Grand Adventure in Cambodia

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Overview

Would you like to alternate the mysticism of Cambodia with some dynamic activities which will allow you to release a good dose of adrenaline? Then this is your trip!

An alternative journey through the most emblematic corners of the country that also includes some of its lesser known treasures. Highly advisable for those who prefer more active and adventurous trips!    

Highlights

  • Getting to appreciate and understand the singular mysticism of Cambodia through a less conventional and more active way of travelling (cycling, trekking, motorbike city tour or short road-trip, interaction with local cultures…).
  • Getting marvel 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.
  • Getting to know the great job done by a real Rescue Center at Phnom Tamao, managed by Wildlife Alliance.   
  • The warmth of the Cambodian rural life on our journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
  • One of the man-made wonders ever built: the magical Temples of Angkor.    
  • The possibility to adapt the duration and intensity of the activities as per your preferences.
Arrival in Phnom Penh

Day 1 Arrival in Phnom Penh

Meals: not included  | Accommodation: Iroha Garden Hotel (or similar), Phnom Penh

We will be received at Phnom Penh airport upon our arrival and driven to our hotel in the city centre. Time to rest and recover from our long haul trip and if we feel like, go for a first exploration on our own around this very special capital in Southeast Asia. 

We will spend our first night in Phnom Penh.

Discovering Phnom Penh by Vespa

Day 2 Discovering Phnom Penh by Vespa

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

Our first full day un Cambodia will already honor the main focus of our trip. We won’t only see the highlights of Phnom Penh but the secret spots too and we will use what is par excellence, the local mean of transport in Cambodia: a motorbike. 

We will get started by learning about the French influence on Cambodia while sipping some tea in front of the stunning Post Office.

Then we will get on the back of our Vespas to visit Wat Phnom and to figure out how this city got its name. After a quick glimpse of the hilltop temple, we will be zooming through the bustling traffic till will find ourselves all of a sudden off the beaten path at our next stop. Here, we will visit a unique area that has had some recent turmoil, and has influenced young local artists to produce amazing street art.

Afterwards we will drive to a local market plenty of overflowing baskets of famous Kampot pepper, fresh produced. We may also have the chance to taste some local snacks. After exploring the local market, a quick but intriguing stop at the Independence Monument & King Statue will give us an insight to "The Great Hero King, The Father of Khmer Independence".

Back on our Vespa, the next stop will be the famous Royal Palace and Phnom Penh's beautiful riverside. Our guide will provide us some orientation from the front garden (perfect for a photo shot!). The ride will finish at a lesser known Buddhist pagoda, where if we wish, we can get the special chance to receive a blessing in a small shrine.

Half day cycling to Silk Island

Day 3 Half day cycling to Silk Island

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

Either in the morning or the afternoon we will leave to see a slice of the rural surroundings to a nearby island in the Mekong River called Koh Dach, also known as ‘Silk Island’.

We will take a tuk-tuk, a local ferry and then cycle to a small village where silk weaving is their main livelihood and where we will be able to see a loom under every house. We will be able to observe different weaving techniques first-hand and experience the realities of village life before returning by ferry and tuk-tuk to the capital.

One day at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Alliance Centre

Day 4 One day at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Alliance Centre

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

Some majestic creatures and some very special people will be awaiting us today; an in-depth insight into the work of the Wildlife Alliance team who protect Cambodia’s wildlife from the threats of poaching, trafficking and cruelty. 

Upon our arrival at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Center we will join the elephants for a walk in the forest and follow the indications of the members of the team to feed them. We will also have the chance to see from a safe distance the enclosures where tigers and other communities of endangered animals live before being reintroduced to the Cambodian Cardamom Rainforest.  

Depending on the circumstances, we may have the opportunity to help feed one of the young residents of the center such as a baby jackal, a leopard cat or some of the baby macaques. After enjoying a local lunch, we will see the water birds and the deer section of the park to round off a one-of-a-kind experience for those guests who have a passion for wildlife and its conservation.

Note: As mentioned, the lunch at the Park will be a Cambodian-style meal. If you have any food allergies or restrictions, please tell Wildlife Alliance guide in person in the morning. You may also want to bring a midmorning snack, especially if you travel with children. Hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, comfortable shoes, clothes that can get dirty and your camera are a must!

Phnom Penh – Battambang & Rural Cambodia

Day 5 Phnom Penh – Battambang & Rural Cambodia

Meals: breakfast, lunch | Accommodation: Superior room, Bambu Hotel (or similar), Battambang

We bid farewell to Phnom Penh and start our road trip to Siem Reap travelling west towards Battambang province, the rice bowl of Cambodia. If we wish, we can visit a local pottery village on our way, Kompong Chhnang, famous for producing undecorated items for Cambodian homes. 

We will arrive afterwards to the largest floating community on the Tonle Sap, Kompong Luong, where everything floats on water, including the schools, the clinic, the shops and the petrol station. We will explore by boat this real floating community untouched by mass tourism before heading to the provincial capital of Pursat for lunch, a pleasant riverside town in central Cambodia. 

After continuing northwest through Pursat province, passing through typical Cambodian landscapes of endless rice fields dotted with sugar palms, it will be late afternoon when we will arrive in Battambang and check into our hotel, enjoying the rest of the day by ourselves and soaking up the charm of this historical riverside city.

Temples and Lifestyle around Battambang

Day 6 Temples and Lifestyle around Battambang

Meals: breakfast, lunch | Accommodation: Superior room, Bambu Hotel (or similar), Battambang

After breakfast, we will head to Wat Koh district to visit a local village and getting to know more about the rural life in Cambodia. We will learn about the rice harvest, fruit farming and how the sugar palm is used. 

After having lunch in town, we will drive to the hilltop temple of Wat Banan. The winding road follows the Sangker River and passes by many traditional wooden homes, offering an authentic glimpse of rural Cambodia. Arriving at the temple, we will ascend to the summit and will be rewarded with striking views of the surrounding plains. Some ambitious residents claim that this temple was the inspiration behind Angkor Wat. 

We will continue to Phnom Sampeau, a sacred mountain dotted with interesting pagodas and stupas. There is also a moving memorial to Khmer Rouge victims who were thrown into one of the many caves that pepper this holy mountain. We then return to our hotel in Battambang town for the night.

Battambang - Siem Reap by Local Speed Boat

Day 7 Battambang - Siem Reap by Local Speed Boat

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

We will leave Battambang in the morning and board a local speed boat for our journey to Siem Reap. It will be a beautiful ride along the narrow Sangker River, offering some intimate glimpses of Battambang province’s rural life. We will travel through some incredible networks of bamboo fish traps and some areas of water hyacinth where we will have to slow down.

When passing close by the Prek Toal Biosphere, we may be lucky enough to see some rare large water birds. We will eventually emerge on the Tonle Sap Lake, which feels like a vast inland sea. We travel to a floating village, from where we will be transferred to Siem Reap town.

Note: The boat trip can take 6 hrs with high water level or up to double that in dry, low-water level period (Nov-May, when we recommend you to choose the road journey instead, that takes about 3 hours). It’s a very picturesque journey as it gives an insight into life on and along the river and Lake, but it doesn’t suit everyone.  If you rather a comfortable mean of transport, we also advise you to choose the road trip instead, since this is not precisely a luxury way of travelling. Your travel consultant will be pleased to provide you with further information in this regard.

The Temples of Angkor by bike

Day 8 The Temples of Angkor by bike

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

In the morning, we will cycle to 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.  We will definitely be awe-inspired as we walk the long stone pathway leading toward the main temple.  Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple in the Angkor complex.  We will begin by unraveling the mysteries of the bas-reliefs that tell tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire.

The final steps to the upper terrace of Angkor are the steepest of all, as pilgrims of old were meant to stoop in humility on their pilgrimage to encounter the Gods. We will finally find ourselves by the pinnacle, the sacred heart of Angkor Wat, a blend of spirituality and symmetry so perfect that few moments in your life will measure up. 

Then we will continue onto Angkor Thom, the Bayon and the Terraces before enjoying a picnic lunch at the stalls in the temples nearby.

After lunch, we will ride our bicycle to the Gate of the Dead (east gate), taking our bikes on top of the wall, then riding along to the Victory gate and following after a gentle road to Ta Prohm. This temple has been abandoned to the elements, as reminding that the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. If time permits, we will also visit Banteay Kdei or finish a memorable day with a sunset drink at Srah Srang.

Half-day exploring the floating village of Kompong Pluk & evening @ Phare Circus

Day 9 Half-day exploring the floating village of Kompong Pluk & evening @ Phare Circus

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

Today we will board a small wooden boat for our trip to Kompong Pluk. After cruising down a narrow waterway, we will enter this medieval floating village, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as seven metres above the water.

Everything lives on the water, pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this incredible floating town. 
We will explore the local wat here, as well as some of the traditional Khmer houses on stilts. There is also the opportunity to stop a local floating café or restaurant amid the flooded forest. Return back to Siem Reap by road.

Note: If the water levels are low during your visit, we will head to Kompong Kleang instead.

In the evening we will assist to the Phare Circus, although more than just a circus, Phare shows are unlike any in the world: dance, theater, original live music and breathtaking circus arts are used to tell uniquely Cambodian stories from recent history, folklore and modern society.

Back to the Temples of Angkor: Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei & Banteay Samre

Day 10 Back to the Temples of Angkor: Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei & Banteay Samre

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

Our morning will start heading North to Kbal Spean, (the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’), an intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills of the Cambodian jungle. The river flows down to the Tonlé Sap lake, and in ancient times its holy waters breathed life into the rice fields of the empire via the most complex irrigation system the world had ever seen.

The Khmers venerated its limestone bed with a riot of carvings, including the delicate deities Vishnu and Shiva with their consorts. Lingams are phallic representations sacred to Hindus as fertility symbols and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are carved into the bedrock here. The carvings were only rediscovered in 1969 when French researcher Jean Boulbet was shown the river by a local hermit. A trip to Kbal Spean is one of the easiest ways to experience a short jungle trek in Angkor area, as it is a steady but scenic climb to reach the river carvings. The path winds its way through knotted vines and big boulder formations and occasionally offers big views over the surrounding jungle. There is also a small waterfall below the carved riverbed, perfect for cooling off after the hot climb.

Banteay Srei, Angkor’s ultimate art gallery, will be our next destination. 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 is translated as ‘Fortress of the Women’, since the intricate detail here is considered too fine for having been carved by the hands of a man. Originally believed to date from the latter part of the Angkor period, inscriptions at the site suggest 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 was in fact built later.

Later we will visit the 12th century temple of Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, this temple has been extensively restored. The temple is unique in the use of laterite for the roofed corridors and the pediments above the inner doors include some of the most accomplished carvings from the Angkor period.

Motorcycle Adventure to Mahendraparvata Sacred Mountain

Day 11 Motorcycle Adventure to Mahendraparvata Sacred Mountain

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

Known as Mahendraparvata at the time of the Khmer Empire, Phnom Kulen hit the headlines in 2013 as a ‘lost city’ revealed through the use of aerial LIDAR data. This was 21st century archaeology at its very best and several new sites were discovered as well as a much bigger urban settlement than was previously built. 

Today, our last full day in the Ancient Khmer Empire, we will enjoy the Cambodian mysticism, nature, art and archeology, exploring some of these newly accessible sites on the back of a motorcycle, the traditional form of transport in rural Cambodia. 

We will travel by vehicle to the busy settlement of Preah Ang Thom before getting on our motorbike and head to Phnom Kulen, the sacred mountain that was the birthplace of the Ancient Empire, since it was here where Jayavarman II proclaimed independence from Java in 802AD, setting the stage for the glories of the Angkor-era that was to follow. 

Remote jungle sceneries, Hindu and Buddhist shrines hidden beneath the rock face and some impressive viewpoints, will be awaiting us, as well as Sra Damrei, and its life-size stone elephant, the brick temple of Damrei Krab or the early pyramid temple of Rom Cheng, which is believed to be the temple where the devaraja (god-king) ceremony took place -where Jayavarman II proclaimed himself the earthly incarnation of Shiva.

We will continue to the incredible rock formations of Poeng Tbal, which include a number of holy carvings. These sites date from the 9th century and the reign of Jayavarman II, pre-dating the relocation of the capital to Angkor by almost a century. 

Heading back to Preah Ang Thom village for a local lunch to explore afterwards the nearby and impressive riverbed rock carvings, including innumerable lingas and representations of Shiva and Vishnu. Also close by there is a small, jungle-clad temple called Prasat Krau Romeas. Wat Pre Ang Thom is a focus of pilgrimage for Khmers during religious festivals and the large reclining Buddha carved into a huge sandstone boulder here offers spectacular views across the lush jungle. Later we descend from the plateau and return to Siem Reap town.

Note: A more conventional version of this trip is also available for those who don’t fancy motorcycles but would still like to know such impressive archaeological and landscape scenery. Please get in touch with your Handspan travel consultant if this is your case.   

Day 12 Siem Reap - Departure

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: not included

Depending on our departure flight, we may count on some time before being transferred to the airport. From Handspan, we hope you come back home full with memories after your Cambodian Adventure!

Price per person based on a group tour

Group Size  Price per Person
2 pax 1972 USD
3 - 5 pax 1762 USD
6 - 8 pax 1475 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.

* 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 experiences drivers as stated.
  • 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

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Delving into the Giant Lost Temples

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Adrenaline & Angkor in style

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