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Make the difference for the locals. Experience the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, the laid-back city of Battambang, and the villages of the countryside as you collaborate with life-changing initiatives focused on the improvement of local communities.
Welcome to Siem Reap, the charming gateway to the famed temples of Angkor. Greeted by a local English speaking guide, you will be accompanied to the hotel for check in. Depending on the arrival time, there may be enough time to relax and recover after the flight, or to discover a little of Siem Reap on a stroll through its beautiful pagodas and colorful market.
This afternoon, a journey to the Angkor Complex offers the first glimpse of the legendary Angkor Wat. 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.
In the evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner at HAVEN, a training restaurant for young adults (orphans, half-orphans and abandoned children), who have to leave orphanages when they come of age. By giving them vocational training in hospitality or as a cook and teaching them life skills, they gain experience to support the transition from institution to real world.
HAVEN serves flavorful Asian and Western food –including some Swiss specialities and many fresh vegetarian tidbits- at the same time guests are supporting a training programme and are thereby helping a young adult orphan to achieve a secure and independent future.
Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast, continue the Angkorian exploration with a visit to 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 8m 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 hold 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.
Later this morning, visit one of the most illustrious temples in this astonishing complex: Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. The visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th century, and Srah Srang, also known as the pool of ablutions.
Around noon, break up the day with lunch at Sala Bai back in Siem Reap, a school training young Cambodians from poor family backgrounds in the principles of hospitality in order to give them a future. There are plenty of opportunities to talk to the students as they will go on a tour of the school after the meal.
In the afternoon travel to the "gem" of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei, which is best viewed in the warm afternoon light. 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.
Stop for a visit to the Landmine Museum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum also serves as a rescue centre for a number of landmine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities.
Later there is the possibility to stop at local communities along the way and the guide will help to interact with the local community to learn about the way of life here. The visit offers the opportunity to taste palm wine and palm sugar (seasonal) and other popular local produce.
Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast, transfer by car to Kompheim village, 25 minutes out of town. On arrival, take an ox cart ride through the village and even learn how to drive! Meet the host family who take care of all visitors for the day and take part in whatever seasonal activity is happening at that time, including rice planting, weaving thatch roofs, planting or harvesting vegetable crops etc.
Each tour will be different and the activity will depend on the time of the year, the family and the needs of the local village. Before leaving, plant a fruit tree for the local family. Meet another family to learn and take part in preparing a delicious Khmer lunch from fresh ingredients, which will then be enjoyed with the family. After lunch, take a walk through the rest of the village, taking the opportunity to interact with the locals, before transferring back to Siem Reap in the early afternoon.
After freshening up at the hotel, dinner tonight is at Marum, a training restaurant for young adults, working with street children and other marginalized young people since 2005. Marum gives disadvantaged youths and orphans vocational training in hospitality or cooking, teaching them the life skills and giving them the experience they need to support the transition from institution to the real world.
Featuring a winning mix of creative local cuisine, Marum is named after the Moringa, or Tree of life –very appropriate, as customers will be enjoying a fantastic dining experience that helps build a new life for the students in training there!
Finally, the night ends with an incredible performance of Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Starting at 8 pm, professional artists of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) will perform an inspiring show suitable for people of all ages.
Set up in Battambang in 1994 by young returnee Cambodians from the refugee camps who learned about using art as a means of coping with trauma, PPS has played an influential role in promoting and developing Khmer culture over the years after the Khmer Rouge genocide.
The hour long show mixes traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion performed in a story about Cambodian lives and society. Student performances can still be seen twice a week in Battambang, but the circus is now also in Siem Reap.
Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast, you will be picked up at the hotel in Siem Reap and driven through the rural Cambodian countryside to Banteay Chhmar.
The accommodation for the next two nights will be at a traditional local homestay, a fabulous intimate encounter to experience a typical Khmer village, learning about local life and customs. After being shown to a local home stay, sit down for a traditional lunch prepared by a local women’s group, under a straw hut in the village.
In the early afternoon a visit is paid to Banteay Chhmar, a temple of exceptional atmosphere which gets very few visitors. A notable feature of this UNESCO World Heritage Site applicant is the magnificent bas-reliefs on the outside of the inner sanctuary walls. Almost every step within this vast ruin, gives another fabulous picture of stone being consumed by nature. It is a spectacular sight with its Bayon Style towers, walls and enclosures cloaked with vegetation.
One of the most popular temples for picnics is Ta Prohm with its excellent examples of the Bayon-style face towers, and here mats will be provided and traditional wooden torches lit for a welcome dinner under the stars.
A performance of traditional Khmer music played by the local villagers will conclude the amazing first night in the serene setting of rural Cambodia.
Overnight at homestay.
|Siem Reap → Banteay Chhmar||162 km||2h 45min|
After waking up to the sights and sounds of a local Cambodian farming village, enjoy breakfast with your local hosts.
From here, a walking tour ensues through the Banteay Chhmar local market. The local guide will explain about some of the traditional life of the area along the way, including fishing, beekeeping, weaving and rice farming.
The surrounding countryside of the village, with its paddy fields and sugar palm trees is very typical for Cambodia, and here visitors may enjoy the beauty as they ride through on a village tour by ox-cart in the late morning, a great and fun way to get in touch with rural Cambodia and its friendly people.
Continue on to the Pol Pot Baray by kuyon for a picnic lunch on a wooden platform at the baray. Here, relax and enjoy the peaceful setting in a hammock before departing, and on the way back to the village visit beekeeping and cassava farms en-route.
After arriving back at the local village and homestay, enjoy the end of the day with a meal prepared by the host family, along with a display of how rice is processed following the harvest.
Overnight at a local homestay.
After breakfast, this morning at the community based tourism restaurant, depart the village and travel 12 km by kuyon through small villages, water reservoirs and picturesque rice fields to Banteay Torp Temple.
The name of this 13th century temple is thought to mean 'Fortress of the Army' and it was built during the same period as the Banteay Chhmar temple complex. It is believed to have been built as a tribute to the Khmer army for their defeat of the Cham army leading to Khmer control of the region. The site consists of three large stone towers. The tour will also unveil the nearby pagoda with its lovely wall paintings.
After a picnic lunch at this serene temple, continue journeying onwards to Battambang, with the remainder of the day at leisure to enjoy the pool at the hotel or explore a little of Battambang’s old streets independently.
Overnight at the hotel.
|Banteay Chhmar → Battambang||128 km||2h 15min|
After breakfast, have a fun morning cycling around local villages with Soksa Bike, a social enterprise set up to provide scenic and informative bike rides through the local countryside.
During the 30 km cycle tour there are plenty of stops to learn how the locals produce rice paper, prahoc, grolan and other Cambodian treats. The local countryside is beautiful and the Battambang area is known for the high quality rice and also oranges grown in the area. Lunch will be at Jaan Bai, meaning rice bowl in Khmer.
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, travel 8 km to the next station through beautiful landscapes and rice paddies. The long term future of the bamboo train ride cannot be guaranteed.
Continue to 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, take in the fantastic views over the typical Cambodian landscape of paddy fields and sugar palm trees.
Your visit at Phnom Sampeau 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 at the hotel.
After breakfast, return to Siem Reap Airport for taking your flight back home.
|Battambang → Siem Reap||171 km||2h 45min|
|Prices per person||2 pax|
|1 Feb 2018 - 31 Mar 2018||$1196||$1040||$842|
|1 Apr 2018 - 30 Sep 2018||$1166||$1010||$813|
|1 Oct 2018 - 31 Jan 2019||$1201||$1052||$848|