This 4-week summer program takes you on an in-depth, adventurous and enriching journey through Vietnam and Cambodia, combining two rewarding volunteer service projects and three weeks of interpretive, educational adventure travel.

In Vietnam we explore the mountainous north, home to fascinating highland minorities; incredible Halong Bay with its myriad islands; the history-rich towns of central Vietnam; and the far south where we boat and cycle through the impressive Mekong Delta. In Cambodia we undertake our volunteer projects in rural villages and experience the majesty of the temple ruins at Angkor Wat. During the program you’ll learn an enormous amount about the social and cultural history of the countries and how that unique history has shaped the environment and people.

Vietnam is one of the most interesting countries you will ever visit, with stunning natural landscapes and a fascinating society and culture. The country is astoundingly diverse, stretching along a fertile coastal strip of land sandwiched between the South China Sea and rugged forest-draped mountains bordering Laos. Remnants of French colonialism are still observed through architecture, food, tree-lined boulevards and a thriving cafe culture. Cambodia’s spirit is embodied in the stunning temple ruins of the Angkor Empire, a civilization which once presided over most of present day Southeast Asia. The Khmer Rouge took control of the country in 1975 and began one of the worst episodes of genocide in recent world history, until they were overthrown by the Vietnamese in 1979. Since UN assisted elections in the early 1990s Cambodia is now a stable democracy and a safe country to travel in.

This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available on this program. This program can be combined with the Thailand Summer Program, for an incredible 9-week summer program experience in Southeast Asia.

 

  Pacific Discovery Top Rated OrganisationCommunity Choice Award Best Program

This Summer Program Is For You if You...

✓ Want to Explore Hanoi’s fascinating Old Quarter and cycling through countryside villages in the Red Delta.

✓ Want to trek through spectacular mountain scenery in Northern Vietnam – jagged peaks, amazing terraced
hillsides, village home stay with highland minority peoples

✓ Want to join a 3-day boating and sea kayaking expedition in spectacular Halong Bay, UNESCO World Heritage site

✓ Are interested in experiencing Hoi An, UNESCO World Heritage site – amazing historic buildings, Vietnamese cooking course, tailor-made clothes, markets and a great beach nearby

 

Thoughts From a Former Pacific Discovery Student

   Traveling to Australia with Pacific Discovery was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I got the opportunity to rappel down cliffs, catch some amazing waves, and explore the culture of Australia. However, the most valuable experience for me was traveling with the 13 amazing people in my group. Traveling with such a small group meant that we got to know each other really well, and by the end, they were like family. The family atmosphere allowed me to become more confident in myself, whether I was trekking through canyons or just hanging out with the group. I really enjoyed my time traveling with Pacific Discovery, and I would recommend the program to every person my age.” 

- Saul Cohen

 

Not sure where you want to go yet?

Get the full Summer Program run-down in our catalogueThis catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials! 

 

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  • Exploring Hanoi’s fascinating Old Quarter and cycling through countryside villages in the Red Delta
  • Trekking through spectacular mountain scenery in Northern Vietnam – jagged peaks, amazing terraced
    hillsides, village home stay with highland minority peoples
  • 3-days boating and sea kayaking in spectacular Halong Bay, UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Moto-tour of Hue, the former imperial capital
  • Experiencing Hoi An, UNESCO World Heritage site – amazing historic buildings, Vietnamese cooking course,
    tailor-made clothes, markets and a great beach nearby
  • Markets and museums of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Vietnam War era tunnel systems at Cu Chi
  • 2-day journey through the Mekong Delta, exploring by bike and riverboat
  • Insight into rural Cambodian life, home-staying as a group with a wonderful family working in education
  • Service learning volunteer projects in Cambodia: Building a simple home for a marginalized family;
    conversational English with high school students in Takeo and Kampot
  • Exploring the amazing temples of Angkor Wat
  • Informal lectures and discussions on history, culture, society and environment
  • Very personalized small group experience – maximum of 14 participants
  • Two experienced and inspiring Pacific Discovery program leaders supported by local guides
  • Can be combined with Thailand Summer Program for an incredible 9-week experience in Southeast Asia

**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**

Day 1 - 3. Hanoi, Vietnam Arrival & Orientation


Hanoi is the political and cultural capital of Vietnam. There will be a comprehensive program briefing before we head
out exploring the colorful streets of the ‘Old Quarter’, where everything imaginable is being bought and sold on the streets. Our dollars become Vietnamese Dong and we’ll have the chance to try a new language and take part in local life at street-side restaurants and markets. The following day we explore the countryside around Hanoi by bicycle.


Day 4 - 6. Mountains to the Sea


We leave the intensity of Hanoi behind and drive into the mountains near the Laos border. In a valley called Mai Chau, we stay in a traditional Tai (tribal minority) village and spend the afternoon exploring the valley. The next day we start an overnight trek into the Pu Long nature reserve to stay in another Tai village. Here we can swim in a series of small waterfalls. On our third day, we hike out to meet our vehicle which takes us down onto the plains at Tam Coc, to explore incredible rural landscapes where steep limestone mountains jut up from the rice paddies.


