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Splendid, challenging, and rewarding!This trip met my expectations, and then some. I highly recommend it. As mentioned in earlier reviews, it is not an easy trip, but it has the potential to be extremely worthwhile for the students. I know it was so for me.
This was my 6th trip with EF, and my 5th as the group leader. The itinerary, accommodations, food and guides were all in the top of their categories. Although it is impossible to absorb everything in such a short journey, we received thoughtful exposure to the history, culture, beauty, and harsh realities of the region, especially for a packaged tour.
There were a couple of hiccups though. For some reason I was not aware that we would be visiting a school in Cambodia until we arrived. This was a highlight of the trip, and it would have been nice to have known beforehand so we could take materials and supplies if they were desired by the school. About half of our travelers picked up a bug in Cambodia that made the border crossing a challenging experience, especially since we had an unusually long wait in line on our entry to Thailand (2hrs). The bug and extended wait are not normal occurrences though!
When I lead trips through EF, I'm always thinking "Education Follows". I hope it is especially so following this trip. We toured magnificent temples, incredible cities, and met wonderful people, and I am hoping that the impressions, smells, sights and sounds will stay with the students as they receive reinforcing information from their future classes and experiences.
I hope they are reminded of their time in the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum when they study about wars and conflicts. I hope they remember the images the children drew of the those physically mutated by Agent Orange when they study about the importance of environmental protection. I hope they remember their time on the rivers as they learn about the impoverished and those who choose to live non-materialistically. I hope they remember the glory of Angkor and Wat Phra Kaew when they study the history of cultures and differing religions. I hope they remember the personal story of our tour guide's survival during the reign of Pol Pot when they learn of the insidious methods of xenophobic demagogues.
But mostly, I hope that they remember their time with the Cambodian school children as they expand their appreciation for the diversity of human existence in our world, and especially of Southeast Asia.
An Incredible Privilege Not to Be SquanderedMy recent trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand was actually my second EF trip, the first being to Belize. When I went to Belize, I had an unbelievably amazing time, so I had unbelievably high hopes for the Southeast Asia trip. My biggest fear was that it wouldn't meet my expectations. When my group arrived in Vietnam, however, all my fears were quelled. We arrived in a bustling city with so much to do and an abundance of things to see. Vietnam ended up being my favorite place that we visited. It earned this title because we were able to explore the city. We were also lucky enough to have an engaging and humorous tour guide.
Next on the itinerary was Cambodia. We traveled there via a small, rickety plane that seemed a lot scarier than it actually was. Cambodia is a beautiful place that is overflowing with intricate temples, of which we saw many. That was possibly the one issue I had with our time in Cambodia: we spent almost all of our time exploring temples that had many, many similarities. While beautiful, and at times humbling, it was repetitive. One thing we did in Cambodia was visit a school and bring the kids school supplies. That was genuinely one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, one that made me want to continue to do similar things in the future.
After a handful of days in Cambodia we took a bus into Thailand. Bangkok was insanely busy and crowded and reminded me much of the cities in the US. Upon reflecting, I suppose I wish that we could have seen more of the countryside of Thailand. I loved taking the boat ride through the cities and thought that the temples we visited were very impressive.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Southeast Asia. My time there was worth the two grueling 14 hour plane rides. The people of each country were kind and accommodating. The hotels, especially the one in Cambodia, were welcoming and comfortable. We had lovely tour guides who answered all of our questions. I greatly enjoyed my trip and would love to go back and be able to absorb more of the culture and have even more great experiences.
Trip to Cambodia Thailand VietnamIt was a great trip, I hope to travel to Cambodia again
Pretty cool tripEF runs a pretty smooth tour. All hotels were exceptionally nice (for this world backpacker anyway), the connections with guides and buses were all on schedule and well run. The Vietnam War sites, Angkor Wat area, and Tonle Sap boat trip were amazing. Our group loved stopping at a Cambodian school. I would advocate for more of this. The Cambodia-Thailand border crossing was the only sketchy part, and I think that makes it interesting. I was glad we were exposed to some of the underdeveloped nation conditions in some places. I prefer more free time to explore both tourist sites and the cities than the tour allowed. Our group also wanted more street food and street markets than was planned in the itinerary (like its OK if we don't all eat every meal together), but we were able to convince our guides to let us do enough of this stuff to experience some of it. In summary, the tour operation, sites, and guides were great, but some of our best experiences were when we took liberties with the planned itinerary. That is package tour travel in a nutshell though. Also, we had a lot of good Asian food, but the large "cater to tour buses" set menu places got a bit old for our group. Our favorite dinner in Bangkok was when the guide (by our request) pointed to a street with 6-7 cheap restaurants and everyone got their own food. Be aware, at almost every meal, drinks including bottled water, were not included. That is OK, but budget in for drinks and bring lots of small American bills if you go to Cambodia.
Highly recommendedThis trip was everything I had hoped for and more. Each country was special in its own way. The historical sites were breathtaking! The hotels were wonderful. The food was outstanding. There is, however, a qualification. This is no trip for the weak. The heat and humidity in June are overwhelming at times. If you are not comfortable walking and sweating a lot each day, this is not the trip for you. Leave your makeup at home and enjoy this amazing adventure!
Exotic and hot!This tour provided a taste of three unique countries in southeast Asia: the bustling Vietnamese city of Saigon, the historic Cambodian town of Siam Reap, and the Thailand capital of Bangkok. Side trips out of the cities were provided, but the bulk of our time was spent in the more populous areas. Be prepared for heat and humidity: we regularly spent several hour blocks in the sun and heat. EF was wonderful about providing cold water at stops and on the bus. Also be prepared for outstanding cuisine! SE Asia food is delicious and the fruit is the best I've ever had.
One big difference in this tour is that we had theee different tour directors (one for each country) and no "step-on" guides.
AmazingLife changing experience - saw things and did things that would not exjperience in the USA
Astounding Asia!My first trip to Asia was amazing! 3 very knowledgeable tour directors immersed us in the wonders of these ancient cultures. The food was delectable and the sites and sounds I experienced in urban Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok and the countryside of Siem Reap are unforgettable.
SEAsiaExcellent guides and varied tours of culture and history. Food was amazing. Bus drivers and hotels were most accommodating! Add a silk farm or eucalyptus paper-making tour next time!
Phenomenal Excursion!This was an experience that will last a lifetime. It was something that no family could do on their own, and EF made it not only manageable, but easy and accessible! The educational component was extremely strong, and the food was delectable. This was the best EF experience I have had so far, and I cannot wait for more! Thanks, EF, for making the world my students' classroom and mine!