“How did people build a temple as big as Angkor Wat 1,000 years ago before machines?”
“Why does $1USD buy so much of the local money?”
“Why were Americans fighting in Vietnam?”
These were some of the many questions my children asked during our two weeks travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia with Intrepid. They also asked more unanswerable ones, like “Why would Pol Pot kill people just for being educated?” Or less perplexing, but equally tough to answer, “Why is everyone always beeping their horns?”
“The world is book and those who do not travel read only a page.” Several years ago, Michelle Di Rocco was in Costa Rica when she first saw this St. Augustine quote…
“This phrase was painted in one of the hallways in eclectic form true of so many hostels around the world. It resonated enough that I took a photo to remember it always. Education through travel has been a big part of my life. If I think back to when I started realizing its impact on me, I would have been about 12 years old and in Acapulco with my parents. I vividly remember being struck by the young children milling about the city’s busy streets, selling Chiclets for whatever change they could inspire. Older women found their place on sidewalks accompanied by signs as testimony to their need for food and money.
Someone once said, “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” That was certainly the case for Gemma Urban, who had no idea of the rules and couldn’t work out which team was in front, but had so much fun matching it with local kids in Cambodia…
“After weaving through the streets on a long hot day in Siem Reap, we (being the fabulous four Swedish, English and Australian gang) wandered into our haven. This was a little refuge on the main road, where they offer ice-cold refresher towels that are actually kept in the freezer for our comfort and pleasure.
Our most vivid travel memories can come from iconic sights or famous locations, but so often it’s the less likely experiences that sneak up on you. For Sheryll Stapleton her ‘mmm moment’ was enjoyed on the longest river in Southeast Asia…
“I never dreamed I would experience something like this. Years later and I still think of this mightiest of rivers in my dreams. The magnificent Mekong with its eddies and swirls. The peacefulness of the long boat broken only by the gradually increasing and then decreasing roar of a faster vessel.
When your visit coincides with a festival, not only do you get to join in the fun, but as Intrepid’s Paul Chea explains, it’s a special opportunity to enjoy a real taste of local life…
“I would like to invite you to my home – Cambodia – in October for one of the most important festivals in the Khmer calendar. We call this celebration Pchum Ben, and its literal translation is “gathering and offering of food”.
Stepping foot on a site that’s well over 1000 years old might be motivation enough, or maybe you want to play out your own scenes from Tomb Raider? Either way the remarkable temples of Angkor have inspired many adventures and Trish Shaw, former Intrepid group leader, never tired of seeing a special sunrise in Cambodia…
“The alarm sounded at 4:30 am, still dark outside, but not cold. No matter how many times my job as an Intrepid leader made me awaken early for this occasion, it never became a chore. This morning we were going out to the breathtaking sight that is Angkor Wat, to watch the sun rise. At 5 am, the entire group was gathered at the bus, and after a quick head count and entrance pass check, we were on our way.
Like so many girls living in rural poverty in Cambodia, Wattana was forced to leave school in grade six to help support the nine people in her family. To make money, she cut wood for a pittance in a nearby forest. Wattana always knew she was capable of much more. So, when she heard that a Plan partner in a nearby town offered restaurant and tourism training, she decided it was precisely the opportunity she needed.
The course provided young people like her with hands-on training in restaurant and housekeeping services, and included office and English skills to help them get jobs in the Sala Bai tourist industry. However, the training involved an intensive, 12-month course away from home, and her mother believed this to be inappropriate, given Wattana’s gender. She thought her daughter should remain in the village like the other girls, cutting wood and getting married and raising children.
Sometimes we have the luxury of planning months in advance and being away for weeks, but then there are times when we suddenly have a few days off work and don’t want to waste them. Dr Peter Bryar found himself in the latter situation, and it wasn’t long before he was headed to Cambodia…
“Last year I had a week to spare and didn’t know what to do. I visited Intrepid Travel in Melbourne and within a half hour was booked to travel to Siem Reap (and the incredible Angkor Wat) through a 3-day Short Break Adventure. My head was spinning the whole time because there was so much to see and experience.
A 5-day eye camp in the Kampong Chen Cheung commune of Stong District, Cambodia, has recently restored sight to over 190 people. Around 500 people lined up to have their eyes checked by an outreach surgical team consisting of an ophthalmologist, a resident and three nurses. Intrepid travellers and The Intrepid Foundation have supported The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Cambodia program over many years, and have helped restore hope and dignity to many Cambodians through the restoration of their sight.
Mr Chhun Chat, the commune chief, said that every year The Fred Hollows Foundation’s eye camp brings hope, smiles and laughter to his villages. “As far as I remember it has been the fifth eye camp conducted in my commune,” he says. “We were waiting for their visit to arrive sooner, so hundreds of people would have the chance to see their loved ones again.”