Active Philanthropy tour

Give As You Go: Laos & Cambodia Tour

Countries: CambodiaLaos

15 Days | $4,480

At Journeys Within, we’ve specialized in custom Southeast Asia tours for philanthropically minded travelers from the very beginning – what we call “active philanthropy.” So for us, the 15-day “Give As You Go: Laos & Cambodia” tour is our holy grail – each hotel, restaurant and experience included in this itinerary was chosen with the idea of giving back and supporting local community development efforts.

At Journeys Within, we believe that this type of travel not only helps those countries we visit, but also creates incredible experiences for our travelers.

Day 1 Luang Prabang: Arrival, Orientation Tour and Baci Ceremony with Dinner

Arrive on your flight in Luang Prabang, you’ll be picked up from the airport and driven to the main part of town for a quick orientation tour. Your guide will give you an introduction to the city, showing you the main roads, some restaurants and the night market area, before taking helping you check in to your hotel.

Your guide will meet you at your hotel after you have had the opportunity to relax and freshen up. Before dinner, you will take part in a traditional Baci ceremony. The baci ceremony, referred to as, su kwan, which means “calling of the soul” will be performed by a local village elder, maw pawn. This blessing is meant to welcome you by giving you a blessing to bring harmony and balance to your body and soul. The Lao believe that this blessing will bring the believed 32 kwan, souls, that watch over you, back to your body so that you may be blessed and healthy. Your guide and the locals will help to lead you through the steps of the ceremony. During the ceremony there will be blessings, chanting and Pook kwan. Pook Kwan is the tying of the white baci threads on each of your wrists from the elders. The white cotton is a symbol of peace, good fortune, honesty and comfort. They are traditionally worn for at least 3 days and should be untied rather than cut off. After the closing of the ceremony you will have the opportunity to ask any questions about the ceremony with your guide and your ceremony’s hosts.

Meals included: Dinner

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel –Superior River View Room

Day 2 Luang Prabang: Sunrise to Sunset

Wake up at sunrise to give monks morning alms. You’ll be accompanied by your guide who can demonstrate the proper method of alms giving and explain this daily Buddhist ceremony. Return to your hotel for breakfast, after which your guide will take you on a tour of the city, including visits to The National Museum, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Visun, Wat Aham and Wat Sen. Enjoy lunch at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Center located on the Mekong River surrounded by a garden and artisans on the outskirts of town. Enjoy the early afternoon relaxing or walking around before you continue your tour, visiting the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum and finishing with a hike up Mt. Phou Si in the late afternoon to see a sweeping view of Luang Prabang and watch the sunset.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Day 3 Luang Prabang: Life Along the Mekong

Today you’ll escape the tourist hubs in town and see Luang Prabang through local eyes. First, you will drive up the Mekong to the village of Pak Ou. From here board a small boat and take a tour of the local fishing area, checking traps with fishermen along the way and collecting any fish you might find. You will then cross the Mekong to visit the small village of Ban Mueng Keo, known for its production of local whiskey. Here you will be able to watch a demonstration of the whiskey-making process by a local Lao Lao Whiskey producer and, if you’re up for it, sample the finished product for an early morning boost. Afterwards, you will go a bit up river to the quaint 120 year old village of Ban Kok that only received electricity 5 years ago and is only accessible by the river. Take a stroll with the chief of the village before joining him for a home-cooked Lao lunch in his humble house.

Please note: that a portion of your tour fees will go into a Ban Kok fund set up to help the village and its primary school and the students with needed materials and supplies.

From here you will travel downstream to visit the Pak Ou Caves, famous for the thousands of Buddha statues left inside by pilgrims. Board your long-tail boat for a scenic ride on the Mekong until you reach the small weaving village of Ban Phone Xay, where you’ll enjoy a weaving demonstration and have a chance to purchase handmade items directly from the source. Learn the story behind who really makes the beautiful textiles sold at the night market – at the end of the day you’ll be the only tourist in town who knows the real story behind the bottles of Lao Lao, the grilled Mekong fish, and the night market.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Day 4 Luang Prabang: The Living Land and Picnic Lunch at Kuang Si Waterfall

