explore angkor & beyond
© John McDermott
Situated in the shadows of the Unesco world heritage site-listed Angkor Archaeological Park, Maison Polanka offers tailored adventures to these inspiring, magnificent ancient temple ruins. Avoiding the crowds, our itineraries also reveal hidden architectural jewels off the beaten tracks. Our guests can get a chance to go further to archaeological sites such as Kulen mountain – its rivers and waterfalls are carved with over 1,000 ancient lingas – as well as Koh Ker, Banteay Chhmar or Preah Vihear.
We will recommend you guides or guidebooks; bicycles, tuk tuks or cars; vans or helicopters; picnics and sunset spots; and schedules and itineraries to make your stay in Angkor an incredibly memorable one.
Let us help you to tailor your stay in Siem Reap by emailing us at [email protected].
Supporting the Community
Your trip to Cambodia is a perfect opportunity to be involved with socially responsible projects. We can help you to choose sensible tours that provide you with a sense of involvement in helping less privileged communities. Make a difference in the lives of Cambodians by experiencing a journey coupled with social responsibility.
Siem Reap is a beautiful province, and the majority of Cambodian people are farmers working in the rice fields. You should not visit Angkor without watching life in the countryside – we can guide you to the most socially responsible organisations to embark on such tours with. Or, Sopharin can even take you on an introduction tour to her village.
Another unforgettable experience to have in Siem Reap is a tour of the bird sanctuaries of the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s biggest lake, or out to the lake’s floating village of Prek Toal. Tourists shouldn’t miss a “lunch for a good cause” at Salabai hospitality school, or an evening at the fantastic and fun Phare circus. These are all incredible projects that started 10-20 years ago to help build the future of this country.
And last, but not least, Siem Reap is a designer and shopping heaven! In the late 1990s, with Jean Pierre in command, the Chantiers Ecoles and the Artisans d’Angkor attracted designers and master craftsmen, such as Lim Muy Theam, Eric Raisina, Eric Stocker, and Sirivan Chak. All of them settled down in Siem Reap and opened their own studios and workshops which must be visited. These days, a new generation of young Khmer artists are also producing stunning, exciting contemporary artwork.
The Tonle Sap
UNESCO registered the Tonle Sap as a Biosphere Reserve in 1997, in recognition of its exceptional ecological, economic, social and cultural value. The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world’s most fertile freshwater fisheries. It also shelters the most important waterbird colonies of the region and supports the world’s largest snake harvest. Three million Cambodians are directly dependent upon the lake’s resources! We support of Osmose, an ecotourism operator working in the floating village of Prek Toal and that supported since 1999 the conservation efforts through education of the children and poor families. There are more than 100 families in the village who benefit from the Osmose’s income generating activities, and many more benefit from Osmose’s medical, social, schooling and material support and assistance. Osmose can arrange bird watching tours, trips out to visit Prek Toal’s talented water hyacinth weaving collective, and even home stays in one of the village’s floating homes.
There’s much more excitement to be had in Siem Reap after you’ve finished your temple tours. For experienced riders, a wonderful little ranch organises sunset horse rides in the rice fields with very well cared for Khmer ponies (contact us for more details). We can arrange countryside treks with buffalo/oxen carts, quad rides, or boat trips out on the Tonle Sap lake with the NGO Osmose. For sensations, you can join a jungle canopy zipline inside Angkor Thom, a helicopter tour over the temples, photography tours or biking tours of the temples and countryside
Salabai Hotel and Restaurant School
Our dedicated food and beverage team, Rattana, Soeum and Thy, have all been trained at Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant School. This program was created in 2002 by the French NGO Agir Pour le Cambodge to fight poverty and human trafficking through social and professional training of underprivileged Cambodians. You can discuss with our team how it helped them and their family to build their futures.
By visiting Sala Bai vocational restaurant you can play an active part in the training of underprivileged young Cambodians and enjoy delicious fusion food at the same time. Your experience will allow the students to practice under real conditions and also contributes financially to their training costs. The school trains each year – for free – more than 100 students in hospitality and by 2018 aims to train up to 150 a year.
Book your table: http://www.salabai.com/restaurant-salabai.php
The Sacred Dancers
The Nginn Karet Foundation for CAMBODIA
More than just performances, the dancers of NKFC reveal the personality, spirituality and energy of modern Cambodia. Based in Bantey Srei district nearby the rose-hued temple, NKFC supports over 2000 families living across 14 villages. The programmes encourage a participatory approach to development. The NKFC respects and supports efforts to promote the traditional culture on which village life is based. The Conservatoire of Dance and Music, completed in 2008, is a major achievement of NKFC’s work. It combines discipline with ancient Khmer traditions, and is central to consolidate the work already carried out in the villages. The dancers have been trained to dance for the Gods and holy ceremonies as they once did thousands of years ago. Their performances are unique and magical. Performances are on Wenesdays and Sundays 7 pm at the Divine Sala, 5 mn away by Tuk Tuk.
Phare Ponleu Selpak
It all began in 1986 in Site 2 refugee camp’s orphanage on the Thai border, when a drawing workshop opened its doors to children. In 1994, after the 8 founders had returned as young adults to Cambodia, they decided to set up Phare Ponleu Selpak (this translates in English as “light of the arts”) in their native village of Battambang. It is an association aiming to revive Khmer culture and to help youth blossom through cultural and artistic initiatives. Phare Ponleu Selpak has been gradually expanding its fields of intervention and now includes a drawing school, an animation studio, an illustration and design studio, a music school and a circus/theatre training school. Regarding education, Phare Ponleu Selpak sponsors a public school and includes a local library open to all. Maison Polanka encourages you to visit the drawing studio in Battambang. In the last few years, the organisation has set up their very own big top circus tent in Siem Reap. Here, Phare’s top circus performers wow visitors and locals each night in exciting, hilarious and poignant performances with scripts written by the young performers themselves. They’re not to be missed.
Siem Reap’s designers, artists and creatives all find great inspiration in this unique city. Although a destination more linked to the iconic temples of Angkor and the glory of its ancient civilization, what many don’t realise is that Siem Reap also has a thriving new generation of artists, designers and visionaries that not only bridge its past but are also redesigning the future of the kingdom. This guide was created to give everyone a window to the visions, craftsmanship, ideas and quirkiness fully embodying the new directions of Cambodia’s cultural renaissance.