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Why we love Kralanh Petite Villa

Kralanh Petite Villa celebrating having been open for one year – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

By Courtney Ridgel

At Journeys Within, we believe that philanthropic travel – where travelers actively contribute to improving the communities that they are visiting – not only helps the local communities in the countries we visit, but also creates incredible experiences for our travelers.  With this philosophy in mind, we seek out hotels, restaurants and experiences that support and give back to the local communities to include in our itineraries.

Ruat’s beautiful smile greets guests every morning at breakfast – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
There are many lovely little touches around Kralanh Petite Villa that make it feel welcoming – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

So, it was with great pride that this philosophy allowed the tour company to grow to a point where the company was able to invest in the Journeys Within team members to make sweeping changes in their own lives.  One such investment allowed Linda Chhay to design and build her own boutique hotel from the ground up – Kralanh Petite Villa.

Guests celebrating Kralanh Petite Villa’s one year anniversary – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Kanha helps keep everything running smoothly at Kralanh Petite Villa – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

Linda has worked tirelessly at Journeys Within behind the scenes for over a decade, and she put her vast experience to use in planning the perfect retreat for travelers.  Chances are, if you’ve traveled with Journeys Within, then Linda helped put your tour together.  We are so grateful to have her as part of the Journeys Within team, and are so proud that she is now a business owner in her own right – with two enterprises!  Linda owns a flower shop and Kralanh Petite Villa.

Linda celebrating Kralanh Petite Villa’s one year anniversary – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

We love sending our guests to this hotel because it not only supports a local Khmer-owned and run business (and Linda of course!), but also because we know our guests will be treated like family.  They will be warmly cared for by the incredible staff, many of whom including Ruat and Kanha, originally worked for Andrea over a decade ago at the Journeys Within Boutique Hotel.  This small property is particularly great for families as the rooms are spacious and there is a Family Suite option.  A relaxing dip in the pool feels perfect after a warm day out at the temples.  For families with younger kids, there is a Kid’s Club with games, and baby-sitting services available.

Kralanh Petite Villa has large spacious rooms, perfect for families – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
A dip in the pool is the perfect way to relax at the end of a hot day – Photo credit: Courtney Ridgel

And while the location is not centrally located downtown, we feel that this adds to the charm – you’ll be able to sit and enjoy breakfast while watching the local neighborhood come to life around you – children riding bikes to school in their neat navy and white uniforms, motos and tuk-tuks taking people to work, and neighbors fishing in the canal next door.  And in the evenings, Ly, the resident tuk-tuk driver will be standing by to take you into town to explore the night market and Siem Reap’s delicious food scene.

Looking out over the neighborhood canal in the early morning light – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Folded lotus blossoms – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

You can read more about Linda’s story in this Huffington Post article, where she, Kralanh Petite Villa and Journeys Within were featured.

Jay, Naida, Makara and Narla enjoying Kralanh Petite Villa’s one year anniversary celebrations – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

What to Expect from Cambodia’s Visa on Arrival Process

By Courtney Ridgel

Most travelers to Cambodia, including US citizens, will need visas.  We recommend using the visa on arrival system in Cambodia but you also have the option of using the e-visa system.

Passengers disembark outside when arriving in Siem Reap

For visa on arrival services, you will be handed the immigration forms on the plane ride into Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.  (If you miss getting the forms on the flight, you can also pick them up in the airport when you arrive.)

Head into the newly renovated and upgraded Siem Reap Airport

Siem Reap is a small airport, so you’ll disembark outside and head into the newly renovated (and enlarged) airport terminal.

For visa on arrival in Siem Reap, head to the right-hand side of the entrance.

For visa on arrival, you’ll need to enter the ‘Apply Visas’ line, on the right and turn in the visa application form (check the box to apply for a tourist visa, which is valid for 30 days), a passport photo (a 2×2 sized headshot with a blank background – no hats or glasses) and the visa fee of US$30.00.

Just after you enter the Siem Reap Airport from disembarking, turn to your right for the visa application line.

Your passport will tossed down the counter to the next available official and you will head to the next line to pick it up.  Don’t be surprised it the process seems a bit casual by US Immigration standards.

Pick up your passport at the other end of the counter.

Once you have your visa in hand with the visa label, head to your left and pass through the Immigration inspection.  Cambodia uses entry and exit forms so you’ll need to present this to the official.  They will scan your fingerprints and take your photo, before stamping your passport. Once you passport has been stamped, move through to collect your luggage.

In the Siem Reap airport, after receiving your visa, move to your left to pass through the Immigration inspection.

Guides and taxi drivers are not permitted to enter the airport, so you’ll need to exit the building to find your guide holding a sign with your name.  Walk up, say hello and welcome to the Kingdom of Wonder!

Your guide will have a printed sign with your name

For the e-visa service, visit the website for Ministry of Foreign Affairs on their e-visa page.  (Make sure you visit the official government site, and not one of the knock-offs sites.) The fee for this visa is $30.00 + $7.00 processing fee for a total of US$37.00.  E-visas are only valid for 90 days, so be sure not to apply too early!  If you choose to use the e-visa service, please be careful to accurately enter your information as it can be difficult to get it corrected.  The e-visa works beautifully when there are no errors in the paperwork, but when there are, we’ve seen multiple travelers end up having to purchase a second visa through the visa on arrival process.

