Mitch is an International business person, film-maker, community leader, world traveler, public speaker and former candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada
Centuries ago in an ancient world, kings were building magnificent temple complexes. King Suryavarman II wasn’t exactly thinking about wheelchair accessibility when he built Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex in the world. Although Angkor Wat can be difficult to climb even for an able bodied person, it didn’t stop these adventurers from Belgium using their wheelchairs!
Cambodia is a beautiful country. It’s incredible landscape is covered with unspoiled natural beauty, splendid rice fields, palm trees, countryside with mountains in the back ground, empty beaches, bustling markets, vibrant cities and ancient temples forming a harmonious whole. Above all this, its people, their charm and warm-hearted hospitality make Cambodia an attractive place to visit.
The group of 7 guests using wheelchairs arrived at the Lotus Lodge hotel in Siem Reap and were greeted by Mitch St.Pierre. Mitch is the owner of Lotus Lodge and also happens to be in a wheelchair. Mitch arrived in Cambodia after a career in politics and filming a documentary for CBC television in Canada. After showing the hotel grounds and around to the guests from Belgium, it was time to enjoy some cold drinks by the swimming pool. Cambodia can be quite hot and humid being that it is technically a jungle.
The Lotus Lodge hotel has made many efforts in making the hotel as wheelchair accessible as possible. The Lotus Lodge is one of the very few hotels in Siem Reap that is on the ground level in it’s entirety. There is a ramp that was built to get from the lobby to the rooms, and there is also another ramp to climb the few steps to access the restaurant & lounge area. Mitch went on to show them the common method of transportation in Cambodia, a Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is basically a trailer being pulled by a moto-bike. It may seem difficult to get into for someone using a wheelchair but everyone in Cambodia is more than helpful. With the help of two people can easily help one into a Tuk Tuk. Fold up the wheelchair, store it securely inside and away you go!
Although Cambodia has a very dark recent past, things are quickly changing. Hotels and tourist facilities are popping up everywhere. It’s a place for adventurers, backpackers, families, and archaeologists to name a few. You can spend days exploring ancient temple sites, take it to the sky in a Microlight Aircraft, trek through jungles to watch unique wildlife species, travel by boat through remote floating villages and flooded forests, off road in the countryside in old vintage military jeeps, swim at the waterfalls of Kulen Mountain, a conservation center, butterfly center, zip-lining and so much more.
The group of 7 from Belgium were true adventurers at heart. Although challenging, a tour through the floating villages was arranged. With the help of Tuk Tuk drivers and the always friendly locals, the group went down the bank to the rickety wooden boats on the water that would take them through a beautiful scenic ride through to a village on the Tonle Sap Lake, home to families who eke out a living on one of the most abundant inland fisheries in the world and way of life. The flooded forest here is also fascinating, submerged for half the year, the trees have learned to adapt and are an invaluable part of the ecosystem.
Although Cambodia is home to the most disabled people per capita, facilities and resources for the disabled are almost non existent and only provided by NGO’s. The sad reality is that many disabled people in Cambodia do not have the proper resources needed for rehabilitation. Overall, the guests from Belgium had a wonderful experience. It was an experience like no other and in the end the guests were able to give back by donating a Quickie wheelchair for a Cambodian in need.