01 October 2016
When you take this fascinating tour of Cambodia you will ascend to the realm of the gods at Angkor Wat and descend into the hell of the Khmer Rouge at Tuol Sleng. Thanks to a history both inspiring and depressing, Cambodia delivers an intoxicating present for adventurous visitors. Contemporary Cambodia is the successor state to the mighty Khmer empire, which once ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The remains of this empire can be seen at the fabled temples of Angkor, monuments unrivalled in scale and grandeur in southeast Asia. Your first glimpse of Angkor Wat is sublime and is matched by only a few select spots on earth, such as Machu Picchu or Petra. Over the 11 days you will also visit the capital Phnom Penh, the beach resort of Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep and Kampong Thom.
Your wonderful holiday begins in the capital city Phnom Penh where you will be met at the airport by one of our experienced tour representatives and taken to your hotel. Tonight meet your tour leader and the rest of the group in the reception area of the hotel for welcome drinks and a briefing on what you will be seeing and doing over the next 11 days. Later go out and explore the nightlife of this pulsating city and try one of the local restaurants. Overnight at the Juliana Hotel.
In colonial times, Phnom Penh had cinemas, grand catholic churches and smoky opium dens. After years of war and terror in the 1970s, it is now a city reinventing itself. Many parts are still a testament to its French colonial past while the recently developed riverfront area is proof of its future. Today begins with a cyclo ride, a traditional form of local transport where you sit and enjoy the backstreets and architecture of the city while the cyclo rider pedals you around. Our ride takes us to the Royal Palace and the famous Silver Pagoda, lined with a tiled floor of 5,000 silver tablets. The Silver Pagoda, originally built in 1892, was largely spared sacking by the Khmer Rouge and houses a revered ‘Emerald Buddha’ – akin to the Emerald Buddha held in Bangkok’s Grand Palace – as well as a ‘Golden Buddha’ encrusted with more than 9,000 diamonds. Afterwards, we stroll over to the National Museum for an appreciation of the splendour of Khmer history and art. Many of the sculptures you will see today were made before construction of the famous Angkor ruins even began. After lunch climb the steps of Phnom Penh’s namesake, Wat Phnom, before visiting the Tuol Sleng Museum to gain an sight into the chilling Khmer Rouge regime. Finish our touring with the Central Market ‘Psar Thmei’ to see it’s unique yellow dome and Art Deco architecture before being dropped back at our hotel.
This morning you visit The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and then continue to Ream National Park, one of the most beautiful of Cambodia’a national parks. This unique area comprises jungle-flanked waterways, off shore islands, several local villages, and some bleached white beaches. You drive to the ranger station, where you will board a small watercraft and cruise through pretty canals, emerging into a wide estuary. Travel for a further 45 minutes around a headland to arrive on the spectacularly beautiful Koh Sam Pouch beach. Here, you can relax or go for a swim. In the mid-afternoon travel back to Sihanoukville for free time. This evening you can dine on some fresh local seafood from one of the many seafood BBQ restaurants. Overnight at the White Beach Hotel.
This morning drive to historical charming Kampot, passing small fishing villages. Kampot a former French port, and now a picturesque and little-visited collection of old French facades and tree-lined streets. We visit Kampot’s local market which houses a large array of local produce, fabrics, homewares and a myriad of other items. The market is busiest in the morning and provides a much more local experience than the popular markets in Phnom Penh. The area surrounding Kampot is famous for durian plantations, pepper and salt farms. You will learn about the cultivation and production of an increasingly growing industry in Cambodia, pepper. In the opinion of many Internationally renowned chefs Cambodia produces the best pepper in the world. You will then start your short journey to Kep. From 1908 ‘Kep-sur-Mur’ was a French seaside retreat for expatriates seeking respite from Phnom Penh’s searing heat. From the mid-1950’s this small settlement on Cambodia’s southeast coast became a popular retreat for the Khmer elite, and in the 1960’s experienced something of a development boom. During the 1980s Kep was the scene of ferocious fighting between the Khmer Rouge and government forces and many of the villas were gutted and razed to the ground. The shells of many buildings still stand however and are an eerie and unusual sight in this far southern reach of Indochina. King Norodom Sihanouk built a villa in Kep, this afternoon visit this deserted and old villa and take advantage of the fine views from its front terrace.
