From the Ground: Royal Sands Koh Rong Opening October 2017

By Jay Austin

Royal Sands Koh Rong  is getting ready to open a new 67 villa luxury resort on Koh Rong Island in Southern Cambodia in October 2017, and is already accepting bookings starting in October.  The villa options include Oceanview Villas, Beachfront Villas, Ocieanview Pool Villas, Beachfront Pool Villas, Two-Bedroom Oceanview Pool Villas and a Three-Bedroom Beachfront Pool Villa.

This luxury property intends to compete with Song Saa Private Island and will also offer a variety of activities such as snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, romantic picnics and excursions by private boat to neighboring islands where you can explore untouched beaches

The Bliss Spa will offer a full range of spa treatments and therapies, along with an outdoor yoga studio for yoga and meditation classes.

The main pool will be located by The Chill Beach Bar and Grill which will offer fresh and delicious lunches, along with more refined dinner options.

This property certainly promises to be a highlight in Cambodia’s South!

From the Ground: Lao Home Cooking

By Nicole Long and Jay Austin

We have a new cooking class option in Laos, and this is not your typical cooking course.  Our guests will have the chance to spend time in an authentic Laotian kitchen, and learn how to cook traditional dishes the local way. Anthony Bourdain recently was in this exact home learning to cook Lao-style by your hosts, Por and Mae Keo.  The tour is completely private so it works very well for small groups and families.

What to expect from this tour:

This morning you will be picked up from your hotel by your guide and transferred by private van to meet today’s Homestyle Lao Cooking instructor at the Phousi Market. You will stroll through Luang Prabang’s largest fresh market and learn about traditional herbs and spices as you pick up the ingredients for today’s menu. Once you have finished shopping at the market, you will head 15 minutes outside of town to Nong Kham Village. With the assistance of your guide, the instructor will go over the day’s menu and demonstrate some of the techniques useful in traditional Lao cooking. Then, just like a typical Lao family, you will be responsible for cooking one of the dishes for lunch. Don’t worry, your guide and Lao chef are nearby to provide any assistance needed! Once the staple dish, Lao sticky rice has finished cooking you will help to set up for lunch. Finally, enjoy your fruits of labor by having lunch the typical Lao way by sitting on the floor and eating family style from a small rattan tray. After lunch, sit back and relax under the breezy wooden and bamboo outdoor sala and enjoy some homemade rice whiskey with your hosts. Once you have had your fill of the pungent Lao Lao you will say goodbye to your hosts and be transferred back to your hotel.

Congratulations Leak on your new role as Andrea’s Booking Coordinator!

We wanted to take the chance to congratulate Leak as she has taken over as Andrea’s new Booking Coordinator!  Leak is an amazing person – very kind, fun-loving, a wonderful mom, and incredibly hard working, and she has worked for Journeys Within for around ten years, as a Central Booking Assistant.  If you have ever taken a tour with Journeys Within, then there is a strong chance that Leak helped put together your tour behind the scenes.

Having spent most of her younger years in Phnom Penh, Sreyleak or ‘Leak’ for short, eventually moved back to her hometown of Siem Reap to be closer to family and friends. She grew up with the dream of working in an office where she would get the opportunity to meet interesting people and work with different cultures. This led her to study Tourism and Hospitality Management at the Angkor City Institute, giving her the chance to share her passion for her country and help people to experience the wonders of Cambodia.  After university, Leak began work at one of the top hotels in Siem Reap, the FCC Angkor, where she worked as Tour Coordinator, organizing interesting and exciting tours for the hotel’s guests. Sreyleak heard about Journeys Within through Linda and the two friends have worked together for years now, first as a Central Booking Assistant, and now as a Booking Coordinator.

Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

Active Philanthropy is a core tenant of Journey’s Within’s company culture.  We believe that a tour company not only has a responsibility to its guests, but also a responsibility to the countries in which we live and work.  Beyond that, we believe that we have a responsibility to our team to provide the opportunity to grow.  As the countries in Southeast Asia develop, we’ve seen our own team members take on new roles, gain new skills and education, found businesses, raise families and blossom.  We are so proud to work with such amazing people!

Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

For other recent Journeys Within Team success stories, read about Central Booking Manager Linda’s hotel, Cambodia Director Makara’s modeling career and role on the JWOC Board, and Regional Director Narla’s career journey!

Photo Credit: Anna Baldwin
Photo Credit: Anna Baldwin

From the Ground: 2 Days in Mandalay

By Nicole Long and Jay Austin

If you find yourself visiting Mandalay with time for more than a typical city tour, we have a new two day itinerary that we love.  This area is known for the coffee plantations and dairy products, and this tour will take you away from the major tourist hubs and to higher altitudes with cooler temperatures.  And, who wouldn’t love taking a vintage train through the Shan Mountains?!

What you can expect from this tour:

Day 1 – Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin: Markets, Botanical Gardens, Thiri Myaing and Peik Chin Myaung Cave

After breakfast, leave the bustling city of Mandalay and set off on a 1 ½-hr drive through the countryside to Pyin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo. Located a good 1000m above sea level, this former British hill station is home to a range of red-brick heritage colonial buildings and provides a much-needed break from the city heat in Mandalay. Explore the town’s markets and quaint cafes, as it is known for fresh produce and delicious coffee. Head to the Botanical Gardens, founded in 1915 by a British botanist, which covers an area of more than 170 acres of land and 70 acres of water. Take your time strolling through the well-manicured gardens and learning about the indigenous plants and flora of the region. In the late afternoon, take a horse-drawn cart to the Thiri Myaing, formerly known as the Candacraig, a beautiful colonial mansion which was built in 1904 by the British Bombay Burma Timber Company. Continue on by car to the Peik Chin Myaung Cave, located about 10 miles from the city, where you can spend some time exploring. Return back to Pyin Oo Lwin for dinner before settling in for the evening.

Day 2 – Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay: Gokteik Train Ride

After an early breakfast, you will be transferred to the train station for your 7am train departure. This morning you will be able to sit back and enjoy the scenery as you take this local train through the countryside for approximately 2 hours. The vintage train and worn wooden benches add to the experience of riding through the beautiful Shan mountains in what feels like a bygone era. One of the major highlights of the train ride will be passing over the 1000ft river gorge on the famous Gokteik viaduct. The bridge was built in 1903 and described as an engineering marvel. You will depart the train at Naungpein where your van awaits. Have lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to Mandalay in the afternoon.

From the Ground: New Culture and Cooking Tour in Duong Lam Village

By Jay Austin

We are excited to offer this new tour, located in Duong Lam Village, outside of Hanoi, provides guests with the rare opportunity to experience a more traditional part of Vietnam, away from the typical travel routes and provides a nice contrast to the frantic pace of bustling Hanoi. This tour offers a mix of culture, cooking and exploring which provides a well-rounded list of activities for the day!

What you can expect from this tour:

Duong Lam Village is located in a farming district of the Red River Delta region. Starting early, you will meet your local guide and take part in a quick workshop in Vietnamese language and market tactics, before you try shopping and bargaining to source the ingredients for your cooking session. Absorb the bustling atmosphere from the authentic village market, and then turn your attention to cooking and enjoying your traditional Northern Vietnamese home-cooked meal.  This village is well known for its tradition of candy-making and you’ll have the chance to try a selection of tasty treats, and perhaps try making some candy yourself! Our team favorite is Kẹo Lạc (peanut brittle) – delicious! After lunch, walk or cycle through narrow alleyways of the area’s villages and open roads of the countryside. Explore age-old ancient houses, observe the unique architecture, and meet the locals.