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One of the group traveller’s best options for an amazing ‘value-for-money’ exotic destination is Cambodia in Southeast Asia. From the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat Temple Complex to the heart-wrenching glimpses of the country’s dark past, Cambodia will not disappoint the group traveller on a budget. International standard hotels, delectable cuisine, fascinating history and a vibrant culture all make Cambodia a “must-see” destination.
Fly Hometown to Phnom Penh
Arrive Phnom Penh/Fly Siem Reap
Welcome to Cambodia and the town of Siem Reap. Upon arrival, we will be met and transferred to our hotel.
After breakfast, we begin our extensive touring of the area starting with a visit to the monumental magnificence of Angkor Thom – the last capital of the great Khmer Empire. You will visit the sprawling Elephant Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King and the enchanting Bayon. This 12th-century masterpiece lies at the very centre of Angkor Thom City and is an archaeological wonder of symmetry and grandeur. The exterior gallery walls have extensive bas-reliefs but the main features are the towers each with 3 or 4 gently smiling faces, over 200 in total. PJ de Beerski wrote of them as “godliness in the majesty and the size, mystery in the expression.”
This afternoon, we travel by Remok to visit Ta Prohm, the temple that has been left largely in its natural state since its “re-discovery” by French explorers. Surrounded by jungle, its labyrinth of stone hallways is overgrown with the roots and limbs of massive banyan trees, which envelop the stone like tentacles. It is one of the largest temples at Angkor, dedicated in 1186. Historians have noted its mystical charm. Our next stop is a visit to Preah Khan "The Sacred Sword", an extensive monastic complex covering over 56 hectares built by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a monastery and teaching complex. Preah Khan was the site of the World Monuments Fund ‘prime’ Asian project a painstaking renovation whilst maintaining its mysterious allure and superb original
structure. We then continue to view the sunset at the Pre Rup temple, about 2 kilometres northeast of Srah Srang and about 500 meters south of the East Baray. The temple was built in 961 during the reign of King Rajendravarman, dedicated to Shiva Brahmanism. The boldness of the architectural design is superb and gives the temple fine balance, scale and proportion. The temple is close in style to the East Mabon, although it was built several years later. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel.
|Meal Plan||Breakfast and Dinner|
This morning, we visit Banteay Srei; ‘the Woman’s Citadel’ - a tiny, enchanting temple, which is one of the jewels in this remarkable city. Built of red sandstone in the tenth century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the carved male and female figures in the niches are exquisitely executed in both style and proportion. This is the most Indian of all the temples in Angkor and in the words of H.W. Ponder, is “a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest.” Next, we visit Banteay Samre, built under Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II in the early 12th century; it is a Hindu temple in the Angkor Wat style. Named after the Samré, an ancient people of Indochina, the temple uses the same materials as Banteay Srei.
After lunch (own expense), we travel by land to a development project teaching young adults, stone carving, wood carving and lacquer application, Les Artisans d' Angkor is a heartwarming reminder that progress in Cambodia can go hand in hand with traditional crafts. We continue to Ton Le Sap Lake and take a boat to visit a floating village. This lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is the heart of the Cambodian fishing industry and the lifeblood for millions of Khmers living on and around it. Every year during the monsoon season the flow of water from the Mekong River changes direction forcing water back into the Tonle Sap lake bringing nutrients that fertilize the rice fields and support the breeding of the 200+ fish species and other life. We then board a comfortable boat to see the true way of life in one of the floating villages of the Tonle Sap, here we can see how Khmers and Vietnamese live and work side by side.
This morning we will see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, arguably the largest religious building in the world, with a volume of stone equaling that of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt. It is unlike all the other Khmer temples in that it faces west, and is inspired by 12th Century Hinduism. Its symmetrical towers are stylized on the modern Cambodian flag. Conceived by Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took an estimated 30 years to build. It is generally believed to have been a funeral temple for the king. It has been occupied continuously by Buddhist monks and is well preserved.
Intricate bas-reliefs surround Angkor Wat on four sides. Each tells a story but the most celebrated of these is the Churning of the Sea of Milk, which is located on the east wing. Our guide will explain the mystical tale to make it all come to life. Our afternoon is at leisure.
Tonight we enjoy a spectacular performance under the ‘big red top” at the Cambodian Circus. This is truly a unique event where performers use theatre, dance, acrobatics, contortions, juggling and other modern circus arts, accompanied by high-energy music played on modern and traditional
Cambodia instruments, to tell uniquely Cambodian stories that reflect the history, the culture and the societal challenges of the country.
Fly Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
We transfer to the airport for our morning flight to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. On arrival, we are met and transferred to our hotel with a brief orientation tour on arrival. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to explore the markets and city centre or just relax at your hotel.
In Phnom Penh
A full day of touring today with our first visit at the Royal Palace, built-in 1866 by King Norodom; the Palace is made up from a number of structures within a pagoda-style compound one of which is The Silver Pagoda. The Silver Pagoda takes its name from the 5,000+ silver tiles and the building itself holds a number of national treasures perhaps most notably are a life-sized gold Maitreya Buddha decorated with 9584 diamonds, weighing 90 kg and a small 17th century Emerald Buddha made from baccarat crystal. We then continue to the National Museum, a Khmer temple-inspired building that houses the world’s largest collection of Khmer art sculptures, ceramics and bronzes from different periods of Cambodian history. Over 5000 objects are on display including Angkorian era statues, lingas and other artifacts, most notably the legendary statue of the ‘Leper King.’ Our final visits take us back to the dark and tragic times in the 1970s during the era of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
We start with a visit to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum before viewing the Killing Fields — both stark reminders of past evils. From here we return to our hotel for the evening.
By Road: Siem Reap to Sihanoukville
We board our coach this morning for the 4 hour drive through the mountain passes to Cambodia’s seaside resort town of Sihanoukville.
Today is a free day to relax at our beachside resort or take the shuttle into town to explore on your own.
Transfer back to Phnom Penh/Fly to Hometown
Transfer to the airport for you flight home. Welcome Home!
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