Artwork in the newly renovated Siem Reap airport

What to Expect at the new Angkor Temples Ticketing Office

The New Angkor Temples Ticket Booth – Photo Credit: Narla Phay

By Courtney Ridgel

As we’ve blogged about before, the ticket prices at Angkor Wat have increased this year, to ensure that Cambodia has the funds to preserve and protect the Angkor Complex.

At the new Angkor Temples Ticket Booth- Photo Credit: Narla Phay

Along with the new prices, comes a new (and much larger) ticketing office to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of visitors that Angkor Wat receives each year.  All foreigners are required to purchase a pass to visit the Angkor Temple Complex (or drive through on your way to something else).   Khmer people are free to come and go from the Complex as they please.

On a Journeys Within tour, your guide will take you to the Angkor Temples Ticket Booth before beginning your touring.

Dana and Chris testing out the new Ticketing Booth – Photo Credit: Narla Phay

You’ll pull up and park, and your guide will escort you to the ticket counter, where you’ll join the queue.  Be sure to read the information about the Angkor Complex Code of Conduct to make sure that you understand the regulations and expectations at these sacred monuments.

Dana, Chris and Journeys Within guide, Santhou, awaiting their turn at the ticketing counter – Photo Credit: Narla Phay

When it is your turn, you’ll need to pose for a photo.  Hats are ok, but you’ll need to remove your sunglasses.

Dana removing her sunglasses to have her photo taken – Photo Credit: Narla Phay

After you guide pays for your tickets, he’ll hand it over to you.  Be sure not to lose it as you tour as you’ll have to show it at various checkpoints!

Santhou handing Dana her temple pass – Photo Credit: Narla Phay

From here you’ll head out for an exciting day at the temples!

Dana, ready for a day of adventure with her temple pass! – Photo Credit: Narla Phay

2017 ChubMet Music & Art Festival

Battle of the Bands – Photo Credit: Anna Baldwin

By Naida Dizdarevic

Siem Reap, Cambodia
The creative scene in Siem Reap has been developing at a rapid rate in recent years. Where arts & music was once a thing of the past, it is now becoming more and more prevalent in modern Cambodian society. This expression of creativity enhanced the need for a festival to showcase and celebrate the reemergence of formerly lost talents that the Cambodian people have.  The ChubMet Music and Art Festival began with an opening street party on 17th February, 2017 where one could wander the popular Kandal Village locale and find street performances by festival partner Phare – The Cambodian Circus; drop into the pop up cinema offered by The Little Red Fox Espresso and watch an intriguing documentary on the prevalence of music in Cambodia; or journey on, to the main stage, and watch the variety of live music performances throughout the evening.

Opening Party – Phare Circus – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival
Opening Party – Live painting – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival

As part of the festival, the long-standing Giant Puppet Parade celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a wonderful parade through the streets of Siem Reap, concluding with a free concert in the Royal Gardens. Performers on this momentous occasion included Kong Nay– known locally as the Ray Charles of Cambodia & KmengKhmer– Cambodia’s hottest boy band.

One of the performers in the Giant Puppet Parade – Photo Credit: Anna Baldwin
Children in the Giant Puppet Parade – Photo Credit: Anna Baldwin
Kong Nay – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival
KmengKhmer performing at the Giant Puppet Parade – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival

The 2 week festival hosted multiple crowd-drawing events including Battle of the Bands, Urban Art & Hip Hop Night and a magical performance of Modern Music & Ancient Sounds at FCC Angkor. The festival concluded on 2nd March with a key performance by Grammy Award winner Joss Stone at Jaya House River Park. This performance brought an international contingent to the festival and was enjoyed by a fantastic combination of Cambodian and Western attendees, coming together for one last evening.

Battle of the Bands – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival
Hip Hop & Urban Art – Professor Elemental – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival
Modern Music & Ancient Sounds – Rasmee – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival
Joss Stone – Photo Credit: Anna Baldwin

Journeys Within was proud to be nominated as the official travel partner of the ChubMet Music & Art Festival and have the opportunity to promote this unique event to an international audience. The Cambodian team had the pleasure of guiding Joss Stone and her team around a few of Siem Reap’s most special sites during their stay. Head Guide, Sina & Assistant Regional Director, Narla both loved spending time with Joss, saying that she was a truly special person.

Narla and Joss Stone – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival
Joss Stone – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival

2017 was the second year that Siem Reap has hosted the ChubMet Music & Art Festival. We all look forward to the wonderful showcase the 2018 festival will surely offer and Journeys Within looks forward to being involved with the organization of this fantastic event again next year.

A crowd of onlookers at the Giant Puppet Parade – Photo Credit: ChubMet Music and Art Festival

From the Ground: New Mey Chrey Floating Village Tour

Photo Credit: Jay Austin

Mey Chrey is one of the only year-round floating villages in Siem Reap Province. This village, unlike many others, is made up of purely Cambodian residents making it one of the most authentic displays of Cambodian ‘floating’ culture available. When putting this tour together, we focused on finding a family our guests could visit and interact with in order to avoid the voyeuristic way that most tourists currently see this and other villages like this in Cambodia. This tour is designed to spread the money brought in by tourism a little further into the community.  Guests will have the opportunity to purchase snacks from local shops and to be paddled around by their new local friends to get an in depth look at day-to-day life in this kind of village.  This experience is unique as most tourists visit floating villages on large boats and don’t have the chance to meet the residents of the village.