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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!”

A Unique Guest Experience at the Kulen Waterfalls

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“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!

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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.”

Tania, Guest

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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.

Race for Change with Journeys Within

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Join Journeys Within Our Community In A Race For Change

“Run 13.1 miles? Who, me?!” was the first thought that went through my mind when Andrea suggested that the US office run to support Journeys Within Our Community.   Climb a mountain at the crack of dawn? Sure. Swim across the lake? Sure. Hold a ridiculous yoga pose? Definitely! Pick up some new bruises in karate? Of course! Ski all day long? Absolutely! Run? Not so much… However after the initial panic, I realized that this is actually a fantastic opportunity.

Running pictureAs a member of the Tour Company team, I often interact with our partner non-profit, Journeys Within Our Community, and volunteered to help with their Hospitality Class while in Cambodia. Truth be told, I was amazed and inspired by the experience. The local people who come to JWOC are so optimistic and work hard to give themselves the tools to improve their lives and their children’s futures. On December 5th JWOC’s staff, students, alumni and friends will be running, riding or walking around Angkor Wat to raise funds and awareness. JWOC specializes in projects that start small, gain momentum and change lives. And I decided – if they can do it (in temperatures as high as 90 degrees with 100% humidity) – so can I!

So if you see me huffing and puffing my way around with block with the US Tour Company team, know that I am bravely (sort of…) going where I have never gone before. From this point on in our preparations, each new run becomes the new record for the longest distance or fastest I have ever run.

We have walkers, runners and riders around the world participating in this Race 4 Change 2015 event. Please support Journeys Within Our Community and the US team by clicking here and donating so we too can make a difference!
– Courtney Ridgel, Booking Coordinator

Please contact us to find out how you can join the Race For Change, or click here to donate.

Presentation: Socially responsible tourism in the 21st century

Volunteers with Journeys Within Our Communities
Dan and Monica at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, Journeys Within travelers Dan Hanson and Monica Weiss gave a Sunday Platform presentation to the members of the New York Society for Ethical Culture all about their “voluntourism” travels through Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, and their involvement with the non-profit Journeys Within Our Communities in January of 2015.

With an itinerary that began in Bangkok and continued through Chiang Mai (including the Elephant Nature Park), Luang Prabang, Vientiane, the Mekong River and Siem Reap, the Hansons were able to speak to their unforgettable experiences and the impact they were able to have while in this special part of the world.

While in Siem Reap, they participated in the JWOC Clean Water Program which provides rural villages with a holistic clean water solution by installing and repairing wells, providing hygiene training and distributing water filters and hygiene kits, all of which you can see in their presentation below.

Video slideshow of their talk (skip to 15:27 into the video):

Click here to skip to their talk

Click here to skip ahead to their involvement with Journeys Within Our Community

Year 2: 2005

 In its second year, Journeys Within marked some big changes, both personal and professional. Along with expanding the Journeys Within Boutique Hotel, Andrea and Brandon expanded their growing family…hotel before and after



  • Built first Journeys Within B&B Bungalows and added a swimming pool! (An amazing addition that took blood, sweat and tears that has remarkably remains relatively unchanged!)
  • Opened Bangkok Office
  • Andrea’s daughter Callie was born
  • Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) was founded
  • First year of Mekong River Experience

Touring to these countries:

Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam


Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel: Mekong River Journey

The Park Record: International Effort Bears Fruit for Killing Fields Pagoda School

Family Travel Forum: Cambodia’s Siem Reap Alive with Travelers

International Travel News: Report Cards

Key Hires:

Dar Le Khin:

Journeys Within’s Myanmar Tour Manager Dar Le prepares for take off.

What year did join Team Journeys Within?:


What were your thoughts of the company that first year?:

Very much appreciated to Andrea’s thoughts on “tourism benefits the local people” and trusted that Journeys Within has the future with its own idea.

Special Memories from 2005:

So excited to have a pool and “real” rooms at the Journeys Within Boutique Hotel!
The addition of the pool and bungalows  was completed just in time for the arrival of Callie Sita Ross. A well traveled baby, here she is pictured on an elephant on her first trip to Chiang Mai.
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The team getting a kick out of the new pool.