After your travel in Thailand, discover Cambodia’s bustling capital and see one of the world’s most stunning antiquities when you explore the sights and sounds of Phnom Penh and the spectacular temple complex of Angkor. Set amid tropical forests, the temples showcase the creative genius of the Khmer Empire, which reached its pinnacle between the ninth and 14th centuries.
- It's Included:
- Roundtrip airfare between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Accommodations for 1 night in Bangkok, 2 nights in Phnom Penh, and 3 nights in Siem Reap
- 13 meals—6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 3 dinners (including 1 Home-Hosted Lunch)
- 7 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
At the close of Discover Thailand, our trip extension begins with a flight from Bangkok to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Upon our afternoon arrival, we'll set out on an orientation walk to familiarize ourselves with the area.
Then we check into our hotel and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Following breakfast at our hotel, we set out for a visit to the Royal Palace, where former King Norodom Sihanouk still lives today. The Palace was opened in 1870 under King Norodom, and now contains the Royal Residence, the Throne Hall, the Silver Pagoda, and several other historic buildings. The Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo Morokat) is home to numerous Buddhist artifacts and draws its name from the more than 5,000 silver tiles that cover a floor in the temple. The building serves less as a functioning shrine, than as a repository of cultural treasures, such as the famous Emerald Buddha.
Then we visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a grim reminder of Cambodia's bloody past under Pol Pot. It is almost inconceivable to confront the nature of true evil here in this gentle land, but the Buddhist memorial at Choeung Ek commemorates the estimated 1.7 million victims of the Pol Pot genocide—and this execution site is just one of many throughout Cambodia.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The Khmer Rouge used this former high school as a place to torture prisoners throughout the years from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979.
Then, we enjoy a more uplifting experience during a visit to the Russian Market. Named for its popularity among Russian expats during the 1980s, this local market is teeming with vendors selling traditional handcrafts, antiques, and everyday goods. Next, we proceed to the National Museum, where we'll view its collection of Khmer art, featuring more than 5,000 objects, including statuary and other artifacts from Angkor Wat.
Before returning to our hotel, we'll visit Wat Phnom, the namesake temple complex that is a symbol of the capital. Dinner is on your own this evening in Phnom Penh.
After breakfast this morning, we'll board a motorcoach for our trip to Siem Reap, a town within the boundaries of the ancient city of Angkor. We travel through Cambodia's Kampong Thom Province, catching glimpses of rural scenes. We'll stop en route to visit Skuon, a village famous for raising tarantulas. We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, then visit a stonecarvers' village before heading off to Siem Reap in the early afternoon.
After checking in to our hotel, we'll take an orientation walk and then have dinner at a restaurant in town.
Today your Trip Leader will take you 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 96 square miles. The Khmer aristocrats who built the temples and monuments here between AD 800 and 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 intricate carvings at Bayon and tour Ta Prohm Temple, where fig and silk-cotton trees have sprouted up among the ruins. We'll then stop for a Home-Hosted Lunch at a nearby village.
Later, we return to explore Angkor Wat (whose name means simply "Angkor's main temple"), the 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 carvings throughout the temple, and enjoy a rice wine toast with our small group.
Tonight, we dine together at a local restaurant.
This morning, we'll take a buffalo cart ride followed by a boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake, where you'll have 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. We'll float by thatched-roof houses on hollow bamboo poles, small markets, jewelry shops, and 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 they are constantly on the move as the water level rises or recedes throughout the year.
Tonle Sap means “Great Freshwater Lake,” and indeed this is one of the world's geographical wonders, as well as the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. If you are a birder, this is a world-renowned habitat for shorebirds. After, we'll enjoy an ox-cart ride and visit a local's home before enjoying lunch in a local restaurant.
You might spend the afternoon and dinner on your own. Perhaps you'll visit one of Siem Reap's markets. There are two major markets (psah) nearby—Psah Chas (Old Market), and Center Market, which offers numerous souvenir shops and craft stands along the riverside.
Or, you might join us on an optional tour to visit the ancient temple of 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. Amazingly, the detail is as intricate as a woven tapestry, a testament to the craft of the original artisans and to the devoted conservation of generations of Cambodians to this site. Set like a gem in a seemingly enchanted forest, about 20 miles from Angkor, it is famous for its delicate carvings, wonderful state of preservation, and small size in relation to the other Angkor temples. This optional tour includes dinner.
This morning, we'll transfer to the Siem Reap airport for a flight back to Bangkok. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel, where you can venture out for dinner on your own.
We rise early this morning for our return flight to the U.S.