Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. If you arrive early, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. The National Museum, with its collection of classic Khmer craftsmanship, is well worth a visit. Dinner tonight will be at the Friends International restaurant, an organisation that provides training and employment in the hospitality industry to disadvantaged youth. It's a great restaurant to support and the food is delicious – the Western and Asian fusion tapas dishes have put this restaurant on the must visit list.
Today a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng is a former school that served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre, and it’s estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are home to a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls, marking the site of the infamous location. This was the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng, and standing in this peaceful setting, it's almost unthinkable to imagine that to date nearly 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area. The visits are major parts of the experience here, but if you don't wish to visit them, please let your leader know. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. After today's activities, you may wish to spend this evening relaxing in a cafe by the riverfront.
Take a short flight to Siem Reap (approximately 1 hour). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor and is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. You'll probably notice a change of pace here, so take a walk and enjoy the atmosphere. A visit to the old market is a must, even if you're not looking for souvenirs, wandering through the stalls and surrounding shops the silks, cottons, sarongs, silver and statues are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes – and there will be one for your stomach too if you try some of the cheap, delicious street food! There's also a long tradition of shadow puppetry in the region, and if you're lucky you might catch a show at one of the local restaurants in the evening, perhaps while you're eating the specialty cuisine of Cambodia – amok, the name given to curry steam-cooked in banana leaves.
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where disadvantaged local youth learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Afterward, you will head to Ta Prohm, a temple where nature has taken over, as large trees have become embedded in the stone foundations of the structure. End the day with a sunset view of the temples – an extraordinary way to see the sun go down.
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). Today you'll visit the temple of Banteay Srei – you'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’. Later this afternoon, get an insight into the daily life of Cambodians on a village tour. See the rice fields and family allotment that surround the traditional stilt houses. Be welcomed into a local home as you join together for sunset drinks. This evening, enjoy a final farewell dinner with your fellow travellers and one last night of delicious Cambodian cuisine at a specially chosen restaurant.
After breakfast, you are free to leave at any time, as there are no activities planned today. If you would like to spend some more time in Siem Reap, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).