Let a local expert bring Cambodia’s ancient history to life as you temple-hop at the Angkor complex with your small group – one of South East Asia’s most stunning attractions.. A homestay in Chambok puts you right in the heart of everyday village life in Cambodia. Enjoy a delicious dinner cooked by the locals and be treated to a traditional dance performance.. Uncover another side to southern coastal Cambodia with two nights spent in the riverside hub of Kampot. You’ll have plenty of free time to get to know why this town is on our up-and-coming list.. Confront the sobering but important Khmer history in Phnom Penh, with included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.
Let Lonely Planet and Intrepid take you on a 12-day highlights experience of Cambodia, beyond the usual tourist bus route. Discover the laidback charm of riverside Kampot, call into the ancient temples at Angkor near Siem Reap, get a taste of Khmer hospitality with a village homestay in Chambok and reflect on Cambodia’s tragic history at the sobering sites of Phnom Penh. With an expert leader bringing the history to life, and plenty of freedom to explore at your own pace – this adventure is much more than a transitional trip through one of South East Asia’s most captivating countries.
Breakfast Included: 2 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
Sa-wat-dee! Welcome to Bangkok. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you will meet your group leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, you could take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in a Thai massage. There is plenty to keep you occupied in this exciting city. After your briefing, why not head out with the group to try some of Bangkok’s famed street food – pad thai anyone?
Prepare for a long day of travel as you cross Thailand and enter Cambodia. You’ll want to load up on snacks and reading material for the 10-hour private minibus ride to Siem Reap. This travel time includes time spent at the border crossings and a stop for lunch, and don’t worry, your leader is on-hand to assist with the border procedures. Keep in mind, if you are planning on getting your visa at the border, you will need cash in US dollars and a passport photo. On arrival, enjoy a free evening to explore this small but bustling town. You may want to head to Pub Street to grab a bite to eat and sample the city’s nightlife, otherwise, rest up in preparation for tomorrow’s visit to Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Today you'll visit the incredible Angkor complex with your guide. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres – the biggest religious monument in the world. Thankfully, the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so you'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites like Angkor Wat – the astounding main temple, Bayon – a marvel of many sculpted decorations, and Ta Prohm – a series of smaller temples covered in tree roots and jungle. As visually stunning as these sites are, your guide will add to your experience by bringing the ancient history to life with their extensive knowledge of the site.
Enjoy a free day to explore Siem Reap and its surrounds. If you feel like some adventure, you can take the optional Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a thrill-seeking, bird’s-eye view of the rainforest. Other options here include a visit to the sobering Landmine Museum – it's located a little further afield but is well worth the journey. There is also the ‘Siem Reap Street Food by Night’ Urban Adventure, a three-hour tour which allows you to taste the many flavours of the city and feel the buzz of the local markets. If you decided to purchase a longer Angkor Pass, then you might opt to head back to visit more of the incredible temples within the complex, or get up early and experience an unforgettable sunrise at Angkor Wat.
This morning, travel by public bus to Kampong Cham (approximately 5 hours). This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great example of small-town Cambodia. Once arrived, you’ve got the afternoon at leisure, perhaps to visit the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor. You can also hire a bicycle to explore the rural island of Koh Paen, which is linked to Kampong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge – accessible only in the dry season, with ferry transfers when it’s wet. The locals here make their living fishing and growing tobacco and sesame, so it's also a good place to go for a closer look at some of Cambodia's cottage industries. Further out of town are the twin mountain temples of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei too. So many choices!
Travel by private vehicle (approximately 5 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. A member of the Chambok community will take you on a village walk and be happy to chat about their community’s history, lifestyle and local ecotourism projects. Meet the families your group will spend the night with and settle into your homestay accommodation. You may like to trek to a stunning waterfall this afternoon, it’s a 60–90-minute hike and dependent on the weather, but it’s definitely worth it. In the evening, head to the community centre to enjoy a local Khmer dinner prepared by people from the community. You'll also be treated to a traditional dance performance.
Jump on a private bus bound for Kampot (approximately 3 hours) – one of Cambodia's most attractive old towns. Renowned for its pepper, Kampot supplied most French restaurants with this vital spice for many years during colonial rule. Today, the region is well-known for its plantations of durian – a spiky, pungent fruit that has its lovers, and haters! In your free time this afternoon, you might choose to stroll along the riverside and observe the French colonial architecture, or have a cup of coffee on the veranda of one of the riverside restaurants and admire the view of Bokor Mountain Range. Today’s an ideal time to pull out your Lonely Planet app for some more travel inspiration around Kampot.
Enjoy a free day in this chilled-out town. For a unique photo opportunity, head to the roundabout in the centre of the town, where a giant durian statue sits smack in the middle and perhaps browse for goodies at the covered market. The nearby countryside is also a delight to explore – among fields of Kampot pepper and rice, there’s also a salt field and a limestone cave with a small seventh-century brick temple inside called Phnom Chhnork. Otherwise, why not have a relaxing day and enjoy one of the highly recommended traditional massages.
Leave Kampot in your dust and travel by private vehicle to the capital city of Phnom Penh (approximately 4 hours). Cambodia's capital is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. Perhaps spend your free afternoon visiting the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the art deco Psar Thmei (Central Market), US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong riverfront, Independence Monument and Royal Palace.
Today you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek – two sites that tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. After this, the afternoon is free for you to explore further. If you're looking to relax, the Seeing Hands massage parlours are some of the best in the city, and all visits support the staff who have visual impairments. Their years of expertise may be just what you need today after a busy couple of days.
Ho Chi Minh City
Travel by local bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 10 hours including border crossings and lunch). Your leader will again assist you with border crossing procedures. Get out and discover Ho Chi Minh City's blend of old and new, east and west, when you arrive. Be sure to sample a baguette or some of the excellent coffee on offer – both markers of the city's strong French influence.
Ho Chi Minh City
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with any internal check-out procedures. That doesn’t mean your South East Asian adventure has to come to an end! If you would like to spend more time braving the traffic in chaotic Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).