Bond with fellow travellers over dinner at the Friends restaurant, combining an excellent local cause with a memorable (and delicious) dining experience. Your four-night feature stay at Navutu Dreams Resort & Wellness Retreat will allow you to relax and rejuvenate whilst exploring stunning Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and surrounds.. Relax on a sunset cruise along the Kampot River and discover local tastes and sights in rural Battambang on a remork (tuk-tuk) ride.. Witness the magic of Angkor – the legendary Khmer temple complex. Two days at the site allows for in-depth viewing of marvels such as Bayon, Ta Prohm and the renowned Angkor Wat.
From the wondrous temples of Angkor to the dark legacy of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is a country that exudes history from every angle. Between Phnom 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 on this inspiring 12-day journey.
Breakfast Included: 11 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included: 3
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You'll be transferred to your hotel, and in the evening, there will be an important group meeting where you will meet your group leader and fellow travellers. 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 social enterprise Friends International. Afterwards, perhaps go for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents' Club – a bar overlooking the Tonle Sap River.
Today, a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Confront Cambodia's tragic past today with a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21), 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 Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks this infamous site, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. Today you also travel out of town to a working monastery to learn more about the life of a monk and Theravada Buddhism. 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.
Drive south along National Road 2 in a private minibus through the town of Takeo towards Kampot, one of Cambodia's most charming old towns (approximate travel time is 4 hours). During the drive, your group can choose to stop at one or two additional Angkor era sites. There is a small additional cost for these visits. 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, by 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 some free time in the morning. Return to Phnom Penh by private vehicle (approximate travel time is 4 hours). After lunch, it's time for an essential Phnom Penh experience – a cyclo ride through the city's streets. This exhilarating activity allows you to see Phnom Penh from a different angle, through the eyes of the locals. The town is an interesting mix of romantic Indo-Chinese influences, modern bustle and friendly folk, and you will notice things on two wheels you wouldn't otherwise.
Travel by private vehicle 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 Chhnang en route. Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, (pronounced Battambong) is a riverside town with traces of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and well-preserved colonial architecture.
On a remork (tuk-tuk), ride into the countryside to see some 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, take a visit to a heritage house in the village; an interesting example of a traditional Khmer house, which the owner will show you around and explain some of the history surrounding these buildings. The village of Wat Kor is known for its historic stilted wooden houses some of which pre-date French colonial times. The large wooden floorboards 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. Be ready in the early evening to head to Phnom Sampov, also known as the Battambang Bat Caves. At around 5.30 pm each night, an incredible swarm of bats will spill out of the caves for around 30 minutes for their night of hunting. Enjoy a drink with a small crowd to watch the sunset over the valley, and this unusual sight.
Drive from Battambang to Siem Reap by private vehicle (approximately 4 hours). In the afternoon, at around 4 pm, take a trip into the Cambodian countryside and show off your cooking skills with a hands-on culinary adventure. You prepare a three-course gourmet meal, get to experience local village life, and enjoy your culinary creations afterwards. Delicious!
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. Later, if you have time, perhaps indulge in a traditional Khmer massage back in town – a great way to unwind after a day's walking.
Siem Reap - Angkor Wat
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex. Spend further time touring this incredible site throughout the day. You might see temples such as Banteay Srei. You'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art. Preah Khan is another interesting structure to observe. This temple contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle. For lunch today, enjoy a meal prepared by students at the Sala Bai Hotel School. In the evening, you have the option to attend a performance of Phare, the Cambodian Circus; a riveting way to end the day.
This morning, travel into the countryside to a local village, take a walk through the rice fields and learn about Cambodian stilt homes and life in a typical farming village. Watch as farmers work with buffalo and cows in the fields, and (season depending) see how rice and other crops are grown. Return to town and enjoy a break for tea and coffee. This afternoon is free for you to relax, do a little shopping, or maybe visit a museum. This evening join your group at a local restaurant for a delicious farewell meal.
With no further activities planned in Siem Reap, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time.