Welcome to Cambodia! You will arrive into Phnom Penh and begin your journey in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Learn how to capture the sights of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam on this traveling photo workshop. In Cambodia, capture bustling Phnom Penh, take shots of the intricate temples of Angkor Wat, and stay in a traditional floating village homestay. In Laos you will explore the beautiful town of Luang Prabang, give alms to monks, and swim beneath a waterfall. In Vietnam, tour the city of Hanoi, visit the country’s largest pagoda, and step back in time with a tour of Confucius’ Temple of Literature — all while practicing your skills with our professional photographers.
Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Prior to your departure, you will have received your pre-departure packet, which will include your Rustic t-shirts, flight information, and important contact information. Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you get checked in to your international flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader, who will escort you all the way to Singapore! From Singapore, you’ll hop on another short flight with your group members and a Flight Leader to Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder! Our Flight Leaders are most often schoolteachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Southeast Asia!
Today is lost as you cross the International Date Line. Not to worry, though – you’ll get it back when you return.
Welcome to Phnom Penh! As you exit airport customs, your Rustic Pathways Program Leaders will be waiting just outside in the arrival area. Climb into a private van to the hotel, enjoying your first glimpse of Cambodia’s capital. Nestled on the banks of three great Southeast Asian rivers – the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac rivers – the frenetic streets of Phnom Penh provide a fascinating window into Cambodian culture. According to legend, this vibrant city was founded by a nun, Lady Penh, in the 14th century and became the country’s capital some 100 years later. From its power as a prominent market hub for European traders and eventual French colonization, to Khmer independence, to domination by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, Phnom Penh has seen its fair share of turbulence and unrest. As you ride through the motorcycle-choked streets and catch glimpses of busy marketplaces, know that you are witnessing a new era of growth and change for this beautiful and special country. Freshen up and head out to explore the city and try your first taste of delicious Cambodian food. Your Program Leaders will also hold an orientation so that you can get a real grasp of what you’ll be seeing and experiencing in the next two weeks.
Start the day with a full tour of Cambodia’s busy capital. Your first destination is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school that was used as a prison under the Khmer Rouge. The building has been converted into a museum to educate visitors about the genocide that occurred here. Journey on to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where you will walk through the quiet and peaceful fields that were once the site of mass killings and burials during the genocide. While difficult to process at times, these sites are important landmarks in Cambodian history and allow you to put the contemporary Cambodia in perspective. Head to famous Russian market and do a little shopping before exploring the grounds of the extravagant Royal Palace. In the evening, hop aboard a relaxing sunset cruise as you make your way towards Koh Dach Island, known for its silk farms and handmade goods. A full day of Phnom Penh will be enough to wear you out, so return to the hotel for some time to journal or edit your photos.
Today, pass through rural Cambodia as you journey up to Battambang and then settle into this less touristy city for the next two nights. You will have the chance to capture great images in this charming city and its beautiful countryside surroundings. Snap shots of lush rice fields on a traditional bamboo train and capture breathtaking panoramas alongside hill-top temples. Hone your techniques with the help of photo assignments, group critiques and discussions led by your Program Leaders.
Hop in the vans for a short drive from Battambang to Siem Reap. This ancient town, which serves as a gateway to the splendors of Angkor Wat, has enjoyed a thriving economic push from its many tourist visitors. It’s a quaint and diverse town filled with amazing restaurants for all tastes, and food carts line the shop-filled streets. It lies directly to the north of the majestic Tonle Sap Lake, and many of the people living near the city make their living off the water.
Upon arrival into Siem Reap, head to the boat docks, and hop aboard our very own Rustic Pathways boat for the next stop on our photo adventure! Spend the next two days completing photo assignments in the unique villages that float along the Tonle Sap Lake and its passageways. As you cruise up the river, you will witness a whole new way of life. Families cook their meals aboard their floating houses and set out nets to reel in the day’s catch. School children, dressed in white shirts and blue shorts wave excitedly as they begin their day. This photographic opportunity is one not to miss! Your nightly accommodations will consist of traditional floating village homestays. Settle in with your accommodating host family before heading out to explore the village. Life here is simple but the people are incredibly hospitable and will share everything they can with you.
As the sun rises on the water, the narrow muddy passageway expands into the greater Tonle Sap Lake. Interested in bird watching? Well this is the place! Keep an eye out for the spot-billed pelican and the milky stork – the Tonle Sap Lake is a great place to spot these beautiful birds! Make sure not to miss these birds in flight as you make your way back to the docks in Siem Reap.
No trip to Cambodia would be complete without visiting the world-famous Angkor Wat! The photographic opportunities never cease as the faces of Bayon temple overwhelm you and the Apsara dancers of Angkor delight. Climb through temples overtaken by jungle as you practice your art. This is a day of temple exploring that you will never forget!
Tonight you will visit Phare, The Cambodian Circus. This inspiring acrobat show is performed by students from Phare Ponleu Selpak, an organization that educates disadvantaged youth through the power of the arts. It is truly a sight to see and something you will remember from your time here in Cambodia.
After exploring the Kingdom of Wonder, head over to Luang Prabang, Laos, a UNESCO World Heritage town that is renowned among travelers for its welcoming people, stunning architecture and peaceful mountain setting. Upon arrival, take a walk around this charming city and explore the world famous night market.
The next couple of days will be spent completing various photo assignments created by your Program Leaders and adventuring through this great country!
Rise with the roosters and give alms to the hundreds of monks that line the streets of Luang Prabang in the morning. It’s a sight that simply cannot be missed when visiting Laos.
Bike around the backstreets to get a sense of local life, visit the morning market for some Lao delicacies. With the tips and techniques from your program leaders, complete an assignment today capturing Luang Prabang’s unique combination of French colonialism, Buddhist temples and an emerging tourism industry.
Cap off today with a short hike up the steps of Phou Si mountain. Capture an amazing panoramic view of Luang Prabang at sunset!
After breakfast, hop on a boat down the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves. These ancient Buddhist caves date back almost 60 decades, and over that time, pilgrims to the site have left more than 4,000 images of the Buddha in the area. As you float along watch fisherman casting their nets off the riverbank, excited children plunging from rocks into the chilly waters, and women paddling boats to their villages carrying vegetables for the day.
After lunch we’ll drive up to the world-renowned aqua blue Kuang Si Waterfall. Swim in the gorgeous pools or hike to the top for a serene, peaceful moment near the spring of the waterfall.
Following your time in Laos, fly to the neighboring country to the east, Vietnam. On your first evening in Vietnam, head to the Old Quarter and explore the old colonial streets lined with various shops selling everything from Buddhas to bamboo.
In the morning, drive from your hotel in Hanoi to Ninh Binh, with a stop to visit Bai Dinh pagoda. It is known as the biggest pagoda in Vietnam, with 500 Lo Hon and the biggest Buddha statue made of bronze, weighing a hundred ton for 10 meters high. Board bamboo row boats to visit Trang An- a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Cruise along a tiny stream, through the system of grottoes. Trang An is an eco tourism complex and the grottoes have an area of 1,500 hectares including limestone ranges, valleys, caves and rivers. A fascinating place to photograph!
Today explore the countryside of Vietnam by bicycle, and visit a village famous for lacquerware. Pay a visit to one of the family’s shop and learn how these unique items are made.
After our lunch, it’s time to return to Hanoi to our final evening in the city.
On your final day in Hanoi walk around the charming Hoan Kiem Lake where the locals go to relax and drink the very strong Vietnamese “weasel” coffee. Visit Confucius’ Temple of Literature and Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum where the old leader of the communist party still lays in state. Explore the halls and rooms and learn about the history of the Vietnam War while touring the Hanoi Hilton – the Vietnamese POW prison that held Americans during the Vietnam War, including Sen. John McCain. Along the way enjoy ice-cold fruit shakes and delicious bowls of noodle soup and other wonderful northern Vietnamese delicacies. Enjoy the rambling streets, busy markets and old world charm of this bustling city.
After two incredible and eye-opening weeks, it’s time to say goodbye to Southeast Asia and journey onward. Head to Noi Bai International Airport where you will connect to another program, or begin the journey home.
If you are flying back to the U.S., you’ll arrive back in the states on this day, as you’ll have time zone changes in the middle. Many of our students choose to connect to other programs in our Asian destinations. All students on our group flights arrive home on Fridays, regardless of whether they return to JFK or LAX.
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
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Great question—no! Whatever level you’re at, you’ll walk away an improved and more confident photographer. Advanced photography experience is not required as there is a great deal of individual instruction on the trip to cater to individual levels.
If you have a passion for photography, want to learn how to use your camera, and improve your skills while building your portfolio, then this is the trip for you!
You don’t need to bring anything special, just your camera and creativity. Students will have a wide variety of cameras from small point-and-shoots to fancy SLR cameras with additional lenses. Whatever you bring, you will get some great shots!
You will be visiting Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and will have local guides from each country that will share their beautiful cultures with you. There will also be one or two non-local guides who will have professional photography experience to give you the tools to build an awesome portfolio.
When you’re in each country you will be traveling around by vans and/or buses. You will take short flights between each country.
Students will have access to clean, safe drinking water (pronounced duk) on this trip at all times. Water in faucets can be used to brush your teeth but is not for drinking. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated!
Southeast Asia is know for some delicious delicacies and you’ll be sure to sample famous dishes of each country. One thing is certain—rice a staple part of the diet in each country. Be sure to try Lok-lak in Cambodia, Laarb in Laos, and Pho in Vietnam- these dishes are loved by many! Whether you like spicy or food on the more mild side they have it all in Southeast Asia!
We will mostly stay in guesthouses that have hot water showers and clean beds.
In Cambodia you complete a homestay in two floating houses (students are separated by gender), with basic living accommodations. This is an authentic experience where there may not be running water or western-style toilets. Don’t worry; your guides will be sure to teach you the dos and don’ts of village life. Bucket showers (super refreshing!) and squat toilets will be part of your daily life and you can expect to sleep on a mattress pads with a mosquito net. It’s early to bed in the floating villages but also early to rise as the sound of the boat engines start up bright and early!
In Laos, you can expect to stay in guesthouses in Luang Prabang and further north in Nong Khiaw. All will have western toilets and hot water showers.
During the end of your trip you will be staying in Hanoi, Vietnam where your group will be staying in a guesthouse and you can expect to have western amenities such air-con, hot water and western toilets.
Always be prepared to spend a night in a bamboo hut and take shower by pouring a cold bucket of water over your head along the way!
Cleanliness is a big part of Asian culture so we keep as clean as our traveling allows us. We will have access to laundry facilities at least once a week if not more often. The cost is usually $1/kilogram.
Malaria is present throughout the country of Cambodia. Mosquitos tend to pop up whenever the rain starts, and at night. Please bring 2 bottles of mosquito repellant with the proper amount of DEET (at least 30% DEET is recommended). Packing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants to wear at night for extra protections is also a great idea! Students will be provided mosquito nets when completing their homestays. Be sure to consult with a travel doctor or your family physician regarding additional precautions to take.
International SOS provides the most up to date recommendations regarding Cambodia. Since we do not know your child’s medical history, we recommend you reference International SOSs website at: https://rusticpathways.com/international-sos/ or the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov for more information. We also suggest consulting with your local travel doctor prior to your travels for further information.
When you join us on this incredible journey we want you to have an as immersive experience as possible and soak it all in. To do that you are encouraged to “unplug” and take a break from technology and engage with the life on the ground in Cambodia. Leave the lands of social media behind and focus on being present in the moment—don’t worry, it will still be there when you return—we promise!
You will have access to internet access throughout this program, and if an emergency were to occur your Program Leaders will be carrying a phone at all times which you can use (Program leaders will charge on a per minute basis).
Generally a universal adapter that will accept almost any plug and plug into almost any style of outlet is the best choice. Be sure it includes a 3-2 adapter, as many US products have the third grounding pin and many Asian outlets do not accept it. These cost around twenty dollars and are available at office and travel supply stores. All other electrical outlets in Southeast Asia accept standard two-pronged plugs.
Communication with the locals that you will be meeting will be key on this program and can be done in a variety of ways. A lot of people in the larger towns speak English to a certain degree and your local guides can help teach you basic phrases to use each day. It can be a lot of fun practicing those new phrases and trying to use your own made up sign language as well! People will be as interested in hearing about your culture as you are in theirs. In addition, our talented local staff speak excellent Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese and will serve as your gateway those cultures, translating and explaining what people are saying.
Believe us when we say that you are not going to be ready to go home after two weeks! Time will fly and you’ll feel like your journey is just beginning as you board the plane home. The long flight over to Southeast Asia is the hardest part; once you’re here, why not make the most of it and build an incredible summer?
This trip connects seamlessly with other programs throughout Southeast Asia. Connecting is a great idea if your travel plans allow for it!
Pack light. You are only leaving home for a few weeks at most, so only pack the essentials.
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing longer shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear. Leave the crop tops, short shorts, and shirts with inappropriate writing at home.
Leave your valuables behind. Sometimes while traveling things are lost or stolen. If you can live without it, leave it at home.
Check with the TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, or want a recommendation letter, no problem! Bring any forms or documents you need filled out by your programs leaders with you so they can be completed in-country.
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal. Wheeled bags are okay as long as they can be carried like a duffel bag over rough terrain.
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Any type of equipment is fine, just plan on improving your skills!
Recommended to bring:
Southeast Asia is a wet environment so please have a good case that keeps your camera safe from elements like rain and dirt. Keep a couple of small plastic grocery bags in your camera bag just in case.
We do a good deal of exploring on foot. So however much equipment you choose to bring, make sure you have a comfortable way of carrying it around.
If you are traveling with expensive equipment, it is strongly suggested to have it insured. We do our best to stay in safe areas, but theft and accidental damage are always possible.
Welcome to Cambodia! You will arrive into Phnom Penh and begin your journey in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Take a ride on the exhilirating bamboo train and and complete photo assignments given by your program leaders.
Photograph the unique communities living on the waterways of the Tonle Sap Lake and learn about daily life from your host family.
Explore the ruins of incredible Angkor Wat–a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest religious structure in the world!
This UNESCO World Heritage town is an enchanting mix of French-colonial influence and traditional Buddhist life.
Discover the vibrant city of Hanoi.
Travel by bamboo row boats through limestone karst valleys and a system of grottoes