What is the Meaning of This?
One of the goals I have had for a while with this blog has been to promote companies, organizations, charities, and even individuals which I feel are definitely deserving of your business, without your wallet taking a hit. However, if you have ever clicked on the “Make a Difference” tab above, you will find that they are not as easy to find or promote as you might have hoped. Sometimes it is lack of availability, technology to promote themselves, or nothing more and plain old language barriers that keep us from getting connected to these great people. I am quite picky with what I give my stamp of approval and let me say, my buddy Barang definitely deserves your business. Barang is simply the best driver in Siem Reap.
What is a ‘Barang?’
No, it is not slang for the past tense of “bring.” Barang Hang is, in short, the man! Whenever you think of having a “true cultural experience” and wish you “could interact with a local on a deep level,” you might not have known it, but you were thinking of Barang. He is one part TukTuk driver, one part tour guide, and the accumulation of all of that Cambodian hospitality you have heard so much about. He is just one fantastic human being. Let’s go back to the beginning of my relationship with Barang.
Okay, so, Tell me the Story!
I first met Barang in the summer of 2010 when I went to Siem Reap to check out the famed temples of Angkor. If you have looked at my Rankings List of WHS, you would know that I was more than impressed. What you might not have known, is that Barang made the experience unforgettable. He was recommended by a coworker who was also teaching English at the time in South Korea, and I couldn’t have asked for a better connection.
Like everyone else who is a first time visitor, Angkor was at the top of our list. When we arrived, it was pouring, but Barang was there waiting for us in the bus stop with umbrellas… how thoughtful! He picked us up bright and early the next morning to take us to the four main temples: Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, Bayon (Angkor Thom), and Preah Khan. By the end of the day, we were exhausted, and I am sure he was too, but he was still willing to hang out with us for some drinks afterwards.
Every day after that is pretty much what you would expect from an excellent tourism service. He was there when we needed him, he answered any questions we had, and he made us feel like he was our big brother (despite being the youngest) watching out for us wherever we went. What makes Barang different is when he goes above and beyond the call of duty.
In some instances, he paid for us (with our money of course) to make sure we got the Cambodian price, and not the inflated tourist price. One example would be water which costs 1USD for foreigners or 500 Riel (12 cents) for Cambodians, and food which would cost 3 USD for foreigners but 1 USD for Cambodians. While it is not much, it was Barang’s idea and it was the thought that counts.
My final day and a half in Siem Reap sealed the deal and made Barang my friend for life. I loved all of the ‘touristy’ stuff as much as the next guy, but I wanted to see something else. I had come to Cambodia with two other fiends, but they were ready to hit the beach. They headed to Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast and I wanted one more day in Siem Reap. We split up for a bit and agreed to meet later. It was just me and Barang, ready to take on Siem Reap!
“Where should we go tonight?” Asked Barang.
“Take me to a club Barang, but somewhere where YOU would go.” I replied. It was not something I planned to say, but in the heat of the moment, that is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to see where your typical Cambodian (that was not a hooker) went out for a good time.
“Zone One is a new club, I like that music” he replied… (I think. Look it is hard to remember conversations from three years ago, but just bare with me here!)
It was really surprising that the club didn’t play any of the hip hop or traditional Cambodian music I heard at the pubs ‘Angkor What?’ or ‘Temple’ back on the main ‘pub street.’ It seemed that Cambodians were really intro electronic / house music. It also seemed that despite his friendliness and openness, Barang was super shy in a club! I really couldn’t help but laugh, but at the end of the day, I made sure we both had a great time.
Despite our long night out, Barang was like clockwork, early in the morning, there he was again, ready to go.
“Where do you want to go?” He asked. We stood there for a bit talking about what we had already done and what there was left to do. I figured he had just woken up, like I had, so I asked him if he was sleepy. “I have been up for a while, I live pretty far away.” He replied. (I don’t know why I am giving him a serious philosophical man tone as I am writing this… but again, bare with me.)
As he said that, I knew exactly where I wanted to go next.
“Can we go to your house?!” I said without thinking. Yes it was an odd request, and now that I think of it, maybe a little bit rude, but Barang didn’t mind at all.
“Sure,” he said, with the same friendliness he always showed.
I met his dad, his nephew, the pigs his family owned, his house, and his neighborhood. Barang lived out in the country side, and it was indeed far away from the paved roads of Siem Reap’s downtown area. His house was simple, but cozy. One thing I recall seeing was a whiteboard where he studied different languages. He wanted to take this tourism thing seriously, and that kind of dedication is not easy to come by. I came to appreciate his efforts even more.
We spent the rest of the day doing things Barang would do. One spot I clearly remember was a place where you could chill out in hammocks, eat some frog legs and a bunch of other meats, while looking out at the pasture’s water buffalo roaming around. This was the only business in the whole trip that dealt in Riel and not US dollars.
Something Was Different
It was somewhere between the club late at night, visiting his home, and the hammocks that I stopped looking at Barang as my tour guide and started to look at him as my friend (not that I forgot to pay him or anything). Since I visited Cambodia, we have kept in touch via Facebook, and we chat from time to time. He has since gotten himself wife and even had a son (yay Barang). He is sure to update me in any of his life developments, and in turn, I try to recommend anyone who is going to Siem Reap to him.
I know tons of people who have been to Siem Reap and let me be 100% honest, everyone has had a great time, whether they met Barang Hang, or had a different guide. Cambodia is a magical place and its people are just amazing. No matter what you decide, you will have a great time in the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire. Take it from me though, although we would all like to meet fantastic people on the road, few locals I have met in my travels come close the how great Barang was. If you decide to take a stroll by his neighborhood, give him a call, message, email, or just yell his name really, really loud and he will surely answer you and show you the time of your life.
Logistics of Barang “the man” Hang
Name: Barang Hang
Reference: Julio Moreno (That is me! He likes to know sometimes)
Facebook: Go here and add him
Phone Number: (855) 097 52 63 927 / 092 62 09 46
[While all of this info is recent as far as I know, Facebook is probably your best bet for an initial contact.]
OFFERED SERVICES AND PRICES:
(As an option, but you can totally customize your trip to your liking. Just ask him!)
1) Small Temple Tour: 15 USD
- Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (huge area), Ta Phrom, and a few other small temples.
2) Town Tour: 15 USD
- Around town tour and Chorng Kneas village , floating houses
3) Big Temple Tour: 18 USD
- Preah Kan temple , Neak Pean temple , Tasom temple , East Mebon temple , Pre Rup temple
4) Outside of Angkor Tour: 28 USD
- Banteay Srey Temple ,Lady temple , Kbal Spean ,waterfall, Banteay Samre temple . Beng Melea temple (65km)
- Flooded Forest Kamporng Pluk Village +7 USD
5) Country Side Tour: 20 USD/person
- Visit a village, visit kids in a school, visit the rice fields, ride a small boat on Baray Lake
[Included Transportation, coconuts, and lunch]
[All tours include cool waters and towels]
[As far as I can tell, all prices are total for the group (1-4 people) unless it says per person. However, don’t kill the messenger. Make sure to make it clear with Barang so that there is no misunderstanding of what you will get. Regardless, his profit margin isn’t very high considering the cost of gasoline in Cambodia, so if you are willing and able, you can surely tip him if you’d like. Totally your call though.]