we have spent two days with as our tourist driver.

Mr. Khun is an amazing tourist driver. He gave us a lot of information and tips on how to go around the temples and he was always on time. He loved talking about politics and his people, the Khmer, and his country. He also loved to talk about his daughters and his wife, his parents and his mother-in-law (whom he appreciates dearly) and his past life experiences. He was always on his toes to give us cold water or soda every time we came back from a sweltering temple run. But more than his services, Edzel and I loved the positivity that he exuded. With the short time that he has been our tourist driver, I was reminded by his powerful words and this I will treasure as I come home from my vacation together with the wonderful memories of the temples we visited.

1. Always be thankful to our parents.

Mr. Khun was emotional when he talked about his parents– the love and sacrifices his father and mother did for their family. Growing up poor and as a son of a farmer, Mr. Khun has seen how his parents have worked hard for them to be able to go to school and have good lives today.

I could not agree with him more. I would not be where I am today without the sacrifices of my Mama and Papa. They have worked so hard all their lives to give us great education and I will forever be grateful for the person I have become because of them.

2. Education changes lives.

He need not convince me on this. Growing up, he lived in the rice farm. He was surrounded by the rice paddies where he had to wake u early to help his parents. He showed his “large fingers”, saying this is indicative of a farmer’s hands. He went to school during the day and when he went home, he helped cut grass to feed their cows. But his parents gave him and his five other younger brothers and sisters the gift of education an he was able to change his life from attending to the farm and learning English to become an English teacher to young Khmer children, and eventually (and until now, seven years later) a tourist driver. Now, he owns his own house and land and has his own car and sends his two wonderful daughters to school.

3. Always be grateful.

Mr. Khun shared to us that rarely do Khmer people travel because of their life’s situation and priorities. So when he said that Edzel and I were lucky to afford traveling outside of our country and having good jobs, I was really humbled. Sometimes, we take these little things for granted. The food on our table. The roof on our heads. The car we drive. Some people barely have enough and those of us who do should be content and grateful of what we have and share our blessings to others.

4. Dream and work hard for it.

His eyes lit when he talked about how he wanted to learn English and change his life. In Cambodia, English is only taught in school for 3 hours per week so not a lot of people are fluent in English. Mr. Khun shared his experience when he was inspired by an English-speaking Khmer interpreting what a European NGO representative was saying during one visit to the farm. He realized that he can have a better life if he would learn English himself. For a farmer’s son, I think this was a big dream. But no dream is really too big for a heart that desires and he is where he is now because of his hard work. He still has many plans in the future on how to expand his business and Edzel and I are sure that he will achieve his heart’s desires.

5. You can change the course of your life.

Poverty does not define you. A heart of determination and a strong desire to alter the course of your life will do wonders.

6. Travel and create memories.

Mr. Khun dreams of the time when he could travel to other countries with his family but he reminded us that we are lucky to be doing this as a couple now. For me, this resonated a lot because the truth is, memories are all that we wou1d have in the end and we should always feed our soul with good memories. While traveling is good, we can still create happy memories every single day that we spend it with our children and our loved ones.

7. Karma is real.

When you do good things, it goes back to you. Simple as that.

8. Always be kind to other people.

He reminded us to never assume about other people’s circumstances as we do not know their stories. We have to be kind to everyone, never discriminating about looks, race, religion, face or status in life.

9. Nothing is permanent.

Our riches, whether they may be in cash or assets, our health, our career, everything… none of them is permanent. That is why we always have to know what is important in our lives. Our children. Our family. Our well-being. Because in the end, this is what gives our lives meaning and happiness. Everything is fleeting so we have to do our best to take care of the things and people that are important to us because we will never know when we will be gone in this world.

10. Believe in a Higher Power.

We talked about religion and even though there is a difference between Christianity and Buddhism, there is a lot more similarities that we could have imagined. Doing good to others and karma, respecting our parents, not lying, not stealing. These universal laws that seem to have originated from one source and translated to many versions — it is uncanny.

Sometimes, people come into our lives in many unexpected moments to remind us of the many good things around us. I will forever be thankful for Mr. Khun for our first and ever-so-wonderful Kampuchea experience and will always treasure the golden nuggets of wisdom he shared with us.

Should you visit Cambodia, Edzel and I highly recommend Mr. Khun. Please support his business by getting in touch with him through his Facebook account: Lim Pengkhun.

Arkoun, Mr. Khun. Maraming salamat.