The small charming town of Siem Reap is the base for exploring the Angkor Temple complexes and has grown into a resort destination in itself with wonderful galleries, handicrafts and a plethora of unique, boutique hotels. The town is a fantastic place to forage for bargains in reproduction antiques, contemporary art, fine art photography and Khmer-inspired clothing. Whilst it is very difficult to describe the scale and majesty of Angkor Wat and surrounding temples, it is certainly possible to put into words the aura of mystery and atmosphere of the complexes.
Built by kings who were said to be incarnations of the gods, these incredible temple-cities were once home to hundreds of thousands of people, each built to outshine all its predecessors in scale and grandeur. The city of Phnom Penh is one of the precious few cities left where some of the atmosphere of old Indochina remains intact.
With the wide expanse of the Mekong as a backdrop, the riverside is a splendid way to spend a few hours watching Buddhist monks, wooden boats, cyclo pousses and street traders meander by. Sihanoukville on Cambodia’s coast is a total contrast from the rest of the country with palm fringed beaches. A visit to Cambodia is rewarding, touching and thought provoking, leaving you thirsting for more.
Angkor Wat Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses dozens of temple ruins including Bayon, Banteay Srey and the legendary Angkor Wat whose artistic and archaeological significance and visual impact put it in a class with the Pyramids, Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal.
Siem Reap Nestled between rice paddies and stretched along the Siem Reap River, the small provincial capital of Siem Reap Town serves as the gateway to the millennium old temple ruins of the Khmer Empire. The town itself is actually a cluster of old villages, which originally developed around individual pagodas, and later overlaid with a French colonial-era centre.
Phnom Penh, once known as the “Paris of the East”, is a city experiencing a genuine renaissance, with new restaurants, cafés, boutiques and hotels appearing everywhere. However, much remains unchanged in Phnom Penh – there are precious few cities left where some of the atmosphere of old Indochina remains intact. Phnom Penh’s most popular strip of restaurants and bars is along the riverside promenade.
More laid back with pretty countryside this is a great place to explore cultural villages to learn how locals produce ricer paper, prahoc (typical Cambodian fish paste), and grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo). Beautifully preserved French colonial architecture and fabulous cuisine make this town worth the visit!
Tonle Sap Lake Tonle Sap (The Great Lake) is the flowing heart of Cambodia, giving life to millions of people. It has more fish than any other lake in the world and is home to an incredible variety of birdlife.
Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, where the rainy season runs from May through to November typified by sultry, oppressive days with high humidity.
December to April is the dry season with a lot of sunshine, however temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year (around mid 30 degrees celcius)
Where do I start? Perhaps the capital city, Phnom Penh is logical. I really like this town sitting along the bank of the Mekong. The impressive Royal Palace is well worth a visit and allow at least 2 hours to see it properly. If interested in history the nearby museum is excellent. Confronting but essential is a visit to S21, the Tuol Sleng prison where despotic Pol Pot imprisoned so many in the 1970s. From here they were generally taken to the Killing Fields situated about 30 minutes outside town which may also be visited, whew! It is hot here in Cambodia year round and what better way to relax at the end of the day than to sit in the famous bar of the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) and enjoy an ice cold beer as life on the Mekong passes by. The FCC was the watering hole for all the foreign journalists during the Vietnam War. The sense of history here is palpable.
I travelled between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap by river. These couple of days are brilliant as you cruise the Mekong and across the enormous Tonle Sap Lake, a most important source of food for Cambodians from the massive tonnage of fish caught there every year, before arriving at Angkor Wat. You really get to appreciate the importance of the Mekong to IndoChina, it is the lifeblood of the region and the stilt house built on and alongside the river offer a fantastic insight to a way of life very different than our own. Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit most of the great archaeological sites around the world; the Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt; Machu Picchu in Peru and Tikal in Guatemala are amongst my favourites. They are all rivaled by Angkor, the remarkable Khmer city built about 1000 years ago. Spend a minimum of 2 days exploring these temples. Our local guides bring them alive. They are extraordinary. Some temples are overgrown with jungle and others cleared. Each has its own special appeal. You will be blown away by the massive size of some and delighted by the beautiful art in others. I have been there several times and look forward to going back. Chris
Currency Riel (KHR) – US Dollars widely accepted
Language Khmer is the official language of Cambodia
Why we love it Hear the name Cambodia and you must surely be instantly transported to the atmospheric mystery of Angkor, massive temple cities built by kings revered as gods. From the delicate Bantei Sreay, the Temple of the Women, through to Ta Phrom slowly being reclaimed by jungle with tree roots growing right down into the stonework, the temples of Angkor retain an other-worldliness that is hard to beat. Cambodia is so much more than Angkor though with palm fringed beaches in Sihanoukville, saffron clad monks wandering silently in pilgrimage and traditional farming methods displayed on Tonle Sap Lake that have endured for centuries.
