E is for Elephant. Today I’m going to introduce you to one of the lovable and enduring figures for locals as well as visiting tourists in Phnom Penh.
Friends, this is, Sambo. Ermm, just a back-view, lol.
Sambo’s touching story is known to most Phnom Penhois and one that could be made into a Hollywood movie. Her siblings (yes she is female) were killed by the Khmer Rouge when she was young. A nine-year old boy took care of her but were separated during the civil war. After the end of the war, they were reunited and were inseparable since then.
The Story of Sambo starts all the way back in the 1970’s when he was split up from his owners during the civil war and Khmer Rouge takeover and Sin Son. the boy who had raised Sambo had feared him to have perished along with so many others until after surviving the brutal Pol Pot regime he returned to his old village to find his only remaining neighbor who informed that Sambo had survived the Killing Fields but was now across the other side of Cambodia.
I first met Sambo in 2009. That was the time when she and her mahout works in the city with Sambo carrying tourists and locals on her back for a short walk around Wat Phnom, to the detriment of her health. And, between 4-5pm everyday, Sambo and her mahout are seen walking along Sisowath Quay as they head home. While I wasn’t really keen on getting a ride on poor Sambo, I had the opportunity to see him up close one afternoon. I was waiting for a tuk-tuk when I spotted her ambling along the riverside. She stopped at La Croisette, just a few meters across me, and patiently waited for treats from the restaurant employees, customers and bystanders. She returned the kind gesture by entertaining them.
After years of carrying tourisnts on her back, Sambo, with the support of several wildlife conservation organisations and government departments, finally retired in November last year and resettled in the Elephant Valley in Mondulkiri province. An elaborate Buddhist ceremony was held in celebration of her retirement and locals and tourists joined to send Sambo off.