Phnom Penh is filled with vibrant life. It is a city that sits between the delicate currents of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. The riverfront holds a wide promenade shaded by tall palms and decorated with elegant flowerbeds. The French Colonial buildings display an image of the country’s history. The Central Market is painted a daffodil yellow. Your private transfer meets you at the airport and takes the family to your accommodation at the city center.
Your hotel is close to the riverfront and a rooftop pool offers a view of the water in the short distance. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. You can choose to explore the contemporary comforts of the promenade or you can visit Wat Phnom, the most famous temple in the city. The entrance to the temple is decorated with a large clock molded out of the flowerbed. Its diameter reaches over 65 feet.
The temple was constructed in the 14th century and the stupa stands at over 88 feet tall. Stone lions stand proudly at each architectural corner. The garden contains a sitting statue of King Sisowath. The temple’s beauty is as captivating as the numerous statues that surround the complex. You find a collection of murals on the bottom levels balancing the storytelling with traditional and modern elements. The temple is a marvelous representation of the city, an ancient site with contemporary history and filled with endless splendor for the whole family to enjoy.
The morning is calm and sleepy. The streets have yet to fill with their former energetic bustle. Small fishing trolleys make their way out onto the river and surf the current. When the sun fully rises the streets return to their active pace. After a full breakfast your private guide meets the family. You are ready to make your way along the various neighborhoods to see the city’s sensational culture. The Royal Palace is an unmistakable complex that was constructed in the 19th century.
The spires of the Throne Hall are thin and gilded. The traditional Khmer architecture is graceful against the background of vast blue sky. Pillars outline the upper terrace of Throne Hall and create the image of a colonnade. When you come to the Silver Pagoda it is hard not be captivated by the exceptional collection of lavish Buddha images. The Emerald Buddha was molded in the 17th century out of baccarat crystal. It captures the sunlight and sparkles in the refracted light.
The kids are as mesmerized by the colors and history as you are by the Buddha’s size. Another image is a near life-size Maitreya Buddha, molded using mostly gold, and covered in over 9,500 diamonds. The majesty of the Silver Pagoda enraptures the entire family for different reasons, from the artistry of the architecture to the extreme opulence of the statues. Your tour of the city continues. Every minute is unique. The entire family hangs on every word and every image, and you know that all of it is educational.
You find charm in the morning ritual of the fishermen. They set out each morning in search of the daily catch, their nets cast over the surface of the river as the colorful boat waded in the water. You leave the ritual and the riverside behind. Your private transfer takes you to Sambor Prei Kuk, a magnificent temple complex that predates the famous ancient city of Angkor. The oldest temples were constructed in the 7th century. The complex is equal parts exploration and discovery. You journey around the verdant fields and lush forest in search of the brick and laterite temples. It’s almost like a family scavenger hunt. Octagonal towers are decorated with lingams that symbolize Shiva. Ponds are found intermittently.
Lion sculptures stand in front of temple portals. The deeper you venture into the complex the more interesting the mixture of nature and architecture. Some temples are overrun with tree roots. The roots are tangled around the brick and the tree sprouts from the edifice, as if given life from the temple instead of the earth. A handcraft market is located at the entrance and gives insight into the traditional handicrafts of local villagers. Baskets and paintings of the temples are displayed. The images you just explored are immortalized in artwork, down to the intricate earthen decay that came with time.
The landscape of Cambodia is lush and alluring. The trees give way to vast fields of rice paddies. The greenery comes in various shades. After breakfast you venture to the shores of Tonle Sap Lake and step aboard a boat. Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and provides water for the fertile fields and sprawling forest. The depths of the lake vary from wet to dry season; its area expands from 1,000 square miles to over 6,200 square miles. You drift past longtail boats and stoic fishermen. The villages that strewn the shore change to villages located on the water, rising on stilts. The breeze is refreshing.
The local villagers wave to you as you pass. Their homes are painted vibrant colors that can be seen from a distance. Ladders rise from the water and give villagers access to their homes from the lake’s surface. You see a boat filled with children on their way home from school. They wave emphatically as you cross paths. The culture of Tonle Sap is different than anything your family has experienced. Your children are curious and intrigued. The water is cool as it mists around you. In the afternoon you will arrive in Siem Reap and settle into your hotel. The luxurious accommodation brings the traditional Khmer style to modern comfort.
The morning comes and brings a specific energy to the surrounding city streets. The French Quarter is brimming with the aroma of pressed coffee and fresh baked pastries. The sweet and buttery scent of a flaky croissant is intoxicating. The family is met at the hotel and quickly escorted to the western gateway of Angkor Wat. History is now more than just a photograph but a tangible, ineffable temple that stands just beyond the stone gate. Statues of lions flank the bridge that leads to Angkor Wat.
