Home to about 1.5 million people, Phnom Penh, has been Cambodia’s capital since French colonisation of the country. Located on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong River, Phnom Penh was once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina. Spend a full day exploring this charming city which boasts a rich blend of Khmer and colonial architecture
In the morning, explore Wat Phnom and discover the legend of Lady Penh, the founder of the city, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, two of the most striking buildings in the capital and considered as some of the finest examples of Khmer architecture. Also visit the National Museum, designed in Khmer style by a French archaeologist and painter in 1917. The museum houses Khmer art and sculptures from different periods of Cambodian history.
Enjoy lunch at Friends Restaurant, a leading social enterprise and training restaurant serving up tasty, creative Khmer cuisine. In the afternoon, learn more about the turbulent Khmer Rouge years with visits to Tuol Sleng, a high school turned interrogation prison known as S-21 during the Khmer Rouge era and now a genocide museum; and Cheung Ek, a large memorial commemorating the 17,000 victims who died there under the reign of Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, made famous by the movie “The Killing Fields”. While sombre reminders of the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge regime, these visits will also provide an appreciation of the struggle that Cambodian people have faced and their tremendous courage to move on and rebuild their nation. Return to your hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Transfer from your accommodation to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap
Today you will start with a short drive to the Roulous temple group. The ruins of Roulous are among the oldest Khmer monuments in the area, dating back to the 9th century reign of King Indravarman I. Witness the evolution of these magnificent temples from the early days of the Khmer empire up to its peak with the Angkor temples in the 13th century. There are three key Hindu structures that remain at Roulous; Lolei, Bakong and Preah Ko, which were all part of the ancient city of Hariharalaya. You will peacefully explore the temples and soak up the local atmosphere away from the crowds. Walk a total distance of 3 kilometres from one temple to another and meet local friendly villagers on the way. Transfer back to Siem Reap town.
Visit to Angkor Wat, one of the modern wonders of the world. Be amazed by the sheer size of the temple and learn how the Khmer Empire prospered between the 9th and 13th centuries, around the time when Angkor Wat was built. Stroll through the intricately carved hallways that show hundreds of fine carvings and discover small shrines still in use today by the local people. If time permits, continue to visit other temples in the area.
Continue to Banteay Srei temple, the only major temple that was not built by a monarch. It was constructed in the 10th century and was dedicated to the Hindu god - Shiva. Banteay Srei translates to “Citadel of the Women” and is one of Angkor’s most significant structures as its walls are decorated with elaborate carvings which have been preserved remarkably well.
After a refreshing drink (own arrangements) at Prasat Banteay Srei Restaurant, head to the Banteay Srey Butterfly Center, an interactive butterfly farm nestled in a luxurious tropical garden. Morning is the best time of the day to spot as many butterflies as possible. Thousands of free flying Southeast Asian species will surround you. You will also be able to learn more about their life cycle, feed them and support knowledgeable local farmers.
Finish this morning with a visit to the Cambodia Landmine Museum, a dive into the turbulent past of the country. Opened in 1999, it is home to a large number of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and shows maps and videos of demining activities. Learn more about the stories that can be confronting but important in understanding Cambodia’s recent history. Then transfer back to town.
Today, discover the wonders of Angkor outside of Angkor Thom’s walls and be amazed by some of the most beautiful masterpieces of the area. Start your day at Prasat Kravan, small temple located west of Angkor Wat and hiding in its heart bold and refined sculptures dedicated to Vishnu. Then head to Banteay Kdei, less visited than the others and yet very impressive. Spot the rare Buddha statue that survived Jayavarman VIII’s Hindu reaction and lose yourself in this peaceful compound. For the last visit this morning, enjoy a drive across the jungle to arrive at Ta Keo. A massive five-layered mountain temple of 22 metres high that might have been one of the greatest of all at its time (11th century) but which remained incomplete.
After this rich and fascinating morning, enjoy your lunch at Batchum restaurant. Located in the Angkor countryside, near Prasat Batchum temple, take a rest and savour tasty and simple Khmer cuisine before going back for exploration.
Leave Batchum via Sra Srang village area and Baray and prepare to visit 4 of the most quiet and peaceful temples on this Angkor Grand tour. Start with Preah Khan, located north of Angkor Thom, it is an impressive 56 hectares complex, built at the very end of the 12th century after Jayavarman VII’s victory over the Cham King. Take your time to visit but be ready to walk as it is almost 1 kilometre long to walk the length of the entire structure to end up with a stunning view on the Baray. Then head to Neak Pean, small Buddhist temple in the middle of Preah Khan Baray, its main peculiarity is its entwined Naga statue and how this place is still holy for Khmers nowadays. Continue to the nearby Ta Som and spot the monumental strangler fig tree on the East Gopura of the outer, third enclosure, it worth the exploration in itself. Enjoy the mysterious atmosphere of the place before heading for the last temple of the day where you will enjoy the sunset: Pre Rup is Brick made, 12 metres high and gives you the opportunity to overlook the countryside all around you, it is the perfect place to finish your day.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
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