Cambodia - To the Temples and Beyond


Cambodia - To the Temples and Beyond

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

On this 14-day tour discover what Cambodia has to offer beyond its spectacular temples. We start the journey in Siem Reap with a visit to the magnificent Angkor Wat and its overwhelming collection of temples. Scattered throughout a huge area of forest, they comprise one of the world’s greatest man-made wonders. Travel to Battambang and explore the rural side of Cambodia before taking an exciting journey through the Cardamom mountains, where we spend two nights in the Cambodian jungle. Explore local villages and relax in the coastal province of Kep before ending the tour in Phnom Penh, where we learn about the country’s dark history, as well as experiencing the lighter side of the city; it’s bustling nightlife.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●●○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat
  • Visit the UNESCO site of Phnom Kulen National Park
  • Spend an evening at the famous Cambodian circus
  • Spend time with the local people, staying in a local homestay
  • Travel through the Cardamom Mountains, staying in a tented camp
  • Discover Phnom Penh and the infamous Killing Fields

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotels, a tented camp and a local homestay with shared facilities 
Included Meals:
 Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Siem Reap
End Point: Phnom Penh
Transport: Minivan, boat, bicycle, tuktuk
Countries: Cambodia

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. On this tour for group size of 3 or more you will be accompanied by an English-speaking tour leader throughout, assisted where necessary by local English-speaking guides. If the group size is 1 or 2 then there will be no accompanying tour leader but you will still have the services of different local guides in each place.

Day 1 - Siem Reap Arrival

Welcome to Cambodia! Upon arrival in Siem Reap you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to explore the city. Overnight at Kafu Resort or similar. No meals.

Day 2 – Siem Reap

This morning we visit a Buddhist pagoda for a special monk water blessing ceremony. This ceremony is believed to cleanse and keep bad spirits away while bringing good luck for the coming years. The offering of a Sadok (traditional gift of sugar, milk, tea, amongst other items) for the monk will be provided. After the blessing visit the spectacular jungle temple of Ta Phrom before visiting the main temples of Angkor Wat. This afternoon we explore Angkor by bicycle*. Ride past the King’s Siem Reap residence and through the Royal Gardens, and continue up the Siem Reap River past private homes and small riverside markets. Crossing the river we wind our way along red clay roads and small dirt trails, through a series of local villages, crossing small farms and passing school children on their way home. We make our way towards the west edge of the Angkor Park. After a brief stop we bypass the crush of visitors exiting the park and instead follow single track lanes, past stunning rice fields and small, historic family parcels where life appears unchanged for generations. As the temples close to visitors, we will access park roads and trails to view this remarkable historic site in twilight, and poise ourselves for a glimpse of sunset as the day comes to a close. We then take a peaceful Dragon Boat ride on the moat of Angkor Thom, with local delicacies including soft drink and champagne on-board. After the boat ride you will be transferred back to your hotel. Overnight at Kafu Resort or similar (BL)

Note: Visiting temples or other religious sites in Cambodia, visitors are advised to follow a dress code consisting of long trousers or skirt which covers the knees as well as covered shoulders. Skirts, short shorts, tank tops and revealing clothing are culturally insensitive and not allowed.

*The cycle ride is flat and approximately 20km in total.

If you do not wish to explore Angkor by bicycle, a tuk tuk can be arranged. However, this may make following the smaller trails more difficult. Please advise us at the time of booking.

Angkor Wat

Prepare for divine inspiration! The temples of Angkor, capital of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire, are a perfect fusion of creative ambition and spiritual devotion. The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to top their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in the world's largest religious building, Angkor Wat, and one of its weirdest, the Bayon. The hundreds of temples surviving today are the sacred skeleton of the vast political, religious and social centre of an empire that stretched from Burma to Vietnam and which, at its zenith, boasted a population of one million. The temples of Angkor are the heart and soul of the Kingdom of Cambodia, a source of inspiration and national pride to all Khmers as they struggle to rebuild their lives after years of terror and trauma. Today, they are a point of pilgrimage for all Cambodians, and no traveller to the region will want to miss their extravagant beauty.

Day 3 - Phnom Kulen National Park  

After breakfast we leave Siem Reap through the stunning countryside for a visit to the mysterious waterfall at UNESCO World Heritage Site of Phnom Kulen. Explore the area and visit Preah Ang Thom, which houses a large Buddha statue, as well as the Terrace of Sdach Kum Ling, a small brick-built ruined temple which was covered by lava for hundreds of years. We end at the waterfall where you can take a refreshing swim before a local Khmer lunch. After lunch we take a scenic drive to Banteay Srei, loosely translated as "Citadel of Women”, which houses some of the finest and best-preserved examples of classical Khmer bas-relief. Continue to the Cambodia Land Mine Museum. This is part museum, but also an orphanage, school and clinic to victims ran by Aki Ra, who was forced by the Khmer Rouge to lay thousands of mines as a child, and has now devoted his life to clearing them and has so far removed over 50,000. We finish our tour with sunset at Pre Rup Temple. This evening enjoy a night at the Cambodian circus. You will be picked up from your hotel at 7.30 pm by Remok (tuk tuk) to the Phare circus tent, located just outside of town. The show starts at 8:00 PM and lasts about an hour. Overnight at Kafu Resort or similar (BL)

Phnom Kulen

Phnom Kulen (or Kulen Mountain) translates as "Mountain of Lychees". It is located in Svay Leu District roughly 48km north of Siem Reap. Phnom Kulen is an isolated chain of small mountain plateau of moderate height lying south of the Dângrêk Mountains and appears as a long silhouette on the horizon. Geologically Phnom Kulen is formed of sandstone and it was important as a quarry in Angkorian times. Kulen is now a protected area and as of 1992 has acquired World Heritage status from UNESCO. The Samré tribe was formerly living at the edge of Phnom Kulen, quarrying sandstone and transporting it to the royal sites at Angkor and beyond. The area is also easily defended as the infamous Khmer Rouge used the location as a final stronghold as their regime came to an end in 1979. Recently archaeologists have located some 30 temples on Phnom Kulen using helicopter-mounted lasers to measure variations in ground height through dense vegetation. Phnom Kulen is widely regarded as the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire. During the constructional period of the ancient temples in the ninth century, sand stones were brought from this sacred mountain to Angkor. It was here at Phnom Kulen that King Jayavarman II proclaimed independence from Java in 802 A.D. The site is known for its carvings representing fertility and its waters hold special significance to the people of Cambodia. Just a few inches under the surface of the water, over 1000 carvings of Yoni and Linga are etched into the sandstone riverbed. The waters are regarded as holy, given the sacred carvings which also include a stone representation of the Hindu god Vishnu lying on his serpent Ananta, with his wife Lakshmi at his feet. A lotus flower protrudes from Vishnu’s navel bearing the god Brahma.

Cambodian Circus

Phare Ponleu Selpak means “Brightness of the Arts”. This is a circus like none other and it’s very different to a western style circus. Phare is a Cambodian non-profit art organization founded in 1994 by eight young Cambodians returning from refugee camps along the Thai border. The purpose is to improve the development of local communities by providing education and professional artistic training. The circus performers are very talented, passionate and have traveled all of the world giving performances. The shows are constantly rotating depending on the time you visit. All of their shows are fantastic and focus on both traditional and contemporary themes. Some people credit Phare with the rebirth of Cambodian dance and culture.

Day 4 - Siem Reap – Battambang (165km, approx. 3.5 hours)

This morning transfer to the pier to board the boat to Battambang. The journey will take approximately 7 hours. Upon the arrival in Battambang you will be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Royal Hotel or similar (B)

Day 5 - Battambang

This morning drive through the countryside to Ek Phnom, an ancient temple 15km north of the town. This temple is stunning and seldom visited by tourists. Along the way, you will pass many small villages and encounter various village activities such as making bamboo sticky rice (korlan), fish paste, rice paper and banana paper. Afterwards we return to town and visit the campus of Phare Ponleu Selpak. The campus lets you experience the vibrant energy of Phare first-hand. Take a stroll through the campus with one of our guides to see circus students learning new tricks, music students practicing beneath shady trees, and watch an animation film made by our students. After lunch at a local restaurant visit the site of the "Killing Caves" at Phnom Sampeou. There is a Khmer Rouge memorial as well as an interesting temple on top of this hill. When at the top, you will have a commanding view over the Cambodian countryside. If you choose to stay until sunset you will see countless bats exit from the cave down below, while enjoying a cold drink from a comfortable chair set up by enterprising locals. After sunset, you will be transferred back to your hotel. Overnight at Royal Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 6 - Battambang – Veal Veng, Pursat Province (225km, approx. 4 hours)

Today we drive to the rural community of Osoam in Pursat province. Upon arrival meet your host and take a walk (or mototaxi) to visit the minority villages of Por and Chong, where you might see some mountain crocodiles. Overnight at the local homestay (shared facilities) (BD)

Along the road during this trip doesn’t have conventional lunch & dinner times and also lack of option of meal, so it is advised to take some snacks, and if you have binoculars you should take them. 

Osoam

Osoam is a rural community with 4 villages, made up of 327 families, located in the heart of the Cardamom Mountains. Osoam Cardamom Community Centre focuses on building a sustainable community through education programs (English and computers), vocational training, ecotourism and agriculture programs.

Your local host at Osoam was born and raised in the local village community. While he or she was trained in hospitality and tour guiding, their English may not be of the same standard as in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. They are able to communicate and are wonderful people who are very experienced with the community, living in the local area and trekking trail as well.

Day 7 - Veal Veng – Trapeang Rung, Koh Kong (175km, approx. 5 and a half hours)

After breakfast say goodbye your community and drive to Koh Kong province where you can relax at the lodge’s lounge in Trapeang Rung before embarking for the hour’s trip over the Preak Tachan River to Cardamom Tented Camp. Settle into your comfortable safari-style tent. This afternoon, go on an exploratory hike in the jungle around the camp. The diversity of the fauna will amaze you! Overnight Cardamom Tented Camp (BD)

Day 8 - Preak Tachan

After early breakfast, Wildlife Alliance Rangers will meet us and together with an English-speaking

guide embark on patrol over a network of abandoned poaching and logging trails through the dense forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. The half-day hike will stop by the Ranger Station, where confiscated snares, traps and improvised hunting rifles are on display. Enjoy a local Khmer lunch and swimming in the river. Later this afternoon, kayak along Prek Tachan back to camp. Dinner and overnight at Cardamom Tented Camp (BLD)

Note – the kayaking will be done yourself. If you do not wish to kayak back to camp, there is a motorboat option available.

Day 9 - Cardamom Departure – Kep (200km, approx. 4 hours)

If you are an early riser, you can go on a self-guided hike on the trails around the camp. At around 10am we head back to Trapeang Rung and travel to Kep. Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Raingsey Bungalow or similar (B)

Day 10 – Kep – Kampot - Kep

Today explore Kampot by bicycle*. The journey will take you through rice fields, durian and rambutan orchards against the scenic backdrop of the mysterious ‘Elephant Mountains’. Stop at local villages along the way to meet and speak with the local people. Your guide will help translate and if you are feeling adventurous try out a few words in Khmer, they are always delighted to hear you try! Our final destination will be the rapids on the Kampot River. This is where we will stop for a swim and enjoy a local picnic lunch.  After a leisurely lunch and a swim in the cool waters you will be picked up and transferred back to your hotel. Overnight at Raingsey Bungalow or similar (BL)

*this can be done by car instead of bicycle. A small supplement will apply. Please let us know at the time of booking.  

Day 11 - Kep

Spend the day at leisure. Overnight at Raingsey Bungalow or similar (B)

Day 12 - Kep – Phnom Penh (160km, approx. 4 hours)

Today travel to Phnom Penh (approx. 4 hours, not including stops). Upon arrival check-in to your hotel and spend the afternoon at leisure. This evening immerse yourself in the Cambodian night life! Start off the night at a rooftop bar for cocktails, where you’ll meet your tour guide and get ready for an evening of dining & exploring Phnom Penh’s nightlife. After cocktails, hop on the back of your Vespa (driver included) and join the locals in the bustling street traffic. The next stop on this Phnom Penh night tour is popular amongst locals who are craving some of the best local street food the city has to offer. Try delicious fresh oysters with traditional Cambodian toppings. After this street food stop, hop on your Vespa and drive past some of the famous sights of Phnom Penh and stop at the beautifully lit Independence Monument for a brief story about the history. Zooming through the city lights, you will then experience a popular spot amongst locals for live music & dining. With a mix of top Cambodian songs and also foreign rock hits, you’re bound to stay entertained. Finish the evening at an upscale street of small unique bars for cocktails and cold beer. Then return to your hotel or carry on late into the night on your own. Overnight at Anise Villa Boutique Hotel or similar (B)

Phnom Penh

The name of this city cannot help but conjure up an image of the exotic. The glimmering spires of the Royal Palace, the fluttering saffron of the monks’ robes and the luscious location on the banks of the mighty Mekong – this is the Asia many dreamed of when first imagining their adventures overseas. Cambodia’s capital can be an assault on the senses. Motorbikes whiz through laneways without a thought for pedestrians; markets exude pungent scents; and all the while the sounds of life, of commerce, of survival, reverberate through the streets. But this is all part of the attraction. Once the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s shine was tarnished by the impact of war and revolution. But the city has since risen from the ashes to take its place among the hip capitals of the region, with an alluring cafe culture, bustling bars and a world-class food scene.

Day 13 - Phnom Penh

Today we take a city tour. We start with a visit to Wat Phnom, where a 14th century stupa and small pagoda stands. It is the tallest religious structure in the city and the oldest building in Phnom Penh. Continue to the Royal Palace, built in 1866 under King Norodom. Adjacent is the Silver Pagoda, which is named after its floor which is covered with 5000 silver tiles. Later visit the National Museum, which houses an important collection of Angkorian artefacts. Lunch will be taken at the Friends Restaurant, which provides under privileged street children with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the hospitality business. All profits are reinvested into the Training Centre activities. This afternoon visit Choeng Ek, the location of the infamous Killing Fields. Continue to Tuol Sleng prison, the notorious Khmer prison where thousands of Cambodians perished in the darkest hours of Cambodian history. Overnight at Anise Villa Boutique Hotel or similar (B)

Note: When visiting the Royal Palace, visitors are advised to follow a dress code consisting of "long trousers or skirt which cover the knees, and covered shoulders". Skirts, small shorts, tank tops and other items of revealing clothing are not allowed.

Phnom Penh

The name of this city cannot help but conjure up an image of the exotic. The glimmering spires of the Royal Palace, the fluttering saffron of the monks’ robes and the luscious location on the banks of the mighty Mekong – this is the Asia many dreamed of when first imagining their adventures overseas. Cambodia’s capital can be an assault on the senses. Motorbikes whiz through laneways without a thought for pedestrians; markets exude pungent scents; and all the while the sounds of life, of commerce, of survival, reverberate through the streets. But this is all part of the attraction. Once the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s shine was tarnished by the impact of war and revolution. But the city has since risen from the ashes to take its place among the hip capitals of the region, with an alluring cafe culture, bustling bars and a world-class food scene.

Day 14 - Phnom Penh Departure

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight. (B)

Inclusions: 
Arrival and departure transfers 
All accommodation 
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader (please note local ‘station guides’ will be used for each location when the group size is less than 3 travellers. The same guide/tour leader will be used throughout when the group is 3 or more travellers) 
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner) 
Transport, including travel by minivan and river
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded: 
International flights
Any airport taxes 
Travel Insurance
Tips
Visas
Drinks
Items of a personal nature