Culinary Cambodia 8 Days
Day 1: Phnom Penh Arrival (D)
Upon arrival at Phnom Penh airport this morning, you will be greeted by your local English speaking guide and transferred to your hotel in the heart of the city. Phnom Penh was once considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history, it still retains a colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.
This afternoon depart on a Khmer Architecture walking and car tour that will take you on a fascinating discovery of Cambodian architecture from both the colonial times and the late 1950s and 1960s, a both culturally and politically vibrant time. During that era, an en vogue ‘New Khmer Architecture’ was emerging uniquely focused on integrating an international style while still being aware of local tradition, materials and climate. This evening, indulge yourself in a delicious Welcome Dinner at Malis Restaurant, one of Phnom Penh’s top addresses for authentic Khmer cuisine.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 2: Phnom Penh (B/L/D)
Spend the morning exploring the local market and learn about Khmer cuisine. Not as well-known as the neighboring countries Cambodia has a great variety of national dishes and there are many stories to be told by your guide. Start with a pick up from your hotel and travel by cyclo from the hotel to the market, as many buyers will do to make their purchases. Walk through the aisles as the guide explains the different fruits, herbs and vegetables and how they are used in Khmer cuisine. Try some seasonal, local fruits along the way. The walking tour will last about 2 hours before continuing to a local restaurant which uses many of the ingredients seen at the market. Various dishes are ready cooked and French-style baguettes (num pang) and the tasty nom banh chok can be ordered. This tour is ideal for foodies and lovers of local, non-touristy experiences.
In the afternoon will visit the most remarkable sights Phnom Penh has to offer. First, head to the National Museum, which houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony!Continue to the Royal Palace. Continue along the lively riverfront to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze. Enjoy dinner at the renowned Foreign Correspondents’ Club located on the Riverside. The building is a colonial gem with great views of the confluence of the Upper Mekong, Lower Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Dinner is à la carte with a large selection of both Western and Asian dishes.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 3: Phnom Penh - Battambang (B/L)
Travel by private vehicle over scenic backroads to Cambodia’s former capital, Oudong (transfer time 1h), about 39km from Phnom Penh. You will pass rural villages, local pagodas, and scenic rice paddies before reaching the main hill of Oudong. Visit a family that is producing palm sugar at their house. Later on, climb to the top of the stupa-filled hill of Oudong for great views over the rural plains. Enjoy an early lunch local style in the picnic huts at the foot of the mountain. Continue to Battambang (transfer time 4hr). You will be taken directly to your hotel for check in. Even though Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city, you will find that the atmosphere is very laid-back in a charming and relaxed river town full of fine examples of French-colonial architecture.
Overnight in Battambang.
Optional: Phare Ponleu Selpak - A special visit awaits you at Phare Ponleu Selpak. School of Music, Visual & Performing Arts - Phare Ponleu Selpak combines the Arts to provide education, support and entertainment to the poor communities. This project is a success story of how humanitarian aid work can turn into a display of zest for life, genuine warmth and creativity, against all odds. A visit to one of their circus shows will leave you with a lasting memory of the wonderful Cambodian people and should not be missed when in Battambang. (Note: The circus performance is only performed regularly on each Monday & Thursday. On other days private performances are available on request and for a supplement).
Day 4: Battambang (B/D)
Battambang’s countryside makes this pleasant town a real treat. It is situated along the Sangker River, a quiet body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province and connects the Cardamom Mountains with Tonle Sap Lake and feeds the paddy fields with water on the way, which results in Cambodia’s best rice that can be found here, in Battambang Province.
This morning you will be taken to some of the many cultural villages around Battambang, where you will learn how the locals produce rice paper, prahoc (typical Cambodian fish paste), grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo), and other Cambodian treats. You will also visit a weaving and handicraft centre in another village. After take a short ride on the famous Bamboo Train, an original means of transportation on the old train tracks leading to Phnom Penh. A true rollercoaster ride without loops! (Note: the train tracks from Battambang to Phnom Penh are currently being rebuilt. The long term future of the bamboo train ride cannot be guaranteed. Should the service stop we will arrange alternative sightseeing).
Take a break at your hotel for lunch (at own expense). In the afternoon explore another side of Battambang. Take a relaxing cyclo ride around the town with an audio set providing an informative guide to the history of the town. Over 2½ hours sit back as your cyclo driver takes you around the colonial streets, markets and temples. The audio set narrates short anecdotes of the many highlights in English or French. At many you get off the cyclo and walk around the points of interest before moving on the next stop. (Note: only 2 cyclos are available with 1 person per cyclo only). Dinner this evening at Pomme d’Amour with its inventive menu mixing French and Khmer cuisine.
Overnight in Battambang.