Day 7 - 9. Halong Bay and Sea Kayaking


We travel to the coast and embark on our traditionally styled wooden live-aboard ‘junk’ to explore spectacular Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay – studded with 1500 limestone islands rising sheer from the sea. We explore the islands and lagoons by sea kayak, and cruise on our junk, navigating twisting passages amidst stunning Karst landscape. We visit floating villages, home to a significant fishing and pearl farming community. On
our final afternoon we return to Hanoi. Then “all aboard” the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey to the old imperial capital, Hue.


Day 10. Hue


We take a mystery tour of Hue and its environs. Our ‘posse’ of moto-taxis join the melee of bicycle traffic as it surges along tree-lined boulevards. School girls wearing traditional silk ao-dai glide past stalls laden with red dragon fruit as Buddhist monks and produce-laden women jostle by. From Emperors’ tombs to Buddhist pagodas, you’ll really get a feel for this city. Don’t leave home without your sunglasses, camera and a ready smile for your personal ‘moto’ driver!


Day 11 - 13. Hoi An


Today we travel to our favorite Vietnamese town. Hoi An is renowned for its diverse architectural heritage, masterful tailors, abundant silks and superb cuisine. The town has UNESCO World Heritage status and its profusion of old houses, quiet streets and covered bridge are being preserved and restored. Hoi An is also the ultimate place to have
affordable clothes tailor-made to order. There’s a beach nearby for sunrise yoga and people watching on the riverfront is hard to beat! We participate in a craft workshop at a vocational training organization, and take a half-day cooking class learning how to whip-up fantastic Vietnamese dishes.


Day 14 - 15. Saigon and Cu Chi Tunnels


A flight south takes us to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and a visit to the legendary Cu Chi Tunnels – over 150 miles of tunnels, in some places several floors deep, where Viet Cong forces built pseudo-cities underground, enabling them to infiltrate and control large areas around Saigon virtually undetected. Then to Saigon, a city of stunning contrasts, bursting with energy and a 24-hour go-go-go attitude. We venture out into the maelstrom of people, cyclos, motos, carts, trucks and taxis to zigzag our way to the War Remnants Museum, a chilling memorial to the atrocities of the Vietnam War. Then lighten up with a stroll around the unusual Presidential Palace and Ben Thanh, Saigon’s central market.


Day 16. Mekong Delta Exploration


The Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s rice bowl, is one of the largest river deltas in the world. You’ll be in awe of its fertile abundance as we explore by bicycle and boat, visiting small farms and workshops on  islands among the myriad branching waterways and tributaries. Homestay with a rural family tonight.

Day 17 - 23. Cambodia Home Stay and service Learning Projects


We cross into Cambodia, where we get a taste of culture and an understanding of rural life by home staying for 3 nights with a wonderful Khmer family in Angtasom. Afternoons we volunteer teach at the Hope for Happiness Centre, a free school supporting local students’ educational and vocational opportunities. Our time at this home stay is the program highlight for many participants. Then onward to Kampot, on Cambodia’s south coast. Over the next
3 days we volunteer with an NGO and a marginalized community, to build a simple home for a community member – a challenging and rewarding project. When not working on the home, the group will volunteer teach at the Chumkriel Language School, and participate in a workshop at Epic Arts, an NGO which promotes integration of people of all abilities using the arts as a form of expression, empowerment, education and employment – vital in a country where an estimated 1 in 250 people have some form of disability.


Day 24 - 25. Phnom Penh


Uncover the tragic history of the Khmer Rouge regime with a visit to Tuol Sleng Museum. Support a Khmer café providing vocational training for some of Phnom Penh’s 20,000 street kids. There is also time to visit the Killing Fields, and some free time to immerse yourself in the wonderfully chaotic Russian Market, undoubtedly one of the more interesting markets you’ll ever visit.


Day 26 - 30. Siem Reap and Angkor Temples

Leaving Phnom Penh, we drive to Siem Reap, from where we explore the impressive remnants of the Angkor Empire. The Angkor Wat temples are the largest temple ruins on earth and you’ll be amazed by them. Through mammoth carved stone panels, stories unfold of historical events, tales of gods, and legends. See the restoration of some temples and the disintegration of others as the jungle reclaims them. Explore elaborate twisting passageways, stone causeways and moats. Wonder at the civilization that created them
– at its peak, with a population of one million people, it exceeded the size and complexity of any other city in the world. We’ll visit the Phare Circus and Artisans D’Angkor, both inspiring organizations supporting vocational opportunities for youth.

For full program details, please request the information booklet

Suitability

Open to students, graduates and non-students, ideally 18-24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for the outdoors, conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer components of the program i.e. trail building or the removal of invasive plants and while on the outdoor activities, be prepared to give-it-a-go. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack. You don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.

The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.

Accommodation

Our accommodation will be a mixture of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and WiFi facilities will be available most days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.

Meals

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all students, is fun, social and often a highlight.

Program Tuition Includes

  • All in-country travel and transport
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Environmental education and service-learning projects
  • An experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
  • Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • 1-3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue travelling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure web-page with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
  • 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
  • Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
  • Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist, for advice and support
  • Pacific Discovery T-shirt
Summer Dates 27 Jun - 26 Jul, 2024
Duration 30 days
Program Tuition $7,950 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,300 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 12 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 17 - 22 Ideal Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement Vaccination Strongly Recommended
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Program Start: Hanoi, Vietnam
Program Finish: Siem Reap, Cambodia