Cambodia for Art & Nature Globetrotters

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Overview

History, Nature, spirituality and religion guided and inspired Cambodian arts giving rise to the unique Khmer style, which was also strongly influenced by the combination of indigenous animistic beliefs and the originally Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. 

However, there is very little of the eroticism of Indian art in the Khmer style, whose particular scale, continuity and aesthetic majesty really manage to transmit tranquility and sereneness. Curiously, a very similar feeling to being in Nature, that is why we have blended the Cambodian Wildlife and Arts in this trip, so that Nature and Art globetrotters can give free rein to their fondness. 

 

Highlights

  • The Temples of Angkor, one of the man-made wonders ever built.
  • The Cambodian Nature and Wildlife, with its rare and endangered species. 
  • The Cambodian seascape and the possibility to extend the beach break if we wish. 
  • Getting marvel with our architecture guide at the Khmer-style temples, the old French-colonial buildings and the narrow Chinese-style shops of the multi-cultural and unfairly underrated Phnom Penh.
  • The warmth of the Cambodian rural life on our journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
  • Getting to know first-hand the labour of some Cambodian Art and Crafts Masters.
Arrival in Siem Reap

Day 1 Arrival in Siem Reap

Meals: not included | Accommodation: Deluxe room, Siddharta Boutique Hotel (or similar), Siem Reap

We will be met by our guide upon our arrival in Siem Reap airport and driven into our hotel. Time to rest and recover from the haul flight or if we feel like, do a first exploration by ourselves. 

Unraveling the majesty of the Angkor Temples

Day 2 Unraveling the majesty of the Angkor Temples

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Deluxe room, Siddharta Boutique Hotel (or similar), Siem Reap

Our first full day in Cambodia will already honor the main focus of our trip. In the morning, we will travel through the traditional village of Preah Dak to the 12th century temple of Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, this unique temple has been extensively restored. 

We will continue further North to Banteay Srei, Angkor’s ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia. Indeed the name of the temple means ‘Fortress of the Women’, since the intricate detail here are considered too fine for having been made by the hands of a man. Originally believed to date from the latter part of the Angkor period, some inscriptions at the site suggest that it was built by a Brahman in 967. However, some architectural historians have suggested that the inscriptions may date from an earlier structure on this site and the temple is in fact later, marking a high-water mark in Khmer sculpture. 

In the afternoon, we will head to the mighty temple of Preah Khan or 'Sacred Sword'. The cruciform corridors here are impressive and there are also some wonderful carvings adorning the walls, including the spectacular hall of dancers. Look out for the curious two-storey structure that seems of Greek inspiration. This is one of the few temples originally dedicated to Buddhism and Hinduism. The original eastern entrance was for Mahayana Buddhists, while the other cardinal points represented the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. We then will continue afterwards with the elegant curves of Neak Poan, with its ornamental fountain and series of elaborate gargoyles, including the heads of lions and elephants. 

We will witness how the sunset casts its soft light over Angkor Wat from the mountain temple of Phnom Bakheng. A winding path cuts through the jungle. This temple is the signature spot for sunsets, it can get very crowded. Please advise the guide if you prefer to enjoy the sunset at a quieter location.

Ta Prohm, Takeo, Angkor Thom & Bayon

Day 3 Ta Prohm, Takeo, Angkor Thom & Bayon

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Deluxe room, Siddharta Boutique Hotel (or similar), Siem Reap

We will rise early today and travel to Ta Prohm, a temple ‘abandoned to the elements’, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature keeps going on, oblivious to the dramas of human History. Left as it was ‘discovered’ by the French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860, we will see how the tentacle-like tree roots here are dramatically strangling the surviving stones.

After soaking up the unique atmosphere of Ta Prohm, we will go to the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the highest temples in the Angkor area. Built at the end of the 10th century, it was never completed. Some suggest that the high quality sandstone was simply too hard to be carved in detail. This morning we also visit the remains of an old Angkorian bridge which once spanned the Siem Reap river. Like the Romans before them, the Khmer kings built long, straight roads connecting the outposts of their empire and these included many magnificent bridges. For avid temple enthusiasts, there is also the option to visit the smaller temples of Chau Sey Devada and Thommanon.

In the afternoon, Angkor Thom, the immense walled city and masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII, will be awaiting us. Following the occupation of Angkor by the Chams from 1177 to 1181, the new king decided to build an impregnable fortress at the heart of his empire. The scale is simply staggering and we will immediately feel overwhelmed by the audacity of Jayavarman upon our arrival at the city’s gates. The causeway is lined by an intricate bridge depicting scenes from Hindu mythology in which the devas (gods) and asuras (devils) play tug of war with a naga (seven-headed serpent) to obtain the elixir of immortality. We begin our visit at the Terrace of the Leper King and reach climax with the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon.

