A diary of the holiday of a lifetime.We will be spending a week in Cambodia then spending a week taking a ferry down the Mekong River to Ho Chi Min City where we will spend a week before flying home. We leave on 15 December and we are due back in Cork on 4 January next year.
Geraldine and myself will fly out of Cork with Joyce and join Joyce’s two sisters Miriam and Jean in Siam Reap.
The first week we will stay in the:
Suggested things to do in Siem Reap:
Restaurants we like (though there are hundreds of others as well)
$1 tapas on Friday nights, good choices any other time as well
Common Grounds http://commongroundscafes.org/
café with good coffee and sandwiches
Soup Dragon http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/cambodia/siem-reap/55715/soup-dragon/restaurant-detail.html
Khmer and Vietnamese, on the corner of Pub Street with good views of the street action
home-cooking style Khmer, cheap and delicious)
Blue Pumpkin http://www.tbpumpkin.com/html/new.php
pastries, croissants, ice cream
Tangram Garden http://tangramgarden.com/
Beautiful garden setting and best service in town; mid-range for prices
Cuisine Wat Damnak http://www.cuisinewatdamnak.com/ (Also do a search on New York Times for great review)
expensive set menu – $15-25pp – amazing food; reservations required
Khmer – popular with tourists so often crowded and sometimes slow
Marum (Friends) http://www.tree-alliance.org/our-restaurants/marum.asp?mm=or&sm=ma, http://www.friends-international.org/blog/?p=3053
NGO training restaurant for Khmer youth, nice setting
Best place for nice wine and carpaccio, not cheap, unbelievable duck dish, world’s best $10 hamburger
Sugar Palm http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/cambodia/siem-reap/67964/the-sugar-palm/restaurant-detail.html
gourmet Khmer in a lovely setting
Indian, Mexican, French, Italian, Austrian, vegetarian – you name it! Tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll help you find it. Also, every place delivers if you’re not in the mood to actually go out.
Baray (local reservoir, hammocks and huts and barbecue, rent an innertube, swim in your clothes with the locals)
Frangipani (free use of the pool if you spend $5, a few doors down from Seven Candles)
Golden Banana (free if you order something, shadier than Frangipani)
River Garden (free on Sunday, small pool in nice garden setting)
Lots of other options; I just don’t know them personally
cheap ones ($2-4 feet, $5-8 body)
good ones ($15-20 body)
Horseback riding (1-3 hours, $22-52) http://www.thehappyranch.com/
Quad Tour (2-4 hours, $28-33) http://www.quad-adventure-cambodia.com/Default.aspx
Silk farm (2-3 hours, free) http://www.artisansdangkor.com/workshops-19-angkor-silk-farm.php
Bees Unlimited tours (nature and market tours) http://www.beesunlimited.com/Home.html
Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort Explorer’s Tales’ bar: 3-5pm EVERY DAY, enjoy a delicious and memorable high tea. 14$ for 2
(Angkor Wat, etc) ($20/one day, $40/3 day)
Beng Melea (half day – more deserted and tumbling down temple, $5 + transport, 1.5 hours OW)
Kompong Khleang (3-4 hours; transport + shared $20 for boat?)
Stilted village on the lake, floating village
Riding around town in a tuktuk or on a bicycle (bikes available at Seven Candles, tuktuk can hold 4 people, hire for $10 +tip for half-day)
Hariharalaya Retreat Center (hippie permaculture yoga vegan fun) and Bakong Temple (on the way there)
These three can be done all in one long day together:
Phnom Kulen (all day, transport + $20 temple pass)
Kbal Spean (all day, transport + $20 temple pass?)
Angkor Conservation Ctr (all day, $5?)
Koh Ker or Knar school for lunch (all day)
PLF-sponsored schools; pay for a meal and go help cook and serve it to the children
Preah Vihear (all day, transport + $10?)
temple on Thai Border, site of disputes, now calm.
Short activities (one hour +/-, generally free and mostly walk-able):
Local markets for the sights and sounds: Psar Leu (early morning), Samaki, Psar Chas,
Markets for visitors: Artisans d’Angkor (high-end traditional silk, sculpture, etc.), Night Market (good variety and prices for souvenirs, opens around 5pm)
Walk along the river, watch the huge crowd doing Khmerobics (or join in!) near the post office at 5pm, then watch the fruit bats take flight from the Royal Gardens at 5:45 or so. Then come to Jess and Steve’s balcony for drinks!
Pagodas- there are several around town. Wat Prom Rath is especially nice for visiting and very close to “downtown.”
If you’d like a “tour guide” for this, I have a young ex-monk friend who is lovely to chat with and can show you around.
Angkor Wat Putt mini golf ($5 per person, no idea if it’s any good) http://www.angkorwatputt.com/
The second week will be spent on the river:
DOWNSTREAM CRUISE FROM SIEM REAP TO SAIGON: 8 DAYS ABOARD A PANDAW
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RIVER STOPS IN THIS ITINERARY, PLEASE CLICK ON THE UNDERLINED DESTINATIONS.
DAY 1: SIEM REAP / KAMPONG CHAM
Passengers will transfer by coach from the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa to Kampong Cham. A packed lunch will be provided on the coach and we will stop at Kampong Thom along the way.
DAY 2: KAMPONG CHAM AREA
Passengers will visit the hilltop temple of Wat Hanchey in the morning. In the afternoon, travel by bus to visit the Twin Holy mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey (Man and Woman Hill). Continuation to the ecotourism village of Choeungkok supported by the Frech-Cambodian NGO Amica.
DAY 3: TONLE RIVER / KAMPONG CHHNANG
Excursion up the Tonle River to Kampong Chhnang by either coach or the ship depending on water levels. Beyond Kampong Chhnang travel by the Pandaw Explorer to discover the vast wetlands around the mouth of the river. Here many fishtraps may be seen.
DAY 4: PHNOM PENH
Passengers will visit Phnom Penh and will be provided with their own private cyclo*. The Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh which provides the cyclos is a charity that provides basic welfare and medical services to cyclo drivers (www.cyclo.org.uk).
In the afternoon, optional excursion (by coach) to the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge’s grim Tuol Sleng or S21 detention centre. This tour is included in the cost of your cruise but must be requested at the time of booking in the comments box.
DAY 5: CRUISING THE MEKONG / BORDER CROSSING
We spend the day cruising in the main Mekong channel, an international shipping route for the Vietnamese border for the usual formalities.
DAY 6: CHAU DOC
Visit a Cham tribal village, a cat fish farm, and enjoy a trishaw ride round Chau Doc.
DAY 7: SA DEC / CAI BE
In the morning passengers will take an exciting Sampan boat excursion to Sa Dec via Vinh Long along canals and backwaters. Passengers will visit Sa Dec and see the local market and the ancient house of Mr, Huyn Thuy Le, the ‘lover’ of Marguerite Duras, a famous French novelist. At Cai Be, we will cruise through its colourful floating market which takes place daily in front of the catholic church.
DAY 8: MY THO / SAIGON
Early morning sail from Cai Be for My Tho, where passengers disembark in the early morning for a coach transfer toRenaissance Riverside Hotel. Arrive at the hotel late morning.
Cruise Price Includes: Entrance fees, guide services (English language), gratuities to crew, main meals, locally made soft and alcoholic beverages, jugged coffee and selection of teas and tisanes, mineral water. Transfers between the meeting point and the ship at the start and end of a voyage (In Saigon: Renaissance Riverside Hotel / In Siem Reap: Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa).
Cruise Price Excludes: International flights, airport transfers, port dues, laundry, all visa costs, fuel surcharges (see terms and conditions), imported beverages such as wines, premium spirits and liqueurs, fancy soft drinks like Perrier, espressos and cappuccinos at bar.
River Conditions Warning!
The rivers you will sail on are subject to seasonal rises and falls of water level, in some places as much as 30 metres. Water levels can change dramatically overnight and a sudden rise can impede our progress upstream considerably and even prevent us from passing under certain bridges. A sudden fall can result in our being unable to get into certain places or go as far upstream as we would hope. Groundings on sandbars are not infrequent and are part of the excitement of any Pandaw expedition. Published itineraries are indicational only and subject to sudden change. In such events alternative itineraries will be provided and we do our best to ensure that if a stop is missed we make up for it with another stop. Passengers are thus forewarned and expected to be flexible and patient. River cruising in Asia can be a dramatic and adventurous experience – not like cruising the controlled waterways of Europe or America. Note also that we operate in areas with little or no developed infrastructure and subject to the strictures of local officialdom. Be prepared for this and it is all more the fun!
VICTORIA ANGKOR RESORT & SPA
Registration is at 11.30am
P.O. Box 93145,
Siem Reap Town, Kingdom of Cambodia
Tel: (+855) 63 760 428
Fax: (+855) 63 760 350
* Transfer by coach to Kampong Cham to board ship takes approx 5 hours
*In Phnom Penh large groups may request a conventional guide and coach if required*
We arrive on the 29 Dec and stay here for a night: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sgnbr-renaissance-riverside-hotel-saigon/
Suggested cafes: http://www.nomadicnotes.com/