Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Cambodia’

The top holiday gift of 2013? You might be surprised – It’s water.

Think about how many times you’ve used clean water today. Did you wake up and take a sip of water from the glass on your bedside table? Did you take a shower, brush your teeth, use the bathroom and wash your hands? Did you make a cup of coffee, rinse off an apple before sitting down at the computer to read this article?

Many Americans don’t think twice about having access to safe, clean water, but for many more people around the world, access to potable water is difficult or even impossible. In fact, according to UNICEF, 768 million people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, and nearly 1,600 children die each day from lack of access to safe water.

Cambodia is one of those countries where people are in desperate need of clean water. So, maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but when we started sending tours to Cambodia, we thought the major reason to visit this small, Southeast Asian country, was the incredible site of Angkor Wat. This long-ago abandoned temple complex overgrown with jungle flora is a magnet for tourists, as well it should be. It never occurred to us that our tours to this coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site and important international destination would lead us on a different kind of journey, one that would bring us even more satisfaction than our visit to the fabled site of Angkor Wat.

Surrounding the site, there are many Cambodian villages where people struggle every day to find enough water, clean or not, for drinking, bathing, irrigating crops, and cooking. As you drive through the countryside, the lack of good water is as apparent as the magnificence of the Angkor temples.

Of Cambodia’s 14 million citizens, over 9 million suffer from intermittent diarrheal disease caused by contaminated water. On top of that, women and children often have the responsibilities of retrieving water, walking far distances for what little water they can access, and caring for the sick. These duties take up most of their day, leaving them unable to contribute to the workforce or attend school, which has contributed to Cambodia’s lack of economic growth.

But here’s the surprising truth: There isn’t a shortage of water in Cambodia — there’s plenty of it in the ground. Villagers simply lack the funding, infrastructure, and skills to dig the wells they need to access it. The cost to dig and install a pump well that provides clean, drinkable water? About $230, according to the Trailblazer Foundation, a non-profit that helps Cambodian villagers create self-sustaining economic and educational programs.

Once our Cambodia departures were established, we became keenly interested in projects to help out in this impoverished place. On one of our tours, the guide pointed out a well bearing a plaque hand-painted with someone’s name, a Western name at that. “That’s a Trailblazer well, donated by a tourist,” was his explanation. Some of the travelers on the bus wanted to know how much such a well could cost, how many people it could serve, and other details, and once the guide finished explaining the facts, several of the travelers on the bus offered to pay for wells. Thus began Friendly Planet Travel’s wells project and our association with Trailblazer.

But the Trailblazer Foundation was busy digging wells and helping in other important ways before we ever met them. In fact, the foundation has had a significant impact on Cambodia for over 10 years, with many Cambodians gaining access to clean water thanks to their efforts. And while Trailblazer’s impact is growing, there’s plenty of work to be done, especially by rallying the support of American tourists to Cambodia.

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Friendly Planet resumes tours to Thailand

In my last post about Thailand, I told you how I couldn’t make an official announcement about new tours we were planning — but I can now! Today we officially re-launched the Taste of Thailand tour starting at $999. There are only two dates available right now at that price, so book your trip before it sells out.

I’m thrilled about this news! :) We issued a press release that hit today. Read on to get the details on why we decided now was the right time to go back to Thailand and what’s included in the price.


Friendly Planet Travel Resumes Tours to Thailand

With travel warnings lifted for Thailand, Friendly Planet Travel re-launches its nine-day Taste of Thailand Tour for $999

JENKINTOWN, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Friendly Planet Travel has resumed its tours to Thailand after the U.S. Department of State lifted its travel warning to the country. Friendly Planet is re-launching its nine-day Taste of Thailand tour for $999 with the first departure on Aug. 25, 2010. Two months ago, Friendly Planet cancelled all of its Thailand tours without any penalties to its customers when travel warnings were issued due to political demonstrations. With demonstrations ceased, the U.S. and other countries have lifted their travel warnings and the Thai people are welcoming back travelers to restore its tourism infrastructure.

“The U.S. Department of State has given us the OK to resume travel to Thailand as the political unrest has died down,” says Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel. “We’ve also been working closely with our partners on the ground in Thailand to monitor the situation.

We’ve been in business for 30 years, and over that long span, have experienced many travel warnings for points around the globe. The determining factor behind all of our actions is always safety. We would never send our travelers into harm’s way. So rest assured, anyone traveling to Thailand with Friendly Planet Travel will safely enjoy the country’s intense beauty and rich culture.”

The Taste of Thailand tour takes travelers to three of Thailand’s most dynamic and awe-inspiring cities: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Kanchanaburi. Included in the price are: round-trip airfare from Los Angeles via China Airlines, including fuel surcharges; intra-Thailand transportation; accommodations at first class hotels; daily American buffet breakfast; a welcome dinner; sightseeing tours as per itinerary and all transfers; and professional, English-speaking tour guides.

