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Adventure with a heart in Cambodia

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Young monks at a Cambodian temple (Photo: Index Open)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on October 8, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, arts and culture, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chile and Easter Island, eco travel, Greenland, Jordan, Laos, Molly Feltner, mountain, Nepal, Peru, Tanzania, Thailand, Utah, wildlife.

Provider: PEPY Tours
Length: Eight days
Price: $1,250 (plus a minimum of $500 in fundraising)

Imagine going on a trip where you not only have a great adventure, but you also leave your destination better than you found it. While many adventure providers talk about sustainable tourism, PEPY Tours actually allows you make a positive difference in the places you visit. The organization runs Cambodia tours that combine cycling and sightseeing with volunteer work, specializing in projects that help locals in rural villages improve their lives through responsible tourism businesses and education.

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This January, PEPY leads a new itinerary, the "Temple Safari Cycling Trek," which stops at ancient Khmer temples in the Cambodian countryside where various volunteer projects are underway, plus the iconic Angkor Wat temple. "Over 80 percent of Cambodians live in rural areas, but nearly all tourists spend their time only in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh," says Program Manager Shannon O'Kane. "We hope this itinerary will give tourists wanting to see the temples a means of experiencing rural Cambodian life while also witnessing the mainstream tourist destinations."

Starting in Siem Reap, the group will cycle about 40 to 60 miles per day with vehicle support between villages and temples. "As [we] ride through dusty towns, past beautiful green rice fields and small villages, children [will] yell wherever we go, cheering us on along the way," says O'Kane. "We will stay overnight in large safari tents near the temples, enjoying the stars and evening quiet, far removed from tourist crowds." You'll stop to volunteer at a project near Koh Ker, a long isolated site home to dozens of temples that's now poised to become a major tourist destination. The trip ends at Angkor Wat, where you'll spend a full day touring with kids from PEPY Ride School, an elementary school built by the organization.

Trip planning

This trip departs January 26, 2008. The price covers all accommodations, most meals, entrance fees and tours, bike rental, guides, and airport transfers and ground transportation. In addition to the trip price, participants are asked to raise a minimum of $500 to support the projects visited on the tour. PEPY provides a fundraising kit with guidelines and tips. Airfare to Siem Reap is also not included in the trip price. Round-trip flights from Los Angeles start at $1,195 plus taxes on Korean Air.

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