Appreciate the work of Friends International at their Futures Factory, a dining and creative space, dedicated to training vulnerable Cambodian youth to work in the hospitality industry.. Learn more about Cambodia’s confronting but important history with included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.. Is Angkor the most incredible thing in South East Asia? Decide for yourself as you temple-hop with an expert local guide around the entire archaeological complex.. A homestay in Chambok puts you right in the heart of everyday village life in Cambodia
Start in Ho Chi Minh City then hightail it to Phnom Penh, island visits near Kampong Cham, ancient wonders in Siem Reap and… fish pedicures in Bangkok? Sure, why not! Experience real Cambodia on a 12-day adventure through the authentic places, topped and tailed by two of South East Asia’s most vibrant hubs. Forget everything you know about roads, pedestrian crossings and stop signs. They don’t matter here. Wait until you’re safely on the other side before you start high-fiving your success. But when you do, you know you’ve accomplished Cambodia.
Ho Chi Minh City
Welcome to hectic Ho Chi Minh City! There will be an important welcome meeting with your group leader and fellow travellers at around 6 pm. There's nothing planned for the first day, so go get amongst the chaos of the city. A good place to start is the Ben Thanh Market, where you can snack on chao tom (barbecued shrimp paste on sticks of sugar cane). If you have time, a visit to Reunification Palace or the War Remnants Museum are both recommended.
Today, travel to Phnom Penh by public bus (approximately 10 hours), which includes two border crossings and a stop for your own lunch. Your guide will assist with formalities at both sides of the border. After your long bus ride to Phnom Penh, why not treat yourself to a traditional Khmer massage? Look no further than Seeing Hands, a great cause supporting visually impaired masseurs. If you're looking for a tasty beverage on arrival, head to the Foreign Correspondents' Club for a mojito on the rooftop, which overlooks the junction between the Tonle Sap, Bassac and Mekong rivers.
Today, wake up and enjoy an authentic street food breakfast at one of the local markets. Afterwards, the group will head to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek on an included visit – both very sobering but important and informative experiences in Cambodia. Afterwards, you may like to explore some other Phnom Penh sights in your own time, like the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, which both offer brighter aspects of Cambodia's past. You might also head for the National Museum or Wat Phnom – a Buddhist temple built in 1372. In the afternoon, head with your group to Futures Factory: a new hospitality concept from Friends International for at-risk youth, providing them with hospitality experience and equipping them with skills to be secure and supported in the workforce. You’ll have the chance to participate in this program and shake your own cocktails or mocktails (with some snacks too, of course). Later on, if your riels are burning a hole in your pocket, look no further than the Central or Russian markets, both great places to interact with the locals.
This morning, it’s time to head south. Take a private vehicle to the township of Kampot, approximately 3.5 hours from Phnom Penh. Once arrived and settle in, time to look around. Take a heritage walk with your group around the city, and discover the architecture of this quaint town, all from the French Colonial era. You’ll have the opportunity to learn a little of the history of Kampot, plus find some places you’d like to check out on your free day tomorrow! Afterwards, capture a spectacular sunset from the water as you embark on a cruise on the Kampot River. Keep your eyes peeled when the sun goes down, as fireflies may begin to swarm and flicker in the night sky – such a cool sight to see!
Good morning Kampot! Life is laidback here, and with your full day of freedom, you can do what you want. Kampot is far less overwhelming or touristy than the big cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and has some great restaurants and bars along the river to chill out in during the day. It also acts as a good base for some of the best activities in southern Cambodia. There are several options available for you to take up, including a hike in the thickets of Kep National Park, followed by a visit to the veranda restaurant for panoramic scenery, and hopefully a colourful sunset! Otherwise, take a day trip to Rabbit Island for a snorkelling expedition, or head to a pepper plantation in Kep Province on the mainland. You’re living on Kampot time now, so take your time and see the Cambodia past all the temples.
Travel by private vehicle (approximately 3 hours) into countryside Cambodia to Chambok: a village in the region of Kampong Speu. Chambok is very close to the beautiful Kirirom National Park and the serenity and peace of the jungle is also felt in town. A homestay tonight is your chance to really immerse yourself in everyday life with the locals. You and your group will have the option to trek to an awesome 40-metre waterfall nearby. lt is a 60 to 90 minute trek and access is weather dependant. At night, feast on a traditional Khmer dinner, prepared by the talented women of the community, and enjoy a celebration of traditional dancing.
Kampong Cham in a nutshell is frontier charm with French-colonial character. Take a private vehicle there (4.5–5 hours) and soak it all up. Included today is bicycle hire to explore the surrounds, and potentially ride across to the island of Koh Pen (weather permitting). Your group leader will also take you to the 11th-century Wat Nokor temple – one of the lesser-known ‘wats’ in Cambodia. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, a little further away are the twin mountain temples of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei which, as well as being fascinating sites of religious, historic and spiritual significance, are more than worthy of a picture or two.
Take a public bus to Siem Reap (approximately 5 hours). Your leader will take you on an orientation walk to get your bearings of the town. Afterwards, you might want to hit the markets or head to a restaurant for some cheap and tasty street food, like some lort cha (frieg egg noodles) or chive cakes, then get some rest and relaxation before tomorrow's visit to the crowd favourite: Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Get your camera ready, strap on your walking boots and get ready: it’s temple time. The Angkor complex is arguably South East Asia's biggest highlight. This area been made famous by films such as Tomb Raider, but more importantly has a deep history spanning six centuries from around AD800 as the site of different capitals of the Khmer Empire. The obvious attraction is the world-renowned Angkor Wat, which is every bit as amazing as everyone says it is, especially at sunrise and sunset. As a group, you'll have a guided tour of the whole site, and depending on the weather and the group’s desires, your leader can tailor the time of day and the parts of the complex you’ll see. There’s also plenty of time to visit the other monuments of this sprawling complex, like the giant carved faces of Bayon and the peculiar Ta Prohm – a temple being swallowed by the grip of tentacle-like tree roots.
Kick back in Siem Reap and wander around town, visiting its market, shops and restaurants. Depending on the season, you might like to visit Tonle Sap, the big freshwater lake, for a glimpse of local life. Adventure-seekers and adrenaline-junkies can do the Angkor zip-line course that will have you soaring like an eagle over the lush rainforest. For even more bragging material, you can learn the tricks of the trade in a Khmer cooking class. And if you just can't stay away from Angkor, longer passes than the standard one-day option are available. Ask your leader for more information as they can hook you up with a good deal.
Goodbye Cambodia, hello Thailand. Drive from Siem Reap to Bangkok in a private minivan (approximately 10 hours, including a border crossing and lunch stop). Again, your leader will assist with the border crossing formalities. If you expect a soothing and charming day, think again – it's go, go, go in Thailand's frenetic capital, but that’s all part of the fun. The khlongs (canals) are a great way to escape from all the chaos – maybe take a boat to the popular Chinatown for a delicious street food dinner. A traditional Thai massage may also be a good option to relax into the evening. Bangkok has some great nightlife and rooftop bars, so be sure to stake out a place with your travel buddies and watch day turn to night.
With no more activities planned, you're free to depart at any time. Bangkok is full of things to do, including the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or the very cool Jim Thompson museum. Better yet, why not check out one of the many Urban Adventures on offer? There’s a Tuk Tuk Experience, or you could get behind a bike and weave through all of the traffic. Visit urbanadventures.com/destination/bangkok-tours for more information. If you wish to spend more time in Bangkok, we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).