21 February 2017
There’s a special magic about Cambodia that casts a spell on visitors to this charming yet confounding kingdom. On this great week long tour you will rise to the gods at the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat, and descend into the hell of Tuol Sleng and come face to face with the Khmer Rouge and its killing machine. Cambodia is a country with a history both inspiring and depressing, an intoxicating place where the future is still waiting to be shaped. The capital Phnom Penh is both chaotic yet charismatic and the revitalised city of Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor temples, is a great place to relax and has a gorgeous riverside location, a cultural renaissance, and a dining and drinking scene to rival the best in the region.
Your tour begins in the capital city Phnom Penh. On arrival you will be met by one of our representatives and taken to your hotel. This evening meet your tour leader and the rest of the group for welcome drinks and a tour briefing.
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 spend time at 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 Angkor ruins began. This afternoon we visit the chilling Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and The Killing Fields of Choeng Ek for an insight into the insanity of the Pol Pot era and the country’s sombre recent history. We finish our touring with a visit to Psah Thmei or Central Market as it is commonly known, built in 1937 this is a remarkable example of French Colonial Art Deco architecture. The evening is free to shop or wander along the nearby waterfront area.
Set out today on the picturesque drive to Kampong Thom, stopping on the way at a number of places of interest to take photos of gorgeous rural Cambodia. After a further hours drive we stop for a home cooked lunch at a small silk farm at Santuk and learn the intricacies of traditional silk production. After lunch we take a drive to the ruins of Sambor Pre Kuk, the pre-Angkorian capital of the Chenla civilization and one of the oldest temple cities in Southeast Asia. The city was built by King Ishanavarman I (616-635 A.D.) and dedicated to Shiva in the 7th century. The Chenla kingdom was divided in the 8th century into two kingdoms, (Chenla of the Land and Chenla of the Sea), before being reunited again in the 9th century, by Jayavarman II, founding the Khmer Empire. In more recent times, Sambor Pre Kuk became a Khmer Rouge stronghold during Cambodia’s civil war and was the target of heavy American bombing. It is believed there were up to 200 temple remains before hostilities began; sadly only around 100 remain today. Today you will have the chance to explore some of the most impressive temples of the area. This group of temples is little visited by westerners and provides an insight into the historical development of temple architecture in Cambodia. After walking through the most important ruins we will then drive back to the city of Kampong Thom.
This morning you head further north to Siem Reap, stopping at a huge ancient ‘naga’ (serpent) bridge at Kampong Kdei. On the way to Siem Reap take a boat trip on the beautiful Tonle Sap, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. This ecologically marvellous lake is the lifeblood of the country and the primary source of fish and protein for most of the Cambodian population. Visit a remote village built on stilts and see floating houses which move as water levels rise and recede. Arrive in Siem Reap and check-in to your hotel.
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 from the hotel for sunrise outside Angkor Wat. Creep through the temple in darkness before soaking up the atmosphere of dawn 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. Later visit Angkor Thom city and marvel at the eerie stone heads of the Bayon temple. This afternoon explore two overgrown sites, the jungle-enveloped Ta Prohm, one of the most atmospheric of all temples in Angkor and the sister site, Preah Khan.
Today visit two of the most interesting temples outside Angkor Thom city. Travel two hours through scenic countryside to the 11th century Boeng Mealea Temple, the largest outside the main Angkor complex and the intricately carved and well preserved Banteay Srei Temple, where you have lunch at a local restaurant before exploring. The detailed reliefs on this smaller sandstone structure are regarded as the finest, most skilfully crafted in Cambodia. Banteay Srei has only been accessible since the late 1990s and is regarded by many as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Angkor temples. On the way back to Siem Reap stop at the Cambodian Landmine Museum.
Your wonderful tour of Cambodia comes to an end today. Time for sightseeing or souvenir shopping in the markets and stalls of Siem Reap, a relaxing few hours beside the pool, or perhaps a visit to the fascinating artisans village to watch the craftsmen and women at work before you are taken to the airport for your onward flight or to begin your journey home having seen all the highlights of this fascinating country.
Classic fr £931pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated