Summary:

In this tour of 15 days discover Cambodia’s culturally rich past at Angkor Wat and elsewhere and observe the lifestyle of people in the tranquil rural interior.  You will be close to nature with the chance to cycle, trek, quad bike and even zip wire to get an authentic feel of the jungle and wildlife.  For relaxation enjoy a genuine cooking experience under the guidance of a Cambodian chef and see local artisans at work too

Details:

No visit is complete without visiting the Royal Palace to appreciate Cambodia’s rich heritage before you see the ‘killing fields.’ By understanding the recent past you will empathise with Cambodian people, keen to rid the shackles of poverty.  Experience an extraordinary country and meet delightful people from all walks of life.

Day 1: Siem Reap Arrival

On arrival you’ll be picked up for transfer to your hotel to check in and to relax at leisure in Siem Reap.  You will stay at this hotel for five nights.  

Meals:  N/A

Day 2: Siem Reap Angkor Complex

After breakfast your day will be devoted to the Temple complex, of which Angkor Wat is the jewel in the crown.  You begin with a visit to Angkor Thom, starting with the Bayon, an amazing fusion of several architectural styles that reflect the change from Hinduism (foundations) to Buddhism (the superstructure). Your next visit is to the Elephant and Leper King Terraces and then the Baphoun Temple, now nearing the end of an eight-year multi-million dollar restoration programme.  You will also see Ta Prohm, strangled by massive tree roots.  This was typical of the condition of the entire complex when discovered in 1860 by French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot.  After lunch you’ll explore Angkor Wat itself, the largest, and for most people, the most impressive temple in the complex.  It will be a memorable experience.  As dusk nears, a walk to the summit of Phnom Bakheng Hill offers a panorama of the whole complex lit by the rays of the setting sun, weather permitting of course. Your overnight accommodation is in Siem Reap

Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Siem Reap/Fly of Gibbon Tour/Rolouse temple

This morning enjoy the thrill of a zipline experience high in the treetops of Angkor Park to explore the rain forest.  This Flight of the Gibbon tour enables you to be close to nature in this lush and verdant rainforest with its huge variety of plant and wildlife that exists only in a few locations around South East Asia. Prepare to be amazed.  After lunch we visit the Roluos Group comprising three monuments:  the Preah Ko, the temple-mountain of Bakong and the Lolei temple set in the middle of a former water reservoir or Baray.  The late 9th Century Rolus Group complex represents the remains of Hariharalaya, the first major capital of the Angkorian era Khmer empire. You return to Siem Reap.   

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Siem Reap/Banteay srei & Kbal spean

In the morning you’ll visit the enchanting Bangteay Srei – “The Citadel of Women”.  Admire fine carvings in pink sandstone that are unique to this temple are designed to leave no space undecorated. Your guide will then take you to Kbal Spean where you’ll hike up through jungle to visit sculpture of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi and Thousand Linga on the bed of the stream and waterfall. You return to Siem Reap.  This area is best visited during rainy season, from October to February, to fully appreciate the magnificent scenery and sheer force of the water.  From March to early September, the river is dry and the water is low.  You return to Siem Reap.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Siem Reap/Cooking Class/Quad Bike

You begin the morning with a visit to a local family. Along the way learn about herbs and vegetables grown and used in daily cooking for most Khmer household. The visit to a family home is a great opportunity to learn about food preparation in a Khmer home and cooking.  Your guide will also let you know about food customs, superstitions and beliefs. A gift of rice is provided to the family as thanks for their participation.

Following this visit you begin your cooking under the guidance of your special chef.  You will prepare and create several dishes that back home you can reproduce for family and friends.  Learn about the typical ingredients and blend of spices used in Cambodian cooking, the methods of preparation and process of cooking to really savour the delicious flavours!  Classes are hands on. Each participant has a cooking station and equipment. Classes include a number of Cambodian dishes and a recipe card will be provided.  Do pay attention as the lunch menu is what you have made! 

