Health & Wellness Inspiration

Sometimes, the stress of everyday life and the state of the world leaves us thirsting for serenity. Fortunately, it can be found if you just know where to get away to.

In the slideshow below, we feature a few of our favorite retreats throughout the region. Even if you can’t plan a trip there now, sometime just gazing at the photos and picturing yourself there helps us feel a little more relaxed…

  • Alms to monks in Luang Prabang (Photo: Michelle Trader)

Introducing Aklile Mekuria – JWOC’s new Fundraising and Communications Manager

Aklile Mekuria

Here at Journeys Within, we are always excited to meet the new staff at our sister non-profit, Journeys Within Our Community, and share a little about them with our travelers who might pay them a visit on their next stop in Siem Reap. And we’re especially excited to introduce Aklile Mekuria, JWOC’s new Fundraising and Communications Manager, who comes to the organization with an interesting CV from around the world…

Coming from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aklile has joined the dynamic JWOC staff as the Fundraising and Communications Manager. Born and raised in Kenya and Ethiopia, Aklile is no stranger to working with cross-cultural programmes. Having graduated from St. Mary’s College in Hyderabad, India with a degree in Mass Communications and Political Science in 2015, it was only a matter of time before she was back in Asia.

Journeys Within: Where were your born and raised?

Aklile Mekuria: I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. My family lived there for about 25 years. When I was about 7 years old we packed up and moved back to Ethiopia.

JW: What was your first memorable travel experience?

AM: Taking the train to Mombasa from Nairobi. I was perhaps 6 years old but I remember the commotion on the train so well. The trees rushing past the windows, the excitement of going to the beach! When we got there we had such a memorable time, from monkeys stealing our groceries, to camel rides along the beach, and delicious grilled fish by the ocean!

JW: What inspired you to get your degree from a college in India?

AM: India is such a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages, and food! I could honestly think of no better place to learn how to work in a multi-cultural environment than incredible India!

JW: What did you study and why?

AM: I studied Mass Communications and Political Science. I’ve always been a lover of writing and I knew I wanted to work in the international field and these two subjects lined up perfectly for that.

JW: What other not-for-profits/NGOs have you worked with? And how were those experiences?

AM: I’ve always volunteered for NGOs, especially during summer holidays in high school, my parents would always encourage me to give back in any way, even if it was just one hour in a day. Well that grew with me and my first job out of university was the Programme Manager for Girls Gotta Run Foundation in Ethiopia, an organization that empowers young girls through running and education who are at risk of underage marriage in rural Ethiopia. It was such a privilege to work with these strong girls who have taken back ownership of their own lives.

Most recently I worked at the Sustainable Development Goals Centre For Africa in Kigali, Rwanda. It was interested to work at such a macro level and see the way policies were created and carried out after having worked at the micro level in communities. It was really cool to work alongside influential people that have been key to the development of Africa.

JW: When and why did you first visit Siem Reap?

AM: The first time I visited Siem Reap was in February 2017. For as long as I remember I have always wanted to visit Cambodia, but I never really acted on it. Then earlier this year I decided to pack my bags and go for a visit. I initially had plans to travel around South East Asia but I fell in love with the quiet town of Siem Reap and spent the entire month here.

JW: Why did you want to work at JWOC?

AM: The main appeal at JWOC was the solid stance on child protection in all their programs and operations. It’s unfortunate that children are sometimes used as bait to attract donations or guests, however at JWOC I respected the way in which the needs of the child is always prioritized. Additionally, I liked that this organization focuses on Cambodians working with Cambodians for Cambodia. The teachers, community leaders, and the majority of the staff are Cambodians. Who better understands the challenges of Cambodia than Cambodians?

JW: What JWOC projects/initiatives are you most excited about?

AM: I love the Community Support programs! They’re so specific to the challenges Cambodians in the villages face. I had the pleasure of joining the financial literacy training and was immensely impressed in the way Konthea, the Educational Manager, was able to relate and connect with the villagers and provide simple everyday tools that they can adopt.

JW: What’s your favorite cafe/bar in Siem Reap so far?

AM: The Siem Reap Food Co-op, the company is always great and it’s the perfect place to laze around and eat great food.

JW: What’s your favorite Cambodian food?

AM: I love love love amok curry with tofu! Oh, it’s just too good!

JW: What has surprised you the most about living in Siem Reap?

AM: It’s so interesting to view Cambodia through the eyes of someone living here opposed to being a tourist. Experiencing the everyday life beyond the Angkor Wat Temples and pub street has probably been my favourite so far. It’s the small comparisons that remind me of home and family.

JW: What other regions are you most looking forward to exploring?

AM: I have yet to see the Mekong River and I am so excited about it! I also can’t wait to visit Laos, it’s quite high on my list!

Get ready for “The Vietnam War” premiere on PBS

We’ve always been huge fans of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s documentaries. And given that the latest one – “The Vietnam War” – hits so close to home, we’re especially excited to see how this conflict is portrayed.

Click here to watch the extended trailer for the mini-series.

We’re also excited to be partnering with KNPB – our local PBS station in Reno, Nevada – to offer a special 10-day Vietnam tour for two which will take travelers through many of the key areas highlighted in the documentary, and allow people to hear first-hand accounts from survivors of the “American War” as they call it in Vietnam.

Click here for the Remembering the Vietnam War itinerary.

Over the years, we’ve created tours for a number of Vietnam War veterans and their families – tours that have helped bring closure and greater understanding of this generation-defining conflict. And we are proud to be able to donate this tour to help fundraise for KNPB and their amazing programing.

Of course, we’re always happy to customize this itinerary for anyone else interested in the history of this conflict and the beauty and culture of this amazing country. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or would be interested in making a similar journey yourself.

So set your alarm for the premiere of the 10-part documentary series on “The Vietnam War” this Sunday, Sept. 17 on your local PBS station or streaming online via any number of PBS apps/services. Click here for how to watch.

Sincerely,

The Journeys Within team

Journeys Within joins Refill Not Landfill campaign

Refill Not Landfill campaign aims to turn Cambodia’s mountains of single-use plastic water bottle refuse into molehills

Taking a lead on dealing with plastic waste in Cambodia, Journeys Within Tour Company has joined with more than 40 members of Siem Reap’s hospitality and tourism industries and development sector in the launch of Refill Not Landfill – a campaign aimed at revolutionizing the way water is consumed by tourists in Cambodia and thus spurring a transformation of the kingdoms’ landscape.

At the foot of Angkor Wat — one of the most famous and increasingly popular tourist sites in the world — this informal consortium has come together to replace single-use plastic water bottles with reusable aluminum bottles that are refillable at designated venues across the city. The ultimate goal of Refill Not Landfill is to substantially reduce the amount of plastic waste produced in the Kingdom.

In 2015, 4,775,231 million visitors travelled to Cambodia, staying an average of 6.8 days each. During that time, these visitors consume an average of two liters of water per day, many from half-liter or 1-liter bottles, which means visitors have the potential to use, on average, 130 million plastic half-liter bottles every year. That is more than 10 million bottles per month, or 355,000 bottles per day, equivalent to 26 Olympic swimming pools filled to the brim with plastic bottles every single year, year after year. And that number can only grow as the number of tourists to Cambodia is projected to continue rising.

Globally, plastic has become a plague on the planet, killing wildlife, choking seas, and filling landfills for centuries to come. Few bottles are recycled as the facilities for doing so are virtually non-existent within Cambodia and the resources for transporting them to neighboring countries are informal and limited. Even in developed countries with formal infrastructure, such as the United States, as little as 23% of the plastic bottles sold end up being recycled. In Cambodia, they end up in landfills or blown around the countryside, which struggles under drifts of plastic discards along roadways, in rice fields and gardens, and along watercourses which often become blocked creating flooding and other damage.

Journeys Within Tour Company’s goal in participating in the Refill Not Landfill campaign is to replace the average of 27.2 single-use water bottles a visitor goes through during their stay in Cambodia with one refillable aluminum bottle, which will be provided to them free of charge upon their arrival.

With orders for 41,000 refillable bottles already across all participating groups, the initial stage of this campaign has the potential to offset the use of 1,115,200 plastic bottles in this way – a huge saving for the environment as well as the local economy.

