Days 1 & 2 UK - Phnom Penh
Fly to Phnom Penh via Hanoi, arriving on day 2. After transferring to our hotel, the rest of the day is at leisure. This evening, get to know your travelling companions over a welcome dinner. Meals included: D
Day 3 Phnom Penh
Cambodia's capital lies at the confluence of two great rivers, the Mekong and the Tonle Sap, and we'll discover its highlights on today's included tour. We'll stop at the striking Royal Palace and the National Museum before walking to the top of Wat Phnom Hill, where we can have our fortunes told. Next, we'll visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which documents atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The museum occupies a building once known as the S-21 Prison – a torture, interrogation and execution centre. Around 14,000 people are known to have entered the prison, but only seven survived, and we'll have an incredible opportunity to meet one of them.
Our tour comes to an end at the large Central Market and we will also visit the Daughters of Cambodia, an organisation set up to support victims of human trafficking.
After a busy day of very moving experiences, this evening has been left free. You'll get great views of the city's skyline if you choose to visit one of its rooftop skybars.
Day 4 Phnom Penh
We've a full day of exploration ahead, starting with a visit to Silk Island, a typical Khmer village where the houses are built on stilts above workshops. The families who live here still use traditional methods to weave and dye silk by hand. You'll see spinning wheels made from old bicycle parts and can even try your hand at weaving. Spend some time wandering around the village, chatting with the locals and purchasing souvenirs if you wish. Afterwards, we'll enjoy a picnic lunch and visit a Buddhist temple.
This afternoon we head to Choeung Ek, also known as the infamous Killing Fields. What was once a Chinese cemetery, became a mass grave for almost 9,000 victims of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime. Today, it is a poignant memorial site where locals and visitors alike descend to remember those who lost their lives.
After this moving experience we'll make our way back to Phnom Penh, where you can spend some time at leisure. If you would like to try some local specialities this evening, you could choose to join our optional street food tour, which gives you the chance to try all sorts of local delicacies, from tropical fruits to fried crickets and spiders. The tour ends at a traditional Khmer barbecue restaurant, where we'll have dinner.
Day 5 Phnom Penh - Siem Reap
Today's journey is long but rewarding as we leave Phnom Penh and head to Siem Reap. Along the way, one short stop will be at a place known as Spider Town due to the fried tarantulas that local vendors sell at the side of the streets. An unlikely delicacy to most Westerners, during Cambodia's darkest times under the brutal reign of Pol Pot, this was a vital food source as starvation was rife.
After arrival in Siem Reap, the rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish.
Day 6 Siem Reap
A beautiful sight awaits this morning, when we wake early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The centrepiece of the centuries-old Angkor complex, this is the largest religious monument in the world. After returning to the hotel for breakfast, we'll head back to the awe-inspiring temple on today's tour. We'll also admire the carved smiling faces adorning the Bayon Temple and visit Ta Phrom, an incredible temple shrouded in dense jungle. We'll also see the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and the pyramid shaped Phimeanakas.
Our day comes to an end in Siem Reap, where we board a gondola for a sunset cruise along the moat of Angkor Thom.
Day 7 Siem Reap
The great Tonle Sap Lake is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia, and we'll discover its floating villages during a cruise this morning. Next, we'll visit Angkor Silk Farm village, where we'll learn about silkworm farming and silk weaving. The exquisite pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srey is known as 'the jewel of Khmer art', and we'll visit after lunch. We'll then enjoy a short stop at the Banteay Samre temple before heading back to our hotel.Meals included: B,D
Day 8 Siem Reap
Today we're going to head into rural Cambodia to visit the small village of Chansar on a tour that supports this proven model of responsible tourism. Here, a community guide will show us around the village and introduce us to some of the villagers who benefit from the project. For a hands-on taste of rural life, we'll board an ox cart and take a ride through fields to reach a hidden jungle temple. We'll explore this fascinating site and learn all about the ancient Khmer kingdom from a Guide before continuing to the home of one of the villagers. We'll see how they make a living from weaving reed brooms, and if you like you can even try your hand at this skill yourself. After a further stroll in the village, meeting the area's farmers and fishermen, we'll enjoy a Khmer family-style lunch. This home-cooked meal is made using local produce of the area and promises to be a fantastic experience. On the way back to Siem Reap, we'll make a final stop at a Buddhist temple to receive a blessing from a monk.