This morning begin with a visit to Kep’s crab market before driving along the coast passing Cham Muslim fishing villages. The limestone karst scenery along the South coast is gorgeous, so you will be able to stop on the way for a short walk through rice fields to a craggy outcrop, pocketed with interior caves (visit Phnom Chhnok during the dry season and Phnom Sorsia during the wet season). The afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy relaxing by the pool this evening you may wish to try some delicious seafood from one of the famous Kep Crab Shacks.
Today you leave Kep for a scenic drive to Takeo. Your first stop will be at The Vine pepper farm to learn about the cultivation and production of Cambodia pepper. After a further two hours drive you arrive at the small town of Takeo where you board speedboats and travel along rice field canals to the base of Phnom Da, a striking hill-top temple. After admiring the view, return to your boat for the short trip to Angkor Borei, a riverside settlement with a lovely waterfront area. Then return by boat and drive a short distance to the Takeo Homestay where you will be hosted by a local family for the night. Set among lush rice fields in rural Cambodia your stay will be a memorable experience and tonight enjoy a home cooked dinner.
Leave Takeo early for a full day's drive to Kampong Thom. You will pass back through Phnom Penh. Continue to Skuon town, where you can stretch your legs and wander in the busy market. Look out for the local delicacy of sautéed spiders (the legs are tastier than the bodies). After a further one hour drive you stop for lunch at a small silk farm at Santuk and learn the intricacies of traditional silk production before arriving at Kampong Thom where you stay at the Sambor Village Hotel.
This morning leave for Sambor Pre Kuk, the pre-Angkorian capital of the Chenla civilisation and one of the oldest temple cities in Southeast Asia. You will explore some of the most impressive temples of the area, little visited by westerners, that privide an insight into the historical development of temple architecture in Cambodia. Later head further north to Siem Reap stopping on the way at the huge ancient ‘naga’ (serpent) bridge at Kampong Kdei. Take a boat trip on the beautiful Tonle Sap, the second largest freshwater lake in the world where you will see see floating houses which move as water levels rise and recede.
The temples of Angkor represent 600 years of Khmer civilisation - one of Asia’s greatest kingdoms. Today you will explore majestic Angkor Wat and the walled city of Angkor Thom. Your adventure begins with a pre dawn departure for sunrise outside Angkor Wat. Creep through the temple in darkness past the longest stretch of bas-relief carvings in the world before soaking up the atmosphere of dawn at Angkor from the edge of one of the ancient library pools. Then venture deep into the central chambers and upper terraces of this truly great temple. After breakfast outside the temple visit Angkor Thom city and see the eerie stone heads of the Bayon temple. Return to town for lunch and later explore the famous jungle-enveloped Ta Prohm, one of the most atmospheric of all temples in Angkor.
Today visit two of the most interesting temples outside Angkor Thom city. First travel two hours through scenic countryside to Boeng Mealea Temple – a prototype for Angkor Wat. The atmosphere here is eerie but a contrast to the more visited temples closer to Angkor Wat. Later drive one hour to the intricately carved and well preserved Banteay Srei Temple where you have lunch at a restaurant before exploring the temple, regarded by many as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Angkor temples. Return to Siem Reap and stop at the Cambodian Landmine Museum. Later climb Pre Rup, a pyramid shaped temple-mountain to watch the sunset over the temples and jungle – a fitting end to a remarkable journey. Tonight enjoy a farewell dinner at the Somadevi Angkor Resort.
Having seen all the highlights of this remarkable country, today your exciting tour of Cambodia comes to an end. After breakfast you may have time for some last minute souvenir shopping before being picked up at your hotel and driven to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey home. If you would like to extend your holiday you can stay on at one of the many top class hotels in Siem Reap and do some more exploring of this fascinating area on your own.
Standard fr £1172pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated