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An in-depth journey throughout Cambodia that will take you beyond the highlights and under the skin of this beguiling country, beginning with the Kingdom is vibrant riverside capital Phnom Penh, We follow the Mekong River and enjoy a close encounter with the rare and unique Irrawaddy dolphins near Kratie. More adventures await us in the remote northeast in Mondulkiri, especially at the Elephant Trekking at Green House. The undeveloped south coast beckons with the re-emerging Kep and the empty white-sand beaches of Sihanoukville providing a relaxing haven. We head north to the graceful town of Battambang and onto Banteay Chhmar, a sprawling ancient fortress lost in the jungle. Siem Reap opens up a visit to the temples of Angkor, a profound experience, as few sights on earth can match the majesty of Angkor Wat, nature unleashed at Ta Prohm or the mysterious faces of the Bayon.Tour services not detailed in our itinerary All meals not specified and no drinks except complimentary water International departure taxes Visa fees All International flight tickets Overweight luggage Early Hotel check-in/ Late check-out Expenditure of a personal nature Tips and gratuities Other services not listed in What is In Travel insurance (cover against all cancellation costs, medical expense, including repatriation in the event of accident or illness).
Day 1 : Arrival Phnom Penh. Royal Palace and National Museum
Upon arrival Phnom Penh airport, you will be warmly welcome by one of our professional tour guide who will bring you to check in hotel. In the afternoon, we explore the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family and a symbol of the nation. We enter the Throne Hall where the royal receptions are held, see the Napoleon III Pavilion made from iron, a gift from the French emperor in the 19th century and continue to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5000 silver tiles covering the floor, each weighing 1kg. Inside are some of the country’s most cherished treasures, including a life-size gold Buddha studded with 9584 diamonds, the largest weighing 25 carats. There is also a delicate emerald Buddha made of baccarat crystal, which gives the temple its Khmer name of Wat Preah Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). We leave the Royal Palace and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world’s finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period. The exquisite building was completed in 1920 and features collections from the pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor periods. We concentrate on the incredible sandstone sculpture from Angkor, as well as the intricate bronzes. Overnight in Phnom Penh
Day 2 : Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields, Lunch at PSE and Wat Phnom
We come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a Centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only seven lived to tell the tale. We then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. The remains of 8985 people were exhumed from mass graves and are kept in a memorial stupa here. We have lunch in the capital at PSE (a French NGO supporting children from the garbage dump) where their Lotus Blanc restaurant serves excellent international and Asian cuisine. We then make for Wat Phnom, a symbol of the city. Located on one of the few hills in this pancake-flat capital, the first pagoda was originally built in 1373 to house Buddha statues discovered in the Mekong by a woman named Penh. Overnight in Phnom Penh
Day 3 : Travel to Kratie
We leave Phnom Penh and travel northeast to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham. En route, we stop to visit the ‘fusion’ temple of Wat Nokor, an 11th century sandstone temple with a colourful modern wat set in its central courtyard. We then enjoy a local lunch in Kompong Cham. We then reach Kratie, a sleepy Mekong port and gateway to an encounter with the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin that inhabit the upper reaches of the Mekong in Cambodia. We head over to the island of Koh Trong where we will enjoy the peace and quiet of our overnight accommodation, on an island in the middle of the Mekong River. Overnight in Kratie
Day 4 : Morning Dolphin Watching. Travel to Mondulkiri
After breakfast in Kratie, we travel to Kampi, one of the many deep pools where the rare river dolphins gather to feed. We board a local boat and cruise out into the mighty Mekong for a chance encounter with these gentle creatures. Viewing is commonplace, although it is easier to see the dolphins in the shallower waters of the dry season, than in the swollen river of the wet season. After enjoying an hour or more of dolphin viewing, we then travel south towards to Mondulkiri its name of ‘where the mountains meet. Where we check into a comfortable local hotel for the night. Overnight in Mondulkiri
Day 5 : Bou Sraa Waterfall and Minority Villages
We leave Sen Monorom after breakfast and head east towards the double drop waterfall of Bou Sraa, one of the most famous in Cambodia. Along the way, we stop at a Pnong minority village to learn a little about their way of life. We may be invited to drink some rice wine, as Pnong villagers are extremely hospitable and welcoming of outsiders. We continue to Bou Sraa and explore the falls. It is possible to access both drops and there are swimming opportunities for those who want to take the plunge. We enjoy a picnic at the falls and then continue east to the village of Pichendaon the other side of the river. We return to Sen Monorom later in the day, perhaps stopping to visit another minority village along the way. Overnight in Mondulkiri
Day 6 : Elephant Trekking at Green House
✦ 8:00am we go by car to one village call POULUNG where the Phnong people live.
✦ 8:30am we visit the minority house and learn about their elephants and listen to stories about elephant and we help train the elephant!
✦ 9:00am go by elephant to the jungle and we can see the rice farm and we will cross a river!
✦ 11:30am we arrive at the waterfall. We get off from elephant and look for good place to have lunch near the waterfall!
✦ 12:30 pm go looking for elephant at the jungle where they eat and bring them back to the waterfall!
✦ 1:30pm take a swim at the waterfall and go help to clean the elephant in the river!
✦ 2:30pm take the tour back to the village and we cross the river again!
✦ 4:30pm arrive at the village!
✦ Overnight in Mondulkiri
Day 7 : Travel from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh
We leave behind the wilds of Mondulkiri, we travel provincial city of Kompong Cham, nestled on the banks for the Mekong. We pass through Cambodia’s rubber country on the way, vast plantations that were originally established by the French and are once again being redeveloped. After lunch at in town, we continue towards the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. We arrive in Phnom Penh and check into our hotel. Overnight in Phnom Penh
Day 8 : Phnom Penh to Kep
We leave Phnom Penh and travel south on National Highway 2 towards the south coast. We stop at Tonle Bati to visit the beautiful 12th century temple of Ta Prohm. Built by King Jayavarman VII, this temple is surrounded by flourishing flowers and is a tranquil sanctuary. We continue to Takeo where we enjoy a local lunch overlooking the water. We then travel by speedboat along an ancient canal to Phnom Da, a beautiful 8th century temple atop a small mount. An island in the wet season, when this area is inundated with water, it is surrounded by a sea of green rice fields in the dry season. We explore the brick temple on top of the hill and take in the magnificent views. We then follow a forest path to Asram Moha Russei, a curious hermit’s shelter carved from sandstone. Later we return by speedboat to Takeo and transfer to our vehicle for our onward journey to the old French-era seaside resort of Kep. We check into a comfortable hotel for the night. Overnight in Kep
Day 9 : Morning on Rabbit Island. Kep Cave Pagodas
This morning, we travel to the boat pier to board a local boat for the journey to Koh Tonsay or Rabbit Island. We journey across calm waters to this beautiful palm-fringed island, home to a small community of fisherfolk and farmers. We leave some time free to enjoy the white-sand beaches that ring the island. Then, we travel back to Kep by boat. In the afternoon, we leave Kep and travel to the little town of Kompong Trach. For a long time this place was forgotten, as the civil war kept it off the map, but the new border crossing with Vietnam has seen a bit of a boom. We stop to visit the interesting cave temple of Wat Kirisan, built into the base of Phnom Sor. We travel through a small cave to a hidden chamber open to the elements, the sheer walls dripping with foliage. There are several hidden shrines here, as well as the Cave of a Thousand Ricefields, where locals claim the limestone looks like terraces. We then journey to Phnom Chhnork, a large cave that contains a 7th century brick temple in remarkable condition. This hidden temple is a very sacred place for local Khmers. Later we return to Kep, our base of the night. Overnight in Kep
Day 10 : Kep to Sihanoukville
We leave behind the beaches of Kep and head west towards the popular resort of Sihanoukville, home to Cambodia’s finest beaches. We pass through the charming riverside town of Kampot where we may stop for some refreshments. We head south to Sihanoukville, check into our hotel and leave the rest of the day free to enjoy the beautiful beaches and warm waters. Overnight in Sihanoukville
Day 11 : Free time in Sihanoukville
Day free at leisure. Overnight in Sihanoukville
Day 12 : Sihanoukville to Battambang via Phnom Pen
We leave Sihanoukville and travel north on National Highway 4 towards the Cambodian capital. We pause to pay our respects to Yeay Peau, a protective spirit who looks after travellers on the road. We continue to Phnom Penh where to have lunch, and then we leave Phnom Penh and travel west towards Battambang province, the rice bowl of Cambodia. We arrive in Battambang late afternoon and check into our hotel. We leave the rest of the day free to soak up the charm of this historic riverside city. Overnight in Battambang
Day 13 : Battambang Lifestyle
After breakfast, we travel to Wat Koh district to visit a local village and learn about rural life in Cambodia. We learn about the rice harvest, fruit farming and how the sugar palm is used. After our village visit, we board the bamboo train to travel back towards Battambang. These ‘local trains’ are bamboo platforms with wheels and they fly along the rail tracks offering great views of the surrounding countryside. After lunch in town, we travel to the hilltop temple of Wat Banan. The winding road follows the Sangker River and passes by many traditional wooden homes, offering an authentic glimpse of rural Cambodia. Arriving at the temple, we ascend to the summit and are rewarded with striking views of the surrounding plains. We continue to Phnom Sampeau, a sacred mountain dotted with interesting pagodas and stupas. There is also a moving memorial to Khmer Rouge victims who were thrown into one of the many caves that pepper this holy mountain. We then return to Battambang town for the night. Overnight in Battambang
Day 14 : Battambang to Siem Reap via Banteay Chhmar
We leave Battambang after breakfast and travel north towards the trading town of Svay Sisophon. We then head deeper into Banteay Meanchey province to the incredible jungle temple of Banteay Chhmar, famous for its signature faces of Jayavarman VII. We see the magnificent carvings of Lokesvara with 32 armsas well as the beautiful but ruined Hall of Dancers. After clambering about among this sleeping giant, we continue to explore the outer complex, including the outer gate of Ta Prohm, like a smaller cousin of the impressive Angkor Thom gates and protected by a moat, and the jungle-clad face-tower of Samnang Tasok. After a picnic lunch around Banteay Chhmar, we travel south through Sisophon once more before veering east to Siem Reap, the atmospheric gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor. Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 15 : Roluos Group. Preah Khan
We travel back in time to one of the earliest capitals in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya, now known as Roluos. We begin with a visit to the brick temple of Lolei, originally set on an island in the centre of the Indratataka baray (reservoir). We continue to Preah Ko (sacred cow), named in honour of Shiva is mount, Nandin. Finally, we encounter Bakong, the earliest of the Temple Mountains, which later became the signature of Khmer kings. In the afternoon, we travel to the mighty temple of Preah Khan or ‘Sacred Sword’, built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. We then continue on to the elegant curves of Neak Poan. This petite temple is the ultimate ornamental fountain, its series of elaborate spouts including the heads of lions and elephants. We finish by experiencing sunset over the rice fields from the royal crematorium of Pre Rup, a classic view of the Cambodian countryside. Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 16 : Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei, Landmine Museum
We journey north to Kbal Spean. The original River of a Thousand Lingas , Kbal Spean is an intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills of the Cambodian jungle only discovered in 1969. The Khmers venerated its limestone bed with a riot of carvings, including thousands of lingams. We head to Banteay Srei, Angkor is ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as Fortress of the Women, thanks to the intricate detail here, considered too fine for the hands of a man. On the way back to Siem Reap, we visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum to learn more about the scourge of landmines and the shadow they cast over rural communities in Cambodia with a visit to this flagship museum promoting mine awareness and education. Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 17 : Ta Prohm at Dawn. Afternoon at Walled City of Angkor Thom
We rise early to travel to Ta Prohm in the dawn light. Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, left as it was discovered by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones. We continue to the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the highest temples in the Angkor area. We walk to the first great Buddhist monastery in Cambodia, Banteay Kdei, built in 1186 by Jayavarman VII. We then visit the royal bathing pond of Sra Srang. In the afternoon, we visit the immense walled city of Angkor Thom that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. The scale is simply staggering and we are immediately overwhelmed by the audacity of Jayavarman on arrival at the city s gates. We begin our visit at the Terrace of the Leper King, continue along the Terrace of Elephants, and visit the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing. Our climax is the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 18 : Beng Mealea and Floating Villages of the Tonle Sap
We travel to the lost temple of Beng Mealea, the titanic of temples, a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the forests of Cambodia. It is the most accessible of Angkor is lost temples, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but utterly consumed by the voracious appetite of nature. Constructed by Suryavarman II in the 12th century, the builder of Angkor Wat, the forest has run riot here and it is hard to get a sense of the monument is shape amid the daunting ruins. Taking a break from the temples, we travel out to the mighty Tonle Sap Lake to visit the floating village of Chong Kneas. Nestled under the hill of Phnom Krom, this floating community moves location with the waters of the lake. During the wet season when the lake swells to five times its size, the village is near Phnom Krom, but during the dry season, it moves as much as 4km from the hill. Everything floats on water in this living fishing community. There are floating schools, floating shops, floating petrol stations, even floating karaoke bars. Many of the houses are floating fish farms with large pens of fish underneath. Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 19 : Angkor Wat Sunrise. Departure
Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world’s largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. We stay at Angkor Wat to enjoy a picnic breakfast. As the crowds return to their hotels, we venture into Angkor Wat to enjoy its magnificence in peace and quiet, beginning at the bas-reliefs that tell of tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire. Afternoon is free at leisure until transfer to airport for departure flight.
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