Wendy Perrin: Where to Go in June: The Best Places to Travel
May 16, 2017
While you will likely have some rain in June, it brings a bit of relief from the summer heat. And because June is a slower season for visitors, there are better hotel and touring deals available. Plus, there is no more beautiful time in Laos, with the juxtaposition of bright green mountains against an electric blue sky and billowing white clouds. —Andrea Ross, Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Paste Magazine: Breakout Role: Myanmar
May 5, 2017
Never thought of visiting Myanmar? Well, you might be soon. In our Breakout Role series, we take a look at places that have seen huge increases in tourism in the last few years, and try to figure out what’s causing all the hype..
Andrea Ross first came to Southeastern Asia fifteen years ago, back when the region’s tourism markets had yet to explode. Ross, the CEO and co-founder of the Journeys Within Tour Company, has witnessed Myanmar’s rapid growth over the course of the past five years, much of which has been aided by the European Union, the United States and other members of the international community relaxing and suspending sanctions against the former dictatorship.
“Once the political situation changed, and the sanctions were released, then obviously trade and infrastructure came fast,” Ross says.
Read more at pastemagazine.com
April 21, 2017
“The efforts to control and regulate the street food stalls are part of a wider “clean up” operation by Thailand’s military junta, which has been in power since 2014; and though the clean up shows no sign of easing, it’s unlikely the street food stalls will vanish, regardless of the week’s news cycle. Andrea Ross, CEO of tour company Journeys Within, which has an office in Bangkok, is confident that the demand is too high for the city’s street food to ever disappear. “If you look at Thai culture and people’s day to day lives you know that street vendors are a key part of life in Bangkok and not for tourists, I think that’s the draw,” she told Condé Nast Traveler. “They won’t disappear, but I believe, just be more regulated…When I lived in Bangkok you saw locals getting snacks and small meals at all hours of the day and night. This demand in and of itself is going to make sure that street food doesn’t disappear entirely.” While noting that designated markets that charge vendors for their space could send some stalls out of business, Ross believes that “in the end this will be a good thing as sidewalks will become safer and local, established markets will flourish.”
Read more at cntraveler.com
April 2, 2017
How to maximize your experience of a destination? Know the right fixer. What will the right fixer do for you? Read on.
Southeast Asia, planned by Andrea Ross
…Some years ago, I found Andrea Ross on your list of travel specialists focusing on Southeast Asia. The recommendation indicated that she was willing to work within any budget, and that appealed to me since I was taking my family of 5 adults to Cambodia and Laos. Andrea planned an excellent and affordable trip for us. The trip went off without a single hitch. Since then, Andrea’s colleague April has planned two more trips for us: Myanmar and, most recently, Vietnam with a return to Cambodia where we met two scholarship students who we have been helping through university, thanks to Andrea’s Journeys Within Our Community Foundation…
Read more at wendyperrin.com
FOX NEWS Travel: Illegal adventures? 6 places our parents couldn’t go
January 16, 2017
Despite what you MAY see on Instagram , Angkor Wat wasn’t always teeming with tourists. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, nearly 2 million people were murdered in Cambodia in the late 1970s, according to BBC estimates. Even in the decades following the genocide, civil unrest was everywhere and the topic of tourism was taboo…
Cambodia boasts thousands of temples in addition to Angkor, the largest religious monument in the world. The food is delicious and relatively cheap, the people are friendly and the stunning scenery is very similar to Thailand.
…Another way to give back to Cambodian communities is to travel with Journeys Within, one of the first American-owned boutique hotel owners and philanthropic tour operators in Cambodia. Journeys Within is involved with community projects including improving access to healthcare, education and clean water.
Read more at foxnews.com
Conde Nast: How Donald Trump Could Change Travel in 2017
December 19, 2016
Americans Will Become Ambassadors
“I think travel in 2017 is going to be more eye opening, exciting, and needed than ever in recent history. In a year when…people are trying to gain a perspective on their own future, this quote rings very true to me: “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” (Mary Anne Radmacher) Sometimes, to understand our own place in the world, we need to understand and see the experiences of others. … I think the world will be questioning us and our political system more than they have in a long time.
“As travelers, we are the true ambassadors of our country, and we are going to be questioned about this election and our feelings. In some ways this is refreshing. So often when we travel it’s a voyeuristic experience where we are looking and questioning, but we aren’t being examined. Now, Americans are of interest. Guides, drivers, and locals are going to want to ask about the election, our feelings and views, and our thoughts on the future. I think as travelers this is a wonderful opportunity to engage and discuss and enhance our own experience by sharing it with others.” —Andrea Ross of Journeys Within Tour Company
Read more at cntraveler.com
Holidays for Couples: Journey within Cambodia with these top tours
November 15, 2016
From the well-known temples and ruins of Angkor to charming villages, secluded beaches, magical markets and enriching cities, it is hard not to fall in love with Cambodia. A peaceful and spirited destination, the genuine locals will share a sincere smile, and the country will capture your heart.
For those couples who want to explore this wonderful destination but don’t know where to start, Journeys Within Tour Company can capture the very essence of Cambodia through their offering of private and customised tours, developed to suit your interests, time and budget.
From Luxury Tours for guests who are interested in an incredible experience with an amazing level of service utilising some of the best properties and hotels in Cambodia, to Signature Tours offering marvellous experiences that encompass not only the highlights of the country, but also the opportunity to get to know the people and cultures on a more intimate level, taking advantage of the many value-for-money and boutique hotels throughout the region. They also offer Family Adventures that have been built on the company’s experience travelling with their own kids and are perfect for the whole family.
Read more at holidaysforcouples.com
Travel Weekly: Midweek Interview: Jay Austin, Regional Director of Operations – Cambodia & Vietnam, Journeys Within Tour Company
November 9, 2016
The Challenge for the Industry is… Maintaining the perfect balance of environment, social and economic sustainability in developing tourism countries.
The things I like about my job… Having the opportunity to explore South East Asia, working with an incredible group of people from all around the world and putting together awesome new tours that showcase parts of cities and countries in South East Asia that most tourists never have the opportunity to see.
Read more at travelweekly.com
Travel Weekly: Delve Into Cambodia with Journeys Within
November 9, 2016
What will strike you most about this country however is the way it has moved from a tainted past and brutal history into one of the most peaceful and spirited destination. The genuine locals will share a sincere smile, and the country will capture your heart.
Journeys Within Tour Company captures the very essence of this through their offering of private and customized tours, developed to suit your interests, time and budget.
From Luxury Tours for guests who are interested in an incredible experience with an amazing level of service utilizing some of the best properties and hotels in Cambodia, to Signature Tours offering marvelous experiences that encompass not only the highlights of the country, but also the opportunity to get to know the people and cultures on a more intimate level, taking advantage of the many value-for-money and boutique hotels throughout the region. They also offer Family Adventures that have been built on the company’s experience travelling with their own kids and are perfect for the whole family.
Read more at travelweekly.com
Wendy Perrin: 22 Ideas for Holiday Vacations You Can Still Book
October 25, 2016
Now is the time to book your Christmas and New Year’s vacations if you haven’t already…
A Hot Hotel in Cambodia
Southeast Asia Travel Specialist Andrea Ross let us know about a boutique hotel opening in Siem Reap: Jaya House River Park, which still has space for travelers who want to take in Angkor Wat’s iconic temples over the holidays….
Even better, Andrea notes, her company is partnering with the hotel to reduce Siem Reap’s ubiquitous plastic bottles…
Read more at wendyperrin.com
October 19, 2016
Travelers should be sensitive to the 30 days of public mourning and 100 days of royal funeral observances, during which the king’s body will be on display at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The mourning period for government workers stretches to a full year.
“If you want to go partying in the red light district, don’t go now,” says Andrea Ross, founder and chief executive of Journeys Within Tour Co., which specializes in travel to Southeast Asia. But if you want to experience this moment in Thailand’s history, Ross says, “It’s an amazing time to go. It’s unprecedented.”
Read more at latimes.com
October 14, 2016
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, died on Thursday at the age of 88 following 70 years on the throne. The country is now in a 30-day state of mourning, and travelers to Thailand in the coming weeks should be prepared to be flexible. “For a majority of Thais, for how long he’s been king, it literally is their lifetime. They’ve never known another king,” says Andrea Ross, a Condé Nast Traveler specialist who runs Journeys Within, a Southeast Asia tour company. “You have to see this as a personal loss. It’s like you’re going to a country where the people have all lost a family member—think of the reverence you would show if you went to somebody’s home who was mourning the loss of a family member. Understanding it as a family member really helps make the mourning, and how big of a deal this is, come to life.” Though all transport, banks, hospitals, and other public services will be operating as usual, here’s what else you should know.
Read more at cntraveler.com
Holidays for Couples: Visit Cambodia in November for the Water and Moon Festival
October 3, 2016
The traditional Khmer festival is celebrated on the date of the full moon each year (usually in November) and marks the end of the rainy season and the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River.
Journeys Within Tour Company is offering guests a special two-day Water & Moon Festival touring package in Siem Reap that will expose guests to the best of this unique festival.
Read more at holidaysforcouples.com
Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia: Family Road Scholars
Make friends with students their age in a village outside Hanoi; kayak through Halong Bay; and crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels like guerrilla fighters during the Vietnam War. Experience Saigon with a personal guide, stroll through the streets of Hoi An, and make lasting relationships during a homestay in the Mekong Delta.
Read more at travelandleisureasia.com
September 29, 2016
The traditional Khmer festival marks the end of the rainy season and the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. Celebrated on the date of the full moon each year (usually in November), Siem Reap is a fantastic home base to take in the festivities – including boat races, nighttime boat parades with illuminated vessels, carnival rides and traditional music and dance performances.
Journeys Within Tour Company can take you to all the action, offering guests a special two-day Water & Moon Festival touring package in Siem Reap that will expose guests to the best of this unique festival…
Read more at travelweekly.com
September 1, 2016
The Water Festival marks the end of the rainy season—when the flow of the Tonle Sap River actually changes direction—and the start of the fishing season. You can experience boat races, fireworks displays, and a “Srouch Tec” ceremony in which a monk splashes water on you to wash away sins and bad luck. “The Water Festival is my favorite festival in the entire region; this year, it’s falling earlier in the month than usual, allowing travelers to see it and still be home in time for Thanksgiving,” says Andrea Ross.
Why book in September? For now, there is still availability at Andrea’s favorite hotels and with her preferred guides—but that won’t last into October.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
July 13, 2016
It’s finally time to unplug and unwind during your summer vacation! While you pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, and Hawaiian tops, don’t forget to add some security precautions on your checklist. Here are some quick tips from travel experts on how to protect your identity and your devices while on vacation this summer.
“Set up automatic bill payments before you travel. Depending on where you are traveling – internet or cell service can be spotty. For important transactions (such as monthly mortgage or rent payments) set up an automatic transfer for the correct date before you travel, rather than trying to log-on from your travel destination. This also means that you can avoid working with your finances and personal information on unprotected networks in an unfamiliar place, and you can simply relax and enjoy your vacation.” –Courtney Ridgel, Junior Tour Consultant at Journeys Within.
Read more at Dashlane Blog
July 5, 2016
The cooking class that I attended was a custom experience where a Journeys Within guide took me to visit Dong Ngac Village, located on the outskirts of Hanoi. For this experience, I learned to cook from a local woman in her own small pink kitchen. Ms. Pham showed me how to chop and mix the ingredients, and how to soak the rice-flour wraps to make spring rolls before frying them together. We ate outside in the courtyard of her traditional home, overlooking the garden. While we enjoyed our delicious spring rolls, and a tasty salad, she explained about the altar in her home and how ancestor worship is extremely important in Northern Vietnam. The full experience lasted the better part of the day, but fetching the ingredients and preparing the food only took a couple of hours.
Read more at Pink Pangea
Wendy Perrin: Where to Go in August: The Best Places to Travel
June 27, 2016
“A lot of people can’t handle the heat of Cambodia, and I don’t blame them: It can hover between 95 and 100 degrees in some places for days on end. But if you’re not bothered by the heat, I highly recommend August, which was my favorite month when I lived in Cambodia: It’s the monsoon season, but the flooding usually isn’t bad, the country is green, and the evening brings cooler temps. Best of all, the crowds haven’t arrived yet, so you won’t have to jostle for position at the most popular sites.” –Andrea Ross, Trusted Travel Expert for Cambodia
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Pink Pangea: Laos Travel: A Conversation with Kena Cataneso
June 16, 2016
I work in marketing and tour bookings in the travel industry, so when I’m not traveling I spread the word about great tours and help others plan their own adventures! I live in Lake Tahoe, California. The area is populated by adventurous people who travel in the shoulder seasons of our tourist economy, so I owe my inspiration to travel, in part, to those people. My most recent destination was Laos for my employer, Journeys Within, to inspect tours and the hotels we use for quality control…
…The most memorable experiences were opportunities where I was able to interact with people. I participated in a Buddhist Baci ceremony where villagers and their village chief offered prayers and good intentions for my well being. They concluded the ceremony by tying strings around my wrists that represent the completeness of my souls, as Buddhist believe that the body is comprised of 32 souls…
Read more at Pink Pangea
May 27, 2016
We don’t know about you, but we’re getting that summer vacation itch. School is so close to being done for the year, and we’re spending most of our time dreaming of alarm-clock-free mornings, beach days, and summer travel, near and far…
…And if you’re checking a bag, make sure that it will be checked all the way through to your final destination. “Sometimes [your flights will be ticketed] together, but you’ll find out on arrival you have to pick up your bags,” April Cole, travel specialist at Journeys Within tour company, tells Teen Vogue. “An easy call before your flight will let you avoid this problem.”
Read more at teenvogue.com
May 2, 2016
Best bang-for-your buck hotel
The Mekong Riverview Hotel in Luang Prabang because you can’t beat the location. Luang Prabang is built on a peninsula carved out by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and the Riverview sits right at the tip of that peninsula, on the main drag of town but in the quieter, UNESCO World Heritage-cited old quarter (the night market is just a five-minute walk away). Since the least expensive rooms (called “Deluxe Riverview”) have balconies, you needn’t upgrade to a suite. Our travelers get early check-in and late check-out, and for those interested we can set up a meeting with the owner, who has done a lot of restoration work around Luang Prabang…
Read more at wendyperrin.com
April 11, 2016
I’d been hearing buzz about the caves for a while, but it was Andrea Ross of the boutique tour company Journeys Within who sold me on seeing them for myself—and made every aspect of my time in Vietnam run smoothly, from sending a representative to escort me through the hassle-prone Saigon airport to arming me with a cheat sheet of Vietnamese translations for just about any dietary restriction I might have. I figured that if the experience was up to Ross’s standards, it had to have a payoff that would outweigh the discomforts. And it would have a solid social-good component, as “active philanthropy” has been a cornerstone of her philosophy since she founded the company in Phnom Penh 13 years ago.
Read more at forbes.com
March 28, 2016
Andrea Ross, our Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia, arranged for us to visit the Truc Mai House, whose occupants have been granted special permission by the government to share their knowledge of traditional music with guests. Not only did they give us a private concert on the iconic monochord zither (whose sound we all associate with Vietnam, unwittingly or not), as well as ancient instruments made of bamboo and stones, afterward they let my son pluck away at their prized instruments. This kind of interactive experience is exactly what keeps young kids engaged in a foreign land.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Smarter Travel: 14 Insanely Cheap Destinations for Spring 2016
March 17, 2016
We’ve been watching trends and keeping tabs on deals and prices for months. Now we’re ready to share this list of the season’s affordable destinations. Why not treat yourself for surviving the winter by booking a trip to one of these insanely affordable spring destinations?
Read more at smartertravel.com
Epicure & Culture: 10 Unforgettable Ethical Wildlife Vacations For Animal Lovers
March 3, 2016
Journeys Within wants to help you get to know Cambodia’s most beautiful sights while actively promoting the conservation of the species and places that make it special. Since some travelers want to see animals, they’ve partnered with organizations dedicated to conservation and humane treatment of animals so their customers can do this in an ethical manner.
On the Cambodia Conservation Tour, visit highlights of the country with wildlife visits interspersed throughout the itinerary. For example, in Phnom Penh you’ll explore national monuments and war memorials as well as the world’s biggest Sun Bear sanctuary. Leaving the big city, visit the Elephant Valley Project and hear stories of their nine beautiful residents who are able to roam in a natural habitat, free from poachers. Next, you’ll get to know the forest environment with an exciting zip line tour before heading to the Mekong River and meeting the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in their natural habitat. These are just a few experience examples.
Read more at epicureandculture.com
Fah Thai Magazine: Orange Alert
Celebrated in folklore and prized by naturalists, Indochinese tigers are among the most revered animals in Laos, yet poachers have pushed the once thriving population to the verge of extinction. Is a night safari operated by the country’s largest conservation area the last hope for these great beasts?
How to get there: Tour Company Journeys Within can arrange private transfers to Nam Nern Night Safari.
Read more at Fah Thai Magazine
Wendy Perrin: How to Ace Long-Haul Flights with Young Kids
February 25, 2016
When I decided to take my four-year-old son to Asia, the trans-Pacific flight loomed large in my mind. How would we get through 18 hours on a plane?
I needn’t have been so worried about the flight; while there were a few tough moments, we passed the time surprisingly easily. Flying that distance with a baby or toddler would have been much more trying, but by four years old, kids are better able to entertain themselves, and to adhere to expectations of good behavior. So, aside from advising fellow parents not to let a long flight derail their travel plans, here’s what I learned.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
February 22, 2016
April Cole, of Journeys Within Tour Company, which specializes in the Southeast Asia, says bargain prices are having a dramatic impact on travel, particularly to Thailand.
Read more at thestreet.com
February 11, 2016
Having a baby changes everyone. One of the biggest adjustments for me was putting away my passport. I went from visiting three continents in my first six months of pregnancy to managing nothing more exotic than Cabo San Lucas during the first four years of my son’s life—and all-inclusives certainly weren’t going to scratch my travel itch. That’s when I called Andrea Ross, our Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Huffington Post: Cambodia and Laos: Hidden Gems in Angkor Wat and Luang Prabang
January 22, 2016
I knew Christmas in Cambodia would be a little unusual, but we found just the spirit we were looking for when Linda Chhay, the owner of our hotel, joined my family for dinner. She described what her life was like as a little girl, growing up in the shadow of Angkor Wat, the famous Cambodian temple that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Linda helped support her family by selling trinkets to foreign tourists until she received the Christmas present of her life: a scholarship from Journeys Within, an American travel company that sponsors local Cambodian students, as well as leading tourists around Southeast Asia.
Read more at huffingtonpost.com
October 16, 2015
From the well-known white-sand beaches of Thailand to the tropical reef-lined shores of Cambodia, Southeast Asia has some of the world’s best beaches for families. Whether you are looking for water sports, snorkeling, culture, or just a relaxing day on the sand, you are sure to find many great options.
Read more at trekaroo.com
Educational Travel Community: ETC Recognizes 2016 Honorees
for the Annual Responsible Tourism Showcase
August 10, 2015
Journeys Within: Active Philanthropy Program’s co-founder, Andrea Ross, realized that giving back philanthropically was an amazing way for travelers to truly immerse themselves in a new culture. Journeys Within began offering a “Give and Take Tour” which allowed guests to spend a week volunteering at a local school as part of their trip to Cambodia. From these humble beginnings, a new non-profit was created – Journeys Within Our Community – and the Journeys Within Active Philanthropy Program (JWAP) grew from there.
Read more at travellearning.com
August 6, 2015
Southeast Asia is home to a wealth of unique animals that can only maybe be seen in zoos back in the United States. Giving your kids the chance to see Asian elephants in their natural habitat, spot wild silver langur monkeys in the treetops, or frolic with free-flying butterflies is a great reason to plan a family trip around the wildlife of Southeast Asia. Here are a few unique ways to experience the exotic animals in Southeast Asia.
Read more at trekaroo.com
Conde Nast Traveler: Southeast Asia Itinerary
A reader asks Conde Naste, “What is the best way to temple hop in Southeast Asia?” and the editors detail an itinerary rich in culture and food. “Start in Siem Reap, Cambodia, gateway to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. You can see both sites on your own, but you’ll get much more context from professional guides like those arranged by Andrea Ross of Journeys Within.”
Read more at Conde Nast Traveler
Fah Thai Magazine: Dream Weavers
For generations in far northern Laos, master craftswomen have been creating exquisite textiles – often hailed as Asia’s best – that tell of a land steeped in myth. But as writer and textile obsessive Rachna Sachasinh discovers while on a journey from Luang Prabang, these storytellers are now finding innovative ways to adapt to a culture in transition.
Read more at Fah Thai Magazine
Wendy Perrin: Rookie Travel Mistakes to Avoid in Asia
April 7, 2015
One big rookie mistake that travelers make is assuming you’ll ride through the jungle on an elephant and “discover” Angkor Wat! It’s best to be realistic that this is a major international destination and plan accordingly. You can avoid the crowds and have a more special experience if you get an early start and begin at the back entrance to Angkor Wat, or visit lesser-known temples. If you head in unprepared, you’ll be in the middle of packs of tourists and you won’t really get to see anything. —Andrea Ross, Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Peter Greenberg: Finding Your Own Southeast Asia
March 30, 2015
Our wok on the wild side was just one highlight of an independent, four-week trip we took in midwinter to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. While group tours can cover lots of ground with minimum hassle, we wanted to set our own schedules on this landmark occasion. We turned to the custom travel wizards at Journeys Within Tour Company, whose regional specialists can help you make the most of your time, money, and inclinations.
Read more at petergreenberg.com
Wendy Perrin: Vietnam: Insider’s Guide
January 27, 2015
Hotels worth the splurge
In Saigon: the Caravelle Saigon. The Heritage Wing has been renovated, and the Signature rooms—which include access to a private lounge for breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktails, and evening canapés—make a big hotel feel much more intimate and personal.
In Hanoi: The Sofitel Metropole is a wonderful escape from the craziness of the city’s traffic and noise.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
January 14, 2015
Not only did Ross find Siem Reap brimming in ancient history, religion and culture, she also found a hamlet of welcoming and gracious people who had overcome insurmountable struggles, like the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s in which an estimated 1.5 to 3 million Cambodians were killed by the Communist Khmer Rouge regime. Six months after that trip, Andrea and Brandon left the United States again, this time moving to Siem Reap, otherwise known as the gateway to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. “We wanted to have an adventure, and we felt like Cambodia had so much potential,” Ross said.
Read more at sierrasun.com
Wendy Perrin: Cambodia: Insider’s Guide
October 30, 2014
Best bang-for-your-buck hotel
Knai Bang Chatt is a charming hotel with great service and gorgeous sea views, right on the ocean in Kep. It was designed in the 1960s with clean lines and open exterior walkways by a protégé of the important Cambodian Modernist architect Vann Molyvann…..
Restaurant the locals love
The Sailing Club at Knai Bang Chatt in Kep has amazing views, and the seafood is fresh and delicious. Every Men in Black II fan remembers the line about the one-dollar lobster dinner in Cambodia—this is the modern equivalent of that! In Phnom Penh, I love Friends the Restaurant....
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Wendy Perrin: The WOW List: Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts
October 14, 2014
Wendy Perrin reveals a sampling of the best trip planners and travel specialists she’s found in 25 years of reporting on the travel industry.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Wendy Perrin: How to Choose the Right Boat for Halong Bay, Vietnam
October 7, 2014
Insider tips from one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Vietnam
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Wendy Perrin: Angkor Wat, Cambodia: Insider’s Guide
September 14, 2014
What not to do in Angkor Wat, how to avoid the temple crowds, and expert tips for making your visit truly special.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
Wendy Perrin: Get Exotic Luxury for Less in Southeast Asia
May 27, 2014
In Southeast Asia your travel dollar stretches far. Eperience exotic luxury on a budget by choosing the right hotels in the right locations.
Read more at wendyperrin.com
January 6, 2014
A small boutique hotel in Southeast Asia called Journey’s Within, specializes in what they call “Active Philanthropy.” The idea is that when travelers visit a community, their visit must have a tangible, positive impact. Their philanthropy started with a simple tour – The Give and Take Tour – which allowed guests to visit Cambodia, see the sites, and volunteer at a local school. This popular tour has since evolved into a foundation called Journey’s Within Our Community (JWOC), whose slogan “See a Problem, Solve a Problem” has led to the development of clean water wells, language schools, scholarship programs, and much, much more.
Journey’s Within customizes all of their tours, including a family fun giving back vacation which includes visits and volunteer opportunities at JWOC project sites. Journey’s Within notes that this particular family tour is “a way to give back and become a part of a better future for this country and to show your kids the amazing rewards of helping others”.
Read more at trekaroo.com
ArchetypeMe: Tomorrow’s Trips Today: Cambodia
May 31, 2013
We ask travel experts not where we’ll all be going in the future, but where they’re going now. Today we talk to Andrea Ross of Journeys Within.
People have been going to Angkor Wat for years, usually for just a few days tacked on to a larger trip. But now as Cambodia is becoming more accessible it’s a destination in its own right. People are beginning to take full two-week trips there, who are going to get below the surface and see the country in new, exciting ways.
Read more at archetypeme.com
Salon: Your vacation is unethical
March 26, 2013
Pay attention to a few simple things, however, and your money and travel can do a lot of good
If you want to get more ambitious in applying ideals to your itineraries, you can plan your next trip through a nonprofit organization that sidesteps global corporations where possible and strives to put revenue in the hands of local communities….
In Cambodia, Journeys Within runs tours and operates a B&B in Siem Reap with a swimming pool and garden. (In fact, the organization runs tours in several Asian countries.)
Read more at salon.com
Asia Newswire: Journeys Within extends its philanthropic reach underwater
March 21, 2013
Turning an old friendship into a new partnership, Journeys Within founder Andrea Ross has joined forces with a former classmate in an effort to preserve the world’s largest underwater animals.
Journeys Within is proud to announce Ross as the newest board member to join long-time friend Dr. Andrea Marshall’s Mozambique based organization, Marine Megafauna Foundation. Created in 2009, the Marine Megafauna Foundation works to research and protect populations of large marine species including sharks, rays, marine mammals and turtles that are found along the Mozambican coastline.
“We have long known the power of philanthropic travel when it comes to community development and our work in Southeast Asia has only highlighted that. When done right, travel can have a truly positive impact. The trips run by Marine Megafauna not only raise money for conservation, but also give travelers a new appreciation for the oceans and their creatures,” said Ross. “To me the power of these travelers in ocean conservation hasn’t even been tapped into yet so being on the board and looking at how this might happen is incredibly exciting.”
Read more at asianewswire.net
Way Beyond Borders: ‘Pinch me’ moments in Southeast Asia
January 26, 2013
As the stars fade and the colours of the sky slowly begin to change, the dark shadows of the immense temple walls gradually emerge. The anticipation builds among the hushed crowd as the temple’s towers and their reflection in the moat surrounding the vast complex become increasingly clear. And then, this visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking scene reveals itself in full glory, rendering viewers speechless; its a truly amazing moment.
Seeing Angkor Wat was just one of many such ‘pinch me’ moments I had during my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with Journeys Within, an award-winning Southeast Asia tour company. I actually stopped counting them after just a few days into my fascinating cultural odyssey; they came so fast and furious, one after another, all I could do was continue to pinch myself to ensure I wasn’t dreaming….
Read more at waybeyondborders.com
January 16, 2013
A guerra civil no Camboja e as barbaridades impetradas pelos guerrilheiros Khmer Rouge assombraram o mundo na segunda metade dos anos 1970. Mas o choque daqueles que conviveram in loco com o massacre foi bem maior. Conhecer vítimas das atrocidades, encontrar milhares de órfãos, descobrir centenas de crânios empilhados ou visitar antigos campos de torturas são experiências que mexem com as emoções de qualquer pessoa, de qualquer raça….
Read more at colunas.revistaepoca.globo.com
Your Travel Choice: A Sustainable Journey in Angkor Wat
January 15, 2013
Seeking a Sustainable and Authentic Angkor Wat Experience
The massive temples of Angkor Wat were left to the mercy of the forest for decades while the Cambodian government restructured and its people recovered from years of tragic genocide and conflict under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 70s. Since it became a World Heritage site in 1992 and international development funds have supported its restoration, Angkor Wat quickly flourished as a major tourism attraction in the region. Last year alone, it attracted an estimated 2 million tourists.
I asked myself, how do we experience the highlights of this amazing place without having the mass of visitors steal its authenticity. One sure bet is to find a sustainable tour operator. In Cambodia, we got in touch with Andrea Ross, who runs Journeys Within, an acclaimed operator in Southeast Asia that offers customized tours. Andrea’s reputation and expertise has been recognized internationally; for the past 5 years she has been listed in Wendy Perrin Travel Specialist List, published by Condé Nast Traveler.
Read more at yourtravelchoice.org
The Dreammakers: Wendy Perrin’s Top 150 Travel Specialists (pdf)
Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam
Andrea Ross, Journeys Within Tour Company Ross, who lived in Cambodia for ten years, often peppers itineraries with philanthropic elements, enabling travelers to engage with the local commu- nity. Her affordable rates make her a great option for travelers on a budget.
Download PDF brochure from cntraveler.com
Trekaroo: Cambodia with Kids? Oh Yes!
While looking for family-friendly accommodation in Siem Reap, we found Journeys Within Boutique Hotel, one of the few properties that explicitly described themselves as having family-friendly accommodations.
We were delighted to discover that not only did they have a family-friendly hotel, owners Andrea and Brandon Ross live in Siem Reap with their young kids and run a tour company. Journeys Within plans custom tours for families looking to discover Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Right from the get go, Andrea was a wealth of suggestions for kid-friendly things to do around Siem Reap. It’s no wonder that she knew exactly what we would find interesting.
Being Americans themselves they totally understood what would be intriguing and what would be challenging for a family coming from the west. At the same time having lived in Cambodia for the past 8 years with their young kids, they really had the inside scoop on what’s kid-friendly. After just a few email exchanges, we had a wonderful itinerary planned, packed with lots adventures beyond the temples. I would probably not have considered many of the adventures for lack of information about whether they were kid-friendly or not.
I couldn’t have possibly anticipated how much it would reduce my stress as the default trip planner in our family to have Journeys Within take care of all the logistics. I think it was worth every extra penny we paid even before we stepped foot on the plane. We started each day being greeted by our smiling driver and English speaking guide, Santu, ready to show us their wonderful country. Andrea had handpicked our guide because other families had reported back that he was great with kids and indeed he was. Our usually shy boys quickly warmed up to him and loved listening to the stories he told.
Since we were the only ones in our tour group (yes, it is a fully customized tour), it never mattered whether we were late to start the day. Instead of spending 45 minutes each morning figuring out the logistics of moving our family of 5 around for the day and arguing about the itinerary, we were able to focus on getting our kids ready for the day’s adventures and immersing ourselves in the experiences of the day. I never realized how distracted I often am during our trips because, I’m multitasking between attending to the needs of children and thinking about where we’re heading to next.
Read more at trekaroo.com
Traveler Magazine: 2012 Tours of a Lifetime
China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam: Down the Mekong
From the mountain gorges of China’s Yunnan Province to the South China Sea, this month-long odyssey wends down the Mekong River through six countries on a series of boats. Woven into the itinerary are cultural forays off the river—sharing a traditional dinner with a Laotian family or attending a service at a Cao Dai temple in Vietnam, whose adherents worship Jesus, Confucius, and Buddha…
Read more at travel.nationalgeographic.com
Condé Nast Traveler: 32 Trips of a Lifetime
Southeast Asia: Temples, Jungles, and Beaches
Be Indiana Jones by day—ride elephants, meet monks, climb remote temples where wild monkeys roam—but retreat to luxury each night.
Read more at worldonsale.cntraveler.com
Adventures All Around: Journeys Within Boutique Hotel
April 4, 2012
Apart from the fact that it was so peaceful, and comfortable, and filled with lovely employees, and had delicious food, and a talented masseuse, I was impressed with the Journeys Within philosophy, and the way they’re helping the local people.
As well as employing local people both in the hotel and training them as tour guides, Brandon and Andrea have established the non-profit organisation, Journeys Within Our Community. The organization does everything from teaching locals English and digging wells for fresh water, to offering microfinance so people can start businesses and break free of the poverty cycle.
Read more at adventuresallaround.com
Budget Travel Real Deals:
On her 55th birthday, Sandy Snowe received a cake in her hotel room—9,000 miles from her Merritt Island, Fla., home. “It was absolutely gorgeous,” she says. It was also one of many personal touches she came to call “Andrea moments,” after Andrea Ross, whose Southeast Asia tour company Journeys Within arranged Snowe’s 2004 Cambodia trip.
Snowe found Journeys Within, then less than a year old, through its first Real Deal, and Ross has developed a fondness for Read Deals fans, too. “BT readers are the people I stay in touch with,” she says. “They set us up for success.” To show their appreciation (and to celebrate the Dec. 1 reopening of their Siem Reap B&B, now the Journeys Within Boutique Hotel), Ross and her husband, Brandon, are offering the same deal Snowe snagged—at its 2004 price, 42 percent off today’s rates. “I wanted to find a way to say thank you.”
$875 for a seven-night trip with privately guided tours, domestic flights, and many meals, Dec. 1, 2011-Feb. 29 2012
The Constant Traveler: Travel Pioneers in Southeast Asia
October 12, 2011
Andrea and Brandon Ross fell in love with Southeast Asia on their very first visit, then moved to Cambodia in 2003 to start Journeys Within, a travel agency headquartered in Siem Reap at the threshold of Angkor.
They were pioneers at the time. In the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge genocide and civil war that claimed the lives of at least two million people between 1975 and 1998, the town was a run-down backwater. But the young American couple knew it wouldn’t stay that way.
Now Siem Reap has a population of about 100,000, an international airport, a branch of the national museum and ritzy hotels catering to millions of people who visit Cambodia every year to see the 150-square-mile archaeological park at Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site enshrining the singular art and architecture of the Khmer Empire…Read more at Smithsonian.com
Travel Weekly: An exceptional tour, traced to its roots
August 15, 2011
The origin story of a new tour is background for a wonderful expression of humanity
I recently came across a very interesting travel business that has its roots in the friendship of two girls named Andrea who went to the same high school in Danville, Calif. Andrea Ross and Andrea Marshall shared not only first names, but a desire to make an impact on the world and, to quote Ross, to have “adventure in our lives….” Read more at travelweekly.com
Los Angeles Times: Journeys Within: a tour company in Cambodia, a helping hand in Cambodian communities
May 15, 2011
When Brandon and Andrea Ross started Journeys Within, a tour company and B&B just outside Siem Reap, in 2003, they also were struck by the living conditions, especially in the countryside where people lack clean water, healthcare and all but rudimentary education.
Living here made Brandon, an American who grew up in Park City, Utah, appreciate his good fortune. At the same time, it changed him fundamentally. “I can’t go back to seeing things the way I did before,” he said.
The Ross travel enterprise, which offers special trips in Southeast Asia, such as a 30-day descent of the Mekong River from Yunnan Province in China to the delta in Vietnam, morphed into a charitable institution when the couple noticed how little money it takes to do big things in Cambodia….Read more at latimes.com
The Perrin Post: Family Travel Contest: Tips for International Travel with Kids
April 20, 2011
Throughout April I’m sharing some of my favorite contest entries here on The Perrin Post, and today’s entry comes from Andrea Ross of Journeys Within, a boutique Southeast Asia tour company that Condé Nast Traveler readers love (just read these traveler reviews to see how much).
Journeys Within is also the recipient of a Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Award for its projects that alleviate poverty and improve health in the Southeast Asian communities in which it operates. Here are Andrea’s tips for traveling internationally with kids….Read Andrea’s Tips on the Perrin Post at concierge.com
Shanghai Talk Magazine:
Journeys Within, a tour company that offers an experience with bed & breakfasts and charitable foundations, has a slightly different approach by taking visitors to see what their donation has made possible.
They call it “active philanthropy” because travellers don’t just write a check to a charity, but instead travel and visit that charity, participating in the English class they helped fund, meeting the recipients of the well they provided or having lunch with the scholarship student they’re supporting….Read more at shanghai.talkmagazines.cn
Los Angeles Times: Beyond Angkor, Cambodia, a Khmer kingdom emerges from the jungle
March 6, 2011
Journeys Within, a small tour company with a bed-and-breakfast inn just outside Siem Reap, arranged my trip. I traveled in a van driven by trusty So Sopheap, who gave me a cool cloth from an ice chest at every stop, with Kham Sina as my wise and gentle guide….Read more at latimes.com
Gadling.com: Women’s only adventures popular option
As we reported recently, the adventure travel market has grown into an $89 billion industry. With that kind of money being tossed around, it is only natural for the travel options to diversify and one of the fastest growing segments of the industry is women’s only travel. On these adventures, the men are left behind, and the girls get to have all the fun, as they visit remote, far flung corners of the globe on a trip of a lifetime. Read more at gadling.com
Blast Magazine: Newburyport girls making a difference in Cambodia
Most 13 year old girl’s lives revolve around school, friends and the boy that sits across from them in math class they have a crush on. Life doesn’t seem to go much further then the latest sale at the mall. Leah Petty and Claire Miller are not like most 13-year-old girls. For the past three years, the Newburyport girls have been raising money for the children of Cambodia. Read more at blastmagazine.com
Conde Nast Traveler: Andrea Ross – Top Travel Specialist
Andrea Ross lives in Cambodia six months of the year—when not in California she runs the Journeys Within B&B in Siem Reap with her husband—and can pepper Southeast Asian itineraries with philanthropic elements, enabling travelers to engage with the local community. Her favorite secret destination? Battambang, Cambodia’s little-visited second-largest city, which fell under Thai rule for more than a century but today has few crowds visiting its beautiful temples. Her affordable rates make her a great option for travelers on a budget. Read more at concierge.com
Chicago Tribune: 15-day Culinary Immersion Tour
The 15-day Culinary Immersion Tour from Journeys Within Tours visits Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with the emphasis, naturally, on sampling local cuisine. Included are cooking classes and meals with local families. Read more from at chicagotribune.com
Los Angeles Times: Vacationing with charity-minded tour operators
Education is a major focus for this company’s allied nonprofit, Journeys Within Our Community. Using private donations, many of them from past tour customers, it is providing scholarships for more than than 100 university students in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Read more at latimes.com
Trust your Southeast Asia adventure to Journeys Within, a boutique tour operator run by Andrea and Brandon Ross, a husband-and-wife team with office in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Expect unique and customizable tours to places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Hue, Mandalay, Bagain, Angkor Wat, and more.
