Day 1: Phnom Penh – Arrival, CAMBODIA
Fly into Phnom Penh, the city that retains its traditional Khmer and colonial charm. French villas along tree-lined boulevards remind the visitor that the city was once considered the ‘pearl’ of Southeast Asia. Recent political changes have triggered an economic boom, with new hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs springing up across the city.
This afternoon we will try food adventure tours in Phnom Penh. A fun way to explore the local market and learn about Khmer cuisine. Not as well-known as the neighboring countries Cambodia has a great variety of national dishes and there are many stories to be told by your guide. Step out with me to a local market, try some tropical fruits, interesting desserts and maybe even some creepy crawlies. We then head to a delicious, traditional Khmer BBQ where we will eat dinner as the locals eat, washed down with the national beverage – beer! Stay overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 2: Phnom Penh‘s Past & Present ( Meals : Breakfast, Lunch )
Visit the Royal Palace compound build in 1866 by the Predecessors of King Norodom, it is the most conspicuous feature and also one of impressive colorful Khmer-style Palaces. Nearside the Royal Palace is Silver Pagoda (The Emerald Buddha temple), displays plenty of Buddha Statues that were decorated and made by diamond, emerald, gold and silver. Travelers will proceed to visit Independence Monument which was constructed in 1954 after Cambodian took their country back from French colony, continuing visit to National Museum, the distinctive red building with a beautiful Khmer architecture was build in 1917 and contains more than 5000 art objects made of sandstone, bronze, silver, copper, wood and others.
Afternoon, we will learn about the dark side of Cambodia – Its more recent turbulent and harrowing history. Initially you visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (also known as S21), ironically a former school, located in a quiet Phnom Penh suburb, this was the infamous Khmer Rouge prison / torture centre. Once you have gained an initial insight of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime you will be driven 15km from Phnom Penh to visit the ‘Killing Fields’. This is where Toul Sleng prisoners were forcibly marched and then executed ; it is now a memorial site located in a beautiful tranquil setting .
Day 3: Phnom Penh – Kampong Thom ( Meals : Breakfast, Lunch )
Today you travel by road from Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom . En route you will have a chance to stop on the way to take photos and witness the everyday lives of Cambodians as you pass through interesting provincial towns, bucolic villages, and delightful scenery. This is no ‘freeway dash’ as you will often slow down to let cows and water buffalos wander across the road, pass horses drawn carriages, and school kids walking and cycling to/from school.
We may choose to stop at Skun, also known as ‘Spider ville’ due to the deep fried tarantula that is the local delicacy, are you adventurous enough to try one?
Arrive in Kompong Cham we visit Wat Nokor also called Nokor Bachey Pagoda an 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine made of sandstone and laterite with a large reclining Buddha and numerous alcoves containing Buddha images . We continue to Phnom Pros (“Man Hill”) and Phnom Srei (“Woman Hill”). According to local tradition, two teams of men and women competed to build a stupa on the summit of each hill before dawn. After being tricked into thinking that daybreak had already come, the men lost the competition and, as a result, forever after had to be the ones to approach the women for their hands in marriage.
Stay overnight in Kompong Thom.
Day 4: Kompong Thom – Preah Vihear ( Meals : Breakfast, Lunch )
After breakfast, contiue to visit Sambor Prei Kuk, which is dotted with hundred Pre-Angkor styled temples. The site, part of the Chenla Kingdom, includes an area of nearly 1000 acres enclosed by double walls, and hundreds temples and towers ; its construction predates Angkor Wat by several centuries.
We continue to Preah Vihear which sits at the top of the Dangrek Mountains. Preah Vihear is known as the Temple Mountain which was built at the beginning of the 10th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple had further works added to it by the following three kings. The temple today is still a Hindu site, but Buddhist Monks pray at the temple to the Gods. The temple area consists of three stories surronded by two galleries.
Stay overnight in Preah Vihear.
Day 5: Preah Vihear – Koh Ker – Beng Mealea – Siem Reap ( Meals : Breakfast, Lunch )
We continue our trip to Siem Reap. Our first stop is at Koh Ker group, a group of many temples in the forest, about 150km from Siem Reap . These were built when Cambodia was ruled by two kings ( uncle and nephew ), and Koh Ker was briefly one of the two capital cities, during the 1st half of the 10th century. Some of the temples are still covered with jungle.
We arrive Svay Leu Village and start trekking into the bamboo forest from the village to Peuong Komnu, a serie of Angkorian reliefs carved into the southern cliff of Phnom Kulen, the quality of the work and their preservation is remarkable and the danger of inevitable plunder of the site makes them all the more precious. It is undiscovered tourist site in Angkor areas.
We also visit Beng Mealea an overgrown ruin 90mn away from Siem Reap. It is huge, but little known and largely untouched . Besides this temple, we see a small quarry where sandstone was cut to build the temple . The technique used to cut the stones will be explained there . We may take more than an hour to visit the entire Temple.
Overnight at Siem Reap.
Day 6: Ta Prohm & Banteay Srei & Landmine Museum (Meals : Breakfast, Dinner)
After breakfast, we continue to visit Ta Prohm “Tomb Raider” fame. Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. Left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones, man first conquers nature to create, nature later conquers back to destroy.
