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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!

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

A Day of Introspection and Healing: Siem Reap Spiritual Tour

By Andrea Ross 

After a whirlwind adventure in Thailand, the kids and I arrived in Siem Reap this week. As always there was a sense of “coming home” as we stepped off the plane, but rather than home we have been spoiled with staying at the amazing Jaya House River Park Hotel.  This property has earned a well-deserved blog of its own soon and has already been an amazing partner for Journeys Within. After getting settled and catching up on work emails on the first day, I had a special morning planned with our new Siem Reap Spiritual Tour. While of course the ancient temples such as Angkor Wat are the main draw in Siem Reap, there are also some amazing modern temples here, with unique experiences only available in Siem Reap.

Taking a tuk-tuk with Sina, one of our top guides

I was met in the morning by Sina and kid-free (they had a fun day with their dad), we set off the for the Fortune-teller’s. I have to start by saying that I’m not the Fortune-teller type…I believe we make our own destinies and I’m always scared that a Fortune-teller will tell me something that then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. BUT, my team swears by this man and I’ve felt lately like I could use some guidance! We arrived for our 8:15am appointment and in true Khmer fashion, he wasn’t there! My faith in his powers was severely diminished when he informed Sina he didn’t realize we were there yet and would be back as soon as he could! He showed up a few minutes later on his moto and showed us up to his house…a typical Khmer home on stilts with walls covered in framed photos of his family, him with various military and political leaders and of course, some landscape shots.

The Fortune-teller with his ipad
The Fortune-teller and his son at their home

He immediately sat down and asked me for my birthday and then, using his iPad (Is there a Fortune-teller app?) started writing numbers on a piece of paper. And then he started talking and things got real! It was incredible and scary and emotional all at the same time. He is not a palm reader or a clairvoyant; he literally uses birth numbers to tell him the story of your life…past, present and future. So for an hour, a man wearing cargo shorts, a plain white button up shirt, and glasses like my grandpa’s looked at a piece of paper covered in numbers and told me things that he couldn’t have known! It was an eye opening and unique experience and I’m so glad I did it, but I have to admit, I’m still a little shook up. (Good news, I’m going to live a long life and will not only be happy, but will help others and make them happy. Bad news, I’m going to get sick in 3 years and have to go to the doctor a lot. This would all seem silly if he hadn’t been so right on with everything else he said!)

The Fortune-teller and I after the reading

From here Sina took me to a local pagoda in town. The truth is I’ve driven past this pagoda hundreds of times, but never been inside and it was stunning. Still reeling from the fortune teller this was exactly what I need to reset myself and feel calm. A beautiful sitting Buddha fills the main pagoda room, but behind it, hidden away, is a much older reclining Buddha. Beautifully maintained and tucked away as it is, this Buddha is one of my favorites out of the countless that I have seen!

The Reclining Buddha
The Reclining Buddha

From here we headed to Wat Pho, the largest Wat in Siem Reap. Tiny kittens ran throughout the temple and beautiful carvings adorned the entrance, windows and doors. We explored through the temples and then went to the back where an older monk offered a water blessing. Here a monk chants while sprinkling you with water. At the end he tied a red ribbon around my wrist for good luck.

Wat Preach Prom Rath
Local Stupas – the ashes of local Buddhist families are contained within them

Our last stop of the day was to Sophie’s Healing. I’ve known Sophie for years, from when she was Callie’s French teacher at the International School. Now Sophie runs her own business offering her healing services. Sophie can help with spiritual, emotional and physical ailments and again, as an original non-believer, I have been converted as over the last three years she has helped with various issues I’ve had…a hurt foot, migraines and Couper’s nightmares. This time I needed her help to find peace and with a really sore shoulder…she doesn’t mind doing a little of each as part of the healing. For an hour I lay on her table and I can say that I left feeling at peace.

Exploring the local temples with Sina
Wat Bo

It was an incredible day, experiencing the modern spiritual side of my Siem Reap. We offer all these experiences to guests and while I’m a little nervous about it, I’m also excited. This tour offers a deeply personal day, and is not your typical tour, but at the same time, it was a powerful day and one only possible here. Travel is supposed to open up us and show us new experiences, today it did just that for me.

Me receiving a water blessing

From the Ground: Makara celebrates 2 years on the Local JWOC Advisory Board

By Jay Austin

Last month, JWOC Scholarship graduate and Journeys Within Cambodia Country Director, Makara Put, completed two years as member and Chair of JWOC’s Local Advisory Board (LAB). Using his in-depth understanding of the local travel industry, knowledge of local opportunities and understanding of JWOC’s values and mission to promote equal access to quality education, he was able to be part of a team that helped JWOC’s ground team to pursue opportunities and avenues that would not have otherwise access to.

When speaking of his achievement, he said, “For me, it is really important to be in the LAB, because you will be able to learn from other members and from JWOC staff. Moreover you can speak your thoughts and turn your ideas into practice, sharing information that helps to develop JWOC as well. We never know if our ideas work or not if we don’t put them into action!”

From the Ground: Exploring Kampot – From the Villages to the River and Beyond

By Jay Austin

What was once a sleepy riverside town has now become Cambodia’s hub for adventure tourism.  Attracting more and more people each year, locals say this destination is set to take off!  This is a small town offering unique and individual touring which is unmatched anywhere else in Cambodia!

Our cycling partner, Butterfly Tours, is a tour business created by a group of entrepreneurial Cambodian university students to support student guides who are attending university. The ‘Backroads by Bicycle’ tour takes guests on shopper bikes through Kampot’s red-dirt roads and visits local families to see their trades, including noodle making & rice wine production and concludes with a visit to a riverside pagoda that offers spectacular views of the adjacent river inlet before returning to town.

Our partner, Cambodia Kiteboarding, offers everything to kitesurfing enthusiasts from 2 hour introduction lessons to 2 day beginner courses with a range of options also available for the more advanced kitesurfer. Led by internationally certified kitesurfing guides with a paramount focus on safety for all involved, this is a sensational skill to learn in Cambodia which offers the opportunity at better rates than neighboring Thailand and Vietnam.

A visit to Kampot would not be complete without spending some time on the stunning Kampot River. Our partner, Supasia, offers a 3 hour Stand Up Paddle-boarding trip provides the opportunity to meander along the river and take everything in at your own pace. The trip is combined with a SUP lesson for those who have never attempted the sport led by confident guides who patiently assist you whilst you master the board.

If you are looking to head to Kampot, chat with us to help arrange the perfect tour for you, including any of the options above!