Chicago Tribune: A Month on the Mekong
Though the Exclusive Mekong Experience: Six Countries, One River journey doesn’t depart until October, you may want to start planning now because it’s a month long. You will visit China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, stopping to check out big cities and ethnic villages, ancient temples and pagodas and cultural performances and ceremonies. Read more at chicagotribune.com
Planet Good Radio: Vacations That Create Change
This week on Planet Good Radio, our guest is Andrea Ross, founder of Journeys Within Bed & Breakfast and Tour Company/Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC). For the last 6 years, Journeys Within B&B and Tour Company has been offering tours throughout SE Asia and is a pioneer in philanthropic travel and voluntourism, in fact being named a Conde Naste Travel World Saver because of their focus on helping their community. Listen to the Planet Good Radio episode at blogtalkradio.com
Do the Right Thing on Truth.Travel: A Tour Operator’s Take on Philanthropic Travel
Welcome to Do the Right Thing on Truth.Travel, our online forum to talk about all the things responsible travel. Today we present travel specialist, entrepreneur, and philanthropic travel expert Andrea Ross of Journey’s Within. Andrea will be a regular blogger for Do the Right Thing so stay tuned for more posts from Southeast Asia. Don’t miss Dinda Elliott’s opening post on the thinking behind Do the Right Thing. Read more at truth.travel
Reader Report: “My wife and I turned to Journeys Within to plan our week in Laos,” says Shell Harvey of Victoria, B.C. “Shortly after our boat tour of Kong Lor Cave on the third day, I realized I’d lost my passport. The company helped with transportation, hotels, and translating the paperwork—and didn’t charge me extra. Outstanding!”
Girlfriend Getaways: Fly Girl – Andrea Ross
After her first sojourn to Australia at age 7, the founder of Journeys Within Tour Company and B&B never looked back. Today, Ross and her husband offer trips to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Below, a few of this seasoned globe-trotter’s favorite things. Read more at girlgetaways.com
Condé Nast Traveler: 126 Top Travel Specialists
Top Travel Specialist: Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand
Andrea Ross lives in Cambodia six months of the year—when not in California, she runs the Journeys Within B&B in Siem Reap with her husband—and can pepper Southeast Asian itineraries with philanthropic elements, enabling travelers to give back to the local community. Her favorite secret destination? Battambang, Cambodia’s little-visited second-largest city, which fell under Thai rule for more than a century but today has few crowds visiting its beautiful temples. Her affordable rates make her a great option for travelers on a budget. Read more at concierge.com
Capitalist Chicks: Social Entrepreneur – Andrea Ross
Andrea Ross is one of those rare individuals who experienced an epiphany, gave up corporate work, and took a great risk in establishing her two businesses, Nikaya Handcrafted and Journeys Within Inc. Based in Cambodia, her companies are devoted to raising awareness of the needs of Southeast Asians and to alleviate poverty and improve health conditions in Southeast Asia. Read more at capitalistchicks.com
Download an MP3 Podcast (13.9 MB): Capitalist Chicks Podcast – Andrea Ross
Gerry & Judy Laird, voluntourists, Joanne Majewski, Alternative Breaks Coordinator for the Center for Service and Action at Loyola Marymount University, and Andrea Ross, Founder of Journeys Within Tour Company (JWTC) and Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC), will join David Clemmons to discuss the following: 1) How has JWOC integrated the tourism knowledge of JWTC with service to the local community? 2) When considering voluntourists’ needs in juxtaposition to the needs of communities, how has JWOC been able to maintain a balanced perspective? 3) As voluntourists (Gerry & Judy) and past voluntourists (Joanne), what advice and constructive feedback are you providing and have you provided to JWOC before, during, and/or after your trip? Listen at talkshoe.com
Download the MP3 (27.3 MB): Interview with David Clemmons -JWOC
Customized travel itinerary – check! Luxury amenities – check! Historic locale and giving back to the community – check, check!
Sometimes the best things in life are unplanned. Andrea Ross and her husband, Brandon, set out touring Southeast Asia with no intentions of visiting Cambodia….
Along the way, they heard some many wonderful things from travelers about Cambodia, they booked their trip and fell in love with the “hope and excitement” Cambodians have for their country.
ABC News Money Matters: Socially Conscious Travel
See Andrea and Narla discuss Journeys Within, JWOC, and the potential of philanthropic travel live on ABC News Money Matters.
Condé Nast Traveler: 2008 World Savers Awards
The 38 companies celebrated on these pages are turning the travel industry’s enormous potential to improve the planet into reality. Travel worldwide will generate $8 trillion in revenue this year, and these, our annual World Savers Awards, are one indication of how the industry is measuring up to that opportunity. The trend is striking: We received applications from 142 companies this year—a record during the 14 years of the awards, and a twofold increase over 2007.
The 17 judges—academics, activists, CEOs, and philanthropists (see page Jeffrey Sachs)—looked at five areas: poverty alleviation; cultural and environmental preservation; education; wildlife conservation; and health. But the process of arbitrating the awards belies the human drama of the achievements themselves. From building schools and furnishing much-needed medical supplies to restocking wildlife reserves and dispensing micro-loans, these World Savers are models for their peers—each story an inspiration for others to follow. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, here’s hoping that this year’s winners are flattered by every other airline, cruise line, hotel, and tour operator on earth.
Winner in Health: Journeys Within Our Community
When Andrea and Brandon Ross moved to Cambodia in 2003 to start a tour company and a bed-and-breakfast, they discovered that nearly two-thirds of the population lacked access to clean water, contributing to serious health problems. Little by little, the Rosses are changing that. They launched Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC), a nonprofit that offers scholarships for university students, holds free English classes, provides micro-loans for small businesses, and builds village water wells. Puzzled by the recent fad of Americans doing construction work on volunteer vacations, JWOC instead hires locals, helping to solve unemployment problems, as well. “You don’t use someone with a Harvard degree to build a well,” says Brandon. So far, JWOC has added more than 180 wells to the landscape around Siem Reap, helping nearly 4,000 Cambodians to escape water-related disease. Travel tip: For $300, you can pay for the construction of a well that will supply about 20 people with water and then visit the families and communities it benefits.
Honorable Mention in Poverty Alleviation: Journeys Within Our Community
Journeys Within Our Community runs a Village Microfinance Fund with profits from its tour business and guest contributions. Once a recipient has paid back the original loan (beginning at $100) and interest, he or she can take out another, larger loan.
Honorable Mention in Preservation (Environment/Culture): Journeys Within Our Community
This Southeast Asia company builds cultural experiences into all of its trips—visiting a Khmer dance class in Cambodia, a rice paper producer in Laos, or a weaving village in Vietnam.
Read more at concierge.com
Condé Nast Traveler: 128 World’s Top Travel Specialists
Over the past nine years, as online travel-planning tools have gotten better, our standards for the travel specialists on this list have gotten higher. To earn a spot, after all, you must be able to do for travelers what they cannot do for themselves. The travel planners on the following pages all have on-the-ground experience that is both extensive and recent — making their advice more timely than what you’ll find on a lot of websites — and also have insider connections and special access that no site can duplicate….
Cambodia: Andrea Ross
Journeys Within Tour Company, Truckee, California
Ross lives in Cambodia six months of the year — when not in California, she runs the Journeys Within B&B in Siem Reap with her husband — and can pepper Southeast Asian itineraries with philanthropic elements, enabling travelers to give back to the local community. Her favorite secret destination? Battambang, Cambodia’s little-visited second-largest city, which fell under Thai rule for more than a century but today has few crowds visiting its beautiful temples. Her affordable rates make her a great option for travelers on a budget. Read more at concierge.com
Daily Traveler: Help Cyclone Victims in Myanmar
Remember the devastating cyclone that hit Myanmar (also known as Burma) back in May? Just vaguely, right? While the news media quickly moved on to cover the riots in Tibet and the Democratic primaries, those in Myanmar are still trying to pick up the pieces, with little help from their ruling junta. More than 138,000 people are listed as dead or missing. The tourist season is approaching, and a drop in visitors could devastate the country’s already battered economy.
That’s where you can help: Consider planning a trip to Myanmar through Journeys Within. This tour operator has just announced that, from December 2008 to December 2009, it will funnel much of its profits from Myanmar itineraries to that country’s relief efforts. Specifically, Journeys Within will donate ALL of the profits from the first ten trips that it plans to Myanmar, and half of the profits from the rest of the trips during the year. Journeys Within owner Andrea Ross told me, “Most of the country has not suffered any damage but is now struggling because the tourism industry has essentially collapsed. Guides, drivers, and hotel staff are all facing uncertain futures.” I can personally vouch for the high quality of Journeys Within’s tours: I traveled to Cambodia with them last December, and wrote an article about my voluntourism experience that appeared in Conde Nast Traveler’s May issue.
The company’s nonprofit arm, Journeys Within Our Community, has already been instrumental in Cyclone Nargis relief efforts. Director Jesse Wolfe was among the first aid workers let into Myanmar after the disaster, and you can read his assessment of the situation on JWOC’s Web page.
You can also read a paean to Myanmar that was published in Conde Nast Traveler before the cyclone hit, and check out the suggested itineraries from Journeys Within. Read more at concierge.com
Condé Nast Traveler:
You don’t have to wear a shirt to do good. Brook Wilkinson goes luxe in Southeast Asia and figures out how to give back, too.
“You took the helicopter ride around the temples of Angkor Wat? How much does that cost?” the monk asked, his eyes showing an incomprehension that his shaved eyebrows could not. Appearing daily in his saffron robes, he was a standout student in the advanced English class that I was helping to teach. “Two hundred and fifty dollars,” I replied, staring ashamedly at the wooden desk in front of me. Over the course of my thirty-minute joyride, I realized I’d doled out more than many Cambodians earn in a year.
I had come to Cambodia on a luxury volunteer vacation arranged through Journeys Within, a tour operator run by an American couple based in Siem Reap. I’d be spending about half of my time – as most visitors to Cambodia do – exploring Phnom Penh and the cultural relics of Angkor Wat, staying at high-end hotels and touring with private guides. On the other days, I’d be volunteering with the tour operator’s nonprofit Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC). At best, I hoped to alleviate some of the guilt that comes with being a moneyed traveler in the developing world.
Almost every tourist I met in Cambodia expressed a desire to help the country’s people, who suffered so much in the 1970s and 1980s: U.S. bombing runs, a coup d’état, the Khmer Rouge genocide, and Vietnamese occupation. Tourism is now big business in the stabilized country, and improving the quality of life is at least a declared goal for many tourist enterprises. But when I spent $10 at a restaurant that employs street kids and $250 on a helicopter ride piloted by an Austrian expat, I wondered where most of my money was going.
When it came time to volunteer, the benefits were clear. JWOC has awarded scholarships to thirty Cambodian university students who, in return, work five to ten hours a week on one of JWOC’s other initiatives – providing micro-loans to small businesses, building wells, and teaching free English classes. This division of labor is one of the most compelling aspects for JWOC: for the most part, the Cambodians are in charge. As Managing Director Jesse Wolfe told me, “Ultimately we hope to run ourselves out of business.”
I had been skeptical about teaching English; critics argue that short-term volunteers often do more to disrupt a class than to benefit it. JWOC’s courses are all taught by English-speaking students, with volunteers assisting whenever possible. I arrived with no teaching experience. In the beginner class, I stumbled over grammar rules and failed to engage kids. But in the advanced classes, the students seemed to benefit from conversing with a native speaker. The teacher guided me through one lesson on past-tense verbs. As he wrote rules on the board, I spoke them: “Play-d. Talk-t. Need-ed.” If I could help these kids enunciate the final syllables, they would be better equipped to get a job in business or tourism.
In contrast to other volunteer vacation programs, JWOC assigns each volunteer based on professional expertise. One volunteer, a former pharmaceutical executive with a brain for numbers and organization, was put in charge of streamlining the micro-loan program’s books; a volunteer who worked at Visa developed a curriculum that the scholarship students teach loan recipients to help them create business plans; I, meanwhile, was assigned to write two articles for the newsletter to donors. With this system, no time is wasted training volunteers, and JWOC benefits from know-how that it would otherwise have to pay for.
The guilt that I often feel as a traveler in the developing world had little chance to gain traction in Cambodia. My reticence to give money to beggars (I was once scammed by a girl in India) might have lost out to the land mine victims looking for handouts near Siem Reap. But while it was painful to walk by, each time I mentally added another dollar to the check I’d written to JWOC. Harder to justify was the traipsing around Angkor Wat: few sections were roped off, and my guide insisted that we could walk along the weathered stones. The director of Heritage Watch, an NGO trying to conserve cultural artifacts, agreed that unrestricted access is bad but argued that the larger challenge for Cambodia is the brevity of most trips: Tourists typically spend a day or two at Angkor Wat and then move on to Thailand or Vietnam. Journeys Within keeps guests in Cambodia longer, through volunteer work and tours like a kayak trip from a village on Tonle Sap Lake.
I left Cambodia without the weight of the world’s problems on my shoulders. For once I stayed at a first-class hotel in the developing world and didn’t feel some shame at my good fortune. As Journeys Within president Brandon Ross put it, “You may not be able to change the world, but you can change lives.” Just as important was the faith my visit gave me in JWOC. The ideal voluntourism program aims to both make use of travelers’ time and earn their future support. After watching the staff – Americans and Cambodians – work so diligently, I knew that whatever money I could give them would be well spent.
The Mission: Brandon and Andrea Ross’ boutique Southeast Asia tour company Journeys Within strives to give guests authentic experiences in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The couple also formed the nonprofit Journeys Within Our Community organization to spearhead such projects as: a microfinance fund that has loaned over $17,000 to give the poor an opportunity to start or expand a business; a water project that creates wells to provide a safe, dependable water source year round; the Killing Fields Pagoda language school that offers classes in Thai, Japanese, Korean and English; the Dollars for Scholars Fund that gives students university scholarships; and the Than Xuan Peace Village shelter that helps victims from the Vietnam War, To really make a difference, join them on a giving tour of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam while enjoying some of the region’s finest accommodations and experiences.
Your Experience: Personal tours of projects run by president Brandon Ross and private tours of the Angkor temples bring cultural and historic connection so guests bond with the projects they support. Guests meet with Dollars for Scholars leaders to discuss the donors’ interests and strengths. Visits to the villages include bringing donations, collection payments, assessing loan recipients’ business plans and offering advice on how to improve productivity. Guests can donate their time and money to Journeys Within’s English language school.
Give Big: $5,000 will sponsor a language school in Cambodia for a year; $400 will provide a one-year university scholarship.
LA Times Travel & Adventure:
Whether through volunteering or making donations, find ways to make a difference as you travel. An inside look at how to change lives in the places you visit.
Condé Nast Traveler: The Dream List – Experiences That Only Insiders Can Deliver
You can delve deeper into an unfamiliar culture when you’re able to gain access to places, events, and people that are normally off-limits. Below are 40 examples of such extraordinary experiences worldwide, ranging in price from $80 to $12,000. Because of their nature, these opportunities are subject to change and even cancellation. Not all are available every day, some only in limited quantities, and most cannot be booked à la carte but only as part of a larger itinerary. This list is not exhaustive, either: The very act of publicizing some rare experiences offered by the most well-connected travel firms would burn the bridges that make them possible. (Prices quoted are estimates for two people and include just the elements listed.)
Thailand: Elephant Whisperer (Philanthropy, Wildlife)
Meet with Sangduen Chailert, known as Lek, who founded the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai and was named one of Time Asia’s Heroes of 2005. You’ll go with Lek to market to buy the day’s food for her more than 30 rescued elephants (some victims of land mines, others saved from logging duties), have lunch, and help bathe the animals in a nearby river. Time your trip to coincide with the dry season (October through March). Cost: $1,000, including a donation. Source: Andrea Ross, Journeys Within Tour Company
Vietnam: Make Friends, Not War (History)
Go on a private tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels with a war veteran who spent time inside them—having once fought against Americans, Mr. Nam now welcomes them to his country. Beneath Cu Chi village, Vietcong soldiers hid in the narrow passageways, which also served as a food and weapons warehouse, a communications network, and the base of operations for the 1968 Tet Offensive. After crawling around the tunnels, you’ll head back to Mr. Nam’s home for dinner with his family. Cost: $500. Source: Andrea Ross, Journeys Within Tour Company
Condé Nast Traveler: 130 World’s Top Travel Specialists
Unrivaled access, special connections, destination savvy—these are just some of the tools each of these über-agents can deploy to bring the most to your next big trip. In parsing the day-to-day events of an actual itinerary, Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin demonstrates how the intuitive maneuvers of a great travel planner can turn any journey into a smoothly orchestrated, magical experience…
Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam: Andrea Ross, Journeys Within Tour Company
Ross and her husband run a B&B in Siem Reap, and they’ve personally trained every guide they use. Pioneers in travelers’ philanthropy, the couple encourage guests to sponsor a well or spend an afternoon teaching English. Read more at concierge.com
Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel:
$4,500 – With that price tag, you’re probably wondering if you picked up the right magazine. But this once-in-a-lifetime trip is so special – and such a good value – we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you about it. We first introduced Brandon and Andrea Ross in 40 Best last September, a year after they’d sold their home in California and moved to Cambodia. The Rosses run a charming B&B in Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat (the inn has become so popular they’ve added new suites and a swimming pool), and they offer private guided tours of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
This fall, Brandon will be leading a monthlong small-group tour down the Mekong River, from China’s Yunnan Province to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, hitting six countries along the way. The itinerary includes visits to several small towns in southern China before heading downriver to Thailand. Get a real Thai massage in Chiang Rai, bathe in nearby hot springs, and take a day trip into Myanmar by walking across Friendship Bridge. Once in Laos, stop by a Hmong village, see a performance by the Royal Ballet of Luang Prabang, ride a long-tail boat to an ecolodge near Vientiane, and brave and elephant trek near Pakxé. After crossing the border into Cambodia, stay at the Journeys Within B&B and explore magnificent Angkor Wat before heading to Phnom Penh. The last stop is Vietnam, where you can tour the Cu Chi tunnels and Ho Chi Minh City.
The virtually all-inclusive price covers all transportation within southeast Asia (flights, boats, vans and buses), 27 nights in hotels, most meals (breakfast and lunch daily, 10 dinners), all entrance fees, tips for your local guides and drivers, and the services of two Journeys Within tour leaders. When: Departs October 29. from Bangkok. Details: International airfare is not included. Single supplement $500. Maximum group size is 12.
The Park Record:
October 20, 2005
Spurred on by a little publicity, a displaced Parkite in Cambodia is changing lives there with the help of some here in town.
Park City High School graduate Brandon Ross, 26, and his wife, Andrea, have lived in Cambodia for several years, running a bed and breakfast called Journeys Within. The Park Record wrote a story about the Rosses in July of 2004, which struck a chord with Jeremy Ranch’s Donna McAleer, who had visited Cambodia several years previously.
