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Its time to immerse yourself in the fascinating culture of Cambodia. Come tour this amazing country and visit the main sites as you go off the beaten track to experience authentic local food, village life, and amazing wildlife. This tour brings together the culture and cuisine of Cambodia by presenting them in some extraordinary ways and incredible places. Cook with a private chef in her countryside kitchen, learn the cultural traditions of several small rural villages, enjoy a boat ride along the Stung Sangker River, and explore local markets to learn about Khmer cuisine.
While on your tour of Cambodia, you will be staying at three different venues. Each of the three hotels is a superior hotel and you will be staying in the following rooms:
Following your morning arrival at Phnom Penh Airport (PNH), you will be greeted by a local English-speaking guide and transferred to the hotel in the heart of the city. The hotel is located 11 kilometers or 20 minutes from Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH). This afternoon, depart on a walking and driving tour that will take you on a fascinating discovery of Cambodian architecture from both the colonial times and the late 1950s and 1960s, a culturally and politically vibrant time. During that era, an en vogue new Khmer architecture movement was emerging, uniquely focused on integrating international style with local traditions, materials, and climate. This evening, you can indulge in a delicious welcome dinner at Malis Restaurant, one of Phnom Penhs top addresses for authentic Khmer cuisine.
You will spend the night in Phnom Penh.
Meal plan: dinner.
Spend the morning exploring the local market and learning about Khmer cuisine. You will travel by traditional cyclo from the hotel to the market, before walking through the aisles of different fruits, herbs and vegetables, with the guide on hand to explain how they are used in Khmer cuisine. Try some seasonal, local fruits along the way. The walking tour will last about two hours before you continue to a local restaurant, which uses many of the ingredients seen at the market. Various dishes are already cooked, and you can order num pang, which are French-style baguettes, and the tasty nom banh chok. This tour is ideal for foodies and lovers of local, non-touristy experiences.
In the afternoon, you will visit the most remarkable sights Phnom Penh has to offer. First, head to the National Museum, which houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries. More than 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony. Continue along the lively riverfront to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the more than 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning temple of the emerald Buddha, and in this temple guests will be able to view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
You will enjoy dinner at the renowned Foreign Correspondents Club located on the riverside. The building is a colonial gem with great views of the confluence of the Upper Mekong, Lower Mekong, Basses, and Tonle Sap rivers. Dinner is la carte with a large selection of western and Asian dishes. You will spend the night in Phnom Penh.
Meal plan: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
You will travel by private vehicle along scenic back roads to Cambodias former capital, Oudong, which is about 39 kilometers or one hour from Phnom Penh. En route you will pass rural villages, local pagodas and scenic rice paddies before reaching the main hill of Oudong. Visit a family that produces palm sugar at their house, before climbing to the top of the stupa-filled hill of Oudong for great views over the rural plains. You will enjoy an early local style lunch in the picnic huts at the foot of the mountain.
Continue to Battambang, the journey takes approximately four hours. You will be taken directly to the hotel for the check-in. Even though Battambang is Cambodias second largest city, the atmosphere is very laid-back, and this charming and relaxed river town is full of fine examples of French-colonial architecture. You will spend the night in Battambang.
Meal plan: breakfast and lunch.
This morning, you will be taken to some of the many cultural villages around Battambang, where you will learn how the locals produce rice paper; prahoc, typical Cambodian fish paste; grolan, sticky rice stuffed in bamboo; and other Cambodian treats. You will also visit a weaving and handicraft center in another village.
Afterwards, take a short ride on the famous Bamboo Train, an original means of transportation, on the old train tracks leading to Phnom Penh - a true rollercoaster ride without loops.
Take a break at the hotel for lunch at your own expense. In the afternoon, you will explore another side of Battambang. Take a relaxing cyclo ride around the town with an audio set providing an informative guide to the history of the town. You can sit back and relax as the cyclo driver takes you on a ride of 2 hours and 30 minutes around the colonial streets, markets, and temples. The audio set narrates short anecdotes of the citys many highlights in English or French. At many, guests can stop and walk around the points of interest before moving on the next stop.
Afterwards, head to Jaan Bai, which means rice bowl in Khmer. This is a social enterprise run by the Cambodian Childrens Trust, which is working to break the cycle of poverty in Battambang by empowering underprivileged children. This training and development restaurant is located in an original French colonial building in the heart of Battambang. Jaan Bai uses seasonal organic produce sourced from their kitchen garden, local farmers and neighboring markets to create a tasty menu showcasing the best of South East Asian cuisine with western influences. You will spend the night in Battambang.
Meal plan: breakfast and dinner.
The day starts with a boat ride along the Stung Sangker River to the Prek Toal bird sanctuary, one of the most important breeding grounds for water birds in the region. Continue along the edge of the largest freshwater lake in Asia, Tonl Sap - an exceptional water system that swells to almost five times its size during the rainy season. The water of the Tonl Sap River is pushed back from the Mekong, reversing the direction of the lakes flow in the rainy season and causing it to overflow, flooding nearby fields and forests and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. The lake is also an important breeding ground for fish, providing more than half of the amount of fish consumed in Cambodia.
This unique water system requires the people living of the lake to adapt to the living conditions. You will see many villages on the way where people live on stilted or entirely floating houses. The boat trip takes 6 to 7 hours, depending on water levels, and it is a slow but beautiful journey to take. You can put your feet up, watch the villages life, and read a book as you sail from Battambang to Siem Reap. In the afternoon, you will arrive in Siem Reap, the gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor and a charming little city. The rest of the day is at leisure. This evening, enjoy an Asian-inspired French meal at Abacus Restaurant in a beautiful garden setting. You will spend the night in Siem Reap.
