Sav Thim: A Mountain Guide at the Top of His Game

Sav Thim is one of those few who know the mountain inside out. Photo provided

PHNOM PENH – Sav Thim is one of those few who know the mountain inside out. A knowledge he owes to the thousands of hours he spent hiking on the mountain, first to picking up flowers, then bringing tourists alongside him to the top of Phnom Preah.

Thim, who was raised in the flat land of Phnom Sruoch, Kampong Speu province, left his hometown at the age of 16 to find a job. Discovering he was a good hiker, he decided to go pick up forest products on the steep hillsides of Phnom Preah, one of the many mountains located in Veal Veng district, Pursat province.

For years, he spent his days and nights looking for turmeric vines, orchids, and many other wildflowers to sell at local markets. An activity that “was not very lucrative,” now concedes the 37-year-old man.

“At that time, the income I made was barely enough to support my family, but I didn’t know what to do.”

But things changed when he decided to become a mountain guide in early 2019. Thanks to his mountaineering experience and his fine knowledge of hiking trails, he decided to bring tourists to the top of that remote and unknown destination, rich in plants, scenic valleys, waterfalls, and high peaks.

Thanks to his services, guests can pitch a tent to relax and breathe the fresh air on top of Phnom Preah, after hours of tiring hiking.

“I usually carry around 16 kilos of luggage [Tourists’ goods and equipment], but it goes sometimes up to 20 or 30 kilos. [It’s not always easy] but I really love this job. So, I keep on working hard,” he said.

Thim receives between $50 to $100 to take a group of tourists to the top of Phnom Preah, depending on the number of people in the group.

Being dedicated to his job and mountain, Thim became the president of the Phnom Preah Tourism Community the same year he became a mountain guide.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, eco-tourism has surged in Cambodia, especially thanks to local demand. A blessing for the guide and the entire community, who could rely on local tourist money while borders were closed.

With the increasing frequentation of tourists, people in the community have received additional income, thus encouraging them to better protect and conserve the forest in the area.

According to Thim, the community has received 839 guests since the beginning of the year.

Most tourists visit Phnom Preah in November, December, and during the dry season, especially on public holidays. But in the rainy season, the road is closed due to slippery conditions, pushing Thim to work on a farm as a substitute.

The community does not yet have a coordinating committee to better accommodate tourists and increase the community’s hospitality skills. But they are trying to strengthen their capacity and tour guides to bring more nature enthusiasts to the top.

Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Kheav Moro Kort for Cambodianess.

Related Articles