UK - In flight
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home, for your flight to Phnom Penh.
On arrival, we transfer to the Palace Gate Hotel (4T+), our luxury hotel in the heart of Phnom Penh. Cambodia’s bustling capital, reputed as one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, has retained its wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings, ideally located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Enjoy time at leisure before transferring to the riverbank, to embark on a sunset river cruise and watch how Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront comes to life in the early evening. Dinner is included this evening.
Depart on a walking tour of a capital where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way. Travel through the small streets to Wat Lanka, one of the oldest pagodas in Phnom Penh, and on to the Independence Monument, which celebrates independence from France on 9 November 1953. The Royal Palace is next, with its Silver Pagoda named for the thousands of silver tiles that cover its floors, and home to a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, bronze and crystal. After visiting Wat Phnom, the founding place of the city, we visit Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, two sobering reminders of the Khmer Rouge regime. Our day finishes with a short visit to the Russian Market to test your bargaining skills over souvenirs and local handicrafts.
Phnom Penh - Battambang
Depart early this morning for Battambang, stopping to visit Kampong Chhnang to discover the aspects of traditional pottery making for which the region is known. Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city, and one that has opened up only in recent years following hostile fighting by the Khmer Rouge until 1996. After lunch at our accommodation, The Classy Hotel (3T), we transfer to Phnom Sampeau, one of the few hills in an otherwise flat plain. Take in great views over paddy fields and sugar palm trees from the small temple at the top. Halfway up Phnom Sampeau are a reminder of its darker past - the killing caves - set amidst a now beautiful, serene scene. We stay until dusk, when millions of bats emerge from a cave, streaming across the sky.
Battambang has been repeatedly passed between Cambodia and Thailand, and has also retained some excellent French colonial architecture. On our walking tour, we visit the main market before crossing the river to visit tranquil Wat Povil temple to learn of Buddhist traditions. Our coach then takes us to surrounding villages to learn how rice paper, prahoc (fish paste) and grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo) are produced. See the incredibly well-preserved Khmer heritage houses of Wat Kor and discover Jaan Bai, a social enterprise run by the Cambodian Children’s Trust which is working to reduce poverty in Battambang by empowering underprivileged children.
Battambang - Siem Reap
Take a stroll around Wat Ek Phnom, an impressive yet dilapidated 11th century temple set amongst trees and lily ponds. Next to the temple is the Wat Ek Phnom Pagoda, beautifully decorated with one of Cambodia’s most complete collections of Buddhist wall and ceiling paintings. After lunch we travel to Siem Reap and our hotel, the Lotus Blanc Resort (4T+).
The ancient city of Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire. We enter the city through the ancient South Gate of the eight-metre-high city wall, an impressive stone gate carved with elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 giant gods and demons hold the sacred Naga snake of Hindu mythology. From here, we continue to Bayon Temple, a 12th century masterpiece 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 known for their intricate carvings. We then tour the temples of the Small Circuit, including the famous, crumbling Ta Prohm, overgrown by jungle trees and vines. Next is Angkor Wat, known for the 2,000 Apsara dancers that decorate it. Inside, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting both Hindu mythology and tales of the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. In the evening we attend a performance of ‘Phare, the Cambodian Circus’. Young Cambodians returning from the refugee camps learnt to use art to cope with trauma and created this unique enterprise. The show mixes traditional and modern theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion to perform a story about Cambodian lives and society.
This morning we embark on a boat trip on Tonlé Sap Lake, to learn about life on the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Due to a unique phenomenon when the monsoon begins, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the Great Lake and spreading over the surrounding flood plain, swelling to four times its size in dry season. The afternoon is at leisure, before dinner at a local restaurant with a classical performance.
Siem Reap - Luang Prabang
Enjoy time at leisure before we transfer to the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang, the spiritual capital of Laos. After checking in at Le Bel Air Resort (4T), the rest of the day is free.
Explore Luang Prabang with a local guide, and learn about Laos’ rich, colourful culture. We start at the former Royal Palace, which now serves as the National Museum with displays of historical relics. Then take a short walk to Wat Mai, a Buddhist temple with an incredible gold-covered bas relief. While here, we learn about Buddhism and its influence on the local culture. We continue to Wat Xieng Thong, one of the oldest and most revered temples in the country, filled with ancient and ornate carvings and mosaics. We finish our morning tour at Ock Pop Tok, the Living Craft Centre which preserves traditional Lao weaving techniques. A short tour reveals the age-old process of creating beautiful Lao textiles. The afternoon is free in this outstanding former capital.
A drive through the Luang Prabang countryside takes us to Kuang Si Waterfalls, for the chance to explore the surrounding dense jungle on foot or to follow a steep track to the top of the falls for beautiful views. These waterfalls cascade into stunning turquoise-blue pools. We return to the city, stopping at the Bamboo Experience Plantation and Pavilion. While here, learn about the traditional and modern uses of bamboo and its significance within Lao culture. See the bamboo weaving process and try a Kamu bamboo dance, walking stilts and making your own bamboo sticky rice for lunch. Later this afternoon, we board a traditional river boat for a leisurely cruise on the mystical Mekong River as the sun sets over the Mekong and the mountain ranges. Enjoy a dinner of typical Lao dishes, while performances of traditional Lao dances depict stories of rural life, folk tales and legends.
Luang Prabang - In flight
Enjoy a leisurely morning before we transfer to the airport for your overnight return flight to the UK.
Day 13 UK
Upon arrival, your Titan vehicle will be waiting for the journey home.