Weather Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, where the rainy season runs from May through to November typified by sultry, oppressive days with high humidity. December to April is the dry season with lots of sunshine, however temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year (around mid-30oC).
Social customs & quirks The majority of Cambodians follow the principles of Theravada Buddhism which teaches the concept of reincarnation. How you conduct yourself during your human life will have a bearing on whether or not you come back as a higher or lower being. Adhering to this belief system, the Cambodian people are always mindful of their manners, being careful not to cause offence to others, and show the respect required in what is a hierarchical society. Foreigners will find them to be a friendly and polite people and, if in doubt of Cambodian etiquette, the rule of thumb is to follow their lead and refrain from being too exuberant when exchanging greetings.
Festivals & events Cambodia has its fair share of festivals including the Water Festival marking the changing of the flow of the Tonle Sap and thanksgiving to the Mekong River for providing fertile land and abundant food. Pchum Ben in September is the most culturally significant event of the year and blesses the souls of ancestors, relatives and friends passed. All Buddhist Temples are the focus for the festivities where most Cambodians will come to make offerings and pray. King Sihanouk?s Birthday in October, Khmer New Years Day in April, the Angkor Festival in November or December, Royal Ploughing Day, Independence Day, Chinese New Year and National Day also have great significance.
Health* There are currently no compulsory heath requirements to enter Cambodia other than a Yellow Fever certificate if entering from an infected area. Being up to date with your general immunisation programme is recommended, as is having malarial prevention medication. Please contact your health practitioner for full and current details.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.
Thanks for a job very well done. The selection of Hotels and suites was superb, the Metropole in Hanoi Vietnam , was one of the best hotels we have been in for standards and service. The suite was sensational and the manager recognised our 50th wedding anniversary with a huge spray of red roses and a beautiful box of chocolates.
The Eastern Grand hotel in Saigon was not up to the standard of the rest of the accommodation . Cambodia was Raffles and brilliant. The guides, cars and drivers throughout with Trails of Indochina were excellent and of a very very high standard and we recognised this with our gratuities.
The cruise vessels on Halong Bay and the Mekong were also excellent felt as if we were back in the 1950â€™s. Meals food service and tours were all of a very high standard. Once again well done and thank you.
Lorraine & Stuart
Thanks for your email, we had a fantastic time, itinerary worked well and no real disappointments. The food was just to die for and in particular we were really surprised at the quality and experience of the food in Cambodia. The guides we had throughout without exception were friendly, very helpful and quite frankly a delight to have with us. We provided Trails of Indochina with very favorable reports regarding their guides.
Exceeded our expectations
Alison and Howard
The phrase "trip of a lifetime" is often used but this really was such a trip.
Chris and I loved every minute of our trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Firstly, thank you for telling all the hotels that this was a special 25th anniversary trip. Each hotel did something special for us: the Mandarin Oriental gave us a prime view room, a bottle of wine and spa upgrade, anniversary cake and heart-shaped flower arrangement on the bed! La Residence in Siem Reap upgraded us to a suite. In Yangon we had a suite overlooking the gardens and pool. Not to be outdone, we had a gorgeous river - front suite and flower message on our bed from the resort in Bagan.We were also given VIP treatment at meal-times and they presented us with a specially decorated anniversary cake.
We soon got used to being met and chauffeured at each location! We loved the oasis of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. We had the most fabulous guide in Siem Reap who took us to visit the temple ruins when the crowds were gone - it felt like we were the only visitors!
We fell in love with Myanmar. We were rather apprehensive about our visit there, but the local people are very friendly and desperately want their freedoms to increase. They love having visitors and are so keen to please. Yangon has beautiful parks and wide boulevards (and lovely old derelict British mansions) but of course the crowning glory are the Buddhist temples. So much gold! Our hotel room in Bagan was so lovely and peaceful and the area had so many ancient Buddhist temples. Thousands of them! We managed to do a morning hot-air balloon flight to get a wonderful panoramic view. Our beautiful guide in Bagan even purchased a painting from an artist outside a temple to give to us as an anniversary remembrance! Please do encourage your clients to visit Myanmar - more tourism will hopefully help the freedom process and does help employ people. I would love to do the trip all over again. Our sincerest thanks.