Monks eating lunch, Battambang, Cambodia.

Eat Learn Love Cambodia — Culinary Travel Writing Tour

How would you like to come and eat, learn and travel with us, and fall in love with Cambodia, on a culinary travel writing tour in May? We’d love you to come visit!

Over eight days and nights in May 2015, in partnership with Asia-based Backyard Travel, we’re offering EAT LEARN LOVE CAMBODIA, a culinary travel writing and photography tour.

Over eight days I’ll be punctuating a Cambodia tour with bite-sized culinary travel writing workshops, and Terence will be offering photography tips and running photo workshops, as we give you a taste of the delicious cuisine, rich culture, and beauty of Cambodia – along with a chance to experience the warmth of the Cambodian people, including those generous smiles you see above.

Our travels will focus on Siem ReapAngkor Wat and other Khmer Empire temples, and colonial Battambang and the bucolic countryside surrounding it, as well as some of our favourite off the beaten track spots in the region, such as Banteay Chhmar.

We’re currently working with the lovely people at Backyard Travel to fine-tune a fantastic itinerary for you, however, we’ve been talking about this for over a year, and I just couldn’t contain the news any longer. I wanted to share some of the exciting things we’re planning before we announce full itinerary details. (UPDATE: the itinerary has been finalised and you can now enquire about or book the tour on the Backyard Travel website.)

If you accept our invitation, here’s what you can expect:

You will be eating

As we’ll be focusing on culinary travel writing and food photography, we’ve planned many mouthwatering experiences for you, from slurping traditional breakfast soups and sampling Cambodian street food to tucking into scrummy Khmer desserts and savoring refined creative cuisine at Cambodia’s best restaurants.

You’ll learn to cook local dishes with a notable chef before lunch at her beautiful home amidst the rice paddies, and you will learn to make a Khmer cocktail or two. You’ll inhale fragrant herbs and spices and admire beautiful produce at lively local markets, and do a mouth-watering street food tour to popular local spots.

We’ll take you to fascinating artisanal cottage industries that operate from family homes, where you’ll learn about everything from how rice paper and rice noodles are made to the preparation of Cambodia’s famous prahok and the distillation of rice spirit. And there’ll be more delicious surprises too.

You will be learning

On top of learning about Cambodian cuisine, customs, traditions, culture, and everyday life, a little Khmer Empire history, and how warm, hospitable, resourceful, and resilient the Cambodian people are, you’ll be learning the craft of writing with a focus on culinary travel writing.

Our days will be punctuated with punchy, bite-sized lessons on everything from note taking and observational writing to research, narrative structure and editing. Practical achievable writing tasks will be assigned each day based on the things we’re experiencing, and there’ll be time for writing on your own and workshopping with the group. However, we do appreciate that you are also on holidays, so you can choose to do as little or as much as you like during the trip.

You’ll also get a chance to pick my brain about life as a freelance writer and getting published. After the tour, you can email me your story if you choose and I’ll provide lots of detailed feedback. While the emphasis is on writing, Terence will be joining us to provide some lessons on temple, portrait and food photography, and will provide photography tips, support and advice along the way for those who are interested.

You will fall in love with Cambodia

We want you to experience more of Cambodia than its cuisine so that you leave loving Cambodia as much as we and the people at Backyard Travel do. You can’t visit Cambodia without seeing stupendous Angkor Wat, so you will get to contribute to the collective sighs of hundreds of others as we watch in awe as the sun rises over the majestic temple-city.

We’ll also scramble other must-do archaeological sites too, like Preah Khan (strangled by tree roots) and the Bayon (the one with 216 enormous smiling faces). However, as this is a Backyard Travel tour (see more on the company below), you’ll also visit off the beaten track temples and enjoy some insider experiences.

We’ll wander local neighbourhoods, tranquil villages, and busy shrines and pagodas, and we’ll meet all kinds of locals, from chefs to artists. We’ll see the quirky Cambodian circus, squeeze in a massage or two, and I’ll take you to our favourite cocktail bar.

Note: because Terence and myself and the Backyard Travel guides live in Cambodia, we guarantee you a far deeper and more insightful experience compared to other tours, where the guides and writer/photographer travel with the group from their home country.

I’ve also guessed at a few questions you might have…

Who is the culinary travel writing tour for?