The tour begins in Bangkok, Thailand’s sprawling capital city, also known as “Venice of the East.” Travelers will take a canal boat ride on Bangkok’s waterways for a close up view of traditional Thai life. But to fully understand Thailand, it is essential to experience the fabric that binds together its national identity: its temples. Travelers will visit some of the country’s most important temple sites, including Wat Po, the oldest temple in Bangkok, and Wat Trimitr, where the 5-ton, 700-year-old Golden Buddha resides, the largest in the world.

Then it’s on to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s best known for Bang Pa, King Rama IV’s summer palace. It represents an appealing fusion of Thai, Chinese, and European architectural styles. Next up is Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai, where visitors can ride an elephant through the lush jungle and enjoy a bamboo raft ride down the gently flowing river.

Travelers can also choose from two optional extensions. The first is Phuket Island, Thailand’s largest island, also known as “the Pearl of the Andaman Sea.” This stop includes a relaxing stay at Thailand’s famous Novotel Resort with plenty of sun-drenched days on the pristine beaches of Kalim Bay. There’s also an optional tour to the astonishing Angkor Wat in Cambodia for travelers looking to explore one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in the world.

For more information visit Friendly Planet Travel’s website at www.FriendlyPlanet.com, the blog at blog.friendlyplanet.com, or contact Jackie Zima at Gregory FCA at 610-228-2138 (office), 215-534-2973 (mobile), or write to Jackie@GregoryFCA.com.

ABOUT FRIENDLY PLANET TRAVEL

Friendly Planet Travel (http://www.friendlyplanet.com/) makes high-quality exotic travel affordable for everyone. Since 1981, Friendly Planet Travel has been arranging all-inclusive escorted discount vacation packages and cruises to the most exciting destinations in the world at the lowest possible prices.

Each year, Friendly Planet Travel offers more than 30 different group travel packages to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America — at discounts of hundreds of dollars off similar vacations. With no hidden charges, add-ons or surprises, Friendly Planet Travel vacations include convenient flights and airfare, carefully-selected first-class and superior hotels, knowledgeable English-speaking guides, many meals, and itineraries as well as friendships and memories that last a lifetime.

Friendly Planet Travel offers its extensive, economical travel services to private groups including universities, religious institutions, alumni associations, and families. Groups who wish to travel together can count on Friendly Planet Travel’s three decades of experience to operate their group travel program expertly and always at the very best possible prices. Visit us at www.FriendlyPlanet.com.

Press contact:
Gregory FCA
Jackie Zima
Account Supervisor
610-228-2138
Jackie@GregoryFCA.com

Company Contact:
Friendly Planet Travel
Peggy Goldman
President
215-572-9594
PMGoldman@FriendlyPlanet.com

Friendly Planet review: If you’re going to Vietnam, go with a group

The other day I wrote about an article in Redbook that talked about making the most out of group travel. No sooner did I post it, I read this unsolicited e-mail from Bruce Partridge about his group tour experience.

Bruce and wife traveled on Friendly Planet’s Best of Vietnam tour and opted for the Angkor Wat extension. Read on to hear why they believe they’ve been missing out by not traveling with groups more often. And as always, this e-mail is verbatim. My fingers didn’t touch a word. :)

“My wife and I usually travel on our own — in all to more than 60 different countries. So, this tour was one of the few we have ever taken with a group. It was so good, we have decided that we’ve been missing something. Tour guides were knowledgeable and pleasant; accommodation and arrangements were excellent, our fellow travelers engaging — and in the long run, a lot less hassle at less cost than if we had traveled on our own. We tell our friends — Friendly Planet is the only tour company we will even consider, and is even better than travel on our own.” – Dr. Bruce Partridge, British Columbia

Bruce, I’m delighted to hear that you’re a group travel convert. Let us know what tour you plan to book next!

What’s to come at Friendly Planet in 2010

I always enjoy this time of the year. It’s relaxing to get a few days off from work and spend the holidays with friends and family. As the year comes to a close, you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished, and think about what you want to achieve in the next year. 
 
I know what I’m looking forward to in 2010. We’re going to be introducing several new and exciting tours and community projects at Friendly Planet Travel. I want to share with you all a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.  
 
New Web site. One significant change will be our upgraded Web site. By the end of January, expect to see a faster, more responsive site. It’ll be filled with new tools for individual travelers, as well as a new search engine that will make it even easier to search for deeply discounted air and hotel packages to many foreign destinations including London, Rome, Paris, even the Caribbean. 
 
New booking engine. Along with a new Web site comes a new booking engine. It will let travelers book reservations completely online. It will be even more convenient for travelers to make deposits and final payments online, safely and securely with their own username and password. Travelers can also view their tour information, reservations, documents, invoices, destination guides, and other important details anytime. 
 
New travelers’ community. Another important feature of the new Web site is the new community, where we will host forums for our visitors, have places to post pictures and travel blogs, and provide various ways to interact with us. The forums will be important in getting feedback from our travelers, and allow people who are traveling solo to find roommates easily through our site.
 
New micro-lending project in India. As you’ve heard me talk about before, we’re working on projects with Kiva and the Trailblazer Foundation, and now we’re looking into launching a new micro-lending project in India. It will fund the purchase of rickshaws for drivers who are presently forced to rent them by the day, giving up a good part of their daily earnings, rather than keeping them to support their families.
 
