Hello Families and Friends of Haverford Cambodia,
Mara and I are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our group, attending to final details and preparing for a mind-opening, heartfelt immersion into Cambodian daily life and the beauty of this inspiring place. We wanted to give you all a little more detail and narrative as you travel along with us vicariously over the next two weeks.
June 12th-14th: In-country orientation
We begin our journey in buzzing Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, and the largest metropolitan home to a population of 2 million people. Upon arrival of the group in the early evening of the 12th, we will hop into tuk-tuks and move towards the heart of the city to get settled into our lodging. The next day, we will visit a local Wat (Buddhist temple) and receive a blessing by Theravada Buddhist monks for safe travels.
During our time in Phnom Penh we will also learn about the catastrophic Khmer Rouge Period of Cambodia’s history by visiting the former concentration camp of Tuol Sleng (S-21) and the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek.
June 15th -17th: Chambok Community Based Ecotourism Site
From Phnom Penh, we head southwest to Chambok Community Based Ecotourism Site in the country’s first established national park, Kirirom National Park. It is located about 70 kilometers from Phnom Penh. While we are there, we will immerse ourselves into the customs and traditions of rural Cambodia. At Chambok, we will be staying in homestays, adapting to rural rhythm, waking up early to the sounds of roosters, eating Khmer meals, riding bicycles and potentially planting rice. We will also embrace wilderness exploration through trekking, hiking and camping out in the jungle. We will turn our conversations towards the concept of “learning service,” and engage in activities that will further the sustainability and conservation goals of the Chambok’s community protected area.
June 18th-20th: Magical Battambang
We travel northwest to Battambang, a vibrant city that has a history of rich local arts and culture, and one of the last few places that still maintains a sense of French’s colonial era influence exhibiting through numerous architectural structures. We delve deeper into Buddhism, visiting local pagodas and talking to monks. We will visit an art gallery and talk to some local artists and learn about other non-profit organizations working with vulnerable communities in the area
Battambang also has beautiful pagodas, local treks, and caves we will explore. We will also learn more about Theravada Buddhism through discussion and a Q&A panel with monks at a local temple.
We will also visit Phare Ponleu Selpak, the Cambodian Circus school. They provide free public education and vocational arts training at a school in Battambang for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This initiative started with nine young Cambodian refugees who returned home after the Khmer Rouge. Today, the school has grown to host over 1,200 students and their programs have expanded as well to include circus, dance, theater, music and visual arts.
June 21st- 23rd : The splendid Angkor, Siem Reap
Next to Siem Reap, the home of the world’s famous Angkor Wat World Heritage Site. The Angkorian Temples are considered by locals to be the most splendid and magical place, that they can only dream of visiting. It is said that there is a common belief among Cambodians, if they were to voice their desire to go to the Angkor Wat, the magical powers of the temple could prevent their wish from coming true. We will spend a day exploring the fascinating Angkorian archaeological site, learning about the construction, the Buddhist and Hindu themes, the impact of foreign tourism and responsible travel.
While we are in Siem Reap, we will also visit PEPY, an education program promoting youth empowerment in rural Siem Reap province. We will have the chance to interact and connect with PEPY students. We wrap up our stay spending time at a peaceful reflection center in Siem Reap, our whole group will have time to process and debrief all we have encountered so far.