Flavors of Cambodia Tour: Food, Culture & Ruins

A 8 day trip to Cambodia 
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The images of Cambodia run deeper than the temples of the Angkor Complex and the rushing waters of the Mekong River. The country is brimming with unique flavors known commonly to the locals but often overlooked by visitors. On this custom tailored tour you will find traditional tastes of the Cambodian countryside and exceptional chefs who have taken cultural flavors to a premium level. Experience both the marvels of Cambodia’s history and the splendid evolution of the country’s magnificent and indelible cuisine.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Chhmar, Tonle Sap 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Introduction to Flavor

Welcome to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia and the Pearl of Asia. The city maintains its connection to the country’s history through its display of ancient and contemporary artifacts, and its endless supply of captivating restaurants. The Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers sweep past the cityscape. The French architecture spans the riverbanks. The Sisowath Quay is lively and stunning, adding a fabulous walking culture to the banks of the rivers’ junction. Your private transfer meets you at the airport and takes you to your hotel.

After you check-in the day is filled with spectacular images of the city. In the afternoon you can sit in Romdeng, a restaurant that provides the underprivileged youth of the city a chance to learn the restaurant industry. The restaurant is situated in a classic French Colonial building but the woodcarvings, tables, and chairs were all built in Cambodia. Your first taste of traditional Cambodian cuisine gives you an introduction to the flavors and ingredients unique to the country. These young master chefs create a delicious crispy duck spring roll that is flakey and rich, and accompanied by a persimmon sauce. If you feel adventurous you could even try the distinctive crispy tarantula with black pepper and lime sauce.

After lunch you will visit the National Museum where images of Angkor are displayed in the structural design as much as within the museum itself. The complex was inaugurated in 1920 and preserves traditional Cambodian arts and crafts. A vast collection of artifacts takes you on a journey through the country’s dense history, including those made from bronze, wood, ceramic, and stone. A 13th century Bayon style stone statue is on display. The statue’s face is accentuated with a light smile, representing compassion, knowledge, and peacefulness.  

What’s Included: transfer, dinner, accommodation

Day 2: The Markets of History

In the morning you look out over Sisowath Quay and find a crowd of people performing their morning exercises. Music rises around them as they collectively hop, kick, and punch the air. The cool early air turns into a warm mid-morning. Cambodia’s contemporary history is tempestuous, filled with the tragic reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The Choeung Ek Memorial is a former orchard turned gravesite. Today a large stupa 203 feet tall stands in commemoration of the country and the capital’s past. Tragedy and celebration breed different flavors and shape the people and their surroundings. You head to Phsah Thmei, also known as the Central Market, a true landmark of the city.

The Art Deco architecture dates back to the 1930s and the site was renovated in 2011. When you enter the complex the walls almost shake with excitement. People come from all over the city to visit the market in search of jewelry, clothing, and especially food. The district designated for food displays fresh produce and even fresher fish. Mangos and bananas are vibrant. Spices swirl through the air. The sound of frying oil is mouthwatering. From oranges to omelets, you can find the delicate and powerful flavors of the city within the Central Market walls.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 3: A Touch of French

The fast paced city of Phnom Penh fades behind the horizon as you make your way northbound to Battambang. The city boats the best-preserved French Colonial architecture in Cambodia. The buildings line the riverside and add immense charm to the already relaxed city. It feels more like a beachside town than the second largest city in the country. On your way to Battambang you notice the vast trees give way to paddy fields. The large plains create an emphatic space. Villagers ride their bikes alongside the road. The wheels quietly whir against the small breeze. Cows and mules pull carts filled with sacks of rice. Once in the city you have the remainder of the day at your leisure. You can sit in a café that looks out over the river. Sip a strong, rich coffee or delight on the twist of traditional flavors at Jaan Bai Restaurant.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 4: The Impression of the Land

Battambang is a peaceful and relaxed city that maintains its connection to tradition. It is also home to the Phare Ponleu Selpak, a world-renowned circus. After breakfast your private transfer will take you to Batneay Chhmar, an ancient temple complex containing a wealth of history dating back to the 12th century. The temple links the heritage of Cambodia to the Khmer Empire through the artwork and through its carvings in the walls and stone. The four-faced Avalokiteshvara is enigmatic of the Bayon style and continues to raise questions about the mysterious sculpted smiles.

The complex is over 21,500 square feet and is filled with intricate artistry that represents everyday life. On the western gallery wall you can find an avalokiteshvara, a deity who looks down and embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The eight arms reach out and form a circle around the deity. The surrounding forest shades the temple. Roots and foliage overtake certain stones, especially those of the fallen ruins. In the evening you can enjoy a traditional meal in a local village. The flavors are both familiar and different, filled with the complexity of seemingly simple dishes.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 5: The Largest Ancient City

In the morning you see the trees continuously overtake the horizon and you imagine their roots spreading over the remaining temple ruins of Batneay Chhmar. You arrive in Siem Reap and find the city known as the gateway to Angkor. The French Quarter is quaint and decorative. The familiarity of the arching windows and wood shutters are charming. The scent of fresh baguettes is delicious. Outside of the French Quarter you see the traditional streets and buildings of the city. Motorbikes drive alongside stationary carts. The Siem Reap River flows slowly and quietly. In the afternoon you head to the gates of Angkor Thom, once the world’s largest city.

The citadel covers an area of over three square miles and, in the 12th century, sustained an average of 100,000 people. The Bayon style of architecture manifests itself in the faces that decorate the towers. They maintain their enigmatic smiles in the face of eternity. The city has five monumental gates that reach a height of 70 feet. A rail that consists of statues flanks the bridge. The miniature guards hold tightly onto the tail of a naga, a serpent deity. There is an endless amount of majesty in the ancient complex, from the Terrace of the Leper King to the Terrace of Elephants, each preserving their ancient elegance and distinct character. The flavor of Cambodia is not just in the food but in the unique display of their alluring history.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 6: The Spices of Sunrise

The dawn is aromatic. The air is cool and crisp. The scent of pastries baking is sweet and luscious. Your private guide meets you at the hotel and escorts you the famous gates of Angkor Wat. The sunrise over the 12th century temple looks like a collection of spices smeared across the sky. Five large towers rise from the temple and the sandstone edifice glows gold. The towers represent the mystical home of the gods, Mount Meru. The bright saffron robes of Buddhist monks contrast against the dark gray stone of the temple. Dancing figures grace the interior galleries. The lily pond is peaceful and reflective of the surrounding beauty. The air is brushed with sandalwood incense and freshly fallen rain.

The central tower stands 213 feet tall. Stone lions guard the main entrance. Two-hundred murals have recently been discovered in the main gallery, including a detailed scene of people riding horses between two imposing structures. The temple’s magnitude is elaborate and remarkable, only equaled by its intricacies. In the evening you can indulge in the traditional flavors of the Angkor Night Market. Situated in the central market, the night market is jovial and gregarious. The stalls are lit with candles and bright light. Silk and locally woven garments are on display but the aromas of fresh stone fruit salads and luscious duck red curry catch your attention. As another option, you can partake in the luscious food at Cuisine Wat Damnak, where Chef Joannès Rivière is using the traditional techniques of the countryside to bring in a wave of New Cambodian cuisine.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 7: A Taste of a Different Home

Today is filled with a unique taste of Cambodia. In the early morning you will venture to Tonle Sap Lake to traverse the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. When you return to the city your private guide will meet you at your hotel. Your time traveling through the country has taught you that the flavors of Cambodia are truly unique. Although situated near Thailand and Vietnam, the spirit of the food is different. Your guide takes you to a rural village outside of Siem Reap to partake in a fabulous hands-on cooking class.

When you come to the village a local family will guide you through their garden. The scent of local herbs, such as coriander and galangal, are prominent. Your guide and chef teach you the proper techniques used in a Khmer kitchen, from the preparation of the fish to the proper execution of sticky rice. A nearby pavilion hovers over a local pond. The scenery is serene. The pond is tranquil. Savor the flavors of the prahet chien, minced fish on sugar cane, and enjoy the company over a dessert of homemade brandy snaps. The tastes of the day are truly unforgettable.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 8: The Lingering Joys of Cambodia

The morning in Siem Reap fills with the scents of fresh coffee and baguettes. The cafes in the French Quarter start to fill with people. There is an herbaceous hint of star anise in the air. Locals and visitors bike alongside the Siem Reap River. The shade is cool and comfortable. Your private transfer meets you at your hotel and takes you to the airport. You have tasted a variety of Cambodian cuisine, understanding the difference between cultures and countries, north and south. The flavors have been unique and decadent, crisp and delicious. As you make your way home the memories of the food are as powerful as the thoughts of the temples and memorials. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Price

Starting Price 

$1,435
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.