Since these drivers have no access to credit to fund the loans for the rickshaw purchase, they are forced into this rental situation. If we’re able to create a fund that allows the drivers to pay back the loan to us, and end up with the rickshaw in the end, the drivers will soon be able to keep the day’s wages for themselves. 
 
New ways to give back to needy students. We’re also organizing a collection of school supplies for every Friendly Planet travel destination where they are needed, but not available. This is the case in most of Africa, Asia, and certainly in India. Notebooks and pencils that are given to children directly are usually confiscated by needy families who then turn around and sell it for food. 
 
Our project will distribute the supplies to trusted teachers, who will store and distribute them as needed to students. The school supplies project is being organized by local guides in each place where the supplies are needed, and will be implemented early in the new year.
 

Thumbnail image for New Picture (3).jpgNew destinations. Finally, we’ll be adding new destinations to the Friendly Planet globe. Tours are being planned to Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, and Indonesia, plus a number of river cruises in Europe and Asia. In addition, several new ocean cruises will be available starting in the spring of 2010, via Louis Cruises and Costa Cruises, two familiar Friendly Planet favorites. 

 
These are just a few of the new things arriving in 2010. There is plenty more in the works for throughout the year, but this gives you a taste of what’s to come!

Customer testimonial from a certified globetrotter

I’m sure by now you’re all aware of how much I enjoy getting feedback from our customers, and how important that feedback is in making Friendly Planet Travel the best company we can in terms of service, value, and overall experiences for our customers.

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All feeback is important, but it’s especially gratifying when an experienced traveler gives us the stamp of approval. That’s why the following testimonial, from Jim Villalpando of Taylorsville, Utah, meant so much to us here at the office. Jim and his wife Gloria have gone on numerous Friendly Planet Travel tours, including Egypt, Israel, Petra, Thailand, and Cambodia, as well as tours throughout Europe.

"What can be said that has not been said? Price, value, your tours are an exceptional value. We have been on five friendly planet tours to date and wil be going on our sixth trip to India, Nepal next month. What ever you’re doing, don’t change the formula until we’ve finshed the seven wonders of the world thru friendly planet tours. Great value on all the tours we’ve taken thus far.
 – Jim & Gloria Villalpando Taylorsville Utah"

 

 

 

 

Eight-day Taste of Vietnam for $999 featured on the Examiner.com

As you probably picked up from my series of posts about my own Vietnam experience, Vietnam today draws thousands of Americans eager to fully understand the country, its people, culture, and ways of life — despite its controversial past.
But this remarkable journey has traditionally come with a high price tag, with tour prices easily exceeding $2,000. Until now. Last week, we unveiled our ultra-low-cost Taste of Vietnam vacation deal. The examiner.com picked up the press release we sent out last week with the full details. You can also read on below for more information.
The package, starting at just $999, visits two of Vietnam’s most dynamic and culturally awe-inspiring cities: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi.
The trip includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles (with JFK departures available at a surcharge of between $150 and $200, depending upon departure date); all ground transfers; all intra-Vietnam flights; six nights in superior hotel accommodations; daily buffet breakfast; and comprehensive sightseeing in each city with a local, English-speaking Vietnamese guide, including entrance fees.
Travelers can also choose from an array of discounted optional tours, such as Halong Bay, which can be done in one day or an overnight stay aboard a deluxe river boat, the Emeraude, as well as an optional extension to Bangkok, Thailand.
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There’s no doubt that Vietnam is spellbinding, and allures travelers for so many reasons. Its exotic location has shielded it from throngs of tourists and trampled habitat, fast food chains, and strip malls that often accompany those groups.
The country’s pivotal role in recent history also draws many U.S. veterans who want to return to Vietnam to find closure, see how the country has changed, find old haunts, and even rediscover old friends. There are also many Vietnamese people who settled in the U.S. in the years following the war who are longing to return for a visit, and whose children have never seen the homeland of their parents. Before now, maybe they couldn’t afford it. But now travelers can do it all for $999. That’s a deal that I’ve never seen in my 30 years of travel experience.
Among savvy travelers, Vietnam has emerged as one of Asia’s most popular new destinations. The fascination for Vietnam comes from its extraordinary beauty; simplicity of life; and warm, incredibly approachable people. The tour, conducted by English-speaking, Vietnamese licensed guides, immerses vacationers in the country’s intense beauty and rich culture, starting with Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by many locals) and ends in Hanoi.
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Vacationers get a taste of life in modern day Vietnam, with the country’s floating markets, winding canals, sweeping rice paddies, and bustling cityscapes. They also take a step back to the country’s controversial past, including a trip to Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” and the Cu Chi Tunnels that were part of the underground highway of the Viet Cong.
For travelers with more time, Friendly Planet Travel also offers a 13-day Best of Vietnam trip for the low price of $2,399, with optional extensions to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Sapa Hill Tribes.
The 13-day fully escorted tour takes vacationers from south to north — with stops in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, and Hanoi. For both vacations, on sale prices include savings of up to $800 per couple if reserved before Aug. 28.
If you’d like more information, or want to book, please visit our online booking agent, or contact us.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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