Something very different this afternoon - quad biking!  Make sure you wear a hat for sun protection and comfortable footwear too.  A safety briefing and full training will be given before you go on the quad riding tour.   You will visit the less touristy temple Prey Monti built in the 9th century  in the heart of the forest and see rural life, little changed in decades.   Enjoy stunning scenery and a tranquil way of life and chat to local children, keen to practise their English.  Don’t give gifts or handouts as they contribute to a cycle of begging and will cause jealousy in giving to some and not others.  You then return to Siem Reap where the rest of the afternoon and evening are at leisure.  This is your final night in Siem Reap. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Siem Reap/Battambang/Silk Farm/Bamboo Train

After a leisurely breakfast you transfer to Battambang, an interesting town about 160k (four hours drive) from Siem Reap.  Along the way we stop visit at the silk farm of Phouk.   At this farm and workshop you will see the entire silk creation process including growing food for silk worms (mulberry bushes) and breeding the worms.  On arrival at Battambang you transfer to your hotel for check in.  After lunch, we go to the Bamboo Train station.  The Bamboo Train is for the transportation of goods and people as there are no regular trains running now. The “train” is very basic: one bamboo platform on 4-wheels is activated by a small motor. Sitting on the platform (we will provide some cushions for your comfort), you will travel the 8 km to the next station through beautiful landscape and rice paddies (depending on the season).  This is a train ride with a difference!  Your overnight stay is in Battambang.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Discover Battambang/Bicycle/Phnom Sampov

This morning you can enjoy a leisurely half-day with cycling tour to appreciate the culture and lifestyle of local people and learn about the rural life of Battambang, known as the rice bowl of Cambodia.  Lunch is at a local restaurant.

After lunch you will visit Phnom Sampeau which means “Ship Hill” in Khmer, due to its distinctive shape and stands out in these flat plains.  From the small temple on the top, you will have a fantastic view over the typical landscape of paddy fields and sugar palm trees. Phnom Sampeau is home to the notorious killing caves, cruel reminders of Cambodia’s troubled past. Serenity and inhumanity are in stark contrast.  Your visit to Phnom Sampeau is until dusk when millions of bats emerge from caves and weave patterns as they fly in unison across the night sky.  This spectacular show of nature is a sight to behold!  Your stay overnight is in Battambang.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8:  Battambang/Kampong Cham

After breakfast, you will meet your guide and driver for transfer to Kratie Province via Kampong Cham province, a journey that will take around 5-6h hours.  On the way we will stop at a pottery village where pottery is made by hand, and stop too at Skun spider village where you can taste various insects such as spiders, crickets and grasshoppers.  If time permit you’ll visit the Bamboo bridge, used by locals for crossing to Koh Pen Island.  On arrival at Kampong Cham you will check in for the night at your hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 9: Kampong Cham/Kratie/Dolphin Kayak

After breakfast enjoy visiting the local market and Colonial buildings downtown before heading to Kratie Province.  After lunch you can enjoy a leisurely 13km kayak trip on the Mekong. After being driven to the launch point, you'll first paddle across the river towards the west bank of the Mekong, then downstream through sand islands and a flooded forest, before crossing back.  There is much to see from your kayak including the rare Irrawaddy dolphins and a variety of bird life, butterflies and sea life.  Stop off at a sandy beach for a swim too and experience being close to nature. The dolphin trip offers a great opportunity that few travellers have, not only to see the dolphins, but to paddle through a picturesque and rarely visited section of the Mekong River. Overnight at Kratie is Le Tonie Lodge that helps support the local community.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10: Kratie/Mondulkiri “Sen Monorom” arrival

After breakfast you set off for Mondolkiri Province and Sen Monorom.  Transport is a minibus or four-by- four vehicle depending on the state of the ‘road.’ Mondolkiri , a hilly area close to the border with Vietnam, is the least populated province in Cambodia (two people per km²) of which half are Pnong ethnic minority communities.  The grassland and pines are luxuriant and the wildlife is extensive.  This will be a memorable experience not only for the natural environment and wildlife but for travelling on roads more like tracks!