At the exact centre of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. These colossal heads seem to stare down from every side, exuding power and control with a hint of compassion, just the mix required to keep a hold on such a vast empire. 

Angkor Wat, Floating life at the Tonle Sap & Phare Circus

Day 4 Angkor Wat, Floating life at the Tonle Sap & Phare Circus

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Deluxe room, Siddharta Boutique Hotel (or similar), Siem Reap

Our journey today will get started by the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. We will enjoy our picnic breakfast in Angkor Wat while the crowds return to their hotels. We will start our exploration beginning by unraveling the mysteries of the bas-reliefs that tell of tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire. Stretching for almost one kilometer, these intricate carvings are a candidate for the world’s longest unbroken piece of art. We will continue to the upper levels of the inner sanctuary, experiencing how the final steps to the upper terrace of Angkor are the steepest of all, as pilgrims needed to stoop in order to encounter the Gods. We will find ourselves by the pinnacle, the sacred heart of Angkor Wat, a blend of spirituality and symmetry so perfect that few moments will measure up.

In the afternoon we will head to one of the largest and least-visited villages on the Tonle Sap Lake, Kompong Khleang, about 55km from Siem Reap. It has a population of about 10,000 people, all of whom make a living from fishing. We will explore the canals (wet season) or streets (dry season) of this incredible town. In the wet season, the houses appear to be floating, as water laps at the verandas, but in the dry season towering stilts are revealed, the houses almost like wooden skyscrapers. We will also visit one of the pagodas here, built on the site of an ancient temple.  We may stop off to visit a house in the village to learn a little more about local life. We will also cruise into the open water of the great lake to see a small floating village and gain some more insight about this incredible natural flood barrier. 

Later we will return to Siem Reap by road. During our last evening in Siem Reap we will have the chance to attend the modern circus of Phare. The performances of its talented artists won’t leave us indifferent!

Siem Reap – Kompong Thom

Day 5 Siem Reap – Kompong Thom

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Deluxe room, Sambor Village (or similar), Kompong Thom

We will bid farewell to Siem Reap and leave direction northwest on Highway 6, that used to be an old Angkor road. We will stop in Kompong Kdei to see one of the ancient Angkor bridges that were built to span the rivers. Spean Praptos or the Praptos Bridge has more than 20 arches and is a spectacular sight that reinforces the impression that the Khmers were like the Romans of Southeast Asia.

Later we will explore the impressive pre-Angkorian capital of Isanapura, known today as Sambor Prei Kuk, whose brick temples are a peaceful contrast to their more illustrious relatives at Angkor. By visiting ancient structures like Prasat Tao or Prasat Sambor, we will get a fascinating chronological insight into the development of temple architecture during the Khmer Empire.

Our journey today will finish at the provincial capital of Kompong Thom, our base for the night.

Kompong Thom –Kampi - Kratie

Day 6 Kompong Thom –Kampi - Kratie

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation:  Garden View room, Le Relais de Chhlong (or similar), Kratie

We will continue with our road trip along the Cambodian rural landscape through the sacred hills of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei (man and woman hills), that offer great views across the countryside.

Heading Northeast, we will travel to Kampi, where we will visit one of the deep pools where the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the upper reaches of the Mekong in Cambodia for a chance to responsibly encounter these gentle creatures. 

We will spend the night in a nice accommodation in Kratie. 

Kratie – Kompong Cham – Phnom Penh

Day 7 Kratie – Kompong Cham – Phnom Penh

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Comfort room, Iroha Garden (or similar), Phnom Penh

Today we will journey to the vibrant capital of Cambodia. Travelling South to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham, nestled on the banks for the Mekong, we will pass through Cambodia's rubber country on the way, vast plantations that were originally established by the French and are once again being redeveloped. There may be the opportunity to stop along the way and learn about how the rubber is tapped. 

In Kompong Cham, we will see the blend of Wat Nokor, from the 11th century, with a colourful modern wat set in its central courtyard. 

After some curious stops, we will arrive to our hotel in Phnom Penh in the late afternoon.

Phnom Penh architectural tour & Cambodian Living Arts Performance, National Museum

Day 8 Phnom Penh architectural tour & Cambodian Living Arts Performance, National Museum

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Comfort room, Iroha Garden (or similar), Phnom Penh

The architectural heritage of Phnom Penh, once described as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, is slowly disappearing. Nevertheless, this half-day architectural tour will bring us face to face with the few remaining treasures that the city possesses, like the restored Post Office, the art-deco Central Market, the National Sports Complex or the University campuses of the city, a mix of grand French Colonial-era buildings and remnants of the New Khmer Architecture period that dominated the 50s and ‘60s.

Our guide, specialist in architecture, will definitely provide us with a full scope about the city’s impressive architectural ensemble.
Note: During the weekdays the availability of our architectural guides is quite low. In case you are interested, please double check it in advance with your Handspan Travel Consultant.

In the evening we will head to the National Museum to attend to The Living Arts Performance where we will discover the diversity of the Cambodian culture and traditional arts through original and enjoyable pieces, set in the splendid gardens of the National Museum. In addition to giving a unique opportunity to experience Cambodian culture and arts, CLA (Cambodian Living Art) aims at creating regular, well-paid work for emerging arts professionals in the arts sector. Doors open at 18:30 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Half-day meeting the Art Masters

Day 9 Half-day meeting the Art Masters

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Comfort room, Iroha Garden (or similar), Phnom Penh

The glorious arts and culture of Cambodia is making a determined comeback after its virtual annihilation by the Khmer Rouge. Two iconic arts masters, (a classical ballet dancer and teacher and a shadow puppet master) have been at the forefront of this arts revitalization. We will have the opportunity to meet one of these arts masters in person, find out more about their special talents and hear first-hand about the lengths they have gone through to breathe new life into what had become dying art forms.

A once in a lifetime opportunity that we believe will give you a unique window into the country’s cultural heritage. We will take you to the home or workplace of one of the masters, provide a full translation service whilst you are with them and ensure you get the most from the encounter.

Phnom Penh & Optional Cycling from Kompot  to Kep

Day 10 Phnom Penh & Optional Cycling from Kompot to Kep

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Rosewood room, Veranda Natural Resort (or similar), Kep

We will journey today to the beautiful Cambodian coast. Firstly we will drive till the charming and laid-back riverside town of Kompot, where we will hop on some bikes (optional!) and cycle for 25km till Kep, taking advantage of the ride to soak the rural atmosphere of South Cambodia. 

Along our cycling route, we can stop at Phnom Chhnork, a large sacred cave that contains a 7th century brick temple in remarkable condition and at the holy mountain Phnom Sorsia.

Beach Break around Kep & Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)

Day 11 Beach Break around Kep & Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Rosewood room, Veranda Natural Resort (or similar), Ke

In the morning we will take a boat to the best beaches in the area on Koh Tonsay, also known as Rabbit Island. 

After our trip throughout this mystical country, we will deserve to relax on the sandy beach, enjoy some seafood snacks or take a walk around the island to discover more beaches and a small fisherman’s hamlet where we can visit one of the local family. Late afternoon, we will return to our hotel in Kep mainland for overnight.

Day 12 Kep – Phnom Penh

[Recommended alternatives under request: Beach break extension OR Crossing the border to Vietnam]

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: not included

We will spend some time on our own until our driver arrives to bring us to Phnom Penh airport for our onward flight.

PRICE PER PERSON BASED ON A GROUP TOUR

Group Size

Price per Person

(1 Jan - 30 Apr 2019)

Price per Person

(1 May - 30 Sept)

2 pax 1789 USD 1759 USD
3 - 5 pax 1539 USD 1509 USD
6 - 8 pax 1188 USD 1158 USD

 

* Prices valid till 1st October 2019 for the ready-to-book adventure outlined on this detailed program which has been handcrafted by our production team and that includes the very best of every destination (highlights and some lesser known assets as well!). Our travel consultants will also be glad to customize this journey to suit your specific interests and travel-style. 

* Would you like to adapt the itinerary, accommodation or any activity as per your needs and preferences? Then just forward us your comments at info@handspan.com.

* Special prices for larger groups and for children, and the possibility to connect the tour with other stages of your trip around Indochina, by contacting us at info@handspan.com

* A private trip for a solo traveller is also available with a surcharge.

Included

  • Accommodation in shared double room as mentioned on the program (upgrades possible with a supplement)
  • Transportation with experienced driver.
  • Meals as specified. 
  • All entrance fees, visits and activities mentioned on the program.
  • The services of experienced local English-speaking guides.
  • VAT and other taxes.

Not included

  • Flights and visas.
  • Personal travel Insurance.
  • Child or adult in triple sharing room
  • Beverages, gratuities and personal expenses.
  • Supplements on peak season.

Extend or Complete your trip

The Cambodian Coast from Vietnam to Phnom Penh

A journey from Vietnam to the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh, through a very special route that encompasses some of the best beaches of the Khmer ...

Expedition to Kampot & Vietnam

A road journey from Phnom Penh to Vietnam that will bring us through the fascinating Cambodian countryside and the charming riverside town of Kampot

Buddhism as a Way of Life in Cambodia

A brief but pretty introspective journey for those mindful travellers who would like to better understand the most spiritual facet of Cambodia.

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