Culinary Cambodia 7 Days

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  • Duration 7 days 6 nights
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  • Start Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Often overshadowed by other regional culinary heavyweights, Cambodia’s cuisine is well worthy of investigation. On this journey guests will travel to Siem Reap and Battambang to sample the very best in cutting-edge Khmer cooking in addition to some of the country’s top cultural sights.
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Day 1: Siem Reap Arrival D
 
On arrival at Siem Reap, the charming riverside city that is the gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor, guests will be met by their guide and transferred to the hotel for check in.
 
The remainder of the day is at leisure before enjoying a welcome dinner at the Embassy Restaurant, an exclusive fine dining experience unparalleled in Siem Reap and headed by executive chefs Pol & Sok; the “Kimsan Twins”. Their experience has taken them to different continents and under the mentoring of Michelin starred chefs they have created one of the most unique five-star quality cuisines that can be experienced in Siem Reap. With a constantly changing menu based around seasonality, guests can savour skilfully prepared masterpieces from multiple-course set menus, paired with a selection of fine wines.
 
Overnight in Siem Reap
 
Siem Reap Airport - Siem Reap (8 km): 15 mins
 
Day 2: Siem Reap B/D
 
Angkor Wat can be notoriously busy for sunrise, but just after it is actually one of the quietest times to visit. After an early typical Cambodian breakfast at a noodle stall near the temple, continue to explore the star attractions of Angkor Archaeological Park. Starting at the world’s largest religious temple, the magnificent Angkor Wat. Built by Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, it was constructed following the model of the temple mountain, symbolizing Mount Meru, home of the gods.
 
Continue to the ancient city of Angkor Thom; the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII and is surrounded by an 8m high wall drawing a perfect square. Enter the city from the impressive stone South Gate, carved with elephants and four giant faces.
 
From here, continue to Bayon temple in the center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is distinguished by its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire, however, Bayon is of special interest to us for its galleries of bas-reliefs featuring scenes from daily life that tell us much about the culinary culture of the Khmers during the Empire.
 
Also visit the Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King for more intricate bas-reliefs and stroll the grounds of the former Royal Palace to discover small hidden temples that are rarely visited.
 
Return to Siem Reap late morning where there’ll be time for a refreshing dip in the pool and time to rest at the hotel.
 
This afternoon visit the magical Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees, roots and vines, with many parts of the structure lying on the ground.
 
Finish the day with a relaxing cruise in a gondola paddle boat at the moat of Angkor Thom compound while watching a spectacular sunset at Prasat Chroung temple. Cocktails, champagne, canapés and a soft drink will be available on the boat, as your boat paddles slowly along the ancient moat.
 
Tonight dine at the renowned Sugar Palm Restaurant, owned by Cambodian-New Zealand chef Kethana Dunnet. Considered an expert on Cambodian cuisine, Chef Kethana has served as a consultant to some of the world’s best chefs, including British chef Gordon Ramsay and Australian chef Luke Nguyen.
 
Overnight in Siem Reap
 
Siem Reap – Temples (06 km): 10 mins
 
Day 3: Siem Reap B/L/D
 
This morning discover the secrets of authentic Khmer cuisine in a half-day cooking class in the Siem Reap countryside at at Chreav village. Begin with an introduction to the morning’s activities with a professional chef, followed by a guided trip to the local market where you will learn about Cambodian vegetables, herbs, and other ingredients. From here you will continue to a local Khmer House at Chreav village where you will have a hands-on culinary experience, creating your own local delicacies. After which you will get to eat what you have created.  
 
Return back to Siem Reap in the afternoon for a two-hour walking tour around Kompheim village, which gives an insight into village life in Cambodia and the challenges faced by rural Cambodians. Learn about rice farming and see ox and buffalo while strolling through rice paddies, and having a chance to interact with locals that are encountered in meaningful ways when visiting people’s homes, and see how they live, cook and eat, to learn firsthand about the different levels of poverty and how many struggle to put a meal on the table to feed their family each day. Half of the tour fee goes to a village enrichment fund managed by HUSK, a non-profit NGO that works with communities to improve the lives of Cambodians, getting a chance to see their projects firsthand. Finish the tour at the Village House, sipping on a glass of wine and snacking on canapés, while the sun sets over the surrounding rice paddies.
 
Overnight in Siem Reap
 
Siem Reap – Banteay Srei (37 km): 45 mins
 
Day 4: Siem Reap – Battambang B/D
 
This morning an entertaining and informative culinary tour to Cambodia's cultural heart will be taken, getting the chance to try Cambodia's best breakfast dishes, tasty treats, and tropical fruits, with photography opportunities along the way. The tour will travel into the bustle of Siem Reap's food markets and street food stalls, sampling food all along the way, before heading on a scenic drive through rice paddies and temples to a village that is known for a quintessentially Cambodian dish. Here guests can see rice noodles being made by hand, and then get to try the finished product.
 
After, depart to Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city although it feels like a big country town with some of the friendliest locals you’ll meet in the country.
 
This afternoon tour along Banan Road through some of Cambodia’s most beautiful countryside to Wat Banan. Along the way make a stop at Prasat Phnom Banan Winery, Cambodia's only commercial winery. Here there is opportunity for wine tasting that includes a red wine that is a blend of cabernet and shiraz, a brandy and ginger juice. Although you probably won’t be tempted to have anything shipped home, it's worth a visit to meet this passionate wine-making family and see the vineyards flanked by palm trees.
 
Continue through lively local villages and farms to Wat Banan, to climb the stairs up to an 11th century temple on a hilltop, set amongst fragrant flowering trees, and offering sweeping vistas over the countryside.
 
