Phanna and the author enjoying a reunion.
On my last visit to Cambodia in January, I met up with a long-time friend of mine, Phanna. I met him initially, way back in 2000 when I visited Kratie for the first time. Then, he was an 18 year old who dreamt of becoming a lawyer. In between then and now, Phanna has moved to Phnom Penh to study International Relations and Law, as well as taking charge of the very popular backpacker haunt, #10 Lakeside Guesthouse at the Boeung Kak lake. He speaks fluent English and as a youngster he was a perfect guide for his hometown and the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. Nowadays, Phanna, whose full name is Sophanna Chheang, tells me that #10 Lakeside is the best spot for the backpacker fraternity at the lake and judging by its popularity when I visited him there, he's spot on. The rooms are between $2-5, with a bar and restaurant serving excellent food, and a beautiful sunset view across the lake, which should not be missed. In addition, a percentage of all the food and drink monies go to a local children's fund. Phanna is not resting on his laurels though, he has lots of irons in lots of fires and is switched on to what the tourist fraternity want and need. Fortunately, he's retained his boyish charm and sense of humour that served him so well as a teenager living in Kratie, despite his introduction to the hard and ruthless world of business in Phnom Penh.