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Cambodian singer Meas Soksophea - Sabay.com photo


Cambodian TV presenter Teng Leakhena - Sabay.com photo


Chy Sila - (NR file Photo)


There's a difference between a driver and a chauffeur. A chauffeur is about integrity, safety and responsibility as opposed a taxi driver you have to watch your back. Pictured D.J. Ken back in the day with the Commodores lead singer J.D. Nicholas - (NR file Photo)


D. J. Ken - National Radio Text Service


The contest involves three categories singer, TV presenters and actors that will compete against each other in their respective categories. The public will vote via SMS over all cell phone networks in Cambodia with the exception of Mobitel - THE TAXI RUN AROUND -


Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Sunday July 31, 2011


It may sound too ambitious but Sabay.com intends to be the Cambodian version of the USA's Grammy Awards. Sabay's owner Chea Sila Timor is the fast food pioneer of Cambodia. We met several years ago while I was hosting the Cal Tex Drive Time Show on Cambodian radio. At that time he was reaping the rewards and profits of bringing fast food to Cambodia with his Burger World and Pizza World fast burger and pizza food Chains. That was then but this is now as the then 20 something year old achiever went on to take on bigger and better business enterprises.

Sila later endeavored into the coffee business of being the Starbucks of Cambodia with his T&C Coffee brand. The industrious entrepreneur was quick to leap into the Internet business by creating the website Sabay.com and followed that up by selling computers and hardware through his Sabay Computer showrooms.

His version of the Grammy Awards Cambodia style contest involves three categories singer, TV presenters and actors that will compete against each other in their respective categories. The public will vote via SMS over all of the cell phone networks in Cambodia with the exception of Mobitel.

The first elimination round will be announced at the beginning of September. The finals will occur in December.

We are familiar with two of the contestants. Being a judge with the Freshie contest we became familiar with Teng Leakhena who participated in the 2006 edition of the competition when she finished 3rd. Her career has evolved as a commercial model, actor in music videos and now includes being a co-host of the music variety show A-1 Concert on Cambodia's CTN Network.

Singer Meas Soksophea came to our attention as an opening act for Stacy Orrico at Olympic Stadium. Soksophea is the ONLY SINGER that has a quality voice good enough to compete with International singers. She is by far the best vocalist in Cambodia.

The question is what is the integrity factor in this contest? Is this a showcase to entice pretty girls into the service business or really a true talent contest on the level of America's Grammy Awards where decisions are made in an impartial manner without the interference of politics or very important people? STAY TUNED…


Having been in the limousine business at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills California with the at that time biggest company in the USA you learn a few things with the most important being how to get around town. Of 175 chauffeurs I was one of seven trained in anti-terrorism techniques. The background, driving skills and the ability to turn on a dime thinking resulted in assignments driving very important celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Madonna, the Saudi Arabian Royal family and US government officials including former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

Haig was one of the three brain trusts that decided to carpet bomb Vietnam and Cambodia and spray Agent Orange. Another client assigned to me was Dodi Fyad who dating Princess Diana. They both died in a fateful car crash. It's a no brainer in those situations a background check is required. That's the set-up and here's the deal with Cambodian taxi services.

We've never used the taxi system in Cambodia since its inception long after out arrival in 1998. Our only insight to them was when an Amazing Race TV series team was eliminated after they used a Global Taxi when the race was in Phnom Penh several seasons ago. They were first to the pit stop at Wat Phnom but didn't have their passports to continue the race. They backtracked and couldn't find them. They were the ONLY TEAM in the race that left their backpacks in the taxi when they did their tasks. As a result they were eliminated. Their passports minus money were then found and given to the US Embassy. WE AVOIDED CALLING THAT SERVICE.

Our adventure was not as bad and in some ways humorous. On departure for a 26 day trip to China we contacted Choice taxi for a reservation to pick us up. He chose an interesting rout to the airport that included stopping at a toll booth which we had to pay for. We asked why he took the route as we have made the trip previously several times and knew the way. His explanation was not valid. He lost a good tip but we tipped him much less and informed him of our experience in the business including showing him a photo.

"I know he said." We replied, "No you didn't know but NOW you know.

On the return trip around 11 PM we searched for a taxi at the airport. There were several that we had never seen before and wondered if they were gypsies or legal. One driver informed us that he worked for the airport and gave us his card that stated Taxi Association of Phnom Penh International Airport. With that we felt that we were in capable hands.

A trip from the airport to our residence requires only three turns a right, a left and a right. After he made the right he went crazy making numerous turns past seemingly every whore house in Phnom Penh until he reached Sihanouk Blvd and drove by the Olympic Market. What he did was go way out of his way and further than needed which required him to double back.

We then took control and gave him the direction in Khmer to reach our destination. Upon arrival we asked why he took that route. He said it was shorter than the one we expected several kilometers before doubling back.

We then drilled and educated him about the petrol he wasted and then showed him the photos of our background in the transportation business. We dismissed him without a tip. He was a nice guy but either just plain stupid or he thought he was driving someone whose mother raised a fool. NOT!!!


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