When planning our four-month Asian Adventure, the place at the top of Terry’s must-see list was Angkor Wat in Cambodia. So as part of our seven-day itinerary of Cambodia, we decided we would spend time exploring the wonder of Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, and also Phnom Penh. And because we wanted the experience to be informative and memorable, we chose the combination of an EXO Travel Guide and exploring Cambodia by ourselves.
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Why we Chose EXO Travel
Our seven day itinerary of Cambodia was to include time visiting the best things to do in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on this our first trip to Cambodia. But because we didn’t speak the language, we decided we wanted some ‘hand-holding’, along with time by ourselves to explore each city.
We had a few options; we could either book a tour through a travel agent, or organise a guide unknown to us when we arrived into each city, or find an alternative.
We learnt about Exo Travel when talking with a travel agent Jen Forret from Flight Centre in New Zealand, who had spent a year living in Vietnam. Jen helped us organise all our requirements for airport transfers, an orientation of the cities and some personalised tours, with EXO Travel.
Planning our Itinerary with EXO Travel
Like with any new place we visit, orientation is our priority. And for us, it is usually on foot. But with temperatures being 30 plus degree Celsius, we knew another option might be necessary.
So for each city of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, our orientation started at the airport. Here we were greeted by the local EXO Travel Guide and Driver. But what we hadn’t expected, and was fantastic, was the orientation of the city as we drove to the hotel.
As part of our planning, EXO Travel recommended places we may like to visit. But it was up to us to determine if we required their assistance. So, for Siem Reap, we chose a day at Angkor Wat and another half day visiting Tonle Sap Lake. The rest of our time in Siem Reap, we explored by ourselves, including Maura organising a haircut for herself, not easy when the hairdresser didn’t speak English.
For Phnom Penh we decided a day with EXO Travel to visit the Killing Fields and S21 Prison, plus the Russian Market. We spent the following two days exploring Phnom Penh by ourselves.
Having your guide and driver from EXO Travel made the experience so much more memorable. Unlike previous tours we’d been on, where we had to either wait for someone else in the group to “hurry up,” or having to visit unrequested shopping stores.
With EXO Travel, we had pre-organised what we wanted to see and on what day of our itinerary. With the guide and driver arriving at pre-determined times agreed with us. This was a perfect arrangement for us.
At all times, the Guides and Drivers were professional.
Organising a Visa for Cambodia
Our 7 day itinerary of Cambodia
We had chosen two places to visit with our EXO Travel Guide – Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap Lake.
Arriving into Siem Reap, Taoune who was to be our local Exo Travel Guide and Somning our driver (owner of a very comfortable SUV), were there to meet us. Taoune ensured we were feeling refreshed with hand towels and bottled water after our arrival at the airport. On our way to our hotel for our four-night stay, Taoune provided us with an overview of our stay in Siem Reap.
EXO Travel had booked our stay at La Niche d’Angkor Boutique. This boutique hotel was a pleasant surprise and a class or two above where we had been staying during our previous tour of Laos. The pool, when entering the garden courtyard, looked inviting in the 40C heat. But the highlight was our room. At last, we had a large bedroom not only with a clean shower but also a massive stone bath to enjoy.
With friendly and pleasant staff, we were happy.
Taoune and Somning picked us up at 8.30am for the 15min drive to the entrance of Angkor Wat. EXO Travel had already organised our pre-booked tickets, so we only needed to stand still for one minute for our photo passes. What we didn’t realise, was Taoune would be accompanying us to all the temples giving us insights and history – what a bonus.
The best thing about travelling in a vehicle rather than a tuk tuk in 40 deg C heat, is the air conditioning! Somning, the driver, was on hand each time we got back to the car with a chilled bottle of water.
Taoune had also organised a restaurant for lunch, and time to ourselves before recommencing our afternoon tour of Angkor Wat.
Visiting Angkor Wat was an exceptional day, made especially so by having a Taoune show us around. Taoune’s local knowledge meant that we got to use the best spots to take photos. And doing his second job so well – taking pictures of us.
Click here to read more of our An Afternoon in Angkor Wat.
Tonle Sap Lake
When we were researching Cambodia, we discovered Tonle Sap Lake and the floating village Chong Kneas. The area is not widely known but is one of those must-see places to visit on your Cambodia 7 day itinerary.
To reach the Lake is a car ride of 45 minutes from Siem Reap to the boat dock of Phnom Karom. For us, we started our day a little later that morning at 9 am when our fantastic guide Taoune and driver Somning arrived to meet us.
While we drove along, Taoune provided us with so much local history and was able to answer our many questions. So we were happy to discover Taoune would accompany us on the boat trip to the Chong Kneas village, once again explaining the daily life of its people.
On our day to leave for Phnom Penh, Taoune and Somning arrived mid-afternoon to take us to the airport. It had been a great few days made all the more enjoyable with their assistance.
Click here to read more about Tonle Sap Lake.
Our hotel transfer to the airport for our flight to Phnom Penh was a smooth process. We were met at the hotel by Thaoune and Somning for our ride to the airport. Cambodia Angkor Air flew us the 30-minute flight to Phnom Penh.
The locals were surprised we were paying for a flight, rather than taking the 6-hour bus trip on an average road. They had apparently missed our memo from Google showing why flying is the better option. Although some travellers relish the experience of sleeping on a crowded bus on bumpy roads, that was not our desire.
Arriving at Phnom Penh airport, it was great to see another EXO Tourism team, Samith our guide and Sakonour driver. It was so nice having someone meet us in the arrivals hall holding a sign with our name on it. The car was comfortable with the all-important air conditioning. The hotel chosen for us was Anik Boutique Hotel, and we were pleased to get a room upgrade. As the hotel was only a year old, the décor was beautiful and the rooms spacious.
Samith explained our itinerary for the next day to see The Killing Fields, S21 Prison and The Russian Market. We would then have two days free to explore the Royal Palace and the River Promenade by ourselves. Samith would return with Sakonour for our airport transfer in a couple of days time.
And just like Taoune, Samith gave us his business card in case we need further information, or help, with anything while we were here.
The Killing Fields
The EXO Travel team picked us up at 8.30am to take us to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (The Killing Fields), the Russian Market and the infamous S-21 Prison. You can click here to read more about Phnom Penh.
The Killing Fields is situated on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. So the 30-minute drive gave us time to view the daily life of Phnom Penh, and have our questions answered by Samith. This was a very sobering experience as we learned more about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge on their own people. In fact, Samith had very personal experiences he related to us about the impact it had on his family. Approximately 1.7 million (21% of the population of the country) were killed by the regime between 1975 and 1979, other estimates put the death toll between 2-3 million.
The Tuoi Sleng Genocide Museum is also known as S-21 Prison is situated in the city of Phnom Penh. The former high school buildings became a prison under Khmer Rouge. Of the 14,000 people who passed through S-21 Prison, only 7 survived. This article gives a more in-depth background of S-21.
We decided to view the museum on our own as each building had a detailed history with photos.
The Russian Market is situated on St 155 and opens early from 6am. We did venture inside to explore the various stalls and what was on offer. You will find plenty of souvenirs and labels at bargain prices. And if you are feeling a bit peckish, there are plenty of food stalls to entice you to eat.
Click here to read more about our time in Phnom Penh.
Farewell to another EXO Travel Team
Samith and Sakonour arrived a couple of days later at the hotel to accompanied us to the airport. It was great to see them both again. We got chatting about the must-sees and things to do we found in Phnom Penh. Samith was able to answer more of our questions as we drove to the airport.
Our experience with EXO Travel for our 7 day itinerary of Cambodia was exceptional.
Other Places of Interest to Visit in Cambodia
The beaches of Cambodia are becoming more widely known amongst travellers. You may like to extend your 7 day itinerary of Cambodia to include Sihanoukville. We know we will next time we visit.
And for more information on Cambodia, check out this website Tourism Cambodia – including Visa requirements.