Dear fellow adventurers,
The days draw closer to when we will embark on our trip of a lifetime through the ancient and wonderous kingdom of Cambodia together, and we know you are anxiously awaiting more details of our journey! The instructor team have been working hard to carefully craft an itinerary that is away from all the tourist traps whilst including all the highlights, that explores some of Cambodia’s untouched and rarely seen natural beauty, and that is magical, adventurous, transformative and FUN!
We will land in Cambodia after literally travelling halfway around the world. As soon as we arrive we will transfer out of the airport chaos and head straight into the tranquility of Kirirom National Park, where we will be hosted in traditional style houses in a community ecotourism project. With this beautiful and serene backdrop, we will do our course orientation – getting to know ourselves and the others in the group, learning about our course, and gaining some of the tools that we will need to navigate around Cambodia with confidence. To break up the time we will take short hikes out into the surrounding rainforest and take a dip in the natural waterfalls.
From here we will head to Kampot on the southern coast of the country. We will stay in little huts on the shore on the edge of a mangrove forest, and learn about how the community have battled powerful private investors, multinational companies and large developers to protect their fishing grounds and the fragile ecosystem that supports them. We will also get the chance to humbly join local people in their quest to reforest the many hectares of mangrove forest that has been lost along the coastline, and learn about how these remarkable trees are essential for battling climate change.
Our next stop takes us to a small island community, Koh Ksach Tonlea, where we will spend six days staying with families and being welcomed into their everyday life. This village is a truly special place that has been welcoming Dragons students for several years. Settling into a relaxed rhythm of agricultural activities, daily language lessons and group discussions, and spending time with our homestay parents and siblings, we will get a glimpse into the life of subsistence farmers in Cambodia. We will also have some more time to deepen our learning into topics that are of interest to us for our independent study projects. Our homestay families will quickly become like our real families and saying goodbye will certainly produce tears on both sides.
Leaving the gentle pace of the village we will descend into the chaos and bright lights of Phnom Penh, the capital city. This will be around the midway point of our course, a time for reflecting, regrouping and for resetting our goals for the second half of our time together. This will also be the time where we get to learn about the recent brutal history of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge period, and put into context everything we have been learning about the development challenges of the country.
After this will be a unique opportunity to dive into the comparative religion aspect of the course, where we will do a short meditation retreat. Here we can begin to understand some of the central practices of Buddhism, a faith deeply infused into the way of life of Cambodian people. Based in the small temple town of Oudong, we will be hosted by monks and nuns and get the rare chance for some silent introspection and to immerse ourselves in the simple routines of monastic life.
Feeling inspired and refreshed, we will travel right up to the northern border of the country, to the remote and lesser-travelled area of Odar Mincheay. Here we will have the chance to do a whole range of things, including jungle trekking, visiting one of the last bastions of the Khmer Rouge and seeing the grave of Pol Pot, and visiting an ancient and much-disputed ancient temple that lies on the border of Thailand. Here is where we also have the chance to be involved in an incredible environmental project that fuses Buddhism and conservation by ordaining trees as monks and therefore preventing anyone from cutting them down.
The final stage of our journey will take us to the town of Siem Reap, the home of wonder of the world Angkor Wat. This is a place seeped in culture, rich with things to see and do, and full with unique learning opportunities. As part of our “expedition phase” we will be challenging students to make the schedules and the plans for our time here, so that they can take full ownership of the course and design our time in a way that meets everyone’s goals.
The last couple of days of our journey will be spent in celebration and reflection, as we look back on all we have achieved and done, and how we have grown and who we have become as a result. We will try to create meaning from our experiences and look forward to our future lives to see how it can have an impact. We will depart from Phnom Penh airport maybe a little dirtier and more tired than when we showed up there, but hopefully wiser, richer, and full to the brim with experiences that will last a lifetime. Instead of the strangers that landed together, we will depart with dear friends who feel like family.
We are so excited to have you join us on this upcoming adventure. Chuab knew chap chap nih! (See you soon!)
Yut, Kelsey and Claire