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Many Thanks And Kudos To Journeys Within​

Jill Higson is a guest who traveled  to Vietnam and Cambodia with Journeys Within over the holidays and has blogged about her experiences to share them with friends, family and future visitors. Read on as she shares her thoughts about travelling  with Journeys Within…

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Many Thanks And Kudos To Journeys Within​

F​irst and foremost, many thanks ​ (Cam On in Vietnamese and Aw Kohn in Khmer)​ to Andrea Ross, Director of Journeys Within and her U.S., Vietnam and Cambodia team of directors, guides and drivers for arranging a trip of a lifetime!  Their incredible help and kindness were endless – this included accompanying me to and from ​locations, educating me about each country’s temples, museums, markets and more.

​Also, a big thank you for transporting me in cool and comfortable automobiles, along with the opportunity to ride on fun motor bikes, tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws), bicycles and ATVs!

I could not have experienced and enjoyed Vietnam and Cambodia in such a unique, intimate and seamless manner without the Journeys Within team, especially since it was high season for travel in Southeast Asia.  Airports, hotels, restaurants and sites were full of tourists from around the world – often large groups with their cameras and selfie sticks in hand!  Everything was made more enjoyable by being able to follow Journey Within’s expert lead.

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Jill enjoying time with her guides through out Southeast Asia.

My guides were even quite the photographers themselves, finding the perfect spot to take a classic photo of me by a temple or rice field.  Also indulging me in a joint selfie as you will see from the many in the blogs – no selfie stick needed!

Time To Share My Travel Blog

So time to share, with excitement,​ my amazing and memorable two week adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia this past holiday season with ​my family, ​old friends, as well as new friends I met on my trip and of course the Journey’s Within team.

Please take a look and hope you will enjoy my blogs with some of my favorite photos and highlights.  I think you might be booking a trip with Journeys Within afterward so I included my entire itinerary!

Must See Sites – Angkor Wat and Ha Long Bay

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Angkor Wat and Halong Bay are among the most stunning sights in Southeast Asia.

Both Angkor Wat and Ha Long Bay are major tourist attractions, however they should still be considered ‘Must See Attractions’ due to their natural beauty, strong presence and the emotional impact they can have on any traveler. I recommend that you don’t let the crowd interfere with creating your own memories.

Waking up at 4:00AM to head out to see the sunrise was not originally at the top of my to-do list, however, it was well worth a few less hours of sleep to experience Angkor Wat at day break.  To begin the day looking at the sky with this beautiful temple in the foreground was a special moment and then walking inside of it and wandering around the grounds beyond peaceful.

The Angkor Wat temple was spectacular inside and out, with its detailed architecture, breathtaking views and beautiful surroundings.  One of my favorite photos was taken by a small window opening, where I sat looking out and reflecting upon the peace and tranquility of the temple — a genuine moment captured.

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Jill enjoying a quiet moment of reflection among the ruins of Angkor Wat.

I was fortunate to spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on the lovely Dragon’s Legend Junk boat, sailing through Ha Long Bay. While Halong Bay is a well-known tourist site, it was still overwhelming to take in the beauty of the bay’s many limestone islands and islets that were in every direction I looked.  I could not decide which ones to take photos of, so settled on all!

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The beautiful crag formations in Halong Bay.

I met wonderful families from Saigon and England on my overnight boat and spent the days embracing their little rug rats in photos while basking in the beauty of the bay. I explored Thien Con Son Cave and kayaked around Ho Co Island – an experience that was enhanced by the innocent and excited eyes of the children we had on board.  It was beyond memorable to ring in 2015 with them and the boat’s wonderful staff, who treated us to a delicious eight-course dinner of fish, vegetables, rice and more.  Plus we celebrated with a pre-New Year’s Eve toast and dancing on the deck! We may have been in an often-visited location, but the experience was all my own.

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Jill and the staff of her junk cruise in Halong Bay.

As much as I enjoyed taking in the major attractions, I have to say seeing the countryside in Vietnam and Cambodia — villages, rice fields, livestock, etc. — was as memorable and important for me. Mixing in lesser seen locales helped me to better understand the people and the culture of these countries.

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The Southeast Asian countryside is beautiful and varied in its sights.

I felt in tune with my surroundings and happy as I saw farm lands with water buffaloes in Hoi An by bike, breath taking mountains and islands of Ha Long Bay from a boat and kayak and villages filled with children and cows in Siem Reap by ATV.

 

Andrea makes Wendy Perrin’s WOW List

Websites and apps are great, but for those people who love a human approach to travel planning, Wendy Perrin has released her own list of go-to experts.  A guru in all things travel and a writer on the subject for more than 20 years,  Perrin has included Andrea as a top planner for all things Southeast Asia on her recently released WOW List…

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There are experiences can’t be found online or in travel books, something we here at Journeys Within know. With her Wow List — a listing of top travel experts by region — Wendy Perrin is tipping her hat to those who help others plan a dream vacation with their firsthand knowledge. After a decade working in Cambodia, and having travelled the surrounding countries extensively, we aren’t surprise, but we are honoured, that Andrea has made this list.  Across six countries, the Journeys Within team is so proud to stand behind Andrea’s vision of individualized trips that make that enrich both the guests lives and the communities visited.

In Perrin’s words:

During the ten years she lived in Cambodia, Andrea founded Journeys Within and traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia, opening additional offices in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Her network keeps her up-to-date on the newest and best hotels, restaurants, and experiences, and her close relationships with the region’s hotels ensure that her clients get the best rates and the best care, regardless of their travel budget. She specializes in family, experiential, and philanthropic travel, and founded the nonprofit organization Journeys Within Our Community, which operates education and poverty relief initiatives in Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Andrea meets with each of her guides every two years to ensure that they offer the highest caliber of service, and is proud of the philanthropic opportunities that Journeys Within offers to travelers who want to make a difference to the communities that they get to know when they travel. Contact Andrea to plan an extraordinary trip, and read her Insider’s Guide to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.

A big thanks to Wendy for recognize the good work that Andrea does and an even bigger thanks to Andrea for leading a team we are all proud to be part of!

We hate to say we told you so about the Son Doong Cave experience…

With tours selling out a year in advance, the popularity of Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave is undeniable. 2014 is already booked up and there are only a few spots left for 2015…

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Only recently opened up to the public, Vietnam’s largest cave system  is garnering its fair share of attention. After meeting with Oxalis Adventure Tours, Operations Manager Anna was excited to add the caving experience to our repertoire (and her own bucket list).

It would seems we aren’t the only one dying to catch a glimpse of these caves as Vietnam’s tourism authority has announced that the tours have been fully booked for 2014 with much of 2015 booked as well.

Oxalis is currently the sole tour operator with permission to offer treks into the cave, though the local government is reported to be considering allowing others soon.

In September the rainy season starts in Quang Binh, where the caves are located, and the tours must take a break. The local government and Oxalis will discuss later this year if they should open more tours in the years to come given the huge demand.

If Son Doong Cave experience is something that piques your interest don’t delay! Let us build your Vietnam itinerary around this incredible experience.