Delve into the ancient splendor of Cambodia’s Khmer Empire at the haunting and spectacular ruins of its capital city of Angkor. Considered Southeast Asia’s greatest artistic and spiritual center, this vast network of palaces, temples, and monuments is the perfect capstone to your travel in Vietnam.
- It's Included:
- Airfare between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap
- Accommodations for 3 nights in Siem Reap near Angkor and 1 night in Ho Chi Minh City (included in the cost of the main trip)
- 7 meals—3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 1 dinner (including 1 Home-Hosted Lunch)
- 6 small group activities
- Services of our own resident OAT Trip Leader, who speaks English and the native language
- NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
- All transfers
As our travel in Vietnam ends, we fly to Siem Reap, a town within the boundaries of the ancient city of Angkor, Cambodia. We pause for lunch before settling in to our hotel, and embark on a brief orientation walk this afternoon, featuring a stroll through the Royal Gardens.
Next, we'll pay a visit to the moving Killing Fields Memorial Temple. It is almost inconceivable to confront the nature of true evil here in this gentle land, but this memorial, built inside Siem Reap's Wat Thmei Pagoda, commemorates the thousands of victims of the 1975-79 genocide under Pol Pot's regime. This execution site is one of many throughout Cambodia.
From here, we'll explore the Angkor National Museum, where we'll learn about the cultural heritage of the golden age of the Khmer Kingdom.
This evening, we'll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
After an early breakfast, we'll set off for an included cruise of Tonle Sap Lake, where we'll have the opportunity to glimpse a bit of the life of Cambodia's people. We'll glide by thatched-roof houses on hollow bamboo poles, small markets, jewelry shops, and even a floating 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 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 an included lunch at a local restaurant, the balance of the day is at leisure.
Or you can join us for an optional tour of Banteay Srei, with a visit to a sugar palm village en route. Banteay Srei is one of the oldest and most beautifully preserved temple sites in Cambodia. Built in AD 967 in a rugged jungle, about 20 miles from Angkor, Banteay Srei means “Citadel of Women,” and it is recognized as a tribute to the beauty of women with bas-relief murals carved in painstaking detail out of sandstone. The temple is a favorite for its delicate designs, wonderful state of preservation, and small size in relation to the other Angkor temples. Our optional tour includes dinner at a local restaurant.
Today our Trip Leader will take 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 16 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 the Bayon, 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 serving mystical rulers. We conclude our explorations of Angkor's most notable features with a tour to the Ta Prohm. Unlike most of the surrounding temples, Ta Prohm has been left the way it was found, covered by a dense jungle of trees and roots and allowing you to discover this archaeological treasure just as it was found by the French in the mid-1800s.
Then we'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch in a nearby village. Here we'll be offered a personal perspective on Cambodian life in an experience that brings you into the home and the lives of a local family.
Afterwards, we'll visit Angkor Wat (whose name means simply "city temple") and enjoy a rice wine toast as we 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 carvings throughout the temple, and take a moment to stand in the courtyard of this temple whose towers represent Mount Meru, the center of all physical and spiritual universes and the home to many gods in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
This morning, we travel by remok, a motorized rickshaw (also called a tuk-tuk), to the Royal Gardens. From here, we'll have the choice to browse the Cambodian arts and crafts at the Artisans d'Angkor, or return to the hotel. Later, we check out of our hotel and head to the airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. The afternoon and evening are yours to make your own discoveries.
We return to the airport this morning for our flight to Los Angeles, making a connection in Taipei. Travelers who are flying to San Francisco will enjoy a morning at leisure before their afternoon flight back to the U.S. via Taipei. You’ll cross the International Date Line en route, regaining the day you lost at the beginning of your trip.