This evening, we'll spend an evening under the 'big top' in downtown Siem Reap at Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Phare is one of Cambodia’s most innovative social enterprises, with profits from tickets, refreshments and merchandise supporting the free education, professional arts training and social support programmes of young people in Battambang. The emphasis here is on preserving local traditions through performing arts, and you'll watch a lively show featuring high-flying, tight-rope walking, music, dance and more in a spectacular showcase of Cambodian culture.
Day 9 Siem Reap
A great way to start the day is with a trip to an organic farm for a cookery class on our optional excursion. First, we'll visit the local market to experience the hustle and bustle of the morning rush as we shop for items. At the farm we'll pick the rest of the ingredients we need fresh from the ground, all grown without the use of pesticides. We'll then join a talented team of chefs who will show us how to make classic Khmer dishes. They'll also share with us their knowledge of Cambodian history and traditions and tell us how these are linked to the culinary dishes we'll create. Afterwards, we'll sit down together and eat what we have made for lunch, which we'll enjoy whilst taking in beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
This afternoon's included tour takes us to Wat Damnak, a living Buddhist monastery in the centre of Siem Reap. Formerly the royal palace of King Sisowath, it now houses the Centre of Khmer Studies, which in turn contains the largest public library in Cambodia outside the capital. We'll then stroll to Wat Preah Prom Rath, a beautiful 500-year-old pagoda whose entrance gate is decorated with Bayon-style carvings. We'll pass by the Royal Residence, which is the official residence of the King of Cambodia when he visits Siem Reap. In front of the palace are beautiful riverside gardens, which you can explore. As you stroll take a look above you into the huge trees, you'll see a rare daytime sight – hundreds, if not thousands, of huge fruit bats hanging in the branches. Our tour ends at Psar Chas, Siem Reap's old market, where you can barter for souvenirs of your holiday and perhaps try some street food.
Day 10 Siem Reap - Luang Prabang
Artisans D'Angkor is our destination this morning, a project which helps the youths of rural Cambodia into work through Khmer arts and crafts. As you wander amongst the stalls you'll witness ancient handicrafts using materials such as stone, wood, silk and lacquer, and have the chance to make a purchase.
Later, after time at leisure, we'll transfer to the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang in Laos.
Day 11 Luang Prabang
The former royal capital of Luang Prabang has been proclaimed the best-preserved city in South East Asia and we'll see its highlights today. We'll admire the wonderful architecture of Wat Xieng Thong and the gilded façade of Wat Mai, before continuing to the former Royal Palace, which is now a museum housing rare religious and cultural artefacts. Panoramic views will be our reward for climbing the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi, before our last stop at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre.
As the sun sets this evening we'll head to Luang Prabang's night market, which is bursting with colourful textiles, carvings, basket work and ceramics, so maybe hunt for a unique holiday souvenir.
Day 12 Luang Prabang
The Buddhist alms-giving ceremony is one of Laos' most sacred traditions and we will experience it this morning. We'll rise early to the sound of the temple gong and watch about 300 monks walk silently by, collecting sticky rice and other foods in their bronze bowls. If you would like to offer food, your Local Guide will show you how to interact with the monks.
Next, we'll head to Kuang Si Park to see the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfall - a multi-tiered cascade of water that thunders down several hundred feet to a series of turquoise pools. Many are open for swimming, so be sure to bring along your swimming costume. We'll also enjoy a picnic lunch here.
Day 13 Luang Prabang
It’s just a short drive from Luang Prabang to the Living Land Farm a community project to aid the local community through the cultivation of rice, vegetables and herbs. This organic project was started in response to destructive farming methods that persist elsewhere in Laos. The farm now sells produce to Luang Prabang restaurants and supports education for underprivileged children.
We'll begin by helping out in the fields where farmers plough, plant and harvest without the aid of machinery. If you like, you can roll up your trousers as you get knee deep in mud and try your hand at planting rice, or learn how to steer a water buffalo to plough the field. You may choose to help pick herbs or husk rice, or simply watch from the veranda. We'll also get to see the farm's basket-weavers and blacksmiths at work.
Back at the hotel this evening, we'll gather as a group for a farewell dinner.
Days 14 & 15 Luang Prabang - UK
We'll transfer to the airport on day 14 for our flight back to the UK, arriving on day 15. Meals included: B