Day 5: Battambang - Siem Reap (B/L/D)
First, you will sail along the Stung Sangker River until you will reach Prek Toal bird sanctuary, one of the most important breeding grounds for waterbirds in the region. Continue along the edge of rhe largest freshwater lake in Asia, Tonlé Sap Lake, an exceptional water system which swells to almost five times its size during the rainy season. The water of its main drainage, Tonlé Sap River, is being pushed back from the Mekong, carrying an incredible amount of water from the rains, causing the river to reverse its direction and thus causing the lake to overflow, flooding nearby fields and forests and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. The lake is also an important breeding ground for fish, providing more than half of the amount of fish consumed in Cambodia. The particular water system requires the people living of the lake to adapt to the living conditions. You will see many villages on the way where people live on stilted or entirely floating houses before arriving a short drive from Siem Reap town. The boat trip takes 6-7 hours depending on water levels and is a slow, but beautiful journey to take. Put your feet up, watch village and lake life and read a book as you sail from Battambang to Siem Reap. (Note: This boat trip is only possible in the high water period from July to December as water levels are too low during the dry season and transfer times can be extremely long. From January to June alternative transfer by road.) Arrive in Siem Reap mid to late afternoon, the gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor and a charming little city. The rest of the day is at leisure. This evening, enjoy an Asian-inspired French meal at Abacus Restaurant in a beautiful garden setting.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 6: Siem Reap (B/D)
Start your morning temple exploration at the most illustrious of the Small Circuit Temples, Ta Prohm, built in the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.Visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8 m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake. From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs. After return to your hotel where there is time at leisure to take lunch (at own expense) and perhaps relax at the pool.
Optional: This afternoon, you will have the chance to tour the Angkor National Museum. The interactive museum showcases artefacts from the Golden Era of the Khmer Empire by use of multimedia technology to picture this interesting historical period.Enjoy dinner at the Apsara Terrace of the Raffles Hotel - located in the lush gardens and surrounded by traditional boundary stones, an Apsara show is an essential experience while in Cambodia. Enjoy a majestic performance with Cambodian dances and Khmer martial art with a delightful selection of pan-Asian barbeque cuisine. This distinctive Cambodian venue is very versatile - for parties, barbecues and pre-dinner cocktails. (Mon/Wed/Fri throughout the year).
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 7: Siem Reap (B/L)
This morning, discover the secrets of authentic Khmer cuisine in the course of a half-day cooking class with Mrs Kethana Dunnet. First you travel 35km out of Siem Reap to a village near Banteay Srei to meet your chef at her beautiful country home. Kethana is the owner and founder of the Sugar Palm restaurants in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and is known for her work with many celebrity TV chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Luke Nguyen. She grew up in Cambodia before moving to study in New Zealand where Kethana met her now husband, Bruce. Living abroad she developed a keen understanding of Khmer cuisine and how it can work in the west where ingredients are harder to come by. Since 2002, Bruce and Kethana have been living in Cambodia and today will host you for a cookery class par excellence! Over the course of the morning learn various dishes that are served at Sugar Palm and the differences between Khmer and other regional cuisines. Kethana will instruct you how to prepare Cambodian dishes for your return home. The class lasts about 3 hours before then sitting and appreciating the fruits of your labour by tasting your own dishes (2 starters and 2 main courses).
After lunch, continue to visit the Golden Silk Pheach Farm, a local NGO which helps to revive the ancient Khmer know-how in silk activities and provides job opportunities to more than 100 local staff. The farm area, mulberry trees and weaving ateliers can be seen as part of the guided tour. Golden Silk products are ecologically produced from the yellow silkworm which is unique to Cambodia. Some of the silk products are months, or even years, in the making and each one is unique. This is one for the connoisseurs of high quality craftwork. Later travel to the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srei is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor. After transfer back to Siem Reap. The evening is at leisure.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 8: Siem Reap (B/D)
This morning you will visit the legendary Angkor Wat by local ‘remork’ (similar to the Thai tuk tuk). Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
Take a break back at the hotel until the late afternoon. Enjoy a relaxing cruise in a gondola paddle boat at the moat of Angkor Thom compound while watching a spectacular sunset at Prasat Chroung temple. Cocktails, champagne, canapés and a soft drink will be available on the boat, as your boat paddles slowly along the ancient moat. As this is your last evening in Cambodia, enjoy dinner at the renowned Cuisine Wat Damnak. Cuisine Wat Damnak was founded on the simple concept of using only local fresh seasonal produce with which to create exquisite Cambodian food. The Head Chef and owner Joannès Rivière has a reputation as one of the top chefs in Cambodia and is the author of the book, ‘Cambodian Cooking’, one of the first cookbooks on Khmer cuisine. (Note: closed mid-Aug to mid-Oct and Sunday/Monday weekly. Only 5 or 6 course menus are served and, as seasonal, change weekly. Special requirements and requested reservation time is required in advance).
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 9: Siem Reap (B)
After breakfast, enjoy some time at leisure until the transfer to the airport for your individual departure flight.
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