“We have worked with our clients, Tania and her family, on trips to Cambodia in the past but this year we arranged an amazing trip to visit the dolphins in Kratie, the Koh Ker and Preah Vihear Temples, and Narla’s home village with an amazing homestay. The highlight, however, was a day we arranged for the orphanage where their daughter lived before she was adopted into their family. Below is Tania’s description of the day and some beautiful photos to illustrate it. This is what makes Cambodia so special, why my team is the absolute best, and why I love what I do!”
-Andrea Ross, CEO of Journeys Within
“We had a stunning day at Phnom Kulen with the kids from Happy Family Orphanage-I cannot even begin to tell you! ‘Ma’, who cares for the kids, had never been and so you can probably imagine her joy….this woman with so little, handing alms to the people on the stairs. That was just the first of many times I was tearful. Ma enjoyed her day thoroughly, the kids all stuck close to her as she swept them from blessing to blessing (and she swooped us in too, of course) for water blessings, and music blessings at the temple site. We’ve done this all before but it was so special this time, and really wonderful to have Narla there who added his own brand of warmth and cheer. Santhou was lovely as well and not only has knowledge but a calm demeanor, and somehow always appeared at the very moment he was needed (does JWTC have ALL the best guides in the country?? Every single one is a treasure with his own uniqueness).
The kids enjoyed the delicious (best.chicken.ever) food and best of all for them, the swimming!
Sophia and the other kids finally were able to play when it came time for the water. She was glowing by the end of a day filled with connection with her ‘second’ family.”
The following tours are some highlights from Tania’s trip. Contact us to help you plan your own trip to Cambodia!
21 Dec 15 Phnom Penh: Drive to Kratie
After breakfast, your driver will meet you at your hotel and you will drive to Kratie. This drive is approximately 8 hours, depending on traffic, and you will stop at a local restaurant for lunch along the way. When you arrive in Kratie, you will be introduced to your Journeys Within tour guide who will accompany you on the river crossing to the Rajabori Villas Resort for check-in. Enjoy your evening at leisure.
22 Dec 15 Kratie: Irrawaddy Dolphins, Mekong Turtle Conservation Center and Sunset at Sam Bok Mountain
After breakfast, you will be met by your guide and you will cross the river by boat before driving to the Irrawaddy Dolphin experience. Listed as critically endangered in 2004, the Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphin is part of Cambodia’s national heritage and symbolizes the magnificence of the Mekong River and its biodiversity. The Irrawaddy is a shy, small dolphin that is dark grey in color with a small rounded dorsal fin and a bluntly rounded head. You will take a small boat out on the Mekong River and sit quietly as the boat rests amongst the Irrawaddy Dolphins; watching them feeding and playing in their natural habitat. Return to town where your guide can assist in choosing a local restaurant for lunch, or you can return to the Rajabori Villas Resort hotel for lunch. After lunch, you will drive north of Kratie town to Sambor district where you will visit The Mekong Turtle Conservation Center (MTCC), located at the beautiful and historic 100 Pillar Pagoda (Wat Sor Sor Muoy Roy). The MTCC was opened by Conservation International to increase the wild population of the endangered Cantor’s Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) in the nearby Mekong River, through head-starting turtle hatchlings from the community-led turtle nest program. The facility has over forty indoor tanks containing juvenile turtles which are kept for a 10 month period before releasing into their natural habitat. There are also many other Asian turtle species at the facility to see. After your visit to the MTCC, you can wander the grounds of the magnificent 100 Pillar Pagoda – a priceless architectural structure built at the site of the old Royal Palace Temple of Sambor District. As dusk approaches, you’ll drive to Phnom Sam Bok (Sam Bok Mountain) and climb the steps to the Phnom Sam Bok Pagoda to watch the beautiful sunset over the mighty Mekong River and surrounding countryside.
23 Dec 15 Kratie: Drive to Kompong Thom
After breakfast, you will be met by your guide at Rajabori Villas Resort and you will cross the river by boat before driving to Kampong Thom. When you arrive in Kampong Thom, your guide will take you to your hotel for check-in. Say goodbye to your Journeys Within tour guide, as tomorrow you’ll be met at your hotel by a trusted local community guide. Enjoy your afternoon at leisure.
28 Dec 15 Siem Reap to Preah Vihear: Beng Mealea and Koh Ker
Enjoy an early breakfast at your hotel before leaving the crowds behind and heading to Beng Mealea, one of Angkor’s more mysterious temples located 40km outside of the main temple complex. After an hour you will leave the paved road and head out on to the beaten track running through rice fields and villages of rural Cambodia. At the temple, your guide will help you imagine how it once was as you pick your way through the rubble now surrounded by jungle. After an early lunch, continue on to the dirt road that leads to Koh Ker temple. King Jayavaraman IV made this city the capital after he moved it from Angkor Wat. The temple itself has faced a lot of vandalism and many of the once beautiful sculptures are missing heads, but it still serves as a beautiful legacy to the Khmer Empire. If you have the energy, and aren’t afraid of heights, you can climb to the top of the temple, the second tallest in Cambodia, so you can see above the forest line and enjoy amazing views of the rural countryside and the border of Thailand in the distance. Around mid-afternoon, continue the last bit of your journey to Preah Vihear, where you will check into your hotel.
29 Dec 15 Preah Vihear: Preah Vihear Temple and Drive to Siem Reap
This morning you will set off early to visit Preah Vihear Temple, a Khmer temple situated atop a 525 meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains in Cambodia, close to the Thailand border, but most notably in Cambodian territory. This temple has long been the subject of intense ownership disputes between the two neighboring countries, Cambodia was officially awarded control of Preah Vihear in 1962 by the International Court of Justice and it is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a key edifice of the empire’s spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bares elements of several architectural styles. Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, it has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-century-long Khmer Empire. Spend a good few hours exploring this area before heading back to Siem Reap (a drive of about 5 hours).
03 Jan 16 Siem Reap to Thma Puok Village: Homestay with Narla
After breakfast, you will be met at your hotel by your driver and Narla at 9:00am. The drive to Thma Puok is approximately 3 hours, and along the way you will stop in a village for an opportunity to try local snacks such as fried crickets, water beetles and silk worms. You will also stop at Phnom Srok (District Mountain) to see a stone quarry and stone masons, carving stone as they have done for generations. When you arrive in Thma Puok, you will go straight to Narla’s family home which will be your homestay for the evening. A traditional family lunch will be served, and you will have some free time to relax and chat with Narla’s family. Later in the afternoon, you will take a village walking tour where you will meet some of Narla’s relatives and neighbors before walking to Prasat Kasen (Mote Temple), and ancient Hindu temple located next to the village. In the evening, return to your homestay and enjoy a traditional dinner with Narla’s family and friends.