Bond with fellow travellers over dinner at the Friends restaurant, combining an excellent local cause with a memorable dining experience. Travel to Kampot, where an unforgettable sunset river cruise is only the beginning. Wander the surrounding countryside, visit the Kampot Pepper Project, stop by a 7th-century cave temple and stroll along Kep Beach. Discover local tastes and sights in rural Battambang on a remork (motor-rickshaw) ride. As dusk descends, watch in awe as fruit bats emerge from a limestone cave for their nightly feeding frenzy. Join monks in their sacred water blessing ritual, burning incense and offering lotus flowers, in a working monastery in Siem Reap
Combine the incredible countries of Cambodia and Vietnam on this revealing 19-day journey. From the wondrous temples of Angkor to the dark legacy of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is a country that exudes history from every corner. Between Phnomh Penh and Siem Reap, this journey takes you away from the well-worn tourist trails and into the provinces, where the heart and soul of the country is found in smiling Khmer villagers, hidden temples and sun-kissed fields of rice and bamboo. Taste and cook traditional culinary delights, witness farmers on their daily rituals and join Buddhist monks in their sacred blessings. In Vietnam, by visiting cities like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi, you’ll uncover that vibrant mix of historical influences. By stopping in Hoi An and Halong Bay, you’ll discover places of eternal beauty that have also played their part in Vietnam’s history. You’re time here distils the country’s finest moments, with plenty of time for hidden treats and quiet surprises.
Breakfast Included: 18 Lunches Included: 3 Lunches Included: 4
Sua s'dei. Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You'll be transferred to your hotel – check with hotel reception for more information about your important group meeting this evening. If you have free time in the afternoon, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh and explore the city, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. The National Museum, with its collection of classic Khmer craftsmanship, is well worth a visit. Dinner tonight will be at the restaurant run by the Friends organisation. You might decide to go for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents' Club afterwards.
Notes: The restaurant run by the Friends organisation is closed on public and school holidays. Alternative dinner arrangements will be made at these times.
Drive south along National Road 2 in a private mini van through the town of Takeo towards Kampot, one of Cambodia's most attractive old towns, (approx travel time is 4 hours), . Arrive in Kampot, where the afternoon is free for your own relaxation – perhaps enjoy some coffee on the riverfront. Then, in the late afternoon, you will take off on a local river boat up the Kampot River. See fishing boats returning home and people’s daily life on the banks of the river. As the sun sets over the Elephant Mountain Range, the engines will be turned off so the sounds of rural Cambodia can be enjoyed. As you head back to town you may be lucky enough to see fireflies in the bushes lighting up the night sky.
Enjoy a day out in the countryside. You will visit the Kampot Pepper Project and learn why Kampot pepper has been acknowledged by international chefs as the world’s best. Also visit the Kampot salt field, the only salt field in Cambodia. A short walk through the rice fields, and a climb, provides a lovely outlook over the surrounding countryside. A few steps later and you enter the mouth of Phnom Chhnork limestone cave which has a small 7th-century brick temple inside it. You will also enjoy a walk along the beach at Kep, and explore the old buildings near the ocean front. The town was Cambodia's most popular and prestigious beach town from the early 1900s until the 1960s. During the Khmer Rouge years many of Kep's mansions and villas were destroyed but the ghostly remains of many still stand as a silent reminder.
Enjoy free time in the morning. You might like to explore further, or simply relax and unwind. After lunch, return to Phnom Penh by private van (approximately 4 hours).
Confront Cambodia's tragic past today with a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. You will also head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time before an included cyclo ride through the city streets in the evening.
Travel by private bus through the countryside to Battambang (approximately 4.5–5 hours). There will be stops along the way to see local pottery-making and silversmithing. You will also gain an insight into claypot making in Kampong Chhang en route. Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, (pronounced Battambong) is an attractive riverside town with traces of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and well-preserved colonial architecture.
Travelling by remork (Cambodian tuk-tuk), explore the beautiful surrounding countryside of Battambang today. Stop along the way to visit the village of Wat Kor. The village is known for its historic stilted wooden houses some of which pre-date French colonial times. The large wooden floor boards are shiny from generations of feet walking across them and the owner’s small collection of antiques and agricultural tools paint a picture of Cambodia in the early 1900s. Then it's off to see some small cottage industries producing rice paper, dried banana, sticky rice cooked in bamboo, and fish paste (Cambodia’s equivalent of vegemite or marmite). In the afternoon there is the option of riding the historic Bamboo Train. Also visit Prasat Phnom Banan Winery, Cambodia’s first winemaking enterprise, and perhaps enjoy a tasting. Nearby, a modern temple, Wat Bai Dom Ram, is interesting to visit for the large fruit bats that hang from a great tree at the entrance. There is often a bat at the cave around sunset.
Drive from Battambang to Phnom Penh by private minivan (approximately 4 hours). After a break for lunch we head out to visit a farming community near the Tonle Sap lake. Meet locals, see the traditional Cambodian stilt homes, hear about daily life, walk around the fields and see the growing of rice and other crops (season depending), watch the buffalo and cows return to home after work in the fields, and, finally, enjoy a drink at a scenic lookout point as the sun sets over the gorgeous countryside.
Siem Reap /Angkor Wat
Spend a full day among the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided tour. Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. The impressive Bayon temple is the centrepiece. The famous Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, whereas Ta Prohm, with trees embedded in its stone structure, has a different kind of beauty. For lunch today, enjoy a meal prepared by students at the Sala Bai Hotel School. In the evening, attend a performance of Phare, the Cambodian Circus, a riveting way to end the day.
Notes: The Sala Bai Hotel School is closed on public holidays and school holidays. On these days, an alternative restaurant will be used.
Siem reap / Angkor Wat
Explore the Angkor complex some more in the morning. After lunch travel out of town to a working Monastery to learn more about the life of a Monk and Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism in Cambodia is a way of life that most local people incorporate into their daily life, and monks and local people welcome you to learn more about meditation and spirituality. During this activity you will meet the Monks and hear about their daily life and why they joined the Pagoda, make merit by burning incense and offering lotus flowers, enjoy a sacred water blessing for good luck and prosperity, receive a red band around your wrist to keep you safe in your travels, and see the pagoda art depicting the life of Buddha and his teachings. The day's activities conclude with a cooking class – a great chance to learn a few Khmer kitchen secrets.
In the morning, visit Angkor Children’s Hospital Friends Centre. The hospital was founded in 1999 through the efforts of acclaimed photographer Kenro Izu. It helps treat poor children in Siem Reap and surrounding provinces as well as providing training for health professionals from all over Cambodia. The Friends Centre features rotating art and photography exhibitions as well as the work of founder Kenro Izu. In the afternoon, enjoy free time before an included group dinner in the evening.
Ho Chi Minh City
Leave Cambodia behind today with a transfer to the airport and a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Please note that you will be unescorted on this flight, but you will be met in the arrivals hall of the Tan Son Nhat International Airport by a local representative and transferred to your hotel. This evening you will gather together for another briefing with your Vietnamese tour leader. This meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Ho Chi Minh City's many fantastic eating spots.