JCS Expedition 2015 – Vietnam & Cambodia

Last Spring, the JCS Expedition 2015 Asia reconnaissance crew touched down at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Our intent was to spend two weeks blazing a trail for the larger JCS student group to follow in November – establishing contacts, vetting hotels, eateries and activities, all in an effort to make the big-group trip as smooth as possible.  Eli and Mikayla, acting as Student Planners & Leaders, have helped to put together our itinerary for the autumn expedition; rich in programming and cultural benefit.

As of this August writing, the mostly-solid-but-still-flexible plan is a follows:

After some 20 hours of travel, the group from PT arrives…tired but happy. Eli’s eyes aren’t just blinking…he’s literally asleep while walking…good work travelers!

DAY ONE:  Gather JCS at 7am, take JCS vans to Bainbridge Island Ferry. From the ferry terminal, we will walk to the light rail in Pioneer Square and ride it to SeaTac.

DAY TWO:  After a petrol stop in Seoul, Korea, the group will arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Within the hour, the plan is to have whatever you are craving within your grasp:  yummy food, cold drink, soft pillow/bed, time to unwind from the long flight and get used to your surroundings.  We’ll be staying in the Pham Gnu Lao neighborhood, the backpacker-traveler’s Mecca.

IMG_2985DAY THREE: Explore Pham Gnu Lao neighborhood:  backpack shopping (for those who want to acquire one on arrival), local street food orientation (Dan), people watching/hang out in cafe, Dan will lead a discussion about all we’re seeing (a feast for the eyes, lots to soak up!), evening gathering in park with local Vietnamese students for language/culture exchange.

DAY FOUR:  Explore Ho Chi Minh City

DAY FIVE:  Explore Ho Chi Minh City:  War Remnants Museum.  Get a foot massage/manicure/pedicure (optional), cooking class (optional),

DAY SIX:  Mekong Delta tour, Cu Chi tunnels, rice harvesting/processing tour, homestay in Vinh Long countryside, cook dinner with host family.IMG_0530

DAY SEVEN:  Floating markets, Mekong boat ride, Buddhist temple, mangrove boat tour, arrive in Can Tho City, karaoke evening event.

DAY EIGHT:  Bus ride to Rach Gia, explore town, street food near the piers, kite shopping.

DAY NINE:  Take the express ferry from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc Island.  Check in to our bungalows, rest up on beach, sunset kit flying activity.

DAY TEN:  Morning community service: beach clean-up.  Afternoon fish sauce factory tour (smelly), lighthouse temple, Night Market, seafood dinner.

DAY ELEVEN:  Snorkel/Diving event by boat – all day, lunch on boat.

DAY TWELVE:  Snorkel/Diving event by boat – all day, lunch on boat.  Pack bags in evening.This boat is similar to the one we did our snorkeling trip on.

DAY THIRTEEN:  Phu Quoc lighthouse temple, town tour, seafood dinner downtown

DSC_7519DAY FOURTEEN:  Khmer language review, beach time, group program, review Cambodia plan, pack.

DAY FIFTEEN: Depart to catch ferry and then bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Evening: arrive Phnom Penh, check in to hotel, explore neighborhood, eat amok, a savory steamed catfish-in-banana leaf dish (Cambodia’s signature dish).Welcome to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

DAY SIXTEEN:  Explore Phnom Penh,  Choeng Ek Genocidal Center (optional), Aspara dance and/or shadow puppets performance.

DAY SEVENTEEN:  Depart to Phnom Penh either by bus, mini-van or boat (5-7 hrs).  Lunch stop on the way.  Check in to hotel in Siem Reap. Explore neighborhood – interact with locals.

DAY EIGHTEEN:  Siem Reap, Angkor Wat ruins

DAY NINETEEN:  Explore Siem Reap town.  Landmine Museum (optional), Sunset gathering at Angkor Wat temple, buy tickets for next two days.  Butterfly museum and/or silk farm and textile production tour.   Afternoon swim at hotel.  To bed early to prepare for morning event.

3-IMG_0702DAY TWENTY:   Sunrise gathering at Angkor Wat temple (early rise!), photography, writing, drawing, meditation, reflection.  Sack breakfast provided.  Explore temples during the day.  Transport by tuk-tuk (motorbike carriage-taxis).  Night Market, shopping/bartering lessons (Mikayla is a pro!).  Dinner out on the town.2-IMG_0699

DAY TWENTY-ONE: Ta Prohm, Bayon temples – yes, more temple exploration – this is THE thing to do here.  Afternoon swim at hotel.  Circus/cultural performance.  Group banquet at local restaurant for dinner.  Last chance to hit the Night Market, then pack.  11PM depart by air to Seoul, Korea (direct flight).

DAY TWENTY-TWO:  Arrive Seoul airport – 11 hour layover (better than it sounds).  Free showers, sleeping lounges, craft activities, wifi, movies, cafes, good food.  Relax before the long (12hr) flight home.  Depart for SeaTac (direct flight).  Arrive Sea-Tac 11am, Wed, November 25.1-IMG_0659