An Insider's Cambodia

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 by The Daily Telegraph, January 13, 2017

A well-balanced Cambodia itinerary combining adventure and relaxation

Overview

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An Insider's Cambodia is the perfect holiday for travellers who want to see the very best of Cambodia in just two weeks, without forgoing their home comforts. Start in Siem Reap, with a visit to the magnificent Angkor Temples, which are usually near the top of every travellers bucket-list, as well as some of the more remote temples. 

From here it's a short flight to the vibrant capital of Phnom Penh, a city that is unquestionably on the move, where you'll have time to explore before you swap city for countryside and travel deep into the lush Cardamom Mountain region. Once you've explored this area of natural beauty by foot and kayak, complete your holiday with some R&R on the beach at the charming old seaside town of Kep.

Price includes

  • Return private transfer
  • Breakfast daily
  • 12 nights accommodation in your chosen standard of hotel
  • Private touring with a Selective Asia English speaking tour guide
  • Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Domestic flights (where applicable)
  • Activities and meals as listed; admission fees at attractions and temples (where applicable)

Choose your bookingDeparture dates (12 - 12 night stays available) from £1,648pp

Jan 2017

From £1,648ppDepartures from

From: Flight To: Flight

Duration: approximately 14 hours 30 minutes.

Transfer information

Return private transfer. Transfer approximately 0 hours 40 minutes.

Notes

Excludes hold luggage. Breakfast daily. Prices can change. Single supplement may apply. All holidays are subject to availability.

Call to book | More information0333 414 5200* To see what is included in the price, see what's included above.
** Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than calls to geographic numbers (01 or 02) and are included in inclusive minutes and discount schemes in the same way.HighlightsItinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Siem Reap

Upon arrival you will be met by your guide, who will transfer you to your hotel. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire. Over 100 temples are spread over a vast area and the site easily lives up to its status as one of the seven wonders of the forgotten world. Siem Reap has expanded at a phenomenal rate in recent years, with another hotel seemingly opening every other month. However, the old town retains much of its original charm and there are a number of sites of interest such as museums, galleries and the local market. The town also has a wide choice of restaurants and bars, with something to suit every taste. The remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day 2 - Siem Reap, Village Explorer (B,L)

Departing after breakfast accompanied by your guide, your day will be spent travelling through a number of relatively untouched villages and learning about the day-to-day lives of the local people. This is a world away from Siem Reap, and provides you with the perfect opportunity to get off the beaten track and gain a better understanding of Cambodian rural life, along with an insight into traditional Khmer culture; something which few visitors are lucky enough to experience.Your first stop is the village of Krabei Real, where there is time to explore the local market and to purchase some supplies for your lunch. 

Continue on, this time without the benefit of air-conditioning, using a more typical method of transportation for this region. The (almost) pollution free ox and cart is still widely used throughout Cambodia, and allows you to travel at a gentle, almost hypnotic pace along the narrow, sandy, village roads. Winding your way through the rice fields, you'll pass houses, schools and pagodas. Many of the families in this area are skilled rattan weavers, using techniques passed down through the generations to create a wide variety of crafts and day-to-day items to sell in the markets of the nearby towns. After around an hour, arrive at the home of a local family who have been carefully chosen by Selective Asia. 

Having been welcomed by your hosts, there will be plenty of time to relax and chat with the family as they prepare lunch using the produce selected at the market (with your guide acting as interpreter). If you wish to assist then you are very welcome to do so, and this is also a fantastic opportunity to further your understanding of typical Khmer cuisine. This is likely to be very different from the dishes you may have sampled in the more westerner-orientated restaurants of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Having enjoyed your lunch, there is time to explore the village before returning to Siem Reap. En route, stop to visit the workshops of the Angkor Artwork - all products sold are produced using long forgotten traditional methods and the quality of craftmanship is outstanding. If time permits, make a stop at Siem Reaps market before arriving back at your hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day 3 - Siem Reap, Gourmet Sunrise Breakfast at Srah Srang, Angkor Temples (B)

You will be collected just before 5am from your hotel (it is worth it) and transferred to nearby Srah Srang an expansive lake within the Angkor compound that was historically used by the local temples as a place for ritual washing. Here, a gourmet breakfast will be awaiting your arrival. Arranged by the renowned kitchen at the Heritage Suites, arguably the best in Siem Reap, the menu includes treats ranging from freshly baked croissants and fresh seasonal fruits, to eggs any-which-way and Cambodian fried rice, served alongside fresh juice, tea and coffee. 

