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Siem Reap – Kratie – Phnom Penh
Siem Reap – Kratie – Phnom Penh
In northwest Cambodia, Siem Reap is gateway to the UNESCO-protected Angkor Archaeological Park, containing the stupendous remains of the ancient Khmer civilisation. Although a popular tourist Mecca, this charming provincial town is still defined by Chinese-style shop houses and French Indochina-era architectural legacies. Immersed in nature and the Angkorian jungle, enjoy a thrilling morning of Zip-lining, a popular and fun family activity, instructed by experienced Zip-lining guides. On zip-lines or suspended bridges, climb, slide and admire the stunning Angkor jungle and temple views, especially from a 50m (164ft)-high tree house. Later, attend Phare, the Cambodian Circus, a unique and dramatic evening’s entertainment. Cambodia’s answer to Cirque du Soleil, Phare performers use theatre, music, dance and daring modern circus acts to convey historical, folk and modern Cambodian stories in a totally new way.
Take a fascinating guided tour around an interactive silk farm to learn about silk weaving, an ancient Asian art form. Step-by-step, observe the entire silk production, from how silk worms are cultivated and hand-loom weaving techniques to the stunning finished garments. Continue to The De-Mining Dog Show, a unique, fun and educational live experience. At their Siem Reap base, learn about the Belgian Malinois Dogs and the important work they undertake across the globe. This live show demonstrates the dog’s extensive training in Cambodia and interaction with their handlers, plus their amazing explosives and mine detection skills. Get to play with the dogs, meet the team and view the deactivated mine collection. Round-off the day at a peaceful rural restaurant, enjoying authentic Khmer Food and rice field scenery.
Cambodia boasts a rich artistic heritage, stretching back to the pre-Angkor era. Outside Siem Reap, we attend a UNESCO-funded school, focused on maintaining and developing Khmer culture and arts. Founded in 2012, this prolific school supports striving Cambodian students in traditional artistry higher education and as guardians of Khmer heritage. Meet the students and observe in-class training and a music presentation of Khmer dances. Be personally instructed in “Kbach” techniques. Apsara is Cambodia’s most prominent classical dance and essential part of Khmer culture. Spend the evening at Angkor Village Apsara Theatre, an air-conditioned theatre, built traditional style. Watch performers bring ancient Khmer culture to life in spectacular fashion with Apsara dances and traditional orchestras, while dining on fine Cambodian cuisine.
Cambodia’s stunning swathes of countryside and lesser-visited townships are best explored by road. Depart early for a day’s drive to Kratie, enjoying snapshots of authentic rural Cambodia and picture-perfect villages, wats and fishing communities. First stop is Kampong Thom, a scenic farming town and epicentre of the late 7th century Chenla Kingdom. Continue to Kampong Cham, a quaint provincial town renowned for its horse racing and originally, a French Indochina trading post. From here, the landscape shifts from agricultural fields to fruit orchards, jungle and rubber plantations. Stop at Cambodia’s oldest surviving pagoda, then take a ferry boat to Koh Trong, a lovely island set amidst the Mekong River opposite Kratie. Without cars or typical modern facilities, villagers live a simple rural life in palm-shaded villages.
The riverside town of Kratie is Cambodia’s most frequented base for sightings of the rare, Irrawaddy dolphins, which inhabit in the Mekong River in ever-dwindling numbers. By private boat, venture into the Mekong’s swirling waters to spot these elusive freshwater dolphins and critically endangered creatures – estimated at around 60. Our guide helps us locate the best vantage point. We also glimpse rare birds and fishermen casting their nets. Afterwards, take a tour around mellow Kratie, a charming former colonial town with a rich legacy of French architecture. With its expansive riverfront and French-style promenade, Kratie emanates a seaside town feel. Take an evening bicycle ride through quintessential countryside of emerald rice paddies and traditional Khmer stilt houses.
Depart Kratie for a five-hour drive to Phnom Penh, en-route passing more peaceful countryside scenes. Astride the confluence of the Tonlé and Mekong rivers, Phnom Penh has been Cambodia’s capital since the French Indochina-era. Although a rapidly developing commercial hub, centuries of momentous history and Khmer culture are still evident. Once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, Phnom Penh is also one of Asia’s loveliest French colonial-built cities. Our afternoon tour by cyclo, a bicycle-powered carriage, reveals the city’s rich blend of Khmer and French colonial buildings, infused with rustic charm and elegance. Our guide points out the history behind the faded architectural facades. Discover old churches and Chinese temples hidden down quiet alleys.
Depart bustling Phnom Penh for a short boat ride across to Silk Island, aptly named for its famed silk weavers. This Mekong River island also offers a peaceful, pastoral respite and taste of authentic rural Cambodia. Our guides for the day, an expat and a Silk Island native couple, personally show us around their home island. Stroll through the street market and observe up-close local daily life. Learn about traditional artisanal skills, from lotus flower folding to noodle making – the latter, we try our hand at, assisted by a local. At our guide’s home, learn how to cook fragrant Khmer recipes. Later, explore local villages, before visiting the local school where we donate a gift of stationery to the schoolchildren. Conclude the day at a stunning pagoda, engaging with the monks.
Transfer to Phnom Penh International Airport for your onward flight.