This initiative reflects a growing global trend towards eliminating the use of plastic bottles and other products as an essential measure for environmental protection. Over the last 15 years, countries such as Ireland, Australia, the United States, India, Bangladesh, Rwanda, China and France have introduced restrictions on the sale and distribution of certain plastic products, including bottles, bags and dining utensils.

In Siem Reap, participating hotels, cafés and restaurants, attractions, tour operators and NGOs will issue their branded bottles to guests and clients in the manner they see fit, and they all have the option to brand them as they choose, meaning Refill Not Landfill can really become part of their identity. The back of the bottles feature the names of all of the free-of-charge water refill locations across the city helping visitors to find them with ease.

This is how one relatively small group is hoping to push along the revolution towards a greener, more beautiful country and planet, for the benefit of those living and yet to be born.

Participating organizations:

Jaya House River Park Hotel; Phare, The Cambodian Circus; The Little Red Fox Espresso Café; Giant Puppet Parade; Beyond Unique Escapes; Journeys Within Tour Company; Rambutan Siem Reap; Templation Hotel; AMANSARA ; ABBA; EGBOK; Friends International; Sister Srey Café; Angkor Hospital for Children; Bambu Project; Pandaw Cruises; Smiling Albino; Park Hyatt Siem Reap; Sojourn Boutique Villas; Meru Asia; HUSK Cambodia; Babel Guesthouse; Angkor Fight Club; Charlie’s Bar; Knai Bang Chatt; Heritage Suites Hotel; Sala Lodges; Angkor Night Market; Firefly Guesthouse; PACTICS; Blossom Café; Cambodian Travel Partner; Angkor W Restaurants; API School; Memoire Hotels & Resorts.

Siem Ream refill station locations:

New Leaf Book Café; Phare, the Cambodian Circus; Made in Cambodia Market @ Kings Road; The Hive; Little Red Fox Espresso; Beyond Unique Escapes; Sister Srey Café; Masakan Ibu (Mama’s Recipes); Babel Guesthouse; Charlie’s Bar; Miss Wong Cocktail Bar; Angkor Hospital for Children; CONSTABLE Gallery at Large; Spoons (EGBOK Café); Marum Restaurant; Rambutan Phnom Penh; Hard Rock Café Angkor; Khmer Kitchen; The Triangle Restaurant; Mama Shop Italian Food; Chanrey Tree Restaurant; Sokkhak River Restaurant; The Glasshouse at Park Hyatt Siem Reap; Memoire d’Angkor Boutique Hotel.

Photo of single-use plastic water bottles floating in Tonle Sap river during the Siem Reap Water Festival courtesy of Ploy Photography.

Staff Journeys: Joy & Sone visit Cambodia

In April 2016, Kanchana “Joy” Junglin (JW Thailand Country Director) and Bouasone “Sone” Phonepaserth (Laos Booking Manager) took a trip to the Journeys Within headquarters in Siem Ream, Cambodia to meet the team there and share their knowledge of Thailand and Laos respectively. Below we share a few of their memories from the trip as well as their photos.

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Joy:

The trip was perfect 🙂 My son and I were very happy and enjoyed the trip, especially my son. He was very happy to go with the team everywhere. He made a new best friend – Win Win (Leak’s son). Win Win took good care of my son and played with him. They all had fun.

For me, my highlight was to see the Cambodian culture and history and also to meet the Journeys Within team as everyone was very friendly and was nice like a family. Thank you so much for giving me and my son the opportunity to go to Cambodia and have this new experience. My son and I loved this trip.

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Sone:

I send this e-mail to thank you for the kindness that you are always showing us. Thanks for giving me a very special trip to Cambodia. It was a great time to be there and meet our lovely team. I’ve seen and learned how they have done a very good job, and I had so much fun on tours with them and with our great guide Mr. Sina 😀

I can say there are many parts of this trip that I liked, but my favorite was the Quad Bike adventure. It was the first time in my life that I have done an adventure bike riding for 2 hours around a remote area. It was so much fun.

I was also very surprised with the flooded villages and thee high houses… I can imagine how difficult a time the residents must have in the rainy season.

Moreover, We are grateful to hear that you’re giving us a bonus for Lao New Year again. We all appreciate feeling that we’re part of the JW team’s success! We promise to do our best to ensure that our clients will have an amazing trip during their time visiting Laos!!

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