Set in tropical forests near Siem Reap, Cambodia, is Angkor Wat—the largest temple complex in the world. On this extension, we'll discover this UNESCO World Heritage Site and also meet the friendly people of Cambodia as we visit a lakeside village, share a Home-Hosted meal, and much more.
- It's Included:
- Roundtrip international airfare between Hong Kong and Siem Reap via Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
- Accommodations for 4 nights in Siem Reap near Angkor and 1 night in Hong Kong
- 10 meals—5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners (including 1 Home-Hosted Lunch)
- 8 small group activities
- Services of a resident, English-speaking OAT Trip Leader
- NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
- All transfers
We leave Hong Kong this morning and fly to Siem Reap via Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. An OAT representative meets us at the airport as we arrive in Cambodia early this evening and helps us transfer to our hotel.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
This morning we’ll venture out into the Cambodian countryside to experience the country’s everyday life and recent history. We’ll enjoy an early breakfast and then depart for a local village, with a ride on an oxen-drawn cart and a boat ride to the Floating Village on Tonle Sap Lake. This gives us a chance to glimpse a bit of the life of Cambodia’s river people. Floating fishing villages sprawl across the lakefront and everything is gliding by on the water—thatched-roof houses on hollow bamboo poles, small markets, jewelry shops, even a beauty parlor. Commerce goes on all across the water—women selling fruits and vegetables from a sampan, a skiff full of firewood, and fishermen selling their catch. The people who live on the water have tied their lives to the lake’s cycles, and are constantly on the move as the water level rises or recedes throughout the year.
Tonle Sap means Great Lake, and indeed this is one of the world’s geographical wonders as well as the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. When the rains begin here in June and July, the Mekong River begins to rise, but instead of flooding its own banks it begins to push the waters of the Tonle Sap at Phnom Penh northward, reversing the river’s flow. The waters of the Tonle Sap River then flood the lake, increasing its size tenfold and flooding the surrounding forests and fields, leaving behind fertile silt for rice cultivation. In October, after the monsoon season has passed, the lake drains and the river returns to its southern flow. If you are a birder, this is a world-renowned habitat for shorebirds.
After lunch at a local restaurant, this afternoon we'll visit the Angkor National Museum, where the exhibits and interactive media explain the golden age of Khmer culture, when the temples of Angkor were built. Dinner is at the hotel this evening.
Today our local guide takes us into the heart of ancient Angkor, a holy city that took centuries to build and whose scale is still breathtaking today—it sprawls across an area of roughly six by sixteen miles. The Khmer aristocrats who built the temples and monuments here between AD 800-1200 were motivated by their Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. We’ll begin at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, the capital city of Khmer rulers. We’ll see both Bayon and Ta Prohm, and make brief stops at Baphoun and the Elephants Terrace, where amazing bas-reliefs depict the huge beasts almost life-size. At the nearby Terrace of the Leper King, equally intricate wall carvings depict rank after rank of court attendants to mystical rulers. We conclude our explorations of Angkor’s most notable features with a tour of the Ta Prohm Temple.
Afterward, we share a traditional lunch with a local family in their home. Later, we’ll visit Angkor Wat (whose name means simply “Angkor’s main temple”) and wait for the sunset, the most opportune moment for seeing this masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Angkor Wat is a large pyramid temple, built between 1113 and 1150, surrounded by a great moat 570 feet wide. Note the bas-relief carving throughout the temple. Who knows what you might feel as you stand in the courtyard of this temple whose towers represent Mount Meru, the center of the universe and the residence of Hindu gods?
Tonight we enjoy dinner and a cultural show at a local restaurant.
This morning, we’ll visit a local shrine where Cambodian newlyweds often pray for good fortune on our way to a local restaurant, where we have lunch. You have the afternoon to make your own discoveries.
Or you can join us for an optional visit to Banteay Srei, one of the oldest and most beautifully preserved temple sites in Cambodia. Built in AD 967, Banteay Srei means “Citadel of Women,” and it is recognized as a tribute to the beauty of women. The structures here have been carved in painstaking detail out of sandstone and are set like a gem in a seemingly enchanted forest, about 20 miles from Angkor. This optional tour also includes a visit to a factory that produces palm sugar, an ingredient used widely in Southeast Asian cooking. We’ll meet the farmers who harvest this natural sweetener and have the chance to participate in part of the process of making it. Then we continue to Pre Rup Temple to watch the sunset, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, we check out of our hotel and visit the Killing Fields Memorial Temple. It is almost inconceivable to confront the nature of true evil here in this gentle land, but this memorial, built near Siem Reap, commemorates the 1.7 million victims of the 1975-79 Pol Pot genocide. This execution site is one of many throughout Cambodia.
Afterwards, we depart for the Siem Reap airport. We fly to Hong Kong via Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, arriving in Hong Kong this evening.
Depending on your destination city, your flight back to the U.S. departs this morning or early afternoon.