Traveling with a small group on a guided tour is often the best way to see the world. It enables a far more independent and interactive experience and will allow you to get ‘up close and personal’ with the countries and sites that you are exploring. Local guides and drivers will really help to immerse you in their country’s culture and traditions and what better area to explore than South East Asia!
Arriving into Bangkok having experienced an extremely comfortable overnight flight via the Middle East, the tour groups of 13 to 18 pax are met and transported to their hotel located in the centre of Bangkok, just a short walk from Khao San road. Many tourists use Khao San road as their base for exploring the rest of Thailand as there are many direct coaches from the street to virtually all major tourist destinations in Thailand, from Chiang Mai in the North to Ko Pha Ngan in the South. This particular tour however had all excursions included and the morning begins with a walking tour of Wat Pho and the Grand Palace of Bangkok. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and provide information on architecture, culture and history. Having experienced the 46m long gold plated reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, the temple of the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Place, no trip to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to Patpong for the night market – superb for bargains and people watching!
The following day the journey continues to Cambodia, with a flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. Over the next few days in Cambodia, the itinerary takes in Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields) approximately 12km south of Phnom Penh. The Killing Fields are sites in Cambodia where a large number of people were killed and buried by the totalitarian communist Khmer Rouge regime, during their 1975-1979 rule. At least 200,000 people were executed by the Khmer Rouge and buried in mass graves. Whilst these have now been excavated, a stoupa containing skulls of all ages has been erected and you are invited to walk with your guide around the site if you wish.
The next stop is back to the city centre to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Originally, this building was a High School but was taken over by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 as a prison and interrogation centre. It is estimated that over 20,000 were imprisoned here over the 4-year period and visiting this museum can often be quite an emotional experience.
Further excursions are of a far more historical and cultural nature, visiting the Royal Palace with the Silver Pagoda, National Museum with many artifacts, relics and sculptures dating from prehistoric to present times. Visiting the markets in Phnom Penh is certainly the place to buy silks and goodies to take home.
Arriving in Siem Reap, you will experience a traditional cultural show with Apsara dance; however, the main reason to stay in Siem Reap is to visit Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a temple complex built for the King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. The temples are unique and can take a couple of days to explore. Ta Prohm is the jungle temple that was made famous in the Tomb Raider film – it has the roots of kapok trees entwined in the walls and doorways and can provide hours of fun climbing over the ruins.
The final visit on the trip is to Tonle Sap, which is the largest lake in Asia, here you are able to cruise around the floating villages and see families that live permanently on the lake, young children learn from a very young age not to fall in the water! Having experienced fabled, forgotten, royal cities, temples, markets and reminders of the countries most recent unsettled history, it is time to fly home and develop those amazing photographs taken on this breathtaking tour.