Culture and Conservation in Cambodia
From its gentle people and banyan-clad temples to its rich wildlife and tropical islands, Cambodia weaves a seductive spell. This immensely stylish journey combines the exquisite temples of Angkor with a heavenly island retreat, introducing you to some of Cambodia’s most inspirational people and projects and giving you a privileged insight into this fragile land.
You’ll privately explore Angkor’s architecture with a leading world authority, go behind the scenes to learn about the challenges of conserving Angkor for posterity, and be inspired by first-hand accounts of how lives have been rehabilitated and traditional practices re-kindled out of the ashes of the Khmer Rouge. Then we’ll spirit you away to Song Saa to experience the last word in remote island luxury and a chance to get involved with the local school, community development and marine conservation projects.
Our Story of Cambodia
“Inherited from myself, my daughter, Aimée, has retained a deep love and interest for archaeology, which started from a very early age. So, when her eighteenth birthday was looming, I wanted to arrange something a little different for her, other than a party in a marquee with hundreds of tipsy teenagers!
Niquesa recommended the Culture and Conservation journey through Cambodia, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect experience for us to enjoy together as mother and daughter before she headed off to study Archaeology at University.
Cambodia captured both our hearts instantly. The charming people, the exquisite temples, the rich wildlife, and the pure simplicity of living had us hooked from the moment we arrived.
Aimée was especially excited about our stay in Phum Baitang - apparently, a favourite haunt of Angelina Jolie – and it was simply exquisite. We spent many evenings roaming the stunning gardens together, barefoot, laughing and chatting, long after the sun had set, and woke up early each morning for sunrise yoga on the pavilion, followed by a few laps in the infinity pool to cool off.
We enjoyed personal tours of the Angkor Wat Temple complex, and were allowed special access to areas usually closed off to the public by Dr. Damian Evans, who escorted us as his personal guests, which Aimée was, of course, ecstatic about! We took a helicopter ride over the more remote jungle, swooping low over ancient ruins, which took our breath away, and Aimée asked endless questions about the ongoing conservation work in the area, and avidly jotted down scribbles in her notebook, as well as snapping hundreds of photos on her newly-acquired digital camera.
Our final evening in Siem Reap was one of the most magical evenings of my life, and I am sure Aimée’s too. We arrived at a nearby temple, just as the sun was fading down over the horizon, and stopped to watch it until it lowered out of sight. A private table had been set for us besides the temple entrance, lit by candles, where we dined on the most delicious feast of fresh crab noodles, spicy chili salad, coconut curry, and fragrant holy basil rice.
Following our feast, we took a seat on the bank surrounding the temple, besides a tranquil, purple-hued lake, and witnessed a private performance by a group of mesmerising Apsara dancers. We were awe-struck by the intricacy and grace of their movements, and a tear welled in my eye as the final harmony came to a close, and Aimée snuggled close to me, tipping her head onto my shoulder. “Thank you so much Mum” she whispered softly in that loving, familiar voice “This is the best gift I could have ever dreamed of”.
You’ll begin with six nights at our (and Angelina Jolie’s) favourite Siem Reap accommodation, Phum Baitang, a sanctuary of understated style, flawless service and impeccable eco-credentials minutes from the gates of Angkor Wat.
Whilst here, you will be given a personal tour of the temple complex by worldwide Angkor authority Dr. Damian Evans and taken to areas closed off to the general public where a director of the German Apsara Conservation Project will shed light on ongoing conservation work.
You will also meet artist Lim Muy Theam at his atelier to hear how his dream of protecting the country’s rich artistic traditions survived the cultural cleansing of the Khmer Rouge, and have the opportunity to visit an inspirational children’s hospital if you wish. We’ll also include a heli-exploration of some of the remoter jungle temples in this vast complex, giving you a glimpse into how French explorer Henri Mouhot might have felt when first stumbling upon these ruins.
As a piece-de-resistance, we will set up for you, on your final evening in Siem Reap, a private table beneath an illuminated Angkorian temple for a sumptuous Khmer dinner and an exclusive Apsara dance performance – a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Changing pace, we’ll then helicopter you directly to the discreet island hideaway of Song Saa in the Koh Rong archipelago, your chic barefoot home for the next four nights. Here you will be surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty, reminiscent of Thailand before the tourists came, and pampered with blissful tailored spa treatments and superb organic cuisine.
Multi-award-winning Song Saa is also part of a pioneering NGO – the Song Saa Foundation – which spearheads a number of sustainable and community initiatives. Depending on when you visit and on your personal interests, we’ll arrange for you to meet with key stakeholders and become involved.
Activities include joining the twice-monthly Boat of Hope mission which sails to the remotest parts of the archipelago providing local communities with livelihood development, education and healthcare; or you could participate in managing the fragile marine ecosystem; or help by bringing items from home such as books, stationery and basic supplies (we can provide a list) that will make an immeasurable improvement to the lives of local schoolchildren.
We don’t promise enlightenment, but we do guarantee to immerse you in a world of charm and hope.