They snarl and have guarded the sacred site since the 12th century. The moat is 190 feet wide and encircles the entire temple wall. When you exit the gateway the entire family is stunned. Angkor Wat stands before you in full majesty. The five towers represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, home of the gods. The central tower rises 213 feet from floor to tip. The scent of sandalwood drifts from burning incense. You are eager to enter the temple and explore.
It feels like you have stepped inside a movie, endlessly searching for the next ancient artifact. The pillars in the first gallery are square. The ceiling is decorated with lotus emblems. Apsaras can be found dancing on all the gallery walls creating a universal motif that ties the temple carvings together. Stairways and avenues wind you through the artwork and ancient design. Gods and men are carved into the sandstone and are depicted in legends and myths. The kids are enthralled and the family has found a true wonder of ancient history.
Outside of the Angkor complex is a series of temples that bring adventure to life. The jungle turns into the encompassing terrain and the ruins feel undiscovered. Today you will uncover the secrets of Beng Melea, a temple complex believed to have been constructed in the 12th century. It is always exciting to see the family’s enthusiasm when exploring history. To the right of the main entrance you can find the carven images of the god of fire situated over the portal.
Enter into the temple’s center and see the overbearing jungle grasping stonewalls and reliefs. Climb over fallen stones and see the moss growing along the temple. The corridor is dark but impressive. The pillars are strong and thick. You notice the arched angle of the colonnade. Naga statues continue to stand beneath the shading trees. The multi-headed snake statues are common in Khmer religious décor. The mixture of manmade temples and sprawling greenery is wondrous. Later in the day you continue to the exceptionally decorated walls of Banteay Srei. The 10th century temples sit in a clearing surrounded by the jungle.
The complex is known for the exceptional and delicate reliefs that offer detailed insight into religious beliefs and everyday life. The red sandstone pops against the background of lush trees. The temple’s doors are decorated with dvarapalas, spiritual guardians. The sanctuary has a door less than five-feet tall. The central tower stands over 32 feet high. The stairway is guarded by replicas of traditional kneeling statues of human-animal hybrids. When you traverse the grounds you are doing more than witnessing historic artwork and exceptional architecture, you are walking among them.
The morning brings the familiar energy back to the city streets. Outside of the French Quarter you can see farmers sitting atop carts that are pulled by strong cows. The carts are filled with vibrant produce en route to the market. Enjoy the morning at your leisure. Explore the indulgent aromas of the French Quarter or visit the exceptional Les Artisanss D’Angkor, a traditional handcrafts shop dedicated to the skilled workman in and around the city. You can find engraved images of Bayon faces and replicas of Angkor Wat. Over 1,000 craftsmen are trained and supported through the traditions of Khmer arts and crafts. In the afternoon you gather the family and are taken to the airport for your flight home. Soon Cambodia will be behind you but the memories you made as a family will always be present.
For more travel options, browse the package tours to Cambodia on Zicasso.
Cambodia is a world apart in both culture and history. Experience the natural beauty, remarkable history, and exceptional culture on this 7-day family tour that will have you doing more than just witnessing the past but also adventuring through it. Explore exciting Angkor Wat and the surrounding ancient complex. Stroll along the treasured riverbanks of Phnom Penh. Witness the ruins of Beng Mealea. From bustling markets to unique flavors, captivating shadow puppet theaters to legendary artwork, indulge the family in an endless voyage through the splendor of Cambodia.
Your family adventure begins with your arrival in Phnom Penh. The capital city of Cambodia bustles with life and exploration. Journey through the French Quarter and visit the city’s birthplace at the temple of Wat Phnom. In the morning you will meet your private guide and make your way to the Royal Palace complex. The imperial history is opulent and beautiful. The National Museum will offer you a glimpse into the depths of the country’s ancient history before you make your way to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, which documents Cambodia’s more contemporary past.
The following day you will travel to Kampong Thom to visit the Sambor Prei Kuk Temple complex. The temples were built before the Khmer Empire and hold an interesting place in history. Continue northbound to Siem Reap, visiting the exceptional freshwater of Tonle Sap Lake en route. Witness the village and fisherman lifestyle on the water. Once in Siem Reap you will have your choice of luxurious accommodations.
The next day you will discover the vast marvels of Angkor, from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom. You will even have the chance to visit Ta Prohm, made famous as the location used in Angelina Jolie’s film, Tomb Raider. Beng Mealea is a temple complex overtaken by the surrounding jungle. History becomes interactive as you traverse the grounds. Continue onward to the magnificent reliefs at Banteay Srei before returning to Siem Reap for the evening.
The following day you will have a private transfer to the airport. You can begin the journey home or choose to stay a while longer in Southeast Asia. If you want to extend your trip, you may want to read the Cambodia tours reviews for ideas and information on traveler experiences.
$1255 per person (excluding international flights)
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