People like you:

  • people who love to travel and eat, though might not write or shoot photos, but would love to try, even if just to document their journeys more creatively;
  • hobby writers who have more serious aspirations and harbor a dream of getting published;
  • travel and food writers and bloggers who wish to improve their writing, relish the experience of writing in a stimulating environment and being forced to write on the road;
  • established food and travel writers in need of some coaching and guidance or who miss the experience of work-shopping stories with other writers in a supportive and collaborative environment;
  • travel and food writers and bloggers who are keen to spend time with other like-minded people;
  • travel writers who’d like to have a go at food writing or food writers who’d like to try their hand at travel writing;
  • creative people who might practice a craft or art in another field who would like to immerse themselves in writing and photography for a while; and
  • food-lovers and food professionals who would like an education in Cambodian cuisine and culinary culture. Note: participating in writing and photography workshops and completing writing tasks is optional; you can use that time to enjoy a massage or spa treatment, do some shopping, or simply relax.

Why Backyard Travel?

We try a lot of tour operators in the course of our work as travel and food writers and when we find companies we love, who offer authentic singular experiences that align with our travel style – slow, sustainable, local, experiential – we try to use them whenever as we can because we know not everybody wants to travel independently. We have no formal arrangement with the company. We just find ourselves testing out their tours from time to time just because we like the unique experiences they offer.

Backyard Travel specialises in the things we love, live and breathe: local travel, experiential travel, and slow and sustainable travel. They offer the sort of authentic, insider experiences that we always seek out and try to inspire you to do: everything from cooking classes with chefs to art tours with artists. While Backyard Travel prefers the off the beaten track, when they take in a popular attraction it’s with a twist or they take you behind the scenes with an insider with expert knowledge. For instance, in Hanoi, we saw a puppet show at the home of a master puppeteer while in Hue we learnt how to make traditional kites from a local kite-maker.

They also like to go slow and are sustainable. There are no whirlwind days of ticking off so many sights that by the end of the evening you can’t remember what you did that morning. They always includes downtime and the guides we’ve used have always been flexible and easygoing. They are Asia-based so that means money stays locally. They employ locals from the places where they operate and their expat staffers have lived in the region forever. You can’t say that about a lot of tour companies who fly groups in with their own guides who have little connection to the place. Backyard Travel also uses local operators and will draw on local experts to lead experiences.

Why are Lara and Terence teaching culinary travel writing and photography?

If you’re coming to Grantourismo for the first time, do see our bio page. We’ve been writing professionally since 1986 when I started freelancing while I was at university and Terence started out as a full time technical writer. We’ve authored and contributed to dozens of travel guidebooks for the world’s best publishers, including Lonely Planet, Footprint, Dorling Kindersley, and Fodors, writing many first editions.

In the last eight years we’ve largely focused on writing and shooting travel and food stories for magazines and newspapers and our work has been published in Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust, Fine Dining Lovers, and many more publications (listed on that bio page). We are currently working on a Khmer cookbook with some little old ladies from Battambang.

What you might not know is that for many years I taught writing and film at university level, to industry practitioners, and at a vocational level at community colleges. Terence and I used to make films, we both have Communications degrees and relevant Masters degrees. When I was faculty and later the head of department at a women’s tertiary institution, I taught writing again (as well as film and media studies), wrote two degrees and dozens of courses, conducted thousands of evaluations and assessments, and secured accreditation. I’ve also assessed scripts for a film commission, wrote two teenage fiction novels, and edited a travel magazine.

Dont’ worry, I won’t be conducting exams at the end of the tour! What that means is that I’m qualified, experienced and understand how people learn. We’re still going to have lots of fun but know that I’m not going to fluff about and waste your time. You’re going to leave the tour feeling creatively stimulated, with some solid pieces of writing completed and ideas for loads of others stories, as well as knowledge as to how to go about getting published. You’ll also have made some new friends, put on a few kilos, and fallen in love with Cambodia.

Important stuff

We’ll be providing more practical details next week, including precise dates, pricing, accommodation details, what’s included, what’s not, and what’s optional, but for now, I thought I’d give you some basic info:

  • dates – from 22 May 2015 for eight days and nights.
  • group – this will be a small group tour with an absolute maximum of 12 people so the experience is intimate and everyone gets quality attention when it comes to workshopping their writing.
  • arrival –we’ll be starting and ending the tour in Siem Reap, so you could fly in and out of here or travel overland, say, to Phnom Penh or Bangkok (the price will not include flights);
  • visas – most nationalities can get these upon arrival; we’ll provide details;
  • accommodation – small, stylish, independently-owned boutique hotels with air-conditioning, breakfasts included, and charming hosts, including Sala Lodges in Siem Reap and Maisons Wat Kor in Battambang (we’ve personally selected these because we’ve stayed in them and love these properties).
  • transport – tuk tuks for short distances, air-conditioned vehicles for long distances; plus we’ll walk, ride bikes, and maybe catch a boat or two;
  • guides – the tour will be led by one of Backyard Travel’s excellent Cambodian guides – one of the reasons we love Backyard Travel is that they only use locals. When they work with other operators, their guides are also Cambodian. This is important.
  • cost – just US$1998 per person, including airport transfers, all accommodation, most meals, all activities and experiences in the itinerary, entry fees, guides, transport, and your writing and photography workshops. The fee does not include flights or visas.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the Comments below.

UPDATE: Our EAT LEARN LOVE CAMBODIA culinary travel writing and photography tour with Backyard Travel has taken place and was wonderful. We’ll be announcing dates for another tour, as well as a retreat, very soon. 

THIS TOUR WAS HELD IN MAY 2015 

UPDATED: JULY 2016

Next Retreats and Tours

Next up: the 10-day Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreat (1-10 Oct) and a 9-day Cambodia Culinary Tour (23-31 Oct) in October 2016. Following requests from readers, we are also setting dates for another Cambodia Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreat and Cambodia Culinary Tour in November 2016 and again in May 2017, as well as intensive 3-day monsoon writing and photography retreats in September. Dates coming soon!

Making an Enquiry or Booking

To make a booking or learn more email us at info@grantourismotravels.com for a full itinerary, price list, and payment information. To book your place, a US$500 deposit is required.

Media and Blogger Affiliate Programme

If you are a food/travel blogger and would like to be part of our affiliate programme or if you’d like to write about our Cambodia Culinary Tour and need a media release and hi-res images, please email us on the address above.

Sponsors and Candidates

We are offering one sponsored spot to young Cambodians on our Cambodia Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreat and Cambodia Culinary Tour. If you’d like to nominate a Cambodian candidate for these or future retreats and tours, or you’re a business or individual who’d like to sponsor a place, please email us on the same address above.

Want More of an Idea as to What to Expect?

Click through to salivate over the these mouthwatering images from our previous culinary travel writing and photography tours. Check out our Instagram feed for images from the experiences. Also see our dedicated Siem Reap Retreats and Tours website with more information.



There are 23 comments

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  1. Reece

    This is a great idea and totally unique for the area. You have definitely chosen the perfect destination as Cambodia deserves a mention on the world culinary map. All the best with the tours Lara.

  2. Roxanne Bamboat

    Hi Guys,

    I’m definitely interested in this tour could you mail me some details specially how much it will cost because I need to budget accordingly and I’d like to book a slot soon. Thanks so much !

  3. Divya

    Hi Lara, this sounds fantastic and I would love to know more about the details regarding the trip. Please let me know who to contact for the same? Thanks!

  4. Lara Dunston

    Hi Roxanne – thanks for your message. Your blog looks lovely! We’d love to see you here in Cambodia. I should be posting an email over the next few days with the full details and a link/email for you to book with Backyard Travel. I’ll email you when that goes up. OR, you can subscribe also and then you go in the running to win a 4-day Saigon tour. If you won, you could always do it after the Cambodia trip!

  5. Lara Dunston

    Hi Divya – we should have the details finalised over the next few days and I’ll pop another post up. Backyard Travel are just finalising the details now. I’m so excited – it’s going to be lots of fun! I hope you can join us. Also, see the next post – if you subscribe you not only go on our mailing list but you get to go into a draw for the chance to win a 4-day Saigon tour for two people. Thanks for dropping by!

  6. Lara Dunston

    Hi Reece – thanks! We totally agree that Cambodia deserves more attention culinary-wise. Hopefully the people who do our tour can get some stories published and help us spread the world about how wonderful the food is here!

  7. Roxanne Bamboat

    Thank you so much Lara ! This is incredibly exciting. I’ve subscribed to your site and I actually follow you guys regularly on twitter so i’m surprised I hadn’t subscribed earlier. An email with details would be great but I’ll keep checking the site as well. This 4 day Saigon tour sounds fab, how do I take part in that as well ?

  8. Divya

    Thanks, Lara. Confirmed my subscription, too. This all sounds really fantastic, I look forward to hearing from you guys and (hopefully) joining you in Cambodia!! 🙂

  9. Divya

    Hi Lara, any update on the pricing for this tour? Please let me know soon, will plan accordingly. Really looking forward to it! thanks 🙂


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