Hi’, I’m Mark (Ellison) a 41 year old English guy, currently living and working in Cambodia, where I have been since 2004. I am a co-owner of 3 restaurants, 2 in Phnom Penh and 1 in Siem Reap.
For the 7 years before coming to Cambodia I was involved in the tourism industry in England, primarily in the Lake District (focussing on cycle tourism). Prior to that I spent some time travelling / working in various countries, and prior to that, after graduating from university I was a civil engineer for a number of years.
I have enjoyed cycling from an early age with my first bike being around the age of 6 or 7, a ‘hand-me-down’ Raleigh Golden Arrow. However, my first real pride and joy came on my 10th birthday when I became the very proud owner of a super cool Raleigh Grifter, the only bike a young lad wanted in the early 1980s… The years passed and through my teens bikes came and went, used mainly for utility purposes like cycling to school and doing the paper-round. However, with other bike riding mates we did have some cycling ‘adventures’ at weekends and during school summer holidays.
For much of my 20s cycling was kind of forgotten, but the flame was rekindled in the late 1990s with the growth in popularity of mountain biking. My passion for mountain biking really took off in 1999 when I moved to work in the English Lake District, the only really mountainous region in the country. I was out in the hills at least twice a week and began entering amateur racing events. I gradually upgraded my mountain bike until finally buying a Rocky Mountain ETS-X70, at a price which just a few years earlier I thought only crazy people would pay for a bike without an engine .
After a holiday in Cambodia during 2003 I returned in 2004 to, naively perhaps, set up a cycle tour company. Coming from England to live and work in Cambodia was certainly an eye-opener being the first time I had experienced a developing country, compounded by the fact that Cambodia is one of the world’s least developed / poorest countries. In rural areas the average annual income is around USD 300! Of course back in England you read about poverty and see documentaries featuring developing countries, and yes it does tug at the heartstrings, but nothing can really prepare you for experiencing it in reality. However, despite the hardships many Khmers (Cambodians) face what has always amazed and inspired me is their resoluteness, their good nature and their willingness to grab an opportunity if it is offered to them.
After a few years working with a local tour operator, in 2007 I established the Cambodian tour company Asia Adventures. The ethos behind the company was that it would use tourism as a tool for poverty alleviation where possible. As such it advises and assists a number of small rural communities around Cambodia who are setting up low scale community based tourism projects providing an additional income source. It also operates charity cycle tours where participants raise funds for Cambodian good cause projects and get to meet the recipients of the funding to learn more about how the money they raised is changing peoples’ lives. At the end of 2010 I resigned from Asia Adventures to focus on other interests – one of them being cycling around Indian in 2012…