Highlights of Cambodia (11 days / 10 Nights)

Doorways, Erica PetrofskyDay 1 - Arrive in Siem Reap

Welcome to Siem Reap, the charming gateway to the famed Temples of Angkor. You will be greeted by your local English speaking guide, who will accompany you to your hotel for check in. Settle in and enjoy some time at leisure to refresh.

Get a first glimpse of Angkor today at the early temples of the Roluos Group. Roluos is the site of an ancient center of Khmer civilization known as Hariharalaya. It was the first town built by the Angkorian kings in the 8th; and 9th century and consists of three main temples: Bakong, Lolei and Preah Ko. The surrounding countryside with its paddy fields and sugar palm trees is very typical for Cambodia – enjoy the natural beauty on a cow cart ride, a fun way to get in touch with rural Cambodia and its friendly people. In the contemporary Roluos Pagoda in the vicinity of the monuments, Buddhist monks will celebrate a private blessing ceremony for you, wishing you health and a safe journey – a very special experience!

Enjoy the spectacular view from above as you depart on a tethered helium balloon flight that will lead you up for an amazing aerial view of Angkor Wat, and other ruins amongst the surrounding jungle and rice paddies glimmering down below.

A traditional Khmer Welcome dinner will be celebrated for you at The Sugar Palm, set on the terrace of a typical wooden house.

Meals: Dinner

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day 2 - Siem Reap

After breakfast, discover some of the other main Angkor sites on a leisurely bicycle ride. First, head to the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall drawing a perfect square. You will enter the city from the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path, a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.

From here, continue to BayonTemple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs. Stroll through the grounds of the former RoyalPalace to discover some small hidden temples that are rarely visited.

Return to the hotel for a relaxing break during the midday heat.

Spend the early afternoon exploring Siem Reap’s colorful markets. Visit Artisans d’Angkor, established in 1992 in order to support Cambodian arts and crafts, and to help young people find work in their local villages by continuing the practice of traditional arts. Discover how wood and stone carvings, lacquering, gilding, and silk paintings are created.

End your day with a tour to the temples of the Small Circuit by local ‘remork’ (similar to the Thai tuk tuk). The most illustrious of these is Ta Prohm, built in the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘TombRaiderTemple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. Your visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Sra Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”. Return to the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Sunrise, Angkor Wat, Erica PetrofskyDay 3 - Siem Reap

Start early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat – it surely is a memorable experience to see the first sunrays slowly appear over the five iconic towers. After a breakfast at Angkor Café right in front of the monument, explore the famous temple in depth. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing MountMeru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.

Then, travel to the countryside to see the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srey. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srey is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.

Continue north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. A short 3 kmtrek up the hill through dense jungle will reward you with excellent views over the plains and the Kulen hills. At the top, be surprised about the “River of 1000 Lingas” with some remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals and other symbols in the river bed. During the raining season, you can enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall, which is extremely popular with the local families. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the waterfall.

On the way back to Siem Reap, stop at the LandmineMuseum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum serves also as a rescue center for a number of landmine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities. Transfer back to Siem Reap in the afternoon for some time at leisure.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day 4 - Siem Reap - Battambang

After an early breakfast, embark on a private boat that will take you on a fascinating journey across Tonlé SapLake to Battambang. You will pass floating villages and flooded forests, portraying life on this body of water that forms Cambodia’s heart. Packed lunch on board. (Duration 6-7 hours). (Note: This boat trip is only possible in the high water period from July to December as water levels are too low during the dry season and transfer times can be extremely long. From January to June alternative transfer by road.)

Arrive in Battambang and enjoy some rest at the hotel. This afternoon, explore some of the many cultural villages around Battambang, where you will learn how the locals produce rice paper, prahoc (typical Cambodian fish paste), grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo), and other Khmer treats.