Having enjoyed a leisurely breakfast as the sun rises over the water, begin your exploration of the Angkor temples. During any visit to the Angkor temples, we ensure your day(s) remain both flexible and personal. Having met with your guide, you will be able to discuss in detail what you are looking to achieve from your time at the temples. Whilst some wish to explore as many temples as they can during their stay, others like to travel at a slower, more relaxed pace. Whether its sunrise at Angkor Wat or sunset at Pre Rup, climbing through the snake like roots that engulf Ta Prohm or swimming in the quiet waters of the West Baray Reservoir (or a combination of these), you can be sure that your visit to one of the seven wonders will not be easily forgotten. Unlike some archaeological tours, the Angkor temples never seem to lose that initial wow factor. Every site is as outstanding as the last, and it will be with a mixture of regret and excitement that you'll get back into your air-conditioned transport to visit the next site. We do still appreciate that some visitors are wary of becoming templed-out and to combat this we can create more varied days with visits to other sites such as floating villages and flooded forests on the Tonlé Sap Lake, museums and exhibitions, cooking schools or simply time at leisure to explore Siem Reap or laze by the pool. All our guides are highly experienced Angkor specialists, fully trained and licensed to work at the temples. 

Along with their exceptional knowledge of each temple and the civilisations that built them, Selective Asia's guides know how best to avoid the bus-loads that descend on any given temple at certain times of the day, and know every trick in the book when it comes to getting the best photos and the most tranquil moments. If you have any specific requirements or special interests, be sure to let us know and we will arrange the guide with the most suitable expertise. Additional Temples: You may also wish to consider visiting some of the further lying such as Beng Melea & Koh Ker, Sambor Prei Kuk or Preah Vihear. Excursions to these less-visited temples always enhance your experience however they do change things logistically and therefore visits must be arranged well in advance of your arrival. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day 4 - Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen, Lion and Elephant Temples, Motorbike and Trek, Beng Mealea (B,L)

Morning departure by car, driving for about an hour to the north-east of Siem Reap as far Phnom Kulen, one of Cambodia's most sacred mountains (actually more of a large hill). Deeply revered, the local people make pilgrimages to the pagodas and ruins on Kulens high plateau with its commanding views across the plains below. Having driven to the summit, visit the unique riverbed carvings known as the River of 1000 Lingas and the nearby Preah Ang Thom, a huge stone Buddha carved into the top of a rock, before a refreshing dip in the holy waterfalls where locals often meet to eat and relax on the river banks. From the waterfalls, take a motorbike taxi to visit Lion Temple and Elephant Temple, located deep in the hill top jungle. The track is poor, ensuring visitor numbers are extremely low which only goes to enhance your experience in this magical place. Back on the motorbike, continue to Anlong Thom where you will take a break for a picnic lunch. 

After lunch begin your two hour trek along the top of Phnom Kulen. Passing by the village of Thmor Chruogn and finally Ta Penh, there will be plenty of opportunity to meet villagers en route. Walk downhill from the Big Nevenea, built in 2001 before arriving at Svay Leu where you are likely to stumble upon a local market. Having met your driver, continue to the massive jungle temple of Beng Mealea, the size and scale of Angkor Wat but utterly swallowed by the jungle. Thanks to the distance from Siem Reap, the number of visitors here is much lower than it's more famous counterparts, and clambering about this titan of temples, its easy to imagine what it must have been like for early explorers. Return to Siem Reap in late afternoon where the remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day 5 - Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Street Food Tour (B,D)

Morning departure for Phnom Penh by car (driver only). Taking approximately five hours, you'll pass through provincial towns, villages and roadside hamlets offering you an insight into life away from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. There will be the opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy a coffee in Kampong Thom and stop at Skun Village, famous for its deep-fried tarantulas, if you so wish. Upon arrival, transfer directly to your hotel. Phnom Penh was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient and despite its recent turbulent history it still retains much Colonial charm. 

Today the city buzzes with energy and an air of opportunity as Cambodia advances into the 21st century. A great place to find yourself at sunset is on the banks of the Mekong River with a cold drink, watching the city slow down. Your afternoon is at leisure until 5pm when you will be met by your guide in a tuk-tuk- your transportation for the evening, for a memorable food-focused experience. First stop is the Foreign Correspondents Club, more commonly known as the FCC. This legendary colonial watering hole oozes history, having been the social hub for foreign journalists and aid workers during the Khmer Rouge era. Some interesting memorabilia adorns the walls which your guide will talk you through, before leaving you on the rooftop terrace to enjoy a cocktail and views across the Mekong & Tonle Sap rivers as the sun sets. Re-joining your guide in the tuk-tuk, it's time for a completely contrasting experience - Cambodian's don't shy away from entomophagy (that's snacking on insects in layman's terms), and they have long been seen as a good source of nutrition. 

Head down to the river where roadside stalls sell a variety of edible bugs which you will have the opportunity to try. Your guide is on hand to decipher the surprisingly tasty offerings. Continue by tuk-tuk to the Russian Market. By day this market is a tourist hotspot, but come evening the food stalls come alive, attracting local diners with typical Khmer food such as Banh Chheo, chicken rice porridge and beef skewers. Choose what you wish to eat, pull up a plastic stool alongside the locals and soak up the atmosphere. Next up, and your final food stop for the evening, are the popular seafood stalls where you can enjoy freshly barbequed seafood before returning to your hotel, again by tuk-tuk. Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Day 6 - Phnom Penh, City Tour, Tuol Sleng and Cheung Ek Tour (B,L)

Morning tour of the Royal Palace, situated on the site of the former citadel and built by King Norodom in 1866, the Palace still serves as the King and Queen's residential quarters. Also within the walls of the Palace is the Silver Pagoda, so called because of 5000 silver tiles that line its exquisite floor. You will also visit the National Museum, which houses the worlds leading collection of Khmer art and sculpture, and Wat Phnom the founding site of the city. All are within easy walking distance of each other and are a great introduction to this laid-back city. Lunch is at Friends, a kindness restaurant where ex-street children are trained in hospitality and restaurant skills, helping them to break away from life on the streets. 

In 1975, after years of guerrilla warfare, the radical Communist Khmer Rouge party, under its leader Pol Pot, seized power of Cambodia and declared year zero. They immediately abolished money and private property, and ordered the entire population of Phnom Penh from their homes and into the countryside to cultivate the fields. Over the next three years an estimated two million Cambodians died; many from starvation and exhaustion. Many others were tortured and executed for being supposed enemies of the state. 

The afternoon is spent learning more about these terrible years, through visits to the infamous Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and Cheung Ek, better known as the Killing Fields. It is an incredibly moving experience, but these are two visits you will be glad to have made. During your visit to Cambodia, you will barely meet a single person who didn't lose a member of their family during these years, yet they are all willing to talk openly about it with you. They wish you to hear about it and see these places, to ensure that it never happens again. Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Day 7 - Phnom Penh, Cycling to Phnom Oudong (B,L)

After breakfast, transfer out of town by car before you saddle up on two wheels for a pleasant cycle into the countryside. The hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh seems a lifetime away as the trail passes through villages and rice fields with plenty of panoramic views to enjoy along the way. After an hour or so you will reach a small village which is at the base of an impressive temple indicating Oudongs historical governance. 

Take a break before climbing the hill to admire the remnants of this ancient capital of Cambodia and the Kings main residence from 1618 to 1866. Consisting of a series of stupas at the top, there are rewarding views across the surrounding plains. Phnom Oudong was bombed and desecrated by the Americans and then the Khmer Rouge, but still possesses a beauty that no war has been able to steal from it. Return to the small village at the base of the hill and enjoy a lunch at a local kiosk restaurant, close to the popular village market which is particularly busy at weekends when locals gather to eat and socialise. After lunch, return to your hotel where the remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Day 8 - Phnom Penh, Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, Tatai River (B)

Morning departure for Koh Kong, south west from the capital (driver only). As you drive further west, your journey will take you along the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor which stretches along either sides of NR48 from Koh Kong Town to the Gulf of Sihanoukville. It is home to many of Cambodia's outstanding natural sites including the southern and central Cardamom Protected Forests, the mangrove forests of Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary, the beaches of Koh Kong and the Botum Sakor National Park (not accessible). 

Shortly before Koh Kong, you will arrive at the Tatai Bridge from where you will be transferred by private boat to your lodge. For clients choosing standard or first class accommodation, it's the wonderful Rainbow Lodge; for those selecting superior or deluxe it's the unique Four Rivers Floating Lodge. Having checked-in, wed suggest enjoying a sunset drink whilst you soak up the peaceful atmosphere of this incredible setting. Overnight on the Tatai River.

Day 9 - Tatai River (B)

Your day is at leisure. There are optional excursions arranged on a daily basis by the lodge. These include boat trips through the mangrove forest, trekking and waterfall visits and last just a few hours or all day. Overnight on the Tatai River.

Day 10 - Tatai River, Kep (B)

Morning transfer by boat to Tatai where you will meet your driver (driver only) for the journey to Kep. The drive takes you along the south coast past several National Parks and Bokor Mountain. Upon arrival in Kep the remainder of your day is at leisure. Once a favourite seaside resort for the elite of Phnom Penh, today the town is having something of a resurgence thanks to imaginative ex-pats and local businessmen who are ensuring that the town retains its Colonial-era charm. Whilst this delightful town has very little in the way of sandy beach, Rabbit Island is just a short boat ride away and makes for a great day trip. After checking in to your hotel the remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Kep.

Day 11 - Kep, Kampot, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Cooking Class (B,D)

After breakfast, transfer to the nearby French colonial town of Kampot located close to the base of Elephant Mountains. Any visit to Kampot is a taste of provincial Cambodia, with its relaxed atmosphere, colonial architecture and small riverside cafes and pubs. On arrival in town, turn off the main road and drive along the Kampot River to where you will meet the SUP Asia team who will be your hosts for a morning of stand up paddle-boarding. Following a basic SUP introduction, proceed to the jetty, climb onto your board and begin paddling. Accompanied by one of the SUP Asia team, your morning is spent exploring the sleepy backwaters of Kampot, gliding along this quiet stretch of river past untouched countryside and small fishing communities. 

The morning is particularly good for bird watching. After two hours of peaceful paddling (hopefully without falling in) return to the jetty where you will be met by your driver and transferred into Kampot in time for lunch. We would recommend eating at one of the riverside cafes. There will be time to wander around Kampot before meeting the Flying Dragon team who will be your hosts for your cooking class cum river cruise. First stop is Kampot's market where you will buy the required ingredients and seafood (naturally) that is needed for your cooking class. Then return to Kampot River where you will board the wooden Flying Dragon boat and begin your cruise. As you sail along the river learn the secrets behind Khmer cooking and how to make a selection of Khmer dishes, before sampling your culinary efforts for dinner, whilst the sun is setting. After dinner meet your driver and transfer back to Kep. Overnight in Kep.

Day 12 - Kep, Phnom Chngouk, Pepper Plantation (B)

After breakfast, depart Kep with your driver, heading inland to the pre-Angkorian cave temple of Phnom Chngouk. Set in a limestone cave amongst stalagmite and stalactites, this well-preserved Fifth Century AD brick structure is undoubtedly one of the most unusual and least visited temples in Cambodia. Look out for the elephant shaped limestone formations near the entrance of the cave.

Having explored the temple, head back towards Kep, stopping en-route to visit a pepper plantation. Kep and Kampot boast excellent conditions for pepper production a favourable climate, the sea breeze and quality soil and pepper from this region has a reputation for being some of the best in the world. La Plantation stretches over 20 hectares of land overlooking a lake and surrounded by mountains. The pepper produced here is grown in a traditional way, using only organic fertilizers and the majority of the workers originate from the nearby villages. A guided tour will give you an insight into the production process from the planting stage, through harvesting season to the final packaged product. There will be time to relax in the plantations coffee shop and soak up the stunning views before driving back to Kep where the remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Kep.

Day 13 - Kep, depart Phnom Penh (B)

Your day is at leisure until your transfer to Phnom Penh Airport for your onward flight.

Accommodation Hotel

Selective Asia offer a variety of accommodation ranging from comfortable standard hotels to the finest deluxe properties which offer the highest levels of service and facilities, and all the categories in between. We believe that selecting the right hotels is a critical part of any great holiday and, whilst we all agree that the hotels facilities and service levels can be crucial, the location and overall ambiance is equally important. The choice can often be quite overwhelming and its essential to get it right: the enjoyment of your trip can hinge on this decision. 

Because of this, we collectively inspect close to 1000 new and existing properties each year, ensuring that all of the places we recommend keep to the very high standards our clients have come to expect, no matter what the budget. Whilst designing your tailor-made itinerary, we will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of any of our featured accommodation with you, so you can choose those best suited to your needs and taste.

Other information

Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Valid for travel until October, 2017. Supplements may apply during high season such as the Christmas and New Year period. Travel insurance, visa fees and international flights not included. Single supplement applies. Prices are subject to availability and may vary.

Many thanks,

Selective Asia provides privately guided holidays - this means you won't be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. It also means you are not restricted to a specific date, so your holiday can start on any day you choose. This itinerary is by no means set in stone and is designed to help you visualise what is achievable in your destination of choice, over a given period of time. As a tailor-made specialist, Selective Asia can adapt this holiday to meet your exact needs your holiday, your way.

Selective Asia arranges Far Eastern holidays with the emphasis on unique travel experiences at great prices. The Telegraph is delighted to partner a company that delivers tailor-made itineraries, private guided adventures and flexible tours across the continent. Selective Asia will ensure that rather than just visiting the Far East, you immerse yourself in its history and culture so you experience your destination like a local rather than a tourist. High-quality hospitality in superb hotels, apartments and villas only enhance Selective Asia’s reputation for delivering exclusive escapes at competitive prices. Your holiday is operated by Selective Asia, ATOL 9203, ABTOT 5329, a company wholly independent of Telegraph Media Group Limited.

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This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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