Give As You Go: Laos… (trip)

Give As You Go: Laos and Cambodia

  • Cambodia and Lao, People's Democratic Republic
  • Active & Adventure
Cambodia, Lao, People's Democratic Republic

from $4,840* per person15 DaysYear-round
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 3
Operator: Journeys Within Tour Company 12 people max

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.

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Locations visited/nearby

Cambodia, Lao, People's Democratic Republic

0 testimonials about this trip.

3 testimonials about the provider, Journeys Within Tour Company:

  • Reviewer: Leslie located in USA
    Journeys Within provided us with the travel experience of a lifetime. Our trip was full of contrast—adventure, wonder, relaxation, history, emotion, excitement, connection with new cultures and people. Journeys Within is not just another tour company. They take the work out of traveling. We loved the quiet of their B & B in Siem Reap and were spoiled by the care and service their staff provided. We traveled with another couple and we are still speaking which attest to how stress free and enjoyable our trip was.
  • Reviewer: Edna and Steve located in New York USA

    Steve and I have travelled extensively world-wide but never to SE Asia and we rarely rely on agencies. I put feelers out for organizations within the US as well as in this region of the world. From the first conversation with Andrea of Journeys Within there was an immediate connection, a comfort level in terms of their knowledge, warmth, experience, listening skills, suggestions and their patience for answering all of my many and on-going questions. Being a curious and detail-oriented person I was constantly finding areas and events that i just “had to see” and would ask another question. Realizing that time and money was somewhat of a factor Andrea was a magician and always was able to make it all happen. Their humanitarian goals, through Journeys Within Our Community, in a country that has so many needs, was also a large part of why we chose them.

    Through the many conversations we had they were able to focus on our main interests (photography, seeing the cultures of each country by viewing the people within their daily life in rural villages that many times showcased their handicrafts, the Buddhist religion and seeing the monks in their saffron robes) and created an extensive itinerary with memorable experiences. We don't go on tours that include large groups of people and so love being able to go off the beaten track on our own with just a guide and driver. Their guides are exceptional, both knowledgeable and so proud of their country and wanting to share it with us. They were all very astute as to what would give us the best experience.

    There were numerous instances where unplanned additions were spontaneously added to our day. For example, we remember getting up at 4 AM in Siem Reap because our guide, Sima, had a special relationship with the abbot in one one the wats and knew that we would enjoy seeing the monks meditate. We ran across fields in Angkor Wat and up steep stairs to listen to monks chanting. Throughout, our guides also knew the best vantage points for us to get that “perfect” photograph. We, also, laughingly remember getting out of our car on the way to the ferry in order to cross the Mekong to view the floating markets at Cai Be and Cai Rang and our guide, Kha, arranging for each of us to hop on the back of a motor bike in order to to whiz along and circumvent the 7 km backup which would have taken hours. We definitely appreciated his problem-solving skills. The challenge of successfully crossing the streets in Hanoi and Saigon amid the cacophony of horns and disregard for the traffic lights was masterfully taught and we took great pleasure when we were able to do this on our own. Obviously, we are alive to tell the tale!

    If we had to single out (an impossiblity) our favorite places one would have to be the idyllic Luang Prabang, a totally unspoiled area of Laos. Another would be Hoi An, in Vietnam, and it's beautiful walking areas along the Perfume River and throughout the village. Getting up at 5 AM and watching the fishing boats come in and the markets being set up was amazing. When we took the overnight Victoria Express train in our private berth from Hanoi to get to the Sunday Bac Ha market north of Sapa we felt as if we were in a foreign film. The market was an experience in itself that was extraordinary. Seeing the ethnic minority tribes come together in their colorful attire where each group is easily identified put my head on a swivel. My camera continually snapped away. There was so much to see. I think I bought Steve a water buffalo for his birthday! Everything imaginable was sold there.

    One very important highlight was the time we spent with Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) and learning about and from them. It happened to be Valentine's Day and about 130 children wandered in, first carefully washing their hands, to take part in an arts and crafts project of making heart baskets using paper plates. We were privileged to be able to participate and help. Although we could not verbally communicate, our faces and bodies spoke volumes and we all got along so well. Each child left with a basket to bring home, a smile and an orang e to eat. JWOC focuses on basic needs such as clean water, education, health and many other community-based issues. There is even a program that they started in the local prison where the women are taught how to use a sewing machine and make clothing. This will enable them, upon their release, to be productive and contributing members of their community. By breaking this cycle of poverty and building self-esteem by giving them the tools to enrich their lives by making them independent bodes well for their future, their children's future, and ultimately, the future of their country. We plan on being a contributing part of making this part of the world and it's people a better place via JWOC.

    Journeys Within provided us with a trip of a lifetime!

  • Reviewer: Tricia

    Hi Andrea:

    We're home and had a wonderful trip so thanks for all of your guidance. As you suggested, The Nam Hai exceeded our expectations and was the perfect ending to our busy and extremely hot trip. We all loved our time there. Considering the heat and Charlie's ongoing struggle with stomach issues, I'm not sure I'd attempt the Hanoi bikeride again -- though our sweaty morning and lunch with Vinh will doubtless provide great stories for years to come. The kids were not up for another waltz through a pagoda, so we did the Hoi An market instead. It was the first market exploration of our entire trip and was fascinating, especially the area with fresh seafood and veggies. We bought some bamboo placements and small pottery. Vinh seemed to relax a lot once we were settled down for lunch at his home, beautifully prepared by his wife and mother-in-law. Lunch was delicious.....if only it weren't so hot out. Cold beers helped a lot.

    yes, it was extremely disappointing to miss Halong Bay. If we were to do it again, as an alternative plan because of the typhoon, I think we'd drive out to Halong Bay for the day (around 3 hours) instead of the excursion we chose to Perfume Pagoda. Perfume Pagoda ended up being much longer and more strenuous than we were prepared for because of the heat, though I'll bet it's a very different experience in the fall or winter. (I really should send you the photos of our sweaty group midway and following the hike.) when I spoke first with Du, we loved the idea of a one-hour drive to a 45-min. boatride to a one-hour hike. unfortunately, the drive was more like 2.5 hours and the boatride was stifling hot (not that interesting) with a difficult climb at the end. In the end, of course, we definitely are proud of what we accomplished that day and will be talking about our adventure for years to come. We loved Du and really enjoyed the time we spent with him in Hanoi.

    finally, Cambodia was a huge hit with the kids. The temples were incredible and I would recommend the short balloon ride to anyone with kids. We got terrific photos. Plus, we loved your Journeys Within, which made the visit extremely special. Your staff there were magnificent and we felt like we had our own private pool -- perfect for cooling off. (The whole experience reminded me of some places we stayed in Zimbabwe --then Rhodesia --more than 30 years ago.) Leap was a charming guide and we enjoyed our time with him as well.

    All in all, a wonderful trip for all of us. I think the weather in August is truly a challenge at every step. But, we loved being there in the off-season (it was already WAY more crowded in HK when we returned in mid-August) and would visit again if only it weren't SO FAR away.


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Special information

  • This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.
  • May accommodate certain types of disabilities. Contact the operator for more information.


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

Upon arrival 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 – 1 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 – 1 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 – 1 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 – 1 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 to Vientiane. 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 – 1 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 – 1 Savvy Room

Day 8   Vientiane to Siem Reap: Arrival

You will be transferred to Vientiane Airport in time for your onward flight to Siem Reap. When you arrive at the airport in Siem Reap, you will be met by a Journeys Within representative just outside the airport exit doors and will be driven to the main part of town for a quick orientation tour, before checking into your hotel. 

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – 1 Superior Room

Day 9   Siem Reap: Angkor Wat Sunrise 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 boxed breakfast from the Shinta Mani, or if you wish, return to the hotel for breakfast.

For a tasty treat, also 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 – 1 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 – 1 Superior Room

Day 11   Siem Reap: Hidden Temples and JWOC Art 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.

Sunday afternoons are special at Journeys Within Our Community. We hold our art class for local students at 2:30pm – a no-pressure class where anyone is invited to come, play games, sing songs and do a simple and rewarding art project. Volunteers are great for this class; we break the students into groups and as a volunteer you can join a group and help the little ones with scissors and other tricky tasks and give the older students encouragement and attention. It is fun for all the family, a great way to get involved and see our project in action. You will have a chance to meet with our scholarship students and gain a greater understanding about the work we do within our community.

Please arrive at 2:20pm before the lesson starts so the teacher can explain the project and you can get oriented. The class runs until 4pm.

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 – 1 Superior Room

Day 12   Siem Reap: JWOC Active Philanthropy Clean Water Project, Lunch at Haven and Afternoon at Leisure

Become a part of JWOC’s clean water program and help transform the everyday lives of rural Cambodians. JWOC so far has bought clean water to over 10,000 people – help us continue to deliver clean water to those in need. Place 3 families through an education course regarding hygiene, filter and well training, donate a filter and either install or repair an existing well. When you come to visit you will see our work in action as we take you out to our current clean water village.  After your visit, 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.

Spend the afternoon at your leisure.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Shinta Mani Club – 1 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 returning to your hotel or stopping in town to explore on your own. 

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 – 1 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 – 1 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


Price includes:

Air tickets Luang Prabang – Vientiane – 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


More information from Journeys Within Tour Company: