Buffalo Tours Cambodia won our Responsible Travel Awards last summer for their work in supporting social enterprise through tourism. Content Team Leader Jade visited Cambodia this month and had the chance to experience not 1 but 5 different types of social enterprise in Siem Reap. She left inspired by the creative entrepreneurs and NGOs that are promoting responsible travel in Cambodia…
We are passionate about responsible travel and we want you to be too. We know that the best way to make a positive impact while you travel is by doing things that feel natural and enjoying yourself at the same time. Responsible travel doesn’t need to be complicated or all-encompassing. Rather, responsible travel should be simple and, above all, educational, enjoyable and beneficial for all involved.
In Cambodia, we think they’ve found the perfect formula for socially responsible tourism. From first hand experience we know that the following places add a touch of feel good luxury to any Siem Reap itinerary.
1. Community based tourism
If you’ve followed us for a while or browsed some of our tours then you’ll know that buffalo Tours are huge advocates of small town travel. While the big cities usually hold the must see attractions and the best tourist infrastructure, smaller towns and villages help to provide you with a balanced perspective on a country and a different range of activities to try.
And the very best way to travel in rural areas? In places practicing community based tourism, where the community itself is dictating how people travel in their hometown. Activities, restaurants and homestays are all community led and your tourist dollar is spread around where it is needed most.
From Siem Reap you can take a break from temple hopping to visit one of the agricultural communities outside the city and spend time learning from and getting to know the welcoming locals. Enjoy a home-cooked feast of fresh fish and locally grown vegetables, learn to make local handicrafts and fall in love with the natural beauty of rural Cambodia.
2. Run away to the circus
Probably the most fun activity on this list, and maybe even the whole city, is a visit to the incredible Phare circus. This inspiring enterprise works with some of the poorest communities in the area to provide young people with training in the arts. The organisation have been running since 1994 and have educated 1,200 young Cambodians, with a further 500 trained specifically in the vocational arts.
Phare have a diverse collection of 9 performances on rotation in Siem Reap at their beautiful big top tent. Make an evening of it and enjoy dinner, cocktails and shopping at the facilities onsite. Or why not go a step further and learn a few tricks of your own!
3. Start your day the right way
Is there anything better than fresh pastries and coffee in the morning? Skip your hotel breakfast and head to the Bayon Bakery in Siem Reap to fuel up for a day of exploring. This beautiful cafe is attached the the Bayon Pastry School who train young Cambodian women from rural towns and disadvantaged areas of the city in the art of baking. This incredible model has seen graduates move into various culinary jobs around the city. And their cakes? Delicious.
4. Feast with Friends
Friends International is one of the most successful NGOs in Cambodia and now has branches all over the country. Just one of their social businesses is the Marum restaurant in Siem Reap which is staffed by hospitality students in training. Marum is rated #29 out of 691 restaurants in the city on Tripadvisor, which gives you an indication of the quality of service and food at this colourful and cosy restaurant. The pork ribs and the aubergine dip are especially good!
The Marum restaurant has a Friends ‘N’ Stuff fair trade gift shop on site that sells crafts made by the mothers of their students. This family approach to development is vital to their success, as taking young people away from their families and, significantly, the family business can cause undue pressure on the family.
5. And relax…
Friends International don’t only have restaurants and shops but spas too! In Siem Reap and Phnom Penh you can receive a treatment from a young therapist in training and know that your facial or manicure is helping them toward their future career.
The shop in Siem Reap, Phka Kravan, offer a range of treatments and products with various levels of service and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Their is nothing quite like a luxury foot massage and pedicure after a day of wandering around the temples!
With our completely customisable trips, you can easily add a visit to any or all of these places to your Siem Reap itinerary. Get in touch with our experts today to create your dream escape to the Kingdom of Cambodia.