Day 1: Phnom Penh - Welcome Dinner, Evening Shoot
Welcome to Phnom Penh, the fast developing capital of Cambodia! Awaking from the post civil war dark days this vibrant and exotic city is expanding fast in all directions with ever changing skyline. Tonight you will have the opportunity to soak up the evening vibes of the lively riverfront where active souls undertake lessons of aerobics while the air is cool, families sit together, eat and watch the lazy waters of the mighty Tonle Sap river ﬂow by. We can venture as far as the Independence Monument which is always looking truly monumental.
Day 2: Phnom Penh - Wat Phnom, Royal Palace, S21, City Photo Walk / Cyclo Architecture tour
We will start the day with one of Phnom Penh’s classics - the Wat Phnom, sitting elegantly atop of a hill, surrounded by a patch of greenery. While we photograph it we will get to listen to legends of how the city got its name. The Royal Palace and the Siver Pagoda will greet us in the early morning light and your camera will get a work out here. For those who wish to soak up the fairly recent grim history of Cambodia, the visit to the S21 Genocide Museum will also be an option this morning. While not for the fainthearted we feel it’s an integral part of visiting Cambodia which will help you understand what shaped and moulded this mesmerising country in the last 30 years or so. In the afternoon we will get lost in the forgotten streets of crumbling beauty and explore some of the less visited parts of the city thus earning yourself some bragging rights not to mention those beautiful photographs which are just waiting to be taken.
Day 3: Oudong, Processing Session, Free time, Floating Village
Today we will say farewell to the city and head to Kompong Chhnang - the town of clay pots. Along the way we may stop at Phnom Oudong, a majestic necropolis and a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1992. Depending on the weather and the mood we may either photograph it from distance or brave the stairs and have a closer look. The highlight of the afternoon will be the ﬂoating villages and settlements of Kompong Chhang - vibrant, colourful ﬁshing communities who live their lives on the waters of the Tonle Sap river in makeshift ﬂoating houses. It’s a unique and fairly non-touristy experience to be paddled on small boats through the “streets”, take in the reﬂections, wave back to people, peek into their lives and compare the lifestyle we are used to with theirs. Kompong Chhnang is a quiet city, rarely visited by tourists so facilities are somewhat basic but this is the real, undiluted Cambodia you have been wanting to see!
Day 4: Battambang, Phnom Sampeau, Bat Cave, Free time, Traditional Pottery making.
This morning we will visit one of the clay pot production houses and admire the sheer skill of the workers who make wonderful clay pots and other cooking utensils here. Curiously, despite having heard of and even having tried the pottery wheel, the folks here prefer to make all ware by hand with very limited use of technology. It is a true trip back in time and you will have the option to purchase a small memento of your visit on site or even try your hand at making your own! Upon arrival in Battambang you will get to rest a little and regroup again in the late afternoon to watch a true spectacle of 12 million bats leaving a cave opening in what seems like a never-ending, ﬂowing, chattering ribbon of smoke. It’s a truly remarkable sight with wonderful views from atop the Sampeau mountain to complete your picture perfect moment.
Photo by Roun Ry
Day 5: Rice Fields, Farmers, Country living, Bamboo Train, Temple, Village Tour, Processing Session.
The Battambang province is very fertile and it is rightfully called the rice bowl of Cambodia. Aside from the Cambodian staple, oranges and bananas grow in abundance and the province is also famous for their rice paper and rice wine mini-industries. Today we will take you on a village discovery tour where you will see small productions of rice paper, get to sample locally made rice wine, taste sun dried bananas cut by hand as done so for generations and soak up the peaceful ﬂow of life along the Sangker river. There may be a rural feel to Battambang but it is in fact the second largest city of Cambodia with a very lively artist scene and they have temples too! But what’s the biggest fun of today? The bamboo train! Exhilarating ride through the countryside on a single rail track and a bamboo platform with just the sky above you. And what happens when you meet another train in the opposite direction? The one that’s less loaded will dismantle and let the other pass, of course!
Day 6: Processing Session, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm
The journey from Battambang to Siem Reap is fast and easily done in a morning, so before you know it you will be having your lunch in the city which lies mere 7km from the magniﬁcent Angkor! Excited? Well, it just keeps getting better. This afternoon you will explore the temple of Ta Prohm which Tomb Raider fans know very well. Giant Spung trees wrap themselves around ancient structures in a tight embrace and if timed well, the temple can still feel like your own despite being on most visitors’ itineraries. To round off the day we invite you to step into the brightly painted fairytale-like gondolas and peacefully ﬂoat on the waters of the Angkor Thom moat and watch the sun disappear in the west.
Day 7: Angkor Wat continued, Bayon, Preah Palilay, Water Blessing, Monks, Rural life
It’s going to be a gorgeous medley of fabulous temples today, starting with the magniﬁcent Angkor Wat and the sun rising behind the ﬁve lotus-like shaped towers. The mesmerising faces of Bayon gazing over the horizon are most ﬂattered by the early morning light and we will get to explore the temple and photograph it just then. Later, when the day turns the heat up a notch we can get lost in the forested, shady paths and ﬁnd smaller temples likely all to ourselves. For those seeking fortune in the years to come we have a special water blessing prepared by local monks in a colourful pagoda. In the afternoon we will venture into the countryside to mingle with locals, take in the open spaces of Cambodian countryside and learn about local customs, beliefs and traditions. Photo opportunities here are waiting on every corner and behind every palm tree.
Day 8: Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea, Kulen, Waterfalls, Koh Ker, Phnom Kulen
Cambodia is literally scattered with temples and historical sites, many known and many yet to be discovered. Today we will peek further into the history of the empire and visit temples preceding Angkor. You will see difference in architecture, building materials but also in landscape and possibly weather. Today is a day we spend a few hours on the road and visit places where the crowds almost never go. Again, some points and bragging rights earned right there along with some picture postcard moments captured on your “ﬁlm”.
Day 9: Psa Leu markets, Roluos temples, Wat Bo, Final Processing Session, West Baray
Your visit to Cambodia would not be complete without a trip to the local markets and today we have picked the largest one for you. Psa Leu, or the Upper Market, is the wholesale of all sellable items in town and is best visited early in the morning when at its busiest and also freshest. From meat to shoes, from gold to nuts and bolts, from brooms to fake brands, they have it all and much more. From here it’s only a short drive to the Rolous temples, an ancient Khmer empire preceding Angkor by two centuries. Picturesque in their own rights, the temples of Lo Lei and Preah Ko consist mostly of brick structures while the mountain temple of Bakong has been constructed from laterite and sandstone. A hidden gem in the centre of town - Wat Bo - is the oldest pagoda in town with impressive murals covering all walls and ceiling of the interior while the exterior is deliciously crumbling and ﬂashes of monks’ orange robes provide a great contrast to the fading colours. Our afternoon will be relaxed; from West Gate of Angkor Thom to the West Baray, the largest man made water reservoir ever built still in use today where we will wait for sunset while swinging in hammocks “local style”. And for those who want to experience how Siem Reap residents pass their time in the evening we suggest you follow us to Kieung Yu - in the daytime a road like any other, in the evening turning into a festival of spinning lights, ﬂying darts and popping balloons, fairground rides, picnic sites and exotic foods for sale. And when night falls on Siem Reap you will sit with your fellow photographers once again, for the last time, and say your farewells.
Depart Siem Reap after breakfast or opt for a longer stay.