- Explore the temples of Angkor by "remork," including the "Tomb Raider" temple
- Watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat and its lotus-strewn reflecting pond
- Look for Irrawaddy dolphins on a boat trip on the Mekong River
- Spend a full day with Asian elephants at the Elephant Valley Project
|Day 1||Arrive in Siem Reap, At Leisure||Siem Reap|
|Day 2||Explore Angkor Thom & Grand Circuit by "Remork" (Full Day)||Siem Reap|
|Day 3||Sunrise at Angkor Wat Banteay Srei & Ta Phrom Temples||Siem Reap|
|Day 4||Mechrey "Floating Village" & Cruise to Prek Toal, Phare Cambodian Circus||Siem Reap|
|Day 5||Spean Praptos Bridge, Santuk Silk Farm & Koh Trong Island||Koh Trong|
|Day 6||Cycling and Community-Based Activities on Koh Trong||Koh Trong|
|Day 7||Sen Monorom & Dolphin-Spotting on the Mekong River||Sen Monorom|
|Day 8||Elephant Valley Project (Full Day)||Sen Monorom|
|Day 9||Discover Life in a Phnong Village & Bou Sra Waterfall, Sunset at the Sea Forest||Sen Monorom|
|Day 10||Transfer to Phnom Penh, Visit Phnong Village & Plantation, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap, At leisure
Upon arrival at Siem Reap airport, you'll be met by your English-speaking tour guide and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time you can choose to relax, or if you prefer to do some self-exploration of the town you might join the locals for a walk along the riverside. Be sure to include the Wat Preah Prom Rath and Wat Bo pagodas, then visit the Made in Cambodia Market to browse fine Cambodian craftsmanship. Or pop in for happy hour at FCC Angkor, in the former Foreign Correspondent's Club, then check out the nightlife around Pub Street, with plentiful boutique shops, restaurants, and bars.
Day 2: Explore Angkor Thom & Grand Circuit by "Remork" (Full Day)
Today spend the whole day exploring Angkor by remork (tuk-tuk), focusing on the highlight temples of Angkor Thom—the largest and last ancient capital of the Khmer empire. Entering the South Gate, you'll first explore Bayon Temple, whose 54 towers feature giant bas-relief smiling faces. Then head to Baphoun Temple, a pyramidic representation of mystical Mount Meru, the freestanding chimney-like tower of Preah Palilay, and the Terrace of the Leper Kings and Terrace of Elephants. Finally, head to the former Royal Bathing Pool of Sra Srang, and enjoy a classic Khmer lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon, explore the fascinating temples of the "Grand Circuit," north and east of Angkor Thom. Begin at Preah Khan, built by King Jayavarman VII as a monastic and teaching complex, Neak Poan, accessed by a wooden walkway over an artificial lake, and iconic Ta Som, with its entrance gate entangled by a sacred fig tree. End today at Eastern Mebon temple, where life-sized elephants guard each corner, and pyramid-shaped Pre Rup, where you can enjoy an excellent view over the forest canopy and Angkor Wat from atop the ancient staircase guarded by stone lions. Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
Day 3: Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei & Ta Phrom
Rise early today and settle in front of the reflecting pond to watch the sun rise over the five temple spires of Angkor Wat—the largest religious building in the world. You'll then explore this immense and remarkable Hindu temple, carved with intricate bas-reliefs depicting historical events plus more than 3,000 beguiling apsaras (seductive heavenly maidens). After returning for breakfast at your hotel, you'll travel through the picturesque Cambodian countryside to the stunning and well-preserved, red-sandstone Banteay Srei temple, dedicated to Hindu god Shiva and decorated with fine filigree artwork.
Your last stop today is at iconic Ta Prohm, perhaps the most instantly recognizable of the Angkor temples for having attained fame as the "Tomb Raider" temple in the eponymous 2001 Angelina Jolie action movie. The photogenic temple is overgrown with banyan trees and vines as if wrapped in the tentacles of an octopus. After marveling at this one-of-a-kind ancient relic, return to your hotel for another evening to enjoy Siem Reap at leisure.
Day 4: Mechrey "Floating Village" & Cruise to Prek Toal, Phare Cambodian Circus
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Enjoy a fun excursion to Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and a wetland UNESCO Biosphere Reserve teeming with wildlife. You'll hop aboard a traditional boat to visit Mechrey and Prek Toal's "floating villages," where wooden homes rise and fall with water levels. You'll meet villagers to learn about their lifestyle, then explore Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, where rare waterbirds—from Glossy ibis and spot-billed pelicans to painted storks and fish eagles—flock in their millions. You'll view many species as you cruise along, but observation towers in the reserve also have spotting scopes.
In Prek Toal, you'll also have lunch at a floating restaurant and visit the Saray Tonlé Community Based Ecotourism handicraft project, where baskets, hammocks, and floor mats are made from water hyacinth. Back in Siem Reap, this evening enjoy a performance of modern Khmer theater by Phare Cambodian Circus, a non-profit project initially set up to provide vocational training to refugees and combining theatre, dance, music, and classic circus acts.
Day 5: Spean Praptos Bridge, Santuk Silk Farm & Koh Trong Island
Depart Siem Reap after an early breakfast and head to the remarkable 12th-century Spean Praptos Bridge in Kampong Kdei. Spanning the Chikreng River, the world's longest corbelled stone arch bridge is guarded at each end by nine-headed, hooded stone Nagas (mythical half-human, half-cobra deities). Then on to Santuk Silk Farm to learn about raising silkworms and traditional silk production and weaving, followed by a delicious Khmer lunch.
Then, continue over the Mekong River to the small riverside town of Chhlong, graced by notable temples and grand-looking, albeit faded, colonial buildings. The riverbanks are lined with the old wooden homes of Vietnamese-Cambodian Cham peoples as you continue north to Kratie, from where you’ll take a boat to Koh Trong island, in the middle of the Mekong. You'll spend two nights on this lovely, rural island.
Day 6: Cycling and Community-Based Activities on Koh Trong
Rice farming and growing fruits—particularly the grapefruit-like pomelo—are still the economic mainstay of off-the-beaten-track Koh Trong, with its checkerboard of rice fields, orchards, and fields of Vietnamese mint and small fiery chilis stretching inland from the Cham riverfront stilted and floating homes. You'll dedicate this morning to community-based activities, beginning with a short cycling tour around the island that provides the opportunity to plant a tree (and view the local flying fox colony at this local farm) and enjoy a traditional Khmer meal at a local Cham homestay.
You'll have the rest of the day free to relax at the swimming pool at your hotel, Rojabori Villas. Or perhaps you'd like to hike the sandy trail that encircles the island, with stops to sip fresh coconut water and fresh-brewed coffee at local shacks and watch women hand-washing laundry and fishers pulling nets out of the Mekong River. Stop to visit the picturesque Kaoh Trong pagoda, at the island's northern end.
Day 7: Sen Monorom & Dolphin-Spotting on the Mekong River
After breakfast, take the rustic ferry back to Kratie for a boat cruise on the Mekong in search of the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, which frequent the river pools around Kampi—your starting point for the cruise. These beautiful mammals are relatively easily spotted, albeit usually only briefly. Once your boatman spots a dolphin, he'll switch off the motor so you can watch them as they breathe and roll at the surface.
You'll take an early lunch in Kratie at Le Tonlé Restaurant, founded in 2007 as a Tourism Training Center for disadvantaged Cambodian youth to position them to find a career. Then continue to Sen Monorom, the small-scale capital of Mondulkiri province—a tropical Eden known for its hill scenery, waterfalls, wild elephants, and rich birdlife, as well as home to the Phnong (or Bunong) highland ethnic minority people. Check in to your hotel, and enjoy an evening of relaxation at a refreshingly cool elevation of around 2,600 feet (792 m).
Day 8: Elephant Valley Project (Full Day)
Following breakfast, drive a short distance to visit the Elephant Valley Project (EVP). This unique project within Cambodia cares for elephants that have been rescued, injured, or can no longer be supported by their mahouts. Your visit grants a rare opportunity to spend quality time with Asian elephants and to learn about the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment NGO. It works to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants in Mondulkiri Province, to conserve Cambodia's wild elephants' natural habitat, and to support locals who work with these magnificent creatures.
During your full-day visit (with a typical Khmer lunch at the base camp), you'll follow two elephant families, comprising 11 individuals, as they interact in their natural environment. You'll return to Sen Monorom town in the late afternoon for an evening at leisure.
Day 9: Discover Life in a Phnong Village & Bou Sra Waterfall, Sunset at the Sea Forest
This morning, head to Pulung, a remote village of the indigenous Phnong tribal community. Your Phnong guide will explain the local culture as you interact with the villagers and see inside their thatched homes. Then, set out with your guide on a 5-mile (8 km) hill trek to the magnificent two-tier Bou Sra waterfall—the largest cascade in Cambodia. Set in a canyon surrounded by lush montane rainforest, the site includes a visitors' center, walkways to the upper cascade, plus a zipline with seven lines and a sky bridge.
You'll picnic on rattan mats beside the lower falls before visiting a coffee plantation to learn about coffee growing and production and to taste a fresh-brewed Cambodian coffee. Finally, head to a viewing platform on Phnom Bai Chow Mountain for a panorama over the rolling green waves of the "Sea Forest" canopy—a 856-square-mile (2,225 sq km) wilderness habit protected within Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary. You'll return to Sen Monorom for another evening at leisure.
Day 10: Transfer to Phnom Penh, Visit a Phnong Village & Plantation, Depart
Take an early breakfast before driving to Phnom Penh, the capital city, stopping first a short distance from Sen Monorom at the Phnong village of Putang for more insights into traditional tribal life. You'll then pass through Seima Protected Forest (a habitat for wild elephants) and stop at a plantation to learn about rubber production and a plantation dedicated to producing pepper.
Arrive in Phnom Penh in the mid-afternoon, where the tour concludes. Drop-off will be at your hotel or the airport for a late afternoon or evening departure flight. If your flight is tomorrow, enjoy a few hours exploring Phnom Penh on your own this evening.
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