Tonight, a special visit awaits you at Phare Ponleu Selpak. School of Music, Visual Performing Arts - Phare Ponleu Selpak combines the arts to provide education, support and entertainment to the poor communities. This project is a success story of how humanitarian aid work can turn into a display of zest for life, genuine warmth and creativity, against all odds. A visit to one of their circus shows will leave you with a lasting memory of the wonderful Cambodian people and should not be missed when in Battambang! (NOTE: The circus performance is only performed regularly on each Monday Thursday. On other days private performances are available on request and for a supplement).

Dinner this evening at Pomme d’Amour with its inventive menu mixing French and Khmer cuisine.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Overnight in Battambang.

Day 5 - Battambang

Spend the morning on a tour that combines walking, a boat ride and then cycling along and across the SangkeRiver to experience Battambang daily life. The tour includes prayers with monks as well as rich explanations of the city’s design and artistic heritage.

Begin the tour at 7.30 a.m. at the offices of Battambang Bike and get fitted for your bicycle (either a mountain bike or sturdy basket bike).

Watch a few minutes of film footage which will help you imagine how developed the town was in its heyday. Battambang has passed from Cambodia to Thailand and back again several times in its history and has an excellent collection of early 20th century French colonial architecture that is better preserved and respected than in many other parts of the country.

A tour of the main market, Psar Nath includes trying a local coffee. Then walk the few metres to the river and cross a couple of minutes on a local boat to the other side of the SangkeRiver. Visit Wat Povil temple and take the opportunity to pray with the monks (Note: the monks may observe different rituals according to their calendar though can be seen on a daily basis). It is usually possible to accompany the boats back across the river as they begin their morning alms collection.

Once back on the other side it is time to begin the bike tour. The historic 2.5 Street is visited along with a Thai temple before you arrive at a smaller market. Again time for a coffee or a sugar cane juice. Continue a short distance to WatKorVillage, known for its many old Khmer heritage houses built around a century ago. Visit one of the best preserved homes.

Cycle along the river and cross a suspension bridge where only motorbikes and bicycles can pass. On the way back into town there is another short drinks stop before arriving back in the town at approximately 12:45 p.m.

Take a break back at your hotel.

In the afternoon head to the Bamboo Train station. The Bamboo Train has been set up by the villagers in order to facilitate the transportation of goods and persons as there are no regular trains running any more. The “train” itself is very basic: one bamboo platform on 4-wheels is activated by a small motor. Sitting on the platform, you will travel the 8 km to the next station through beautiful landscape and rice paddies (depending on season of visit). A true rollercoaster ride without loops!

(Note: the train tracks from Battambang to Phnom Penh are currently being rebuilt. The long term future of the bamboo train ride cannot be guaranteed. Should the service stop we will arrange alternative sightseeing).

After head towards Phnom Sampeau, meaning “Ship Hill” in Khmer, due to its distinctive shape, and one of the few hills standing out in this otherwise pancake-flat plain. 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, which are cruel reminders of Cambodia’s troubled past. Serenity and inhumanity represented in one place make this an interesting visit…Your visit will last until dusk – a time when millions of bats emerge from a cave and create patterns as they fly in tandem across the sky – a nightly spectacular show of nature!

Meals: Breakfast

Overnight in Battambang.

Day 6 - Battambang - Phnom Penh

Depart Battambang for the overland transfer to Phnom Penh (duration 5½ hours not including stops).

Starting early travel first to Kampong Chhnang, known for its traditional pottery, with many kilns at work in this province. In a village near Kampong Chhnang, to see the different aspects of pottery making and also experience the production of traditional rice wine.

Continue to Oudong, the former royal capital of Cambodia. The drive passes through many rural villages and pagodas, and you will the temple mountain with its dozens of stupas from afar. Upon arrival at Oudong enjoy a traditional Khmer lunch at a picnic hut at the foot of the hill.

Then, climb the stairs to the top of OudongMountain and enjoy magnificent views over the plains below. Your guide will explain the history of the area and its buildings as well as the religious culture of the Cambodian people. Take your time to soak in the magnificent views over the plains below.

