Arrive in hectic Ho Chi Minh! There will be a pre-departure meeting at around 6 pm. Look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. There's nothing planned for the first day, so go get amongst it. A good place to start is the Ben Thanh Market, where you can snack on chao tom (barbecued shrimp paste on sticks of sugar cane). If you have time, a visit to Reunification Palace or War Remnants Museum are both recommended.
Travel to Phnom Penh by public bus today (approximately 6–7 hours). If you're looking for a tasty beverage on arrival, hit the Foreign Correspondents' Club for a mojito on the rooftop. Or you can explore the city on a cyclo tour – generally these go to the central market, USA Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. Phew! Maybe it's time for a traditional Khmer massage. Look no further than Seeing Hands, a great cause supporting visually impaired masseurs. Tonight, tuck in at Friends Restaurant – not only will you get a serious taste of delicious local food, you'll also support an organisation that helps vulnerable local children.
Today there's the option of visiting Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) – both pretty sobering but important and informative. The very different Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are also well worth visiting, offering brighter aspects of the past. You might also head for the National Museum or Wat Phnom (more like 'Wat Phenomenal'). If your Riels are burning a hole in your pocket, look no further than the Central or Russian markets, both choice places to interact with the locals.
Take a private bus through the idyllic Cambodian countryside to the gorgeous coast of Sihanoukville Province. Whether you like your beaches lively or chilled, you'll find something to your taste along these shores. You might like to boat out to one of the nearby islands, hire a bike for a few hours, or just kick back on the shore with a good book and a beer.
The day is wide open, so why not take a trip to nearby Ream National Park? While exotic wildlife isn't something most people think of when they picture Cambodia, this stunning, thick park is bursting with birds and other beasties.
Travel by private bus into rural Cambodia (approximately 4 hours) to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. It's right next to the beautiful Kirirom National Park, so you can imagine how serene it is here. A homestay tonight is your chance to really immerse yourself in everyday life. Not to mention feast on a traditional Khmer dinner, prepared by your lovely hosts. Weather permitting, you might be able to trek to the awesome 40-metre waterfall nearby today too (this is optional).
Kampong Cham in a nutshell: frontier charm, French-colonial character. Take a private bus there (approximately 5 hours) and soak it all up. Koh Paen Island is a good option while you're here, and you can hire a bike and get there with no fuss (you'll just have to take a ferry over the water if you visit during wet season). The 11th-century Wat Nokor is also worth a look. A little further away are the twin 'mountain temples' of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei which, as well as being fascinating sites of religious, historic and spiritual significance, are more than Instagram-worthy.
Take a public bus to Siem Reap (approximately 5 hours). Your leader will take you on a walk to get you acquainted with the town. Afterwards you might want to hit the markets for some cheap and tasty street food, then get some rest and relaxation before tomorrow's visit to... (drumroll please!)... Angkor Wat!
Get your camera ready, strap on your walkin' boots and get excited: Angkor is one of Southeast Asia's number one highlights, possibly THE highlight. The obvious banger is Angkor Wat, which is every bit as amazing as everyone says it is, especially at sunset. But you'll also spend plenty of time visiting the other gems of this sprawling complex, like the giant carved faces of Bayon and the crazy jungle-juxtaposition of Ta Prohm (a temple that looks like it's being swallowed by the vice-like grip of Mother Nature's tentacles). And the places Tomb Raider made famous.
Kick back in Siem Reap and wander around town, visiting its market, shops and restaurants. You may be a little templed out, so take this opportunity to explore your options and do something different. Depending on the season, you might be able to visit Tonle Sap, the big freshwater lake, for a glimpse of local life. Adventure-seekers and adrenaline-junkies can do the Angkor zip-line course that will have you soaring like an eagle over the lush rainforest. For even more bragging material, you can learn the tricks of the trade in a Khmer cooking class. And if you just can't not go back to Angkor, longer passes than the standard 1-day passes are available, just ask your leader.
Drive from Siem Reap to Bangkok in a private minivan (approximately 8–9 hours, including border crossing and lunch). Again, your leader will assist with the border-crossing formalities. If you expect a soothing and charming backwater, think again – it's go, go, go in Thailand's frenetic capital. If you don't go home exhausted from here, you didn't do it properly! Still, the khlongs (canals) are a great escape from it all – maybe take a boat to the highly recommended Chinatown for a delicious street food dinner. A Thai massage may also be a good option at this point. Those staying on can perhaps visit the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or the very cool Jim Thompson museum.
Your adventure comes to an end today, with no more activities planned. You're free to depart the accommodation at any time after check out.