Here's an update from our very own Julie Ganski, operations coordinator, who's roaming around Cambodia on a research trip for Myths and Mountains:
Once you've traveled with a private guide, you'll know that it's worth paying for this special privilege. For most of our Myths trips, our clients do have private guides, and they enjoy the added benefits of having a guide who caters to their style of travel and their interests. We trust our guides to share insights into how local people live - it adds a wonderful flavor to our itineraries.
For instance, Sinat explained, "Julie, look, those sticks you see are their anchors" - pointing at the sticks coming from the water, which I wouldn't even think to ask about. Driving down the road, he'll say "Julie, look, they are boiling palm juice to make sugar." I love that he sees details that lets me understand the local Cambodian culture even more!
Another example was when we were hiking to Kbeal Spean. He always would stop and notice the littlest things around us - like an army of termites marching up a tree or a giant centipede worth checking out. The butterflies took quite a liking to him and one landed on his hand and climbed a good portion of the hike with us just hanging out on his hand.
One of the perks of working for an adventure travel company is... getting to go on an adventure! Our operations coordinator, Julie, arrived in Cambodia last week to do some research and development and to check out the newest in boutique hotels for our travelers. Here's her first field report:
I made it to Cambodia! And I love Siem Reap!!!! Gosh I don't even know where to start. Today I said goodbye to my guide and driver Sinat and Sypha. I really loved them both so much, and felt they were more friends or big brothers looking out for me.
I went to Angkor Wat for sunrise the first morning, and had a lovely catered breakfast by the moat in the woods with a table set for one (just me!) with table cloths and flowers. I had a delicious quiet breakfast of coffee, pineapple juice, fresh fruit, a delicious rice noodle, chicken and vegetable soup and croissants. A very enjoyable way to begin the day and what a stunning backdrop. I feel so lucky to be have a job that lets me experience something so unique.
Visiting the Galapagos is an unforgettable experience for most travelers, but for the Malès family of McLean, Virginia, their Myths and Mountains trip to the Enchanted Islands had an impact that continues to echo through their lives.
Experienced adventure travelers, Eric and Barbara Malès, along with their daughter Billie, had already done a substantial amount of research on the Galapagos when they decided to work with Myths and Mountains. "We wanted someone with the expertise to guarantee that it would be a trip of a lifetime, but secondarily someone that really knew how to tailor the trip to our needs," Eric explains. "Later as we got to know them we learned of their commitment to different areas of the world and discovered, for example, that they were very involved in organizing other travel companies to do conservation in the Galapagos."
Mention Cambodia, and most travelers' first thought will be of the amazing temple complexes at Siem Reap. Yet there's much more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat. "It's a country that's just getting on people's radar, and it's definitely worth going to see," says Myths and Mountains President Toni Neubauer. "It has fairly good infrastructure and varied ecosystems and people. I think it should be up there on the hotlist."
There are wonderful beach and jungle resorts, luxury tent safaris to magnificent but little-known temples, opportunities to see diverse wildlife, and of course a fascinating and welcoming culture. Yet most U.S. travelers experience only a fraction of Cambodia's diverse attractions.
"You just don't see a lot of American tourists doing any of this," Neubauer says. "They're missing out."
High on Neubauer's list of Cambodian favorites is the beach resort of Song Saa. One of Asia's premier luxury resorts, Song Saa is set on two private islands in the pristine Koh Rong archipelago. "If you're looking for a truly unique and beautiful beach experience you just can't beat it. A tropical nirvana," she says. Although expensive, the resort is good value because it includes all food and drink, as well as excursions and activities.
Starting this fall, arriving into Quito, Ecuador, will get a little bit more interesting. Currently, if you fly into Quito (airport code UIO) like most of our travelers, you'll land right in the middle of the city, making access to most hotels in town an easy 15- to 20-minute drive away. The new airport, scheduled to open in October or November, will be located about 45 to 60 minutes (possibly as much as 90 minutes during heavy traffic) outside the city in a more rural setting. Since most flights from the USA arrive after 8 pm, this may mean rethinking your options. Here are a few ideas:
Book earlier flights into Quito. If possible, try to fly into Quito as early as possible. Although you might have to leave home earlier in the morning than you usually prefer, you'll be happier to settle into your hotel room at a reasonable hour.
Go straight to Otavalo instead. This is a great alternative if you are arriving a few days before your cruise departs. What used to take two hours (from the old airport to the world-famous Otavalo Market) will now take about 75 to 90 minutes.
What about Guayaquil? Flying into this tropical coastal city would mean missing out on the Andes, but it's a warmer option than Quito, at a much lower elevation. All flights departing from Quito to the Galapagos automatically stop over in Guayaquil anyway, so you'll eliminate one leg of the journey to the islands.
Quito's new airport has been a long time in the works. When UIO was built, it was located to the north of Quito, but the city has long since grown to surround the airport. As a result, there is no room for expansion to accommodate increased air traffic or larger aircraft. In addition, the high altitude and mountainous terrain make the present airport riskier to operate than the new one, which will be located at a lower elevation and in more open terrain.