7 days / 6 nights
Authentic Khmer cuisine with signature dishes like amok is rapidly gaining popularity and praise from the world's top chefs such as Gordon Ramsey, Anthony Bourdaine and Rick Stein. Our tailor made culinary journey takes us into the heart of Cambodia's kitchens including a cooking class at the restaurant of Cambodia's leading gourmet chef and lunch cooked at a restaurant educating disadvantaged children in the culinary arts in the capital of Phnom Penh. In Siem Reap, gateway to the ancient temples of Angkor, we return to the kitchen for a cookery lesson from the town's top restauranteur and enjoy a home-cooked meal with a local family in a floating village.
- Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh. Visit Royal Palace and National Museum.
- Day 2: Morning Cooking Class with Master Chef Luu Meng. Free Afternoon. Dinner at Van's.
- Day 3: Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields. Lunch at PSE. Transfer to Siem Reap.
- Day 4: Siem Reap Food Tour and Banteay Srei Temple
- Day 5: Ta Prohm at Dawn. Angkor Thom in the Afternoon.
- Day 6: Celebrity Chef Cooking Class and Roluos Lifestyle
- Day 7: Angkor Wat Sunrise and Departure.
Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh. Visit Royal Palace and National Museum.
On arrival, we transfer from the airport and check into your hotel. In the afternoon, we explore the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family and a symbol of the nation. We enter the Throne Hall where the royal receptions are held, see the Napoleon III Pavilion made from iron, a gift from the French emperor in the 19th century and continue to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5000 silver tiles covering the floor, each weighing 1kg. Inside are some of the country's most cherished treasures, including a life-size gold Buddha studded with 9584 diamonds, the largest weighing 25 carats. There is also a delicate emerald Buddha made of baccarat crystal, which gives the temple its Khmer name of Wat Preah Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
We leave the Royal Palace and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world's finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period. The exquisite building was completed in 1920 and features collections from the pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor periods. We concentrate on the incredible sandstone sculpture from Angkor, as well as the intricate bronzes.
Dinner at Romdeng restaurant.
Day 2: Morning Cooking Class with Master Chef Luu Meng. Free Afternoon. Dinner at Van's.
This morning we enjoy a cooking class at one of the very best restaurants in the city, at Malis. Luu Meng is Cambodia's most renowned chef and if he is available, he will guide you through a morning to remember that includes shopping for ingredients at the local market and then preparing and cooking some choice courses which you can then enjoy for lunch. If Luu Meng is unavailable, his leading chef will take over the class.
The afternoon is free at your own leisure to explore the shops, galleries and markets of Phnom Penh. A sumptuous evening dinner is taken at Van’s restaurant.
Day 3: Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields. Lunch at PSE. Transfer to Siem Reap.
We come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only seven lived to tell the tale. The Khmer Rouge were meticulous in their record keeping, photographing all the prisoners and many of these haunting black and white images are on display in the cells. Tuol Sleng is a profoundly moving experience and not everyone will want to visit. However, it is key to understanding the hell into which Cambodia descended and how far it has come in the years since.
We then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. The remains of 8985 people were exhumed from mass graves and are kept in a memorial stupa here. Despite the horrors of the past, it is a peaceful place to go and a tranquil spot to reflect on the tragic events that engulfed Cambodia and its people.
We have lunch in the capital at PSE (a French NGO supporting children from the garbage dump) where their Lotus Blanc restaurant serves excellent international and Asian cuisine. The clients can then take a tour of the PSE facilities where both schooling and work/life skills are available to the children and youths as a way of escaping the poverty of their lives spent on the city’s main garbage dump.
Later we transfer to the airport for a flight to Siem Reap.
Dinner at Cuisine Wat Damnak or similar.
Day 4: Siem Reap Food Tour and Banteay Srei Temple
In the morning, we join up with Siem Reap Food Tours for a culinary adventure. We'll take you into one of Siem Reap's colourful local markets, then head through rice paddies and temples to a village in the shadow of the Angkorian temples that's home to a breakfast dish that's part of Khmer folklore. There, we'll visit noodle makers and home farmers. The tour is an entertaining and informative visit to Cambodia's cultural heart.
After lunch, we head to Banteay Srei, Angkor's ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as 'Fortress of the Women', thanks to the intricate detail here, considered too fine for the hands of a man. Later we visit the 12th century temple of Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, this temple has been extensively restored.
Day 5: Ta Prohm at Dawn. Angkor Thom in the Afternoon.
We rise early to travel to Ta Prohm in the dawn light. Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones. Then we return to the hotel to enjoy some free time.
In the afternoon, we visit the immense walled city of Angkor Thom that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. The scale is simply staggering and we are immediately overwhelmed by the audacity of Jayavarman on arrival at the city’s gates. We begin our visit at the Terrace of the Leper King, continue along the Terrace of Elephants, and visit the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing. Our climax is the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. We unravel the mysteries of the temple’s bas-reliefs, with their intricate scenes of ancient battles against the Chams and their snapshot of daily life during the Angkor period.
For dinner we head to one of Siem Reap’s abundant Cambodian BBQ restaurants to enjoy a ‘do it yourself’ grill, choosing anything from chicken to crocodile, depending on your own palate.
Day 6: Celebrity Chef Cooking Class and Roluos Lifestyle
This morning we experience the unique Celebrity Chef Cooking Class. This cooking class follows in the footsteps of the famous and infamous television chefs that have passed through Cambodia on their global culinary journeys. This course takes us deep into the Cambodian countryside around Siem Reap where we visit the local market of Roluos, a traditional town far removed from the tourism industry around Angkor. After browsing the local market for some fresh ingredients, we travel to the beautiful wooden house of Sala Roluos, a contemporary take on a traditional Cambodian design. This was the location where Gordon Ramsay learnt to cook stuffed frog with kreung paste, a delicious Cambodian dish involving lemongrass, turmeric, garlic and more, as part of his Gordon's Great Escape series. Guests will learn this dish in the same surrounds and will also be shown options for how it might work with a more traditional meat such as chicken. Other celebrity chefs have passed through Cambodia and we will take inspiration from their journeys. Kitchen Confidential chef Anthony Bourdain visited Cambodia for his No Reservations show and we will learn how to make delicious fresh spring rolls as he did when in Cambodia. Finally we will look to Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey for inspiration and learn to cook amok, Cambodia's national dish involving a mild baked fish curry in banana leaf. Note that the menu can be varied to take into account dietary requirements or individual tastes.
After lunch, we travel back in time to one of the earliest capitals in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya, now known as Roluos. We encounter Bakong, the earliest of the temple mountains, which later became the signature of Khmer kings. It is a giant pyramid, its cardinal points marked by giant elephants. We also visit Preah Ko and Lolei temples.
Dinner at Abacus restaurant.
Day 7: Angkor Wat Sunrise and Departure.
Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. We stay at Angkor Wat to enjoy a picnic breakfast. As the crowds return to their hotels, we venture into Angkor Wat to enjoy its magnificence in peace and quiet, beginning at the bas-reliefs that tell of tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire. Afternoon is free at leisure until transfer to airport for departure flight.