On arrival, you will notice cooler air as you are now 800m above sea level.  You will be taken to the famed Busra Waterfall and then check into a guest house with time to look around before dinner that is provided.  The provincial capital, Sen Monorom, has two lakes in the centre of a town that has a population of 7,000 only.  Here you are in a remote part of Cambodia and will notice the basic facilities and lifestyle of people.  The compensation is a true travel experience and an environment very different from the bustle of city life.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Elephant Trekking – Taste of the Jungle

Today your wilderness adventure begins with a trek into the jungle area with a ride on an elephant too at the local elephant sanctuary.  You will visit impressive waterfalls, and ethnic minority villages where you’ll be welcomed and may watch people tend their rice fields and weave local fabrics. Lunch is en-route with dinner at your overnight accommodation in one of the villages.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Sen Monorom

Trekking starts early this morning through the forest and undulating landscape in this little explored region. After lunch and relaxation alongside a waterfall you’ll clamber up Sen Monorom hill to visit the pagoda on top and to taken in the panoramic view. From there, the paths take you back to your guesthouse for dinner and a well-earned rest. Total trekking time today is about four hours. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Sen Monorom/Phnom Penh

Today enjoy a leisurely but long journey to Phnom Penh and relax after checking in at your hotel.  As the sun sets, embark on a cocktail cruise where you will watch the lights illuminate the skyline of Phnom Penh. What better way than finish the evening with a relaxing cocktail at a riverfront bar!

Phnom Penh became capital city of Cambodia in 1866. Rich in history and architecture, it was regarded as the pearl of Asia but this changed dramatically in the four years from 1975 with the forced migration from towns and cities under the brutal Khmer Rouge.  Cambodia is trying hard to recreate its historic and revered past as the economy develops.  Tourism is now a major attraction with a growing selection of restaurants, bars, and interesting art scene.  

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 14: Phnom Penh City Tour

This morning you will visit the National Museum where exhibits 5,000 objects including Angkorian era statues, lingas, artefacts – most notably the legendary statue of the 'Leper King" - and an impressive collection of pieces from later periods. You will also visit the Royal Palace and nearby by Silver Pagoda.

After lunch, your guide will show you Wat Phnom and point out other important landmarks in the city.  You will visit Preah Ang Dong Ker on the riverfront, a spiritual place frequented by worshippers, and walk along the riverside and French style promenade.  Here in the magical light of late afternoon you can soak up the atmosphere, people watch and admire the exercise classes and Khmer dancing.  Have a go; it’s a lot of fun! Your overnight accommodation will be in Phnom Penh

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 15: Phnom Penh/Killing Fields -Departure

This final day is not for the squeamish but gives an important insight into the recent history of Cambodia and the devastating effect of the repressive Khmer Rouge regime in emptying cities, abolishing money and starting again at ‘Year Zero.’  Whilst visiting is a harrowing experience, it is important to understand the impact and legacy as Cambodia sheds its turbulent past and looks to the future with hope and optimism.

After breakfast you’ll be picked up and driven to the so-called ‘Killing Fields.’  Whilst implying only the one location they comprise a large network of interrogation prisons linked to extermination centres. The most infamous are Phnom Penh’s S-21 Prison and the Choeung Ek extermination centre.  The S-21 Prison was formerly the Tuol Svay Pray High School on the outskirts.  Under the Khmer Rouge it was an interrogation, torture and execution centre.  Today it is the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide that means ‘poison hill.’

Choeung Ek, the ‘killing fields’, was the destination for nearly all inmates of S-21. The helpless victims were slaughtered and thrown into more than a hundred shallow burial pits dug by prisoners.  About 15,000 men, women and children perished but this was only one of many extermination centres and not the largest.

In the afternoon you have free time for souvenir shopping, sightseeing and relaxing until you transfer to Phnom Penh international airport for your flight departure. Tour ends!

Meals: Breakfast

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