Today you will learn about Laos’s most cherished and cultivated crop – rice! The Living Land Company is a community enterprise that specializes in growing organic vegetables and rice for the development of the local community and seven families that live on the farm. You will arrive at the Living Rice Farm and be introduced to your guide and farming expert. You will learn the 12 steps of rice farming from the seeding of the soil to cooking the coveted sticky rice for everyday consumption. You will have the opportunity to truly experience the life of a farmer by trying your hand at some of the activities, like helping to plow the muddy soil by guiding Susan the farm’s water buffalo or husking the rice with a traditional foot rice pounder. You will also learn about some of the other traditional skills of the farmer like blacksmithing and bamboo weaving. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the expansive rice fields, organic garden of herbs and vegetables, and the fish pond from the balcony of the farm’s traditional Lao wooden house. You will not only have the opportunity to learn about rice farming, but you will have the opportunity to talk to Lao farmers and gain an understanding about their way of life and gentle friendliness.

After that, your guide will take you on a scenic drive to visit the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall. Driving through the countryside you may wish to stop along the way to visit a local village to observe a traditional Lao community. Before reaching the waterfall you can visit the Kuang Si Butterfly Park and the Free the Bears Projects to learn about what these local organizations are doing to educate people and protect native species. Enjoy a picnic lunch amongst the beautiful scenery and then wind down with a relaxing afternoon dip in the serene pools.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Day 5 Luang Prabang: JWOC Village School Sponsorship

Meet with a Laos Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) representative for lunch and to discuss the JWOC’s ongoing projects in Luang Prabang. Before you leave town, you will be prepped on the day’s activities in which you may participate in at the village school. Head out to a picturesque village hidden away in the hills surrounding Luang Prabang. When you arrive in Phik Noy (Little Pepper Village) you will visit the primary school which JWOC supports through donations like yours. During your visit your will have the opportunity to interact with the teachers and students through a little English lesson and an art activity.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Day 6 Luang Prabang to Vientiane: Arrival and Full Day City Tour with Dinner Performance

You will be transferred to the Luang Prabang airport in time for your flight – Laos Airlines QV112 departing Luang Prabang at 07:30 & arriving in Vientiane at 08:20. Upon arriving in the capital of Laos, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel to check in.

After helping you check in, your guide will take you on a tour of the main sites and temples of Vientiane including Haw Pha Kaeo, Wat Si Saket, Pha That Luang, Patuxai and Si Muang.

Afterwards enjoy lunch at Makphet Restaurant, which trains homeless youth to wait tables and cook. Here you can also pick up a couple of last minute gifts for loved ones at their shop which sells handmade handicrafts from underprivileged families. In the afternoon, stop by the COPE Center to learn about how they are helping the disadvantaged in Laos. You will be dropped off at your hotel in the afternoon. In the evening you will be picked up for a traditional dinner including a Lao music and dance performance that begins at 7pm.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at Ansara Hotel – Savvy Room

Day 7 Vientiane: Museum and Market and Afternoon at Leisure

This morning you will visit Thong Kan Kham Fresh Market. See all of the interesting produce and meat sold at this local market and how the locals do their grocery shopping! You will also stop to visit Carol Cassidy’s Lao Textile workshop, for a chance to see the weaving process and buy some of their world renowned Lao textiles. Stop by for a stroll through a small collection of historical and revolutionary exhibitions at the National Museum.
Return to your hotel for lunch or have your guide drop you off in town to eat at a local restaurant.

Enjoy your afternoon of leisure with a walk along the Mekong River at the Chao Anouvong Park or a relaxing spa treatment and choose amongst the many dinner spots in the quaint town center.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Ansara Hotel – Savvy Room

Day 8   Vientiane to Siem Reap: Arrival

You will be transferred to Vientiane Airport in time for your onward flight – Laos Airlines QV303 departing Vientiane at 10:45 & arriving in Pakse at 12:00

Catch your connecting flight – Laos Airlines QV513 departing Pakse at 13:10 & arriving in Siem Reap at 14:10 – where you will be met by a Journeys Within representative and will be transferred to your hotel.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – Superior Room

Day 9   Siem Reap: Angkor Wat Sunrise with Sala Kdei and Angkor Thom

Wake up early and head out to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, taking some time to explore this temple during the cool morning hours and before the crowds arrive. Follow this with a very special breakfast outside of your hotel. Escaping the temple crowds, enjoy a boxed breakfast from the Shinta Mani, or if you wish, return to the hotel for breakfast.

For a tasty treat, pay a visit to the Bayon Pastry School, which provides free and quality education to underprivileged children living in the villages in the Angkor temples, and provides additional education and skills to underprivileged graduates.

In the afternoon head to Angkor Thom, the famous walled city, and see the many temples within its borders, including the fascinating Bayon temple with its many magnificent faces smiling out.  At the end of the day, discuss with your guide where you would like to be and then relax and enjoy a memorable end to your day at the temples.  There are several beautiful spots from which to watch the sunset.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – Superior Room

Day 10   Siem Reap: Banteay Srei, Land Mine Museum, Other Temples and Backstreet Academy Football and Dinner at Marum

This morning, set off with your guide to Banteay Srei, the intricately carved temple located just 30km beyond Angkor Wat. Continue on to visit the Land Mine Museum, a rather humble look at the land mine problem, past and present, in Cambodia. Enjoy lunch in the temple complex overlooking Sra Srang, followed by a visit to the nearby Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm, two of the prettiest temples in the complex. Return to your hotel around mid-afternoon.

You might be familiar with local kids beginning spontaneous football (soccer) matches barefoot on the beach or in a field. It’s the kind of experience that one remembers fondly. When we discovered that The Volunteer Development Children School organized weekly football matches under their Y&T (youth and tourism) program, we were thrilled and immediately approached them to offer their experience to our traveling guests. Every weekend evenings, the students get together with other locals and travelers alike and have a friendly match. Join us in this one-of-a-kind experience where you can interact with locals and the culture through the universal language of sport!

Please note: Backstreet Academy Football is only available on weekends.

Return to your hotel to freshen up, before heading out to dinner at the delicious Marum Restaurant.  Marum is run by Kaliyan Mith, an NGO that has been working with street children and other marginalized young people since 2005 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – Superior Room

Day 11   Siem Reap: Hidden Temples and Community Library Class, and Phare Café Performance Dinner

This morning your guide will meet you at the hotel at 7am and you will head into the temple complex, driving through the quiet of the morning to a special hidden road. Here you will find a smaller temple rarely visited by tourists. Despite being in the Angkor temple complex this is a quiet escape from the noise and bustle of some of the other temples. Once at the temple relax and do some exploring. When you’re ready to move on you can walk to a nearby Ta Keo Temple…climb to the top and enjoy the amazing views! From Ta Keo head to the Angkor Thom Gate and take a walk along the Angkor Thom wall. Again, no one visits this beautiful area and it’s quiet and peaceful. At the end of the wall you will get to the East Gate, which was used for taking dead bodies to be cremated in Angkorian times. A beautiful gate with Bayon faces you’ll be the only tourists there to see them.

Enjoy lunch at Sister Srey Café, which supports young Khmer students who struggle to keep a balance between study and supporting their family. Each staff member is trained in hospitality, English language skills, personal development, health and hygiene and banking.  The Café also works with the Hearts to Harmony Foundation and donates 20 percent of their profits.

Please note: Sister Srey can only accommodate small groups so we would like to recommend Genevieve’s Restaurant for larger parties.  Genevieve’s employs local staff from disadvantaged backgrounds and donates a generous portion of their profits to local charities that encourage community development and the empowerment of Khmer children and their families. Offering a delicious Khmer and Western menu, with a kind heart and a beautiful vision, Genevieve’s has become a town favorite.

Come and spend an hour in JWOC’s Community Library where you’ll get to meet some of the children from the surrounding communities. Between 3pm and 4pm you can help the younger children complete a puzzle, engage in some arts and crafts, or perhaps enjoy constructing a castle from the building blocks, while helping them practice their basic English. Or if you prefer something quieter, there’s always someone looking for story time. You will also have a chance to meet with our scholarship students and gain a greater understanding about the work we do within our community.

Please note: You should arrive at 2:30pm so you can get an overview of JWOC before jumping in to help!

