Cambodia: Crafts and Culture
Cambodia is a truly fascinating country, packed with friendly smiling locals. Your journey begins in the capital, Phnom Penh. Monks in robes of saffron and gold, stroll peacefully along the city’s streets and whizz past on motorbikes. The spires of the Royal Palace protrude above the buildings, glittering and glimmering in the bright sun. Cruise along the Mekong River to the island village of Koh Dach to experience the simplicity and beauty of rural life. The loom will clatter persistently as you explore this tranquil place and the local talent for creating quality silk. Although beautiful, Cambodia has a tragic past. Learn about the genocide which occurred between 1975 and 1979 under Pol Pot. Although a sobering experience, visiting Toul Sleng and the Killing Fields is highly recommended as this will allow you to gain insight into why Cambodian society is the way it is now.Read more
During this tour, you will travel through splendid countryside. Vast distances of rice paddies and unspoilt scenery separate the cities. Traditional wooden houses stand on stilts to protect them from the sudden downpours of the rainy season. As you travel through the beautiful scenery, make stops to discover treasures outside of the cities. See craftsmen making braziers and utensils for home cooking in Kampong Chhnang, and help to make sticky rice and fish paste near to Battambang. Furthermore, learn about the entire process of creating silk from raising worms to weaving and colouring.
Battambang is a charming town, its buildings an eclectic mixture of French colonial houses and spectacular temples. Take a leisurely stroll to unwind and see a bit of the real Cambodia. The city itself doesn’t contain all that much of interest, but the beautiful town on with a riverside setting and laidback vibe is the perfect place to unwind. Nearby, temples perch on hilltops and overlooking villages interspersed throughout the seemingly endless scenery.
Siem Reap and Angkor
A beautiful, relaxed city on the river with a vibrant pub street, marvellous markets and temples galore, Siem Reap is a real treasure. While there, you could visit tiny unheard of temples such as Wat Bo for a touch of tranquillity, or choose to gain further insight into traditional handicrafts. Siem Reap has plenty to offer before even considering that it is the gateway to Angkor National Park. The spectacular temples here are a true feat of Khmer ingenuity and creativity. Walk among and even climb these breathtaking buildings, enjoying the intricacies of their design and the view over the park. Here, you will find Angkor Wat, the symbol of Cambodia present on their flag, which inspires intense national pride. A true wonder, relish your first sight of this inspired masterpiece.
Dates available throughout the year
Arrive in Phnom Penh
Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, your guide will meet you at the airport. Transfer to your hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure, perhaps relaxing or getting acquainted with the area.
Explore Phnom Penh
After breakfast, explore the Cambodian capital on a sightseeing tour. Start with a visit to the Royal Palace complex. Built in 1866 by King Norodom, this complex comprises a collection of architectural wonders which house remarkable works of Khmer art. In the Silver Pagoda you’ll find a golden Buddha encrusted with 9584 diamonds. Then visit Toul Sleng, an ancient school which was used as a prison under the Khmer Rouge. This harrowing visit will offer great insight into the tragic recent history of Cambodia, and help you to understand why Cambodia is as it currently is. Afterwards enjoy some free time: perhaps visit the markets or if you’d like to learn more about the Khmer Rouge, hire a tuk-tuk to drive you to the Killing Fields.
Sometimes the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda close without notice for official ceremonies. In this case, visits will be replaced with another if possible.
In the morning, embark on a 1.5 hour cruise on a local wooden boat to the small island of Koh Dach. Situated on the Mekong, Koh Dach is renowned throughout the country for the quality of its silk. You will discover the real Cambodia and especially the art of silk weaving by hand. Admire the lush countryside as you cycle along the small roads. The clatter of the loom will be the soundtrack to your journey; stop to meet the weavers. Enjoy a Khmer lunch as prepared by a local family before continuing along the island and sailing back to Phnom Penh. Complete your day with a walk around the Russian market built in 1937 in the splendid colonial architectural style.
Kampong Chhnang and Battambang
Following breakfast, depart from Phnom Penh. Magnificent scenery will pass by your window; traditional wooden stilt houses interrupt seemingly endless rice fields. After about two hours, arrive in Kompong Chhnang. See local artisans at working making braziers and utensils for domestic cooking, as well as decorative pieces, as you stroll through this provincial town. Stop again at Kompong Luong village for a boat ride around the lake which will allow you to view the uniqueness of life on a floating village. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to Battambang where you will check in to your new hotel.
Experience how the local villagers live in Cambodia’s hinterland on a cycling tour. Follow a stream lined with rice paddies, local workshops and typical houses which have remained unchanged for generations. Participate in daily activities such as preparing sticky rice or fish paste. In the afternoon, discover the charming town of Battambang. Buildings which are unmistakably French in style stand elegantly along the river. The colonial era’s influence on the architecture in this town has led to a fascinating fusion of French and Asian. Visit the Prasat Banon temple, which located on the top of a hill, afford visitors a view over the plains and pagodas of the countryside. In the evening, attend a circus performance at Phare Ponleu Selpak –“the brightness of art”. This NGO supports community development by providing social, educative and cultural services to children and their families.
Silk Farm and Angkor National Museum
Head towards Siem Reap by road, travelling through the scenic Cambodian countryside. En route, you will visit a silk farm a short distance from Siem Reap. There you will see all the stages of silk production from raising the worms to making and colouring the silk. Arrive in Siem Reap for lunch in a local restaurant and then visit the Angkor National Museum which is dedicated to the collection and preservation of Angkorian artefacts.
Meet your guide in the morning to set off for the marvellous temple of Angkor Wat, a world heritage site featuring the most extraordinary towers and bas-relief. This is one of the most astonishing monuments ever conceived by mankind, and was erected in the 12th century in honour of Vishnu.
In the afternoon, pay a visit to the ancient Ta Prohm monastery where immense branches have taken root in the stones. You may recognise this wondrous site from the film Tomb Raider!
Enjoy a day at leisure in Siem Reap. Perhaps explore the markets, try a yoga class, or visit Artisans Angkor where you can see craftsmen lacquering wood and carving stone along with other talents. Why not visit some of the lesser known temples for some tranquillity?
If time permits, indulge in some final souvenir shopping before transferring to the airport for your flight home. If you want to see more of what Southeast Asia has to offer, why not extend your stay with a trip to Laos?
Cambodia has two distinct seasons: the hot season from November to May and the rainy season from June to October. Both seasons have their advantages for travellers. Temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year and rarely exceed 35°C.