Our journey throughout Cambodia will commence in Siem Reap. Located along the northwest stretches of the Tonle Sap lake, Siem Reap is most well known for the temples of Angkor Wat. We will spend time during our orientation getting to know each other as a group and introducing important linguistic, cultural, and travel information. Outside of rolling through ancient ruins, we will begin to look back at Cambodian history and how it has shaped 21st century politics, economics, and development.
Our next stop will take us around the western end of the Tonle Sap lake and down to Battambang. Regarded as the cultural and artistic capital of Cambodia, we will visit local artists, who through various means, are working to preserve Cambodian culture and promote social awareness. While in Battambang we will have the opportunity to learn about Theravada Buddhist practices at local monasteries. In addition, we will be learning about the negative impacts that well intentioned volunteers can have when we visit the Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT). CCT works to empower families and discourage orphanage tourism.
We will then travel south to the capital city of Phnom Penh. The bright lights and chaotic traffic of Phnom Penh will serve as an interesting juxtaposition to the sleepy provincial capital of Battambang. Spending time in Phnom Penh will allow us to compare urban vs. rural development issues. While in Phnom Penh we will focus on the traumatic history and impact of the Khmer Rouge period. The political capital is also the headquarters of most civil society organizations, which we will spend time meeting with to hear about their fight for human rights and environmental conservation. For those interested in running, we will also visit the Olympic Stadium to exercise and watch the sunrise with local athletes.
From the busy streets of Phnom Penh we will then head to the serenity of Koh Ksach Tonlea. Our homestay is located on an island in the Bassac River, a side branch to the mighty Mekong River. While on Koh Ksach Tonlea we will be welcomed into the everyday life of our host families. A rhythm will be established with daily language lessons, interview panels with local people about relevant topics, and group debates about global issues. In spending time with our homestay parents and siblings, we will be given a glimpse into the life of subsistence farmers in Cambodia.
After our homestay we will head west to Kirirom National Park. Spending time at Kirirom will allow us to examine the complex interconnections between forest conservation, land rights, and climate change. While at Kirirom we will be hosted in traditional style wooden houses in a community ecotourism project. We will also have the opportunity to do short hikes through the forest to waterfalls and temples.
We will finally make our way to coastal Kampot, a beautiful river town in the south of Cambodia. Outside of Kampot city we will stay in a mangrove forest, learning about how the community has battled powerful private investors to protect their fragile ecosystem. We will have the opportunity to join local people in their efforts to reforest by going out into the ocean to plant mangrove trees. A site visit to a fashion social enterprise will help us understand the massive environmental and social impacts of the textile (clothing) industry in Cambodia and globally. The last couple of days of our journey will be spent in celebration and reflection, looking back on what we have achieved and how we have grown, before flying out of Phnom Penh.
We hope that you are as excited as we are to head to Cambodia and spend time learning about the country’s history, development, human rights situation, and environment.
With palms folded and a slight head bow,
Your Cambodia Instructor Team.