Classic military jeeps, left over from the civil war era, have been repurposed by an enterprising female entrepreneur in Siem Reap province.

Where once they carried grim-faced soldiers to the battlefield, they are now loaded with smiling tourists, who enjoy the open air vehicles as they take in the beauty of rural Siem Reap and the majestic temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park.

The iconic green vehicles not only deliver a fun and adventurous experience, but also contribute to the economies of local communities.

Lim Kanha, sales manager at, recently took a jeep load of journalists to visit Preah Dak village in Banteay Srei district. She recalls that the business began operating in 2011, with just one jeep. 

“Thanks to the support of our customers, we have expanded the fleet, and now use 14 jeeps. We bought some of them from different provinces, and some from neighbouring countries,” she explains.

Keeping the vintage vehicles running is a labour of love, with the tour operator’s maintenance team constantly on the lookout for spare parts.

“Most of our jeeps are surplus military vehicles. Some people kept them in storage, while some were being used for agriculture or even for storing goods. We bought all of the examples we could find,” says Kanha.

She adds that aside from directly employing community members as staff, the tours help to drive sales of souvenirs, as well as traditional food and drink.

Jeeps have been used to serve visitor transportation in Siem Reap province. CCJ

When tourists visit Preah Dak village, they are privileged to witness a place where time almost appears to have stood still. The villagers have proudly preserved their culture and slow-paced way of life.

Yol Sa, a 50-year-old national tour guide, says many of the villagers earn their living by selling handmade souvenirs and a variety of food items to their jeep-borne guests.

“They sell all kinds of special Khmer cakes, like num kruok – small round cakes made from rice flour and coconut cream,” he adds.

According to Sa, the jeep tour operator also organises cooking classes and demonstrations of how to make all kinds of unique treats.

He adds that tourists can also ride traditional ox or buffalo carts, adding the memory of a second kind of unusual transport to their experience. Community members can also earn additional income from offering the rides to visitors.

Nem Narin, almost 50, sells silk flowers in the village.

“Our visitors appreciate that we have preserved our Khmer culture, with people making all kinds of interesting items from bamboo and palm leaves. I raise silkworms, feeding them on mulberry leaves that I grow myself. I use the silk they produce to make decorative flowers, which are rare and bring good luck,” she says.

Kanha explains that in addition to tours of a genuine Khmer village, guests can also opt to be driven through the iconic Angkor park, home to the Kingdom’s greatest architectural wonders. They can also choose to be driven to some of the incredible natural attractions in the area.

Jeeps have been used to serve visitor transportation in Siem Reap province. CCJ

“I love sharing the secrets of the sandstone caves in the eastern foothills of Kulen Mountain with visitors to the province. There are many different sculptures, and it is a truly beautiful experience,” she says.

Lee Akim, 48, is the founder of the company. She proudly notes that the tourists who have taken her tours have always been satisfied and happy, with many international visitors booking additional tours. She says it is because her team take such good care of their guests.

She adds that 90 per cent of the tourists who book the jeep tours are Westerners, with the remaining 10 per cent from Asia.

“Our service includes a knowledgeable driver and a food package. We take them to unique places which are off the beaten track, so most of them leave excellent feedback and spread the word about our tours among their friends and relatives,” she shares.