Enjoy the guidance of a local expert as you temple-hop at the dazzling Angkor complex, one of South East Asia’s most stunning sights.. Confront the sobering but important Khmer history, with a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh.. A homestay in Chambok puts you right in the heart of everyday life in Cambodia. Enjoy a village walk and waterfall visit and join in for a local dinner and cultural performance at night.. Starting in Ho Chi Minh City and finishing in Bangkok, you’ll get a glimpse of Cambodia’s neighbouring countries. These action-packed cities are brimming with things to do and are perfect places to extend your trip.
Immerse yourself in ancient sites and breathtaking beauty on this 12-day Cambodia adventure with Lonely Planet, powered by Intrepid. Topped by the hustle of Ho Chi Minh City’s tourist spots and tailed with the bustle of Bangkok in Thailand, with a tour through Cambodia in between, this is your chance to soak up the bright lights and chaotic atmosphere of South East Asia. Learn a thing or two in fascinating Phnom Penh, pay a visit to the ancient Angkor ruins and discover the laidback nature of the Khmer communities on a local homestay experience. Add in a group of likeminded travellers and an enthusiastic local leader, and your Cambodia Discovery is ready to roll.
Breakfast Included: 2 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, good for you! Get out and discover the city's blend of old and new, East and West. Be sure to sample a baguette or some of the excellent coffee on offer – both markers of the city's strong French influence. Equally essential are visits to Reunification Palace (the site of South Vietnam's surrender in April 1975) and the War Remnants Museum. As there isn’t much time to explore Ho Chi Minh City on this tour, we highly recommend you spend a day or two extra beforehand to get a taste of this busy city. After your important meeting, why not get a taxi and head to the night markets at Ben Thanh – teeming with good food and local items to purchase, it’s a perfect start to your South East Asian adventure.
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approximately 10 hours including two border crossings and lunch). Cambodia's capital city is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. You may want to take a cyclo tour of the city's sights, including the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art deco Psar Thmei (Central Market) or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Take a day to explore the swirl and bustle of Phnom Penh. Included today is a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. These serve as sobering reminders of the violent rule of the Khmer Rouge. Here you can learn more about this confronting but important chapter in history – if you'd rather not visit these sites, simply let your leader know. Otherwise, the rest of the day is free for you to explore. You could visit Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple shrouded in myth, or the National Museum and its excellent Khmer collection. Perhaps indulge in a traditional massage at Seeing Hands – a great social enterprise supporting visually impaired masseurs. A traditional Cambodian massage may be a little different than you are used to – it’s generally an oil-free, fully-clothed affair. In the evening, perhaps head up to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club bar with your group for a drink overlooking the Tonle Sap River.
Travel by private vehicle (approximately 3.5 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. There's a lot of natural beauty to discover here, and the Chambok community is renowned for its ecotourism. 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. In the afternoon, take a walk around the village and head to a nearby waterfall. If it's warm enough, you may even opt for a swim! In the evening, head to the community centre to enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner prepared by women from the community. You'll also be treated to a traditional dance performance – tonight is an experience that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Say goodbye to your homestay hosts and head in a private vehicle to Kampong Chhnang (approximately 4–5 hours). Kampong Chhnang is a central province of Cambodia and borders South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap. After you’ve arrived, head to a pottery workshop demonstration where you’ll see how the locals use this craft, plus try it out, if you want! Otherwise, you could book on a boat trip on Tonle Sap lake, passing by the floating villages and fishing boats. This evening, there is also an optional (but highly recommended) experience to have dinner in a local home – you’ll never get over that traditional Cambodian hospitality.
Onwards to Battambang. Take a private vehicle for about 4 hours towards the Thai border, and you’ll hit this town on the Sangkae River. This afternoon is free for you to do as you please. Perhaps head to Wat Banan – an Angkor-era temple perched high about the river overlooking the surrounding region. With around 300 stairs to climb to the temples, it’s worth the exercise, as the largely untouched temples are a sight to behold, and the 360-degree panoramic views over the province are stunning, especially on a sunny day. Otherwise, Battambang’s Killing Fields of Phnom Sampeau are also a sobering reminder of how the Khmer Rouge affected this area. At sunset, an extraordinary sight occurs with thousands of bats emerging and streaming out from the nearby caves, sometimes for over half an hour. If you do decide to go to Phnom Sampeau, be sure to time your visit for this.
With another free day in Battambang, consider one of the optional activities. If you’re feeling active, there’s a cycling tour which takes you around to visit local producers of traditional foods, plus you get a different look at the countryside, with the fresh air cooling you as you ride. Instead, there may be a chance to book into a cooking class in a local home, or head out in the evening for a street food tour – best to ask your group leader, as they know all the best people in the right places.
Take a public bus to Siem Reap (approximately 3.5 hours). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor archaeological site. This is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. The markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food. Included today is a sustainable concept activity called Rehash Trash. Cambodia, as well as many South East Asian nations, finds themselves with a mounting problem – waste. This initiative is run by women to empower them with skills-based training, and by using some of this waste for good, you’ll make a treasure out of what may otherwise be considered waste. If your creation doesn’t turn out that great, don’t worry – they have an onsite shop with recycled products made by local women to buy as souvenirs.
Today you will visit the world-famous Angkor complex with your guide. These temples were built between the ninth and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South East Asia. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day – seeing them at sunrise or sunset is highly recommended. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap. You'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm, among others.
Today there may be a chance (depending on the season) to visit Tonle Sap Lake for a look at local life. If you feel like some adventure, another option is to do the Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the beautiful rainforest and an adrenaline rush, of course. Otherwise you could visit the sobering Landmine Museum. It's located a little further field but is well worth the journey. You may also take the opportunity to spend a second day at the Angkor complex to explore parts of the site you may have missed yesterday. Please note that if you choose to return to Angkor, an extra day pass will be at your expense.
It's a long drive from Siem Reap to Bangkok (approximately 10 hours in a private minibus including two border crossings and lunch), so strap in and have some car games at the ready. Once arrived, embrace Thailand's bustling capital by getting out amongst it – a world of tuk tuks, khlong (canal) boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Head out with your new crew for an optional group dinner and find out why this city never sleeps.
With no activities planned for the final day, you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! Bangkok is a bustling hub of food, culture and chaos, so we recommend you spend at least another day here to explore. Better yet, book into one of the many Urban Adventure tours on offer – they take you around the best places with a knowledgeable local guide. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/bangkok-tours. If you would like to spend more time in Bangkok, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).