The last stop on today’s countryside tour will be the Bamboo ‘Train’ station. The Bamboo Train runs on an old single gauge railway line built by the French during the colonial era. After the train services were halted, locals began using it to move between villages. The ‘train’ itself is very basic: one bamboo platform on 4-wheels is activated by a small motor. Sitting on the platform, travel the 8 km to the next station through lush rice fields. It’s an exhilarating experience! On the return journey stop to watch the sunset over the rice paddies.
 
There will be time to rest and freshen up before heading to dinner tonight at stylish Jaan Bai (meaning ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer), a social enterprise restaurant established by the Cambodian Children’s Trust to provide training and employment for disadvantaged youths, with all profits going to support the activities of the Trust.
 
Overnight in Battambang
 
Siem Reap – Battambang (174 km): 3 hrs
 
Day 5: Battambang B/L/D
 
After breakfast head into the historic center of Battambang to explore the town, beginning at the lively local markets, which are much busier than those in Siem Reap. Battambang is the rural heartland of Cambodia and the center for production of rice, pineapples, coconuts, and many other different types of produce. You can quench your thirst with a freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
 
After, discover the historic heart of the city, where you may be lucky to see a procession of saffron robed monks of their morning alms collection. Call into pagodas such as Wat Povil, where you can take the opportunity to observe the monks, and stop to admire buildings and drop into art galleries. Battambang has an impressive collection of architecture that is some of the best preserved in Cambodia, including glittering Buddhist pagodas, Chinese shop-houses, an historic Chinese temple, early 20th century French colonial villas and administrative buildings, and modernist architecture from the 1960s, Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’. In recent years, it’s also developed into an emerging arts hub.
 
Lastly, try some of the award-winning coffee at Kinyei Café before stopping for lunch at Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh for some hand-pulled noodles and handmade dumplings. Nicknamed ‘Noodle Guy’ or ‘Chinese Noodle’ by expats, Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh is a simple, no-frills eatery with a stall-like kitchen with boiling pots and woks on gas stoves at the front. This is where the most unlikely of noodle masters, wearing low-slung shorts, singlet and flip-flops, makes hearty handmade dumplings and silky hand-pulled noodles to order.
 
Return to the hotel for some free time to relax and freshen up.
 
This evening you will depart on an evening snack food tour by a local ‘remork’ (similar to the Thai tuk tuk) with a Cambodian foodie. The tour stops at a handful of local eateries and stalls along the riverside where there is chance to sample some of the region’s renowned street food snacks, from fried rice-flour pancakes to barbecued beef skewers marinated in the local lemongrass-based paste called kreoung, as well as desserts. The tour ends at the smoky barbecue stalls that surround the market in the evenings.
 
Overnight in Battambang
 
Day 6: Battambang - Siem Reap B/D 
 
This morning make a stop at the nearby Ancient House located in Wat Kor Village, the oldest standing Khmer timber house in Wat Kor Village, where the lady of the house will give you a guided tour, showing you everything from how they milled their own rice to demonstrating the after-dinner betel leaf ritual.
 
Continue through picturesque countryside and small sleepy villages en route to Wat Ek Phnom, to visit small cottage industries operated by artisanal producers in family homes, many of which have been making their product for generations. Sample popular snacks along the way from roadside vendors, including sticky rice and black beans in bamboo called ‘krolan’, and fish or pork paste and chilli, wrapped in banana leaf and grilled called ‘naam’.
 
Wat Ek Phnom is a dilapidated 11th century Angkor-era temple surrounded by shady banyan trees. Rarely visited by tourists, it’s been a popular picnic spot for Cambodians dating back to the 1880s. Also pay respects at the Buddhist temple, Wat Somrong Knong, one of the oldest in the area, dating to 1707, which became a prison after the Khmer Rouge seized it in 1976. On the adjoining land the Well of Shadows is a sobering monument containing some of the bones and skulls of the 10,000-odd people killed here that now serves as a memorial to the genocide by the Khmer Rouge.
 
From here return back to Siem Reap, and after checking in there will be time to relax and have lunch (own expense) before heading out to the nearby Sombai rice spirit tasting rooms this afternoon.
 
As you now realize, rice is the main staple food in Cambodia, but is also the base of the distillation of alcohol for the preparation of traditional rice spirit. Throughout history, the Khmer people have used infused rice spirit in traditional medicine to extract the benefits of fruits, spices, herbs, and roots. Established by a French expat couple, Sombai is a modern take on the traditional and is much more friendly to foreign palates. Here there will be opportunity to enjoy a tasting, complemented by a selection of snacks. 
 
Next, head to Asana Bar, located in the last remaining traditional Khmer timber house in the heart of the old town, for a Khmer cocktail lesson. During this fun informal class learn more about Khmer herbs, spices and roots, the basic principles of making cocktails, and how to prepare and mix a cocktail. The Cambodian owner Pari will teach you her cocktail recipes plus you’ll also have a chance to create your own. (Note: it’s also possible to create non-alcoholic cocktails.)
 
And finally this evening enjoy a farewell dinner at the stunning riverside Chanrey Tree restaurant for some of the most refined Cambodian cuisine in Siem Reap. Here you will get to try outstanding renditions of Khmer dishes, many made to the owner’s mother’s recipes.
 
Overnight in Siem Reap
 
Day 7: Departure Siem Reap B
 
Enjoy the day at your leisure for further independent exploration of Siem Reap’s colorful markets before transferring to the airport for your individual onward flight. 
 
Siem Reap - Siem Reap Airport (8 km): 15 mins
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