Meal plan: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Start the morning temple exploration at the most illustrious temples of the Small Circuit. You will visit Ta Prohm, which was built in the mid-12th to early 13th century. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the so-called Tomb Raider Temple, as it was used during the filming of the movie, one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. The distance from Siem Reap to the temples is 6 kilometers and it will take approximately 10 minutes to arrive.
Visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an eight-meter-high wall, drawn in a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path, a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred naga snake. From here, continue to Bayon Temple, in the exact center of the city. This 12th Century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs. Afterwards, you will return to your hotel for some time at leisure, to take lunch at your own expense, and perhaps relax at the pool. Spend the night in Siem Reap.
Meal plan: breakfast and dinner.
This morning, discover the secrets of authentic Khmer cuisine in a half-day cooking class with Mrs. Kethana Dunnet. First, travel 35 kilometers out of Siem Reap to a village near Banteay Srei to meet the chef at her beautiful country home. The trip will take approximately 45 minutes. Over the course of the morning, you will learn how to create a variety of dishes that are served at Sugar Palm and the differences between Khmer and other regional cuisines. The class lasts about three hours, at the end of which you can appreciate the fruits of your labor by tasting your own dishes, which will consist of two starters and two main courses.
After lunch, visit the Golden Silk Pheach Farm, a local NGO that helps to revive the ancient Khmer silk-weaving skills and provides job opportunities to more than 100 locals. The farm area, mulberry trees, and weaving ateliers can be seen as part of the guided tour. Golden Silk products are ecologically produced from the yellow silkworm, which is unique to Cambodia. Some of the silk products are months or even years in the making, and each one is unique. So this is perfect for connoisseurs of high quality craftwork.
Later travel to the gem of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei. The so-called Citadel of the Women remains the best-preserved temple in Cambodia and displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art, including the truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs for which the temple is famous. Banteay Srei is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor. You will transfer back to Siem Reap and spend an evening at leisure. You will spend the night in Siem Reap.
Meal plan: breakfast and lunch.
This morning, you will visit the legendary Angkor Wat by local remork. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th Century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around 30 years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is depicted on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
Take a break back at the hotel until the late afternoon. Enjoy a relaxing cruise along the moat of Angkor Thom in a gondola paddleboat while watching a spectacular sunset at Prasat Chroung temple. Cocktails, champagne, canaps and soft drinks will be available on the boat, as it paddles slowly along the ancient moat. As this is the last evening in Cambodia, you will enjoy dinner at the renowned Cuisine Wat Damnak. This restaurant was founded on the simple concept of using only local fresh seasonal produce to create exquisite Cambodian food. The head chef and owner, Joanns Rivire, has a reputation as one of the top chefs in Cambodia and is the author of the book Cambodian Cooking, one of the first cookbooks on Khmer cuisine. You will spend the night in Siem Reap.
Meal plan: breakfast and dinner.
After breakfast, enjoy some time at leisure until the transfer to the airport for your departure flight. Siem Reap International Airport (REP) is located 8 kilometers or 15 minutes from Siem Reap.
Meal plan: breakfast.
Your tour of Cambodia takes you to some very interesting cities. You will visit Battambang, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Battambangs countryside makes this pleasant town a real treat. It is situated along the Sangker River, a quiet body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province, connects the Cardamom Mountains with the Tonle Sap Lake, and feeds water into the paddy fields. This results in Cambodias best rice.
Phnom Penh was once considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history it still retains a colonial charm. Cambodias capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty Mekong and Tonl Sap rivers. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect its former glory and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and western traditions meet in a fascinating way.
The resort town of Siem Reap, in northwestern Cambodia, is gateway to the ruins of Angkor, the seat of the Khmer kingdom from the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkors vast complex of intricate stone buildings includes preserved Angkor Wat, the main temple, which is pictured on Cambodias flag.
Despite its cuisine not being as well known as its neighboring countries, Cambodia has a great variety of national dishes and the guide will offer insights into the countrys culinary heritage. This package includes 8 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 6 dinners. Although some meals are not included for every day of the tour, Spirit Journeys Worldwide provides you with excellent suggestions and recommendations for restaurants and cafes in each city you visit. You will have several opportunities to cook and create authentic Cambodian cuisine throughout your tour of the country, always using the freshest of local ingredients.
On day 3, a special visit awaits at Phare Ponleu Selpak. A school of music, visual and performing arts. Phare Ponleu Selpak uses the arts to provide education, support, and entertainment to poor communities. This project is an example of how humanitarian aid work can turn into a display of zest for life, genuine warmth, and creativity against all odds. A visit to one of their circus shows will leave guests with a lasting memory of the wonderful Cambodian people and should not be missed when in Battambang. The circus performance is only performed regularly on Mondays and Thursdays. On other days, private performances are available on request and for a supplement.
In the afternoon of day 6, you will have the chance to tour the Angkor National Museum. The interactive museum showcases artifacts from the golden era of the Khmer Empire by use of multimedia technology to picture this interesting historical period. You will have dinner at the Apsara Terrace of the Raffles Hotel and enjoy the famous Apsara Show. Located in lush gardens and surrounded by traditional boundary stones, an Apsara Show is an essential experience while in Cambodia and features traditional Cambodian dances and Khmer martial arts, accompanied by a delightful selection of pan-Asian barbecued cuisine. This distinctive Cambodian venue is very versatile and can be used for parties, barbecues and pre-dinner cocktails on Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout the year.
Arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH). Spirit Journeys Worldwide will pick you up from the airport. The pick-up is included in the price.