The article reminded McAleer of an impoverished school/orphanage she had visited there, the Killing Fields Pagoda School, so she collected and sent school supplies to them. She never heard back from the school, so she contacted Brandon to see if he would check on it.
“Arriving at the school it was obvious the school needed a lot of help so I said I would do one thing then another and it snowballed to where we are today,” Brandon told the Record in an email.
McAleer inspired her friends Alison Modrovsky and Kailey Slusher, two Treasure Mountain International School seventh-graders, to collect money for the Killing Fields school last year. The drive fulfilled the community service component of their International Baccalaureate curriculum.
The girls raised money by creating and selling crafts and cards.
“It’s great to know that kids in Park City are thinking about those kids less fortunate than them and then to have the drive and tenacity to do something about it is truly commendable,” Brandon said.
Because of that money, the school has a new coat of paint, new fans and better electricity because the girls raised $200. One of the reasons the girls wanted to help the Cambodian school is because money goes so much farther there than it does in the United States, Modrovsky said.
“It affects them more than it would us,” she added.
The girls’ efforts prompted Brandon to form a non-profit organization Journeys Within Our Community to help.
‘If everyone was just willing to help when they see the need then I think Cambodia could continue to improve and the children here would be able to see a much brighter future,” Brandon continued.
Journeys Within Our Community’s projects include the school, a clean water project, and an effort to help advanced students get higher levels of education. The Rosses also facilitate volunteer work in Cambodia by tourists.
“Our guests that have participated have loved it and the projects, especially the school, have benefited so much from the Western input,” Brandon said.
Humanitarian efforts are important to the Rosses.
“I was lucky,” Brandon wrote. “I was born in a rich country with so many opportunities. I got to choose where I wanted to live and start a business. I chose to live in a very poor country. I think when you see how much you have and how little others have you have to justify it somehow and for me it is that I can use my good fortune to help others.”
The topic of orphans in Asia is particularly to McAleer because her sister was adopted from Korea and her brother from the Phillipines.
Modrovsky’s advice to other students who want to get involved in community service is, “Find something you’re good at, or something you like to do, then find an organization that does that and contact them.”
They plan to continue their fundraising efforts this year. Modrovsky hopes to travel to Cambodia to visit.
“I definitely want to do that,” she said.
Brandon’s favorite quality of the Cambodian people is their smiles.
‘They love to laugh and smile, and even without knowing anything about them it’s easy to believe they have the greatest smiles, but then when you think of their history and how hard their life is even today, it is amazing how much they smile,” he said.
When Brandon feels stressed, he says he goes in front of his building to watch everybody laughing and smiling. “I figure there’s no way my life is harder than theirs and you can’t help but smile back,” he said.
Family Travel Forum: Cambodia’s Siem Reap Alive With Travelers
Journeys Within, a bed and breakfast and tour company located close to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, offers a first-time Asia experience suitable for families.
Within sight of ruins nearly 1,000-years-old, the little Journeys Within B&B and Bungalows ( 877/454-3672) and tour company has been in business for over two years now in Cambodia. Founded by American ex-pat husband and wife partners Brandon and Andrea Ross, the Siem Reap-based business hosts travelers visiting the famous Buddhist shrine of Angkor Wat and guides them on personalized tours of Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, and along the mighty Mekong River from China to Vietnam. Read more at myfamilytravels.com
International Travel News:
November 4, 2005
Journeys Within Bed & Breakfast…owned and operated by an American family. They offer great tips and transportation; they even pick you up at the airport.
Delightfully furnished individual suites each with a bathroom, how water, air-conditioning and balcony. Definitely a 5-star rating. $50 single.
Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel:
Last year, Brandon and Andrea Ross decided to sell their house in southern California and move to Cambodia, a country they’d fallen in love with when backpacking through Southeast Asia a few years ago.
In January, the Rosses got married, opened a B&B in a quiet Siem Reap neighborhood (near the giant temple complex of Angkor Wat), and started running private tours of the area. Their company, Journeys Within, is the first of its kind in Cambodia to be owned and operated by Americans. Because she and Brandon live in Siem Reap, Andrea says travelers feel a level of service and security they can’t get from companies based in the U.S., half a world away. All of the local guides are handpicked, and the Rosses will handle everything from restaurant recommendations to lost passports.
Journeys Within currently offers several itineraries in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam and also creates custom trips. The Big Three Cambodia tour includes Angkor Wat, Battambang, and the capital of Phnom Penh for $875. You get domestic flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap and from Phnom Penh to Bangkok; a scenic boat ride from Siem Reap to Battambang; transportation from Battambang to Phnom Penh in a private car with a driver; three nights at the Journeys Within B&B in Siem Reap and one night each at hotels in Battambang and Phnom Penh; an English-speaking guide throughout; and most meals.
When: Year-round. Details: Airfare from the U.S. to Bangkok is not included. Extra nights at the B&B from $50. Single supplement $227.
July 11, 2004
By Judy Green, Bee Staff Writer
When you head out on your own to an exotic destination, it helps to have a friend in the castle, so to speak. If Angkor Wat, the complex of sacred temples in northern Cambodia, is your goal, your castlekeepers may be Andrea and Brandon Ross, a California couple with Sacramento ties. They have opened a tour company and bed-and-breakfast in Siem Reap, the city closest to the ancient wonders.
Well-traveled for a pair of 25-year-olds, the newlyweds decided to chuck the Western rat race for an unpredictable life in Cambodia, a country they have loved since their first visit two years ago. Brandon’s father is Toby Ross, city manager of West Sacramento. He and his wife, Jo, plan to visit for the first time in September.
Andrea and Brandon married six months ago in Phuket, Thailand, and opened Journeys Within Tour Co. and Bed & Breakfast to meet what they see as a growing wave of travelers wanting to see Angkor Wat. According to Andrea, it’s the first business of its kind in Cambodia to be owned and run by Americans.
From their insider perch, they create tour packages and independent itineraries for Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. They live and work from their three-bedroom B&B, which is about 10 minutes from the entrance of the Angkor Wat complex.
Among their recent guests is Steve Bartmasser of Berkeley. By e-mail from Vietnam, he writes that his visit to Journeys Within was a four-star experience.
“Their B&B is especially nice for the independent traveler. … They have a great cook … the accommodations were really nice. … great tour guide, spoke great English and was knowledgeable.”
Operating a new business is a daring venture for anyone, but for Andrea and Brandon, both graduates of Chapman University in Southern California, the added challenge is the Khmer language.
“We’re getting better at speaking, but we are not attempting to write it; it’s so difficult!” Andrea writes in an e-mail interview.
“When we first arrived, the language was the most challenging part. I would go to the market every day and perform a charades game. Getting a pillow made included charading with the pillow stuffer, struggling with the couple that sells fabric and with the seamstress. It was exhausting, but when I got the perfect pillow, I was very proud of it.”
Such experiences left Andrea and Brandon drained but laughing at the end of many days. Her comments about how things are going and the kind of advice she offers travelers paint a spirited picture of life in one of the world’s wondrous locales.
Q: How did you decide to call your company Journeys Within?
A: It’s a funny story, and it demonstrates the challenges we face. We had come up with a list of names. We took them to the government for approval. No luck. There were many reasons. from “It doesn’t translate well,” to “I do not like.”
We kept giving the minister more and more names. I was starting to go a little crazy. Finally, Journeys Within just popped into my head, and we got the nod.
Looking back, I love the name. I think it makes people think about what they’re doing.
Q: Do you feel isolated?
A: Sometimes we do. We miss our friends and family and the simplicities of life in America – going to a movie, shopping at a grocery store. We are lucky we really enjoy each other’s company, and with guests coming and going, we have people to talk to.
Q: How many days do you recommend for someone to see the best in Angkor Wat?
A: The highlights can be seen in three full days. This includes not just the “must-see” temples but also glimpses into Cambodian life that we feel are so valuable to a trip here.
We encourage guests to stay an extra day and head out to the remote temples to get away from the crowds.
Q: What time of year do you recommend for visiting?
A: Now is actually really nice. I had expected the summers to be very hot, but June and July seem to be great months here. There is rain most evenings, but the weather is relatively cool and the countryside is beautiful and green.
The official high season is from October to February, when the rains stop and it starts to get dry. My favorite month is November. Things are still green, but you can get to the more outlying temples. January is the coolest month. March, April and May are the worst time, when the country gets very hot and dry.
Q: How do you select your guides?
A: The guide selection was hard. They are all great men and women, and they really need the work.
We met with many of them to see how good their English was and how they felt about guiding and the temples. In the beginning, we thought we would just pick the guides that spoke the best English, but in the end, the guides we work with are the ones that not only speak fairly good English but also have a passion for Angkor Wat and Cambodia. All the feedback we have gotten is that this enthusiasm is what makes the days in the temples great.
Q: Have you made any changes as a result of customer feedback?
A: Some little things – water in each guest room, restaurants list and a full menu here – and some bigger things, such as naps in our tours. Our itineraries were so packed, we were exhausting our guests.
We have also included more glimpses into Cambodian life. We send guests to the Land Mine Museum in Siem Reap, on a boat ride on the Tonle Sap (lake), and in Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia), we take them to the Apsara Arts Association, a nonprofit company that teaches street children the arts of Cambodia so they can get jobs.
Q: What Cambodian foods do you like to eat?
A: Brandon tried deep-fried tarantula the other day, but we tend to not be too exotic in our taste. It’s fascinating to see the staff eat crickets, snakes and spiders, but I steer clear. A guest we had tried the crickets and said they weren’t half bad; I’m not convinced. We do eat a lot of rice, and the curries here are great.
Our breakfasts here are great, too – both Western and Cambodian.
Q: What are the hard parts of running a B&B in a foreign land?
A: The No. 1 difficulty is the language. We’re learning.
The other struggle has been the difference in standards. It takes a lot of time to teach our staff our standards. Their background is so different from ours. They have no concept of setting a table or serving food.
Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure. We have a phone line, but it is supported by twigs, so every time there’s a strong storm, the phone goes out.
Q: What are the pleasures of what you’re doing?
A: They speak for themselves. We live in a fascinating and developing place, and we are doing what we want to do. We work long hours, but we work for ourselves, for our dream, for our life.
We live in a beautiful house with a staff that goes above and beyond to ensure the guests’ and our happiness.
We are also able to help people. Our cook can send her child to school because of us. Our house cleaner had never made money before; now she sends most of it back to help her family in the village.
We are able to not only show guests the beauty and spirit of Cambodia, but through them we are helping the Cambodian people. It is so rewarding.
Brandon chimes in, “We are doing what we love. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Rosses offer Southeast Asia tour packages
Journeys Within Tour Co. maintains an excellent website, www.journeys-within.com. There are pictures of the bed-and-breakfast rooms and of the staff, tour options and comments and pictures from previous guests.
The company maintains a toll-free line – (877) 454-3672 – based in Southern California, which erases the problem of calling across the international date line. Andrea and Brandon Ross also can be reached at P.O. Box 93155, GPO Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia.
The bed-and-breakfast has three air-conditioned rooms, one single and two doubles, all with bathrooms. Room rates are $50 for a single and $95 for a double. Rates include airport transfers.
Although the company makes individual tours, it has seven established tours, including its signature 13-day, all bed-and-breakfast trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia; it starts in Bangkok at $3,950 a couple. Another trip, called Give-and-Take, is a 14-day adventure that gets travelers involved as volunteers.
The Park Record :
July 7-9, 2004
Journeys Within offers guests ‘a break from Asia’
By Jared Whitley
Brandon Ross has done what most Park City High School students only dream of: he’s opened a small bed and breakfast in Cambodia.
The 25-year-old runs “Journeys Within” with his wife, Andrea, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Their business is a five-room bed and breakfast, plus tour service for their patrons.
Journeys Within offers English-speaking tourists the chance to “take a break from Asia,” according to the company’s website, and spend time with other native English speakers in Western-type style and comfort.
Neither of the Rosses had worked in the hospitality industry before opening Journeys Within in January 2004, but they had plenty of experience in travel.
“In the many places we have stayed we have seen how a good hotel is run, and we have definitely learned what not to do!” said Andrea via an e-mail interview.
Life in Cambodia presents many challenges for people who grew up with Western conveniences.
“On good days, it was fun to try to figure out where one goes to buy pillows and pillow covers in a city with no department stores,” Brandon said. “On other days, it was just plain frustrating not being able to find things as simple as flour to cook with.”
“There are many challenges to living in Cambodia,” Andrea said. “But when we see guests appreciating the culture and the people, and we see Cambodians benefiting from tourist influence and dollars, the difficulties seem to melt away and I truly feel that we made the right decision living and working in Cambodia.”
Andrea, originally from England, met Brandon when the two were students at Chapman University in Southern California. Brandon earned a degree in political science and worked as an accountant, which wasn’t exotic enough for him.
In 2002, they took a trip through Asia, exploring Cambodia despite the fact that their guidebooks warned them it was unsafe. They fell in love with the Cambodian people, who are “full of smiles and always friendly: despite the country’s poverty and history of bloodshed, Brandon said.”
About a year after the trip, the Rosses decided to return for a month to test the possibility of opening a tourist business there, and see if they could actually adjust to life in a different culture.
When they saw the Cambodian landscape from the airplane, they knew they wanted to stay there. The next day they went looking for a place to rent “the Cambodian way,” which Brandon describes as driving up and down streets until you see a “for rent” sign.
The Rosses, of course, miss their families and American conveniences. Andrea said, “it’s not really the same” to read about the Sundance Film Festival online when they used to go every year.
Brandon said, “I miss America and everything that it is: football, Fourth of July, parades, Malone in the playoffs, ice-cream, drive-throughs, easy conversations, knowing where to find things and understanding how things get done.” Brandon is the son of Jo Duthie and Toby Ross, former Park City manager.
The Rosses enjoy the variety of experiences Cambodia offers, from the sublime – such as seeing the moon rise over the country’s elegant temples – to the zany – such as watching five grown men ride a motor scooter or advertisements for English schools with misspellings.
“For Cambodia this is the norm, but for us it makes each day an adventure,” Brandon said.
“These are the moments that we’ll always remember,” Andrea said.
The Rosses aren’t sure how long they’ll stay in Cambodia. Andrea guesses that after five years they might consider leaving, depending on how well their business does.
“As long as we’re enjoying it we’ll stay,” Brandon said. “This is a country that we never intended on visiting and now we love it and want to do what we can to make it a better place.”
The Park Record:
August 7, 2004
By Jared Whitley
Donna McAleer is adopting an orphanage in Cambodia, and she wants the rest of Park City to help. A former director of the People’s Health Clinic and new mother, McAleer plans to send school supplies to the Killing Field Pagoda School. She visited the small orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia, while on vacation there two years ago.
She was inspired after reading an article in The Park Record about a Cambodian bed and breakfast run by Parkite Brandon Ross and his wife Andrea.
Before reading the article, McAleer didn’t know the Rosses, although she knew Brandon’s father, Toby, who had been the Park City manager. Since then, she’s been in contact with the Rosses via email, and they want to help with the project, serving as a conduit between Park City donors and the orphanage, since they are in the same city.
“We feel that it is a worthwhile project that could help a lot of children escape their past and enter a brighter future,” Brandon Ross wrote in an email. “The help of the Park City Community is very much appreciated and we think there is a great potential in this partnership.”
The topic of orphans in Asia is particularly important to McAleer because her sister was adopted from Korea and her brother from the Phillipines.
“It was a very, very powerful experience,” McAleer said of her visit to the Siem Reap orphanage.
When McAleer was there, the 30-child orphanage had a small blackboard and one piece of chalk per six children. The monks were teaching them English using 10-year0old newspaper articles, she said.
The orphanage needs basic school supplies like pencils and notepads, plus any material that could help the orphans learn English. Cambodians who know English can get better jobs, because they can communicate with tourists and other Asians from the region, which has a great diversity of languages and dialects.
Local schools or individuals could also donate old supplies, she said.
“Out goal is to try to provide a little bit of hope to these orphan children by providing some supplies for their education,” McAleer said. “Park City has always been so, so generous. There are so many wonderful causes her and so many around the world.”
Mailing items to Cambodia is tricky business. McAleer sent the orphanage a box of supplies in February 2003, and it didn’t arrive until May 2004.
The Rosses have had similar problems.
“Every time we have friends send something we try different strategies and none have come across as foolproof,” Ross said. “In the end most packages sent do make it here, but they often take an inordinate amount of time.”
Packages are usually delivered faster and in better shape than boxes are, Ross said, and there is a small fee for accepting packages. Ross said he’s happy to pay the fee for any donations, but money would work best.
“The easiest, and quickest way is through cash donations,” he said. “Most of the supplies the students need can be bought locally and often at a cheaper prices than in the states.”
Cash donations avoid the risk and delay of sending packages to Cambodia, as well as a $30 fee banks charge to transfer the money internationally, Ross said. Furthermore, it would help the Cambodian economy.
“I understand that sending money into the unknown is a little daunting, but we are very interested in this project and with our background and our ties to Park City, we are hoping (donors) can trust that we will use the money as it is intended,” Ross said.
Ross volunteered to take pictures of the orphans receiving and using donated supplies, and send them to donors with “thank you” notes from the children.
McAleer doesn’t want to set up a non-profit organization to handle the donations, so they will not be tax deductible.
“I think this has the potential to get really huge,” she said. “If we were able to send just $500 over there, that buys a tremendous amount. It would be an incredible effort.”
San Francisco Chronicle:
By Jeanne Cooper
As Cambodia’s appeal to tourists spreads, getting and staying there is becoming less of an adventure.
Malaysia Airlines began regular flights between Kuala Lumpur and Siem Reap, the closest Cambodian city to the famed temples of Angkor Wat, earlier this month.
The new Siem Reap flights are Monday, Thursday and Saturday; the return flight from Sieam Reap includes a stopover in Phnom Penh. Service is on a two-class Boeing 737-400 aircraft with 144 seats. U.S. travelers can fly to Siem Reap via Kuala Lumpur from Los Angeles and Newark, NJ; fares begin at $1,120 and $1,070, respectively, including an overnight hotel stay on the Malaysian capital. For information, call (800) 552-9264 or visit www.malaysiaairlinesusa.com.
Don’t know where to sleep in Siem Reap? The Siem Reap Angkor Wat Hotel and Guesthouse Association’s website, www.angkorhotels.org, offers information and reservations for a range of accommodations. Formed in early 2002, the association is “committed to the development of a responsible and sustainable tourist industry in the Angkor region.”
The industry is certainly growing: In 2003, the latest figures available from the association, Siem Reap had 57 hotels, 120 guesthouses, 27 resorts and 59 restaurants, with another 26 hotels under construction. Last year’s dip in tourism due to the poor U.S. economy and SARS fears, which affected many Asian countries, also appears to be reversing.
One of the newer lodging options is Journeys Within Bed & Breakfast, which opened in January on the outskirts of Siem Reap. Owners Andrea and Brandon Ross say they were inspired by their first visit to Cambodia in 2002 to create both the three-bedroom inn, which blends Western comforts and Cambodian design, and a “boutique tourism” company that focuses on Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.