Responsible, ethical travel practices are very important to us at VBT. We respect the destinations that we explore and we’re very pleased to attract travelers who do the same. The following account was shared with us by Bill B. A frequent VBT traveler, Bill was so affected by his recent biking vacation through Vietnam and Cambodia, he and his companions took a bit of action. We thank Bill and his group, and hope that you find some inspiration in their experiences.
In March and early April of 2012, 15 bikers went to Vietnam and had a remarkable time. I don’t know how we could have seen more of Vietnam unless we had done a biking tour of the whole country. I have taken many VBT trips and have come to the conclusion that for a trip in its totality, Journey through Vietnam now ranks number one for me.
For the post trip, 13 of us went to Siem Reap in Cambodia to spend some time at Angkor Wat and other areas of interest nearby including Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia. There is no question that Angkor Wat met all of our expectations; it is truly one of the wonders of the world, but the Ta Prohm Temple is also special, with all the huge trees growing out of the temple walls.
On the second day in Cambodia, we traveled outside of Siem Reap to visit Ban Teay Srei. On the way through the countryside, we witnessed some of the worst poverty I have seen in travels around the world over many years. The very poor sanitation in many of the villages including a lack of fresh drinking water, water for basic hygiene and cooking contributes directly to the low life expectancy in Cambodia. Our group also began to notice distinctive signs in some of the villages beside fresh water wells that had been constructed.
On one of our stops to visit a school, we inspected some of these wells more closely and found that many of them had been funded by individuals including quite a few Americans. The U.S. government is also involved because several of the pumps had the USAID logo displayed. There is an organization in Cambodia called the Angkor Well Project that coordinates the construction of these wells. The web site is www.angkorwellproject.org. We decided that as a group, we would collect the necessary money to have one of these wells constructed. We did that and provided the funds to a well project representative. The name we selected for our group is “USA Friends.”
After we returned home, one of the organizers kept us informed on the progress of the construction until the well was completed. He then sent us some photos of the villagers who benefit from the well including the actual pump in operation. I know that our group feels good about this effort to improve the sanitation facilities for at least a small number of Cambodians. We certainly don’t want to take any credit as a group because we have already received our rewards, just being involved.