After an early breakfast, embark on a private boat that will take you on a fascinating journey across Tonlé Sap Lake to Battambang. You will pass floating villages and flooded forests, portraying life on this body of water that forms Cambodia’s heart. Packed lunch on board. (Duration 6-7 hours). (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 Battambang and enjoy some rest at the hotel. This afternoon, explore 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 Khmer treats.
Tonight, 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. Alternatively they perform daily in Siem Reap).
Dinner this evening is at the stylish Jaan Bai (meaning ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer), a social enterprise restaurant established by the Cambodian Children’s Trust to provide training and employment for disadvantaged youths, with all profits going to support the activities of the Trust. The restaurant was set up with the expertise and ongoing support of Asia’s best chef, David Thompson, of Nahm Restaurant in Bangkok, and restaurateur John Fink, owner of Australia’s best restaurant Quay in Sydney. Overnight in Battambang.
Spend the morning on a tour that combines walking, a boat ride and then cycling along and across the Sangke River to experience Battambang daily life. The tour includes prayers with monks as well as rich explanations of the city’s design and artistic heritage.
Begin the tour at 7.30 a.m. at the offices of Battambang Bike and get fitted for your bicycle (either a mountain bike or sturdy basket bike).
Watch a few minutes of film footage which will help you imagine how developed the town was in its heyday. Battambang has passed from Cambodia to Thailand and back again several times in its history and has an excellent collection of early 20th century French colonial architecture that is better preserved and respected than in many other parts of the country.
A tour of the main market, Psar Nath includes trying a local coffee. Then walk the few metres to the river and cross a couple of minutes on a local boat to the other side of the Sangke River. Visit Wat Povil temple and take the opportunity to pray with the monks (Note: the monks may observe different rituals according to their calendar though can be seen on a daily basis). It is usually possible to accompany the boats back across the river as they begin their morning alms collection.
Once back on the other side it is time to begin the bike tour. The historic 2.5 Street is visited along with a Thai temple before you arrive at a smaller market. Again time for a coffee or a sugar cane juice. Continue a short distance to Wat Kor Village, known for its many old Khmer heritage houses built around a century ago. Visit one of the best preserved homes.
Cycle along the river and cross a suspension bridge where only motorbikes and bicycles can pass. On the way back into town there is another short drinks stop before arriving back in the town at approximately 12:45 p.m.
The Battambang Bike Set up by a Canadian national who is a lover of architecture and cycling know as Jam. The above tour was designed exclusively for Exotissimo though alternatives can be provided such as dedicated architecture or amateur photography rides. All their tours are pay-as-much-as-you-can for Cambodians in order to provoke interest about their history and the city. The long term goal of Battambang Bike is to pass ownership to a Cambodian to provide a substainable and well structured business. Take a break back at your hotel.
In the afternoon head to the Bamboo Train station. The Bamboo Train has been set up by the villagers in order to facilitate the transportation of goods and persons as there are no regular trains running any more. The “train” itself is very basic: one bamboo platform on 4-wheels is activated by a small motor. Sitting on the platform, you will travel the 8 km to the next station through beautiful landscape and rice paddies (depending on season of visit). 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).
After head towards Phnom Sampeau, meaning “Ship Hill” in Khmer, due to its distinctive shape, and one of the few hills standing out in this otherwise pancake-flat plain. From the small temple on the top, you will have a fantastic view over the typical landscape of paddy fields and sugar palm trees. Phnom Sampeau is home to the notorious killing caves, which are cruel reminders of Cambodia’s troubled past. Serenity and inhumanity represented in one place make this an interesting visit…Your visit will last until dusk – a time when millions of bats emerge from a cave and create patterns as they fly in tandem across the sky – a nightly spectacular show of nature ! Overnight in Battambang.
Depart Battambang for the overland transfer to Phnom Penh (duration 5½ hours not including stops).
Starting early travel first to Kampong Chhnang, known for its traditional pottery, with many kilns at work in this province. In a village near Kampong Chhnang, to see the different aspects of pottery making and also experience the production of traditional rice wine.
Continue to Oudong, the former royal capital of Cambodia. The drive passes through many rural villages and pagodas, and you will the temple mountain with its dozens of stupas from afar. Upon arrival at Oudong enjoy a traditional Khmer lunch at a picnic hut at the foot of the hill.
Then, climb the stairs to the top of Oudong Mountain and enjoy magnificent views over the plains below. Your guide will explain the history of the area and its buildings as well as the religious culture of the Cambodian people. Take your time to soak in the magnificent views over the plains below.
Before heading to Phnom Penh stop to take a look at the spectacular Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Center, also located in Oudong. Your guide can explain more about the school of Vipassana (Insight Meditation) as you tour the center. Don’t forget to see the impressive jade Buddha, the mummified monk and the brightly painted walls telling the story of the Ramayana, the epic Sanskrit poem that decorates many pagodas seen around the country. From here, it is not far to Phnom Penh where you will reach in the late afternoon. Check into your hotel.
The evening is at leisure. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
This morning you will be greeted by a driver who will take you on a tour to the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo, an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a fun way to explore this lively city. First, visit Wat Phnom, which is situated near the northern boundary of the city. The site contains some good examples of Khmer architecture and statues.
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.
Your next stop is the National Museum, built in traditional Khmer style. It 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!
For lunch you will be treated to a delicious Khmer meal at the Sugar Palm restaurant. This iconic boutique restaurant is set in a converted colonial villa and serves up some of the best local cuisine in the city.
This afternoon, gain insight into Champey Academy of Arts (CAA) is a non-profit school offering the youth of Phnom Penh free training in Cambodian traditional arts including dance, music, drawing and painting. Champey’s mission is to inspire young people to preserve, protect and promote their nation’s culture.
Continue to see the Cambodia’s recent dark history on a visit to the remarkable Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture center named ‘S-21’. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better.
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 good selection of both Western and Asian dishes. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
After breakfast transfer with driver only to the beach resort of Sihanoukville (duration 4 hours). Arrive around midday and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight in Sihanoukville.
Breakfast at the hotel.
Enjoy your day at leisure or enjoy with the optional tour.
Ream National Park (Sihanoukville)
The park was established in 1993 on a 210 km² area on the Gulf of Thailand that includes thick pristine jungle, mangrove forests and off-shore coral reefs. It's a nature lovers paradise with nearly 200 bird species, many kinds of monkeys and it is also the habitat of the pangolin. You will be transferred to one of Ream’s most scenic isolated beaches, called Koh Sampouch. You will have lunch at local restaurant on the beach.
Overnight in Sihanoukville.
Breakfast at the hotel.
Enjoy your day at leisure or enjoy an optional tour.
Three Islands tour (Sihanoukville) Take a boat trip departing 9am to explore three islands giving you the chance to snorkel, fish or just rest and relax. You will be visited three islands at Koh Chaloh, Koh Tres and Koh Takiev and will see colorful corals and fishes at the island. At Koh Takiev Island enjoy swimming with in the clear waters or relax on a long yellow sandy beach with a coral reef and snorkeling. You will have lunch at Koh Taiev Island. (Please advise at the start of the tour which option you prefer). In the afternoon return to Sihanoukville to arrive 4 5pm. Overnight in Sihanoukville.
Breakfast at the hotel and free your own Liesure
This afternoon you will transfer back with driver only to Phnom Penh