DAY 1: ARRIVAL SIEM REAP (-/-/-)
Arrive at Siem Reap International Airport and meet your guide and driver. Be transferred to your hotel for check in and enjoy a short orientation tour around the city. Enjoy a short walk along the river side towards Wat Damnak. Here you meet with a local monk and receive a monk blessing. The blessing is a traditional local ritual that allows the spirits to watch over you and protect you while you travel through Cambodia. A small token is handed to you by the monk after the ritual. Walk around the compound of the pagoda and take in the cultural highlights of your trip through this amazing country.
DAY 2: ANGKOR HIGHLIGHTS (B/L/-)
Today you discover Angkor by TukTuk. Angkor Wat dates back to the first half of the 12th century. King Suryavarman II constructed this magnificent masterpiece and built it to become the largest religious monument in the world. Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, reliefs and sculptures make it one of the finest in the world. This temple is an expression of Khmer art at its highest point of development. It took in its entirety roughly 30 years to construct Angkor Wat. Continue afterwards to the former capital of the Angkor Kingdom, Angkor Thom, which translates to “Great City”. The city covers an area of 9km² in which numerous breath-taking monuments were built. The South Gate offers the grandest access to the city where the Victory Gate grants access on the East side, leaving the East Gate, which is also known as the Gate of the Death beautifully untouched in a very quiet part of the complex. The centrepiece of the city is the Bayon. Its most distinctive features are the 216 serene stone faces that seemingly face all directions. The Baphuon and Phimeanakas are structures built in the 11th and 10th century respectively and both were built in the pyramid style. The Terrace of the Elephants is a 300 meters long terrace that has three main platforms and two subsidiary ones. The south stairway is framed with three-head elephants gathering lotus flowers with their trunks. The central stairway is decorated by lions and garudas in bas-reliefs in a stance of support for the stairways. One of the main attractions of this terrace is the facade decorated with elephants and their riders depicted in profile. Likewise, the Terrace of Leper King was constructed in the 12th century. The curious name of this terrace refers to a statue of the Leper King that is on the platform of the terrace. Lunch can be enjoyed in between the visits and may be back at the hotel or at a local restaurant in the Angkor area. The remainder of the afternoon is dedicated to Ta Prohm, which is considered to be the most photographed temple within the Angkor complex. Constructed in the Bayon style between the late 12th and early 13th century, Ta Prohm was left pretty much untouched by archaeologists. The trees that grow out of the ruins allow for a mysterious feeling filled with photogenic opportunities. King Jayavarman VII constructed the temple as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university and it is estimated that close to 80.000 people resided at the temple.
DAY 3: SIEM REAP - KRATIE (B/L/-)
Leave town after an early breakfast and transfer to Kratie. Upon arrival take the ferry to Koh Trong and enjoy a bicycle ride of about 7km around the island of Koh Trong. The island is famous for its fresh fruits, traditional architecture and beautiful location. Meet with local villagers and visit them at home to try local fruits such as coconut and pomelo. Visit the Khmer pagoda on the north side of the island and the Vietnamese style pagoda on the south side. During the rainy season when the water levels are high, a small floating village also appears on the south side. The community runs the entire tourism operations on the island, giving it a perfect place to responsibly contribute to the development of this small and friendly community. Take the ferry back and rest at your hotel.
DAY 4: KRATIE (B/L/-)
Choose to drive a motorbike yourself or hop on the back of one for an unforgettable rural experience. Drive southwards and visit Wat Rokakandal first. This beautifully restored pagoda dates back over a century and is now home to a craft center. Continue further south and take a ferry to cross the Mekong River. Once on the other side of the river head north and the experiences become very authentic. Villages beautifully located on the banks of the river are connected with shady dirt roads and paths. Pagodas are the community institutions and small schools with dozens of kids welcome you warmly to their community. Meet with the local village elderly, the school kids and the people working hard at home. Enjoy local snacks and fresh coconut juice before moving south again back towards Kratie. At the end of the day, cross the river again and visit Kampi, the place famous for the Mekong Dolphins. The Mekong is home to a number of deep pools in which fresh water dolphins live. Kampi is home to the largest amount of dolphins, which are critically endangered. Board a local boat and float around the waters of the Mekong late in the afternoon. Sightings are almost a guarantee while witnessing a beautiful sunset over the Mekong. Return just before dark the last 15km to town and ferry back to your hotel.
DAY 5: KRATIE - KAMPONG CHAM - PHNOM PENH (B/L/-)
Leave Kratie towards Phnom Penh. On your way, visit Phnom Srey and Phnom Pros.
DAY 6: PHNOM PENH (B/L/-)
A tradition that was on the verge of disappearing before it received governmental support, the Cyclo tours around Phnom Penh remain one of the best ways to appreciate the energetic buzz of the city in combination with the historic sights and lively boulevard. Observe the colonial style buildings in the old French quarter such as the post office, the beautifully restored Van’s restaurant and the UNESCO building. The Royal Palace was built by the French in 1866 on the site of the old town. The main building on the compound is the Throne Room. It was built in 1917 in the traditional Khmer style and has a tiered roof and a 59-meter tower, which is influenced by Angkor Thom’s Bayon Temple. On the compounds of the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda stands out in its own distinctive way. The Pagoda’s steps are of Italian marble. On the inside the floor is comprised of more than 5000 silver tiles, which together weigh nearly 6 tons. The pagoda houses a magnificent 17th century Emerald Buddha statue and a 90kg gold Buddha studded with 9584 diamonds. Right next to the palace, the National Museum of Phnom Penh was designed by French historian George Groslier also following traditional Khmer architecture. The museum itself is a landmark and masterpiece in the capital. It houses some of the most valuable Khmer Art and is home to a permanent display of Post-Angkorian Buddha statues. Original statues from Angkor have a permanent home at the National Museum, while they have been replaced by replicas at Angkor itself. Finally visit the Wat Phnom located on a man-made hill, 27m high. It is believed that Daun Penh, a wealthy widow, found four Buddha statues in a Koki tree floating in the river. She built a small pagoda in 1373 to house the statues after which in 1437 King Ponhea Yat ordered the construction of Wat Phnom, what eventually lead to the city’s namesake: Phnom Penh. Although far from pretty, learning more about Cambodia’s recent history is essential and helps to increase one’s perception of Cambodia’s development and the people’s mentality. When on 17 April 1975 Phnom Penh fell, the Khmer Rouge evacuated the city with force leaving and left the capital as a ghost city. Pol Pot turned the former High School of Chao Ponhea Yat into the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) prison camp where “enemies of the regime” were tortured and later killed. All of its prisoners were registered and photographed and nowadays these pictures deck the narrow halls of the Genocide Museum of Tuol Sleng. It is believed that over 17.000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, all of them but seven known survivors, eventually found their death. Prisoners who did survive the torture of Tuol Sleng were brought to Choeung Ek, which is known as “The Killing Fields”. This seemingly peaceful area located 17km from Phnom Penh was for everyone entering the site the end of the line. Nowadays it is home to a memorial stupa containing over 5000 skulls, which allows the Khmer people to return and honor their ancestors who died by the Pol Pot regime.
DAY 7: PHNOM PENH - KOH KONG (B/-/-)
Leave Phnom Penh and drive to Koh Kong without guide. Check-into the beautiful floating 4Rivers Eco Lodge in Tatai.
DAY 8: KOH KONG - HAT LEEK (B/-/-)
Leave Tatai towards Hat Leek (Border Cambodia/Thailand) and continue your journey