Before heading to Phnom Penh stop to take a look at the spectacular VipassanaDhuraBuddhistMeditationCenter, also located in Oudong. Your guide can explain more about the school of Vipassana (Insight Meditation) as you tour the center. Don’t forget to see the impressive jade Buddha, the mummified monk and the brightly painted walls telling the story of the Ramayana, the epic Sanskrit poem that decorates many pagodas seen around the country.

From here, it is not far to Phnom Penh where you will reach in the late afternoon. Check into your hotel.

The evening is at leisure.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch

Overnight in Phnom Penh

Day 7 - Phnom Penh

This morning, you will visit the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo, an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a fun way to explore this lively city.

First, head to the RoyalPalace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.

Your next stop is the NationalMuseum, built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony!

For lunch you will be treated to a delicious Khmer meal at Le Lotus Blanc, a lovely charity restaurant where former street children are taught the principles of hospitality. (Note: Le Lotus Blanc is usually closed during national holidays and for the entire month of April over the Khmer New Year holiday.)

Optional: TuolSlengGenocideMuseum

This afternoon, gain insight into Cambodia’s recent dark history on a visit to the remarkable TuolSlengGenocideMuseum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture center named ‘S-21’. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better.

Visit the fascinating Russian Market, where you will have ample opportunity to shop for some souvenirs.

As a contrast pay a visit to the Apsara Arts Association (AAA), a local non-governmental organization created to promote classical and folkloric dance and music. Most of the young students are orphans or from poor families though with the support of AAA are given the opportunity to make a living in promoting Cambodian performing art. Watching the young performers is sure to put a smile on your face as you see the arts being rejuvenated in modern Cambodia!

Finish the day at Wat Phnom, the birthplace of the city, located on a small hilltop that forms the highest elevation of Phnom Penh.

Enjoy dinner at the renowned Foreign Correspondents’ Club located on the Riverside. The building is a colonial gem with great views of the confluence of the Upper Mekong, Lower Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Dinner is à la carte with a good selection of both Western and Asian dishes.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Day 8 - Phnom Penh - Sihanoukville

After breakfast transfer to the beach resort of Sihanoukville (duration 4 hours). Arrive around midday and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Meals: Breakfast

Overnight in Sihanoukville.

Day 9 - Sihanoukville

Breakfast at the hotel.

rabbit-islandEnjoy your day at leisure or enjoy with the optional tour.

ReamNational Park

The park was established in 1993 on a 210 km² area on the Gulf of Thailand that includes thick pristine jungle, mangrove forests and off-shore coral reefs. It's a nature lovers paradise with nearly 200 bird species, many kinds of monkeys and it is also the habitat of the pangolin. You will be transferred to one of Ream’s most scenic isolated beaches, called Koh Sampouch. A BBQ seafood lunch is included in this shared excursion.

Meals: Breakfast

Overnight in Sihanoukville.

Day 10 - Sihanoukville

Enjoy your day at leisure or enjoy an optional tour.

Three Islands tour

Take a boat trip departing 9am to explore three islands giving you the chance to snorkel, fish or just rest and relax. At the first stop you will see colorful corals and fishes at the island of Koh Chaluh. At BambooIsland enjoy swimming with in the clear waters or relax on a long yellow sandy beach with a coral reef. Have a seafood BBQ lunch with cool drinks and fruit on the beach. After an easy walk of 10 minutes to the other side of Bamboo Island before departing to either Koh Tres for some snorkeling or Koh Takiev for some more beach (please advise at the start of the tour which option you prefer). In the afternoon return to Sihanoukville to arrive 4-5pm.

Meals: Breakfast

Overnight in Sihanoukville.

Day 11 - Sihanoukville - Phnom Penh - Departure

Breakfast at the hotel.

This afternoon you will transfer back with driver only to Phnom Penh (Note: For an early departure time a supplementary charge will apply).

Meals: Breakfast

Rates from 1600.00 per person plus cost of optional tours based on double occupancy basis.