Day 1 Phnom Penh – Kratie [-/-/-]
We leave Phnom Penh and travel northeast to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham by national road 6 and 7. En route, there is the chance to pause at Skuon, affectionately known as 'Spiderville', where it is possible to sample the local delicacy of deep fried tarantula.
We then continue northeast to Kratie, a sleepy Mekong port and gateway to an encounter with the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the upper reaches of the Mekong in Cambodia. We check into our hotel.
In the afternoon, we travel to Kampi, one of the many deep pools where the rare river dolphins gather to feed. We board a local boat and cruise out into the mighty Mekong for a chance encounter with these gentle creatures. Viewing is commonplace, although it is easier to see the dolphins in the shallower waters of the dry season, than in the swollen river of the wet season.
Accommodation at hotel, Kratie [Own arrangement]
Day 2 Kratie – Kompong Cham – Kompong Thom [-/-/-]
We travel south to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham, nestled on the banks for the Mekong. We pass through Cambodia's rubber country on the way, vast plantations that were originally established by the French and are once again being redeveloped. There may be the opportunity to stop along the way and learn about how the rubber is tapped.
In Kompong Cham, we see the 'fusion' temple of Wat Nokor, an 11th century sandstone temple with a colourful modern wat set in its central courtyard. There are some intricate carvings at this temple and the kitsch contrast between the Hindu past and the Buddhist present is almost unheard of elsewhere in Cambodia.
We continue to the sacred hills of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei (man and woman hill), offering great views across the countryside. Later we journey west to the provincial capital of Kompong Thom, our base for the night. We stay overnight in a comfortable local hotel in Kompong Thom.
Accommodation at hotel, Kompong Thom [Own arrangement]
Day 3 Kompong Thom – Siem Reap [-/-/-]
We explore the impressive pre-Angkorian capital of Isanapura, known today as Sambor Prei Kuk. The first major temple city in South-East Asia, the brick temples of Sambor Prei Kuk are a peaceful contrast to their more illustrious relatives at Angkor. Visiting these ancient structures before our pilgrimage to Angkor offers a fascinating chronological insight into the development of temple architecture during the Khmer Empire. We explore the main temples here, including Prasat Tao with its elaborately coiffured lions and Prasat Sambor, with its crumbling sanctuaries.
We continue northwest on National Highway 6. This was an old Angkor road and we stop in Kompong Kdei to see one of the ancient Angkor bridges that were built to span the rivers. Spean Praptos or the Praptos Bridge has more than 20 arches and is a spectacular sight, reinforcing the impression that the Khmers were like the Romans of Southeast Asia. We continue to Siem Reap where we check into our hotel.
Accommodation at hotel, Siem Reap [Own arrangement]