Enjoy a pre-performance dinner at the Phare Café, conveniently located just next door to the circus. The 3 course Deluxe Western Set Menu offers a special variety of dishes for those who need a break from the local food. All performers in Phare The Cambodian Circus learn their skills through Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), an Association providing arts education in Battambang, Cambodia. Young people from the streets, orphanages and struggling families in the community come to PPS to learn, express and heal themselves through the arts.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – Superior Room

Day 12   Siem Reap: Morning at Leisure, Lunch at Haven and JWOC Art in the Community Day

You have this morning free to relax or explore on your own.

Enjoy lunch at Haven, a training restaurant for vulnerable and underprivileged young adults. By teaching them quality work skills as well as important life skills, they support these young people in their transition from institution to real world as well as giving them a chance to step out of the poverty cycle.

Every third Sunday of the month JWOC gathers all of the art supplies we can find and we head over to the local pagoda (Wat or Temple) to get creative! We hold an art class for all children in the local community where they can sing songs, read a book, practice their English, play games and experiment with arts and crafts! You can join a group of children and help them to glue projects, fold origami, draw and learn! This is an excellent opportunity for the whole family to express their inner creativity while engaging with local children and JWOC scholarship students!

Please note: You should arrive at 2:30pm so you can get an overview of JWOC before taking a ride to the local pagoda!

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – Superior Room

 Day 13   Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: Arrival, Royal Palace and National Museum and Dinner at Dine in the Dark

Your driver will meet you at your hotel for your private transfer to the airport, where you will arrive in time for your onward flight – Cambodia Angkor Air K6100 departing Siem Reap at 09:20 & arriving at 10:00 in Phnom Penh where you will be met by an air conditioned van and driver and will be transferred to your hotel.

This morning take a tour of the Royal Palace, which to this day is still the royal residence. See the amazing royal collection and the beautiful architecture before heading to the National Museum, where you will be taken around by a trained museum guide who will show you some wonderful pre-Angkorean pieces as well as a number of special pieces from the temples.

After your cultural morning, enjoy lunch at Friends, a restaurant benefiting at-risk street children, before continuing your city tour.

In the evening, enjoy dinner at Dine in the Dark, which hires a team of professional, visually-impaired servers that graciously lead you through the entire sightless fine dining experience.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at The 252 Hotel – Deluxe Room

Day 14   Phnom Penh: The Killing Fields and Dinner at Romdeang Restaurant

This morning, head to the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum where your guide will explain the history of the Khmer Rouge and walk you through the different museum displays. After watching the movie they show every day, continue on to the Choeung Ek Memorial, the site of one of the country’s many killing fields, where a memorial stupa and shallow pits remind visitors of the thousands killed under the Pol Pot Regime. There is an excellent audio headset on site which includes firsthand survivor stories, accounts from guards, traditional music, as well as a guided tour of the site. We recommend using this thoughtful and well-produced audio tour as most visitors to the Choeung Ek Memorial use the personalized headset tours, leaving the somber grounds quiet allowing for introspection. Your JW guide will be on hand if you would prefer to explore the site with them or have any additional questions after you have completed your audio tour. Return to your hotel for lunch or have your guide drop you off in town where they can help you find a good spot for lunch. Remember to take a look at our Cheat Sheet which lists a number of our favorite restaurant recommendations!

Return to your hotel and relax before dinner at Romdeang Restaurant serving traditional Khmer food.  Romdeng is run by Mith Samlanh, which has worked to build the futures of former street children and marginalized young people.   The silk goods and cushions adorning Romdeng were made by our students in sewing training at Mith Samlanh and its walls are hung with beautiful paintings produced by young people from the art classes there.

in Phnom Penh since 1994.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Overnight at The 252 Hotel – Deluxe Room

Day 15   Phnom Penh: Departure

This morning you will be transferred to the airport by your guide and driver for your onward flight.

Meals included: Breakfast

Tour Rate: $4,480 per person based on 2 people traveling (double occupancy) with a $3,040 single supplement.

Price includes:

  • Air tickets Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Pakse – Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
  • Boat tickets as specified above
  • Accommodation as specified above
  • Air-conditioned car/van with driver
  • Licensed English speaking guides
  • Tours and admission fees as mentioned above
  • Meals as specified in itinerary, including water

Price excludes:

  • Personal expenses
  • Visa fees
  • Airport tax
  • Drinks (except water) and meals not mentioned in itinerary
  • Tips
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