We head further out through rural countryside to the small but beautiful temple of Banteay Srei. This temple is largely built of pink sandstone, a harder rock that can be more elaborately carved and better survives the rigors of time. This is an opportunity to capture some good photographs of the clear and detailed carvings. We visit Landmine Museum of Mr. Akira. Mr. Ra is dedicated to clearing the Cambodian countryside of landmines laid during the years of conflict and relies entirely on visitors’ donation to fund his work. Not to be missed is Banteay Samre : Its rose-colored sandstone walls are decorated with carvings and bas-reliefs, which are among the most accomplished Angkor has to offer.
For the later afternoon we head back into main Angkor Park and journey to Tasom . Tasom offers some beautiful photo spots, especially the rear entrance where tree roots adorn the gateway. We finish by experiencing sunset over the rice fields from the royal crematorium of Pre Rup, a classic view of the Cambodian countryside.
Day 7: Bike tour to Angkor Thom & Angkor Wat ( Meals : Breakfast, Lunch )
We hop on our bike to world heritage areas on the roads less travelled . Ride among the jungle passing local villages and local shops. It’s a very special and acting day as you will explore some of Angkor’s most beautiful temples. You will visit the West Gate of Angkor Thom – undiscovered by mass of tourist.
• The ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th century),
• See the South Gate, Bayon Temple – unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara,
• Baphuon temple lying just to the north of Bayon a pyramidal representation of mythical Mont Meru,
• We step to see our old palace as Phimeankas temple in huge complex that was used for our king in the past time,
• Then Elephant terrace, platform where king and officer viewed show and people meeting,
• Preah Palilay older than Angkor Thom, deeply in forest and on path back You see monk sprinkle water to people .
We continue to the famous temple : Angkor Wat . Angkor Wat is a World Heritage Site since 1992, famous for its beauty and splendor. Angkor Wat features the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which runs along the outer gallery walls and narrates stories from Hindu mythology .
Day 8: Discover The Lost City At Kulen Mountain ( Meals : Breakfast, Lunch)
Early start this morning at 7am to depart your hotel in Siem Reap for the drive to Phnom Kulen, considered the most sacred mountain in Cambodia . It was here that Jayavarman II declared himself a ‘god-king’ and gave birth to the Khmer Empire in AD 802.
Arrive at the Kulen Mountain near the Preah Ang Thom pagoda . Meet your motodup (motorbike) driver who will take you for the next few hours around the mountain. You will ride as a passenger along bumpy or slippery country roads and tracks, over volcanic rocks and occasionally through shallow streams.as a huge service city for Angkor, a completely unrivalled urban landscape in the pre-industrial world .
Head across more paths to a modern temple with colorful statues and a scenic view . Enjoy a simple, packed lunch at the temple dining room .
Continue after a short break to a Bat Cave which with the help of torches you can enter for a few hundred meters and see a modern shrine . Both the cave and the temple attract many pilgrims to the area.
A short distance on is Srah Damrei (or Elephant Pond) . The life size stone elephant served as a guardian for the mountain. The smaller statues of lions, a cow and a frog will also impress.
Head on back to the starting point with some more stone carvings to be seen at Damrei Khrap (Kneeling Elephant) . The motodup adventure then finishes at Preah Ang Thom.
Two more stops are made before your return – the first one is a short visit to see the River of Thousand Lingas – hundreds of the linga carvings can be seen on a stretch of the river. After visit Kulen Waterfall where you can take a refreshing bath.
It is then time to drive back to Siem Reap.
The first stop is at Poeng Tbal where a riverbed reveals a well preserved stone with details of Shiva and Vishnu and the rocks carvings of Ganesh and wise men.
A short ride on leads to one of the most important sites in all of Cambodia : a small pedestal that is set on top of three tiered pyramid temple called Prasat Rong Chen . Whilst there is little to see today the significance is huge : it is at this point that Jayavarman II declared himself the absolute monarch of the Cambodian Kingdom and announced independence from Java . The linga has been stolen from the pedestal but as you stand here take a few moments to contemplate that the Khmer Empire began at this very spot . Whilst the sites on the mountain have been known for many years to the Khmer people and those living on the mountain, it has only recently confirmed that Phnom Kulen was the location of Mahendraparvata . It was only discovered in mid-2012 as a result of Australian archaeologists using laser mapping equipment flying overhead . Mahendraparvata served
Day 9: Siem Reap – Departure ( Meal : Breakfast )
We depart for the Tonle Sap, driving down the eastern side of the lake . Arrive at Kompong Phluk ; a ‘flooded forest’. Accessible only during high water, you’ll pass through the tree tops whilst seated in your boat . Nearby is a fishing village where you can also learn more about the traditional methods used for generations . Returning to the mainland, meet your driver and return to Siem Reap.
Transfer to SIem Reap airport for departure to next destination. It’s time to say goodbye, we thank you for traveling with us and warmly welcome you to come again.
Enjoy foot massage 1 hour & walking at busy pub street where you can find many bars for cool drink or shopping at Angkor Night Market