Welcome to Phnom Penh ! The capital city of Cambodia lies at the confluence of the Mekong, Sap and Bassac rivers. Phnom Penh was regarded by many as the most beautiful of all the French-built cities in Indochina and so was formerly called the pearl of Indochina. It was a bustling commercial center during the French occupation, but the years of war crushed it to a field of ruins before becoming a ghost-city during the Khmer Rouges period. It’s only since the 90’s that the city really began to recover and today it has reestablished itself as the political and financial center of the country. Its rich historical past can be traced to some Khmer and French influence evidences such as many ornate Khmer–style temples and some grand colonial buildings.
Day 1 – Phnom Penh City - (L / D)
In the morning, we will visit the Royal Palace situated on the site of the former citadel. It was built by king Norodom in 1966, in front of the Mekong. Inside its walls are the throne hall, the Chan Chaya Pavilion, used for performances of classical dance, the Napoleon III Pavilion, and the king’s and Queen’s residential quarters.
We will also visit the Silver Pagoda - called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha - located in the walls of the Royal Palace. Inside, its floor is made up of 5,000 silver blocks. In the centre of the Pagoda, there is a magnificent 17th century emerald Buddha statue made of baccarat crystal. The walls enclosing the pagoda are covered with frescoes depicting episodes from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. We will continue to the National Museum – near the Royal Palace - which offers a charming setting for the display of a stunning collection of Khmer art. Predominantly worked in stone, the sculptures date from both the Angkorean and pre-Angkorean eras, complimented by more recent examples of Cambodian art.
We will have lunch at the restaurant Friends which is a non-profit restaurant run by street youth in training. All proceeds go to the organisation Mith Samlanh and the food is delicious. Then, we will visit the NGO Child’safeclose to the restaurant. Created and managed by Friends International since 2004, the ChildSafe project is developing a child protection network aimed at safeguarding children in Cambodia and other countries in the region from all forms of abuse, especially sexual abuse.
In the afternoon we can explore the Central Market (Psar Thmei) located in (and around) a representative yellow French-colonial art-deco dome (built 1937) full of stalls selling all kinds of items, from gold jewellery to false antiques, from Taiwanese electronics to false Swiss swatches, every traditional Khmer handicrafts such as krama and other silk scarf, wood and stone carvings, basketry as well as books, clothes and souvenirs. The big fresh food section, presenting immaculate rice boxes, colourful vegetables, glittering sea-food will ravish the photographers. The meat market part is particularly picturesque. Then, we will walk along the Tonle Sap River on the beautiful Sisowath Quay, where Khmer families stroll and sit in the cool of the evening. Across the road stands an unbroken chain of splendid colonial buildings, today homes of western bars and restaurants. We will stop at Wat Ounalom, Phnom Penh’s most important wat founded in 1443 to house a hair of the Buddha. This holy was partially destroyed by the Khmer Rouge but it remains Camodian Buddhism’s headquarters and has been restored since 1979. Today, the temple tries to recover its past liveliness. Beautiful frescoes painted in 1952 and representing scenes from the Buddha’s life decorate the walls.
Tonight before dinner we will enjoyed a drink on the roof top of FCC restaurant, a nice spot to enjoy a whole view of Phnom Penh.
Later we will enjoy a boat cruise onto the Mekong river facing the Sisowath Kay to enjoy the sunset view. Then, we will go for dinner at Bopha Phnom Penh. Explore Phnom Penh full day tour
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 2 – Phnom Penh City - (B / L / D)
After breakfast, we will visit Wat Phnom, a temple on the top of the only hill (27 meters high) of Phnom Penh. A first monastery was founded there in 1372 by a wealthy Khmer lady called Penh, to house the four statues of Buddha she founded hidden inside a trunk washed onto the riverbank of the Mekong by floodwaters. It is the place from where the city takes its name, as Phnom means hill in Khmer language. Then we will go to Cambodia Trust centre. Cambodia Trust is committed to assisting people with disabilities re-gain mobility and live equally within society. In each of their centres, they provide physiotherapy, prosthetic limbs and orthopedic braces, and wheelchairs and other assistive devices. They also run an education centre - the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics (CSPO) - where people learn to make and fit prosthetic limbs and orthopedic braces. While visiting the centre, we will see how prosthetics and orthotics are made and fitted, or talk with patients to find out more about their lives.
Then, we will drive to the main center of the NGO “Pour un sourire d’enfant” which works to support underprivileged children who work and live in the streets and around the Stung Meanchey garbage dump in Phnom Penh. We will visit this place and watch a movie about their activities before having lunch at their vocational training restaurant “le Lotus blanc”.
After lunch, we will continue our tour to the Choeng Ek killing fields and the Tuol Sleng genocide Museum. This former high school in the suburbs of the capital was converted to a detention and torture centre - known as Toul Sleng or S21 - by the Khmers Rouges when they came to power in 1975. A genocide museum was established at Toul Sleng after 1979 and today it remains as it looked when abandonned by the Khmers Rouges. The pictures of hundreds of faces of those tortured there line the walls inside the old school. Most of the 17'000 people detained at Toul Sleng were eventually transported to Choeung Ek, a mass gravesite known to the locals as the Killing fields after the popular movie of Roland Joffre. Choeung Ek also serves as a memorial to those killed under the Khmers Rouges rule.
We will have dinner in the nice garden of the restaurant Le Rit’s owned by the NGO Nyemo which assists vulnerable women and helpless children in their reintegration into workforce and society. Then we will enjoy a theatre performance at the Sovanna Phum Theatre. Sovanna Phum (meaning Golden Era) is an independent and self-financed Khmer association which aim is to nurture, preserve and promote the Cambodian living arts as well as to offer opportunities for Khmer artists to make a living through their art. Performances include shadow puppet theatre, classical Apsara dancing, folklore and mask dance, theatre, traditional music, circus as well as new creations. The leather puppets are used in the shadow theatre; they are held in front of a light source, in front or behind a screen, creating a shadow or silhouette effect. These puppets are stunning artifacts of a tradition that dates to pre-Angkorean times. Another full day tour in Phnom Penh
Overnight in Phnom Penh
Day 3 – Phnom Penh city - (B / L)
In the morning, we will first see the Independence Monument. Erected in 1958 to commemorate the end of the French protectorate (in 1953), the architect took inspiration from the central tower of Angkor Wat to built it. Today, it mostly serves as a monument to Cambodia’s war dead. We will make a stop at the near Wat Lank Ka, a beautiful pagoda restored in Khmer style further to the Khmer Rouge’s destruction, and populated with friendly monks. From the Independence Monument a short walk will bring us to the Prayuvong Buddha factory. Inside the courtyard of Wat Prayuvong, a series of workshops produce Buddha statues and ritual items to replace the ones destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. The craftsmen manufacture Buddha statues, Nâga figurines and small stupa in cement. We will walk around the various workshops and watch the artisans at work. Then, we will take a break at the Java Café and Gallery, a nice place in a modern stylish ambiance with an open-air balcony and changing art and photo exhibitions. This place is famous for its large selection of coffees and teas, but also for its breakfasts including omelets, pancakes, French toast, muesli, muffins and more. Afterwards, we will continue Northeast of the Independence Monument heading towards the Royal Palace, to the Cambodia-Vietnam Soldiers Monument, set in a nice park. This monument was built to a Vietnamese design by the students of the School of Fine Arts in 1989 to commemorate the 1979 liberation of Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese troops. Opposite this Monument is Wat Botum, the centre of the Thammayut (royalist) sect of Buddhism in Cambodia. The vihear is surrounded by a cemetery for the royal family. The ashes are kept in small commemorative stupas decorated with four Bayon-style heads on the top.
Then, we will stroll around the river front to reach the Veiyo Tonle restaurant for lunch. Veiyo Tonle works as an orphanage and day center for disadvantaged children. They support these children to go to school and train them to traditional Khmer dancing.
In the afternoon, we will take a small boat from the riverfront to Koh Dach, an island situated 15 km north of the city on the Mekong River. The five villages of this 12-km-long island are mostly home to farmers who cultivate beans, corn, sesame seeds, peanuts and banana crops. However, Koh Dach is famed for its weaving and it is pleasant place to observe the weavers, but also the carvers and the potters, on work. On the dry season, as the shore recedes, the island provides a nice sandy beach for swimming and relaxing. Thatch huts line the shores and are a good spot for a drink.
At the end of the afternoon, we will come back to the city where the tour ends. End Essential Phnom Penh Tour
Price of Tour Includes:
Accommodation on twin sharing basis and meals as stated in the itinerary
Entrance fees and sightseeing tours by boat, tuktuk and private aircon vehicles
An experienced English-speaking local leader
The services of local guides at some sites
Sovanna Phum Theatre
NOT Included in Tour Price:
Personal travel insurance (compulsory!)
Expenditure of a personal nature
Drinks & tips