Amid the hardships of the COVID-19 plight in Cambodia, a 33-year old Thai nurse has found a way to bring joy to her life while helping people both inside and outside the hospital.
Her friends and fellow bikers call her ‘Kampoo’, but her real name is Saisunee Munjit. In Thailand, Kampoo means crab claws and her parents chose that as her nickname because her mother loved to eat crab while she was pregnant with her.
Kampoo has been in the Kingdom for six years, and has travelled throughout the nation, taking in the intoxicating scenery of the countryside and the beauty of its abundant natural treasures. She first started exploring Cambodia following her decision to work at the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital in March of 2016.
Royal Phnom Penh Hospital is a tertiary care hospital managed by Bangkok Dusit Medical Service Public Co., LTD (BDMS) that operates private hospitals in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
According to Kampoo, working at a Cambodian hospital was at first, a big challenge.
“I have multiple tasks at the hospital here, which is quite different from the way things worked in Thailand. In addition, the different languages and cultures surrounding me, make it more challenging, even though there are hardships in the job, I still love it.”
She had started to ride motorcycles, big ones, not small moto “putt-putting” around for this adventurer, just a few months before moving to Cambodia.
“At the end of 2015, I decided I would like to buy a serious motorcycle as a combined Christmas/birthday gift to myself,” she said, laughing.
After months of exploring Cambodia, she had met some biker friends who shared the same interests as her. Most of them were men but that did not intimidate her at all. Instead, she began to train herself to drive big motorcycles by going on road trips with her group of new friends on her days off from hospital.
Their group is called Everyone Can Ride and is composed of members from the Cambodia Bikers Club (CBC), the Harley Davidson Owners Group (HOG), the Sedarah Motorcycle Group, and some Cambodian Custom Bike (CCB), and BMW motorcycle owners.
Kampoo spends most of her time at work. She works five or six days a week from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm and goes to the gym after work three times a week. But every Sunday, she spends time with her biker friends who she considers her family here in Cambodia.
“What I like most about being in Cambodia are the friendly people, the beautiful nature I see and of course the cheap drinks (laughing),” she says. The province of Kampot is her favorite place to explore because of its beautiful natural resources, the mountains, rivers, beaches and most of all, because of the great food (not to forget the delicious durian). Her favorite Khmer foods are Beef Lok Lak and Khmer noodles.
She has noticed how quickly Cambodia has developed over the past years. Kampoo has also seen the traditions the Khmer and Thai people share.
“I find it easy to live here – there are no big adjustments. I have adopted the culture fast. We pay respect to each other, share food and also share the same beliefs,” says Kampoo. Her time in Cambodia has found her now understanding 70 to 80 percent of spoken Khmer but still admits to struggling with reading and writing.
Being a lady biker in a group of men does not make her feel insecure at all. She believes that no matter what the gender, everyone is equal. She is happy riding with them because she loves riding with people who love it as much as she does.
Before COVID-19 hit the world, she was used to going back home every three months to visit her family but now she is stuck, just like everyone else. She has not seen her family for a long time now.
She spends her time with her biker friends on her days off from the hospital. She rides with her friends most every Sunday, but their rides are not only for enjoyment and adventure. They also help Khmer people in need. The group conduct charity rides, donating foods and goods to Cambodians in the provinces, especially those who belong to marginalized groups. They had scheduled a charity ride for December 5 in aid of the Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap however, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 community transmissions recorded in Cambodia.
“As a nurse or a healthcare provider, I always make sure to follow the health protocols in avoiding COVID-19 infection. In the hospital, we strictly process the screening of patients or customers before they come inside. The number of patients coming to the hospital has decreased due to the fear of the virus, but still, we remain alert and vigilant,” Kampoo noted.
She and her biker chums still have their usual weekend rides but they make sure to protect themselves by wearing masks and maintaining proper hygiene, always washing their hands diligently. They also monitor government announcements about the implementation of measures to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 and follow any restrictions announced.
During the years she has spent travelling inside and outside of Cambodia on her bike, she says she still has many dreams in life yet to fulfill. One of her goals is that five years from now she will still be helping people with their healthcare needs and still finding the time to ride to more and more places on her bike.
“My dream is to travel around the world on my bike,” says Kampoo with a twinkle in her eye.