Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you arrive before this important meeting, why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage? There is plenty to keep you occupied is this exciting city.
Prepare for a long day of travel as we cross Thailand and enter Cambodia. You’ll want to load up on snacks and reading material for the 10-hour private bus ride to Siem Reap. This travel time includes time spent at the border crossings and a stop for lunch. Your leader will assist with the border procedures. Keep in mind, if you are planning on getting your visa at the border, you will need cash in US dollars. Enjoy a free evening upon arrival. You may want to head to Pub Street to grab a bite to eat and sample the city’s nightlife. Otherwise, rest up in preparation for tomorrow’s visit to Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Today you’ll visit the world-famous Angkor complex with your guide. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres; this is the biggest religious monument in the world. However, the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so you’ll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat (the astounding main attraction), the Bayon (a marvel of many sculpted decorations) and Ta Prohm (the eerily beautiful temples covered in jungle).
Enjoy free time in Siem Reap today. If you feel like some adventure, you can take the optional Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the rainforest, plus an adrenaline rush. Other options here include a visit to the sobering Landmine Museum – it’s located a little further afield but is well worth the journey. There is also the Siem Reap Street Food by Night Urban Adventure, a three-hour tour which allows you to taste the many flavours of the city and feel the buzz of the local markets.
Travel by public bus to Kampong Cham (approximately 5 hours). This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great opportunity to experience life in small-town Cambodia. A great option here is to visit the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor. You can also hire a bicycle to explore the rural island of Koh Paen, which is linked to Kampong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge (it’s passable only in the dry season, take a ferry in the wet). The locals here make their living fishing, growing tobacco and sesame so it’s a good place to go for a closer look at some of Cambodia’s cottage industries. A little further afield are the twin ‘mountain temples’ of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei.
Travel by private vehicle (approx. 5 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. There’s a lot of natural beauty to discover here, and the Chambok community is renowned for its ecotourism. A member of the Chambok community will take you on a village walk and be happy to chat about their community’s history, lifestyle and local ecotourism projects. Meet the families your group will spend the night with and settle into your homestay accommodation. You may like to trek to a stunning waterfall this afternoon. It’s a 60-90min trek and access is weather dependant. In the evening, head to the community centre to enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner prepared by women from the community. You’ll also be treated to a traditional dance performance.
Take a private bus to Kampot (about 3 hours), one of Cambodia’s most attractive old towns. Famous for its pepper, Kampot supplied most French restaurants with this vital spice for many years during colonial rule. Today, the region is more renowned for its plantations of durian, a spiky, pungent fruit that incites either adoration or sheer loathing. Try it if you dare! In free time, you might choose to stroll along the riverside and observe the French colonial architecture, or have a cup of coffee on the veranda of one of the riverside restaurants and admire the view of Bokor Mountain Range.
Enjoy a free day in this chilled-out town. For a unique photo opportunity, head to the roundabout in the centre of the town, where a giant durian statue sits smack in the middle. Perhaps browse for goodies at the covered market. The nearby countryside is also a delight to explore – amongst fields of Kampot pepper and rice, there’s also a salt field and a limestone cave with a small 7th-century brick temple inside called Phnom Chhnork. A traditional massage is also highly recommended.
Travel by public bus to the capital city of Phnom Penh (about 4 hours). Cambodia’s capital is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. A recommended option is to visit the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made of some 8000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. Or learn about a brighter period of Cambodian history by visiting the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. Keen shoppers can hit the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market).
Enjoy another free day to further explore This will be your last night in Cambodia before moving on to Vietnam tomorrow. If you’re looking to indulge in some proper rest and relaxation, the Seeing Hands massage parlours are some of the best in the city, and all patronage supports the visually impaired masseurs whose years of expertise may be just what you need today.
Ho Chi Minh City
Travel by local bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 10 hours including border crossings and lunch). Your leader will again assist you with border crossing procedures. Get out and discover the Ho Chi Minh City’s blend of old and new, East and West, when you arrive. Be sure to sample a baguette or some of the excellent coffee on offer – both markers of the city’s strong French influence. Equally essential are visits to Reunification Palace (the site of South Vietnam’s surrender in April 1975) and the War Remnants Museum. Some of Intrepid’s Urban Adventures available in this city include Mekong Discovery, Cyclos & Markets, Cu Chi Experience and Saigon Street Food by Night. If you’re staying longer in Ho Chi Minh City and you’d like to take one, your leader can help you book.
Ho Chi Minh City
For your final day, there are no activities planned and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time.
Siem Reap - 1 day Angkor Pass
Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
Chambok - Traditional Dancing