Take the journey of a lifetime with Cambodian Living Arts Cultural Activities.
We offer fully-customizable activities focused around the three arts hubs of Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Battambang. With 20 years of experience in the Cambodian art scene and our close relationships with the artists, students and leaders who are shaping it, we create packages that offer a uniquely personal insight into the country through its culture.
Our activities include interactive workshops, personal encounters with artists and unforgettable live performances. We plan a balance of optional activities and opportunities for free time so you can explore independently. Cambodia is famed for its warm hospitality and we will ensure that your experience is the perfect balance of intrigue, adventure and relaxation.
Browse below for a sample of what a once-in-a-lifetime tour with Cambodian Living Arts looks like.
Famous for Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a hub for the traditional arts and a place to dive into its heritage. The country’s premier travel destination, the city has something for everyone including spectacular sights, delicious cuisine, and unique entertainment.
Discover Angkor’s Secrets
Marvel at the stunning architecture and decipher the story of Cambodia’s past as you explore the immense temple complex of Angkor. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor was the center of the Khmer culture and empire from the 9th to 14th centuries.
A Heritage Hub
Siem Reap is more than temples! With the deep roots of Cambodia’s artistic heritage tracing all the way back to Angkorian times, the area has become a hub for traditional music, instruments and performance. Master artists and cultural experts in the province have kept traditional art forms alive (and have even resurrected some lost ones!) and modern troupes and artisans are taking things to new heights. During our tours, you’ll get an opportunity to meet some of these artists – from masters to modern troupes – and gain an appreciation of why Siem Reap is a center for the practice, research, and development of Cambodia’s intangible cultural heritage.
A visit to Siem Reap gives you the opportunity to see both Cambodia’s ancient history and the relevance of religious and artistic traditions to contemporary Cambodia. You will visit active pagodas and get insights into the lives of the monks, artists, students and others who use these spaces on a daily basis.
A must see for any visitor, Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and crowned by five lotus-like towers rising from ground level. The walls of the temples are adorned with bas-reliefs and carvings, depicting stories and characters from Hindu mythology and representing some of the finest Angkorian-era art.
This temple has been relatively untouched in an effort to preserve rather than restore. The beauty of Ta Prohm is a result of the elements, with massive trees taking root on and around the ancient structures.
The smiling faces of this temple have been dubbed by some as the “Mona Lisa” of Southeast Asia. The temple is located at the center of the temple complex and represents the intersection of heaven and earth.
Getting the most out of Angkor
To make the most of our trip, our experienced and charismatic guides will lead you to sites mostly at dawn and dusk, when the light is stunning and temperatures are much cooler. This means some early mornings, but trust us, it’s worth it! We offer extended tours to those especially interested in the Angkor historical site.
Sound of Angkor
Imagine temple walls coming to life as a troupe of 20 artists showcase instruments discovered on the Angkorian bas-reliefs by ethnomusicologist Patrick Kersalé. The talented musicians will lead listeners through a journey from the 8th century to present day classical Cambodian music.
Phare, the Cambodian circus
Phare is a beautifully choreographed blend of traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion, all set under a Big Top. The shows tell poignant and entertaining Cambodian stories using movement as a medium. All performers are trained at Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO providing arts education in Battambang.
Wat Bo Shadow Puppets
The art of large shadow puppets is one of the Kingdom’s oldest traditions, believed to have developed during the pre-Angkorian period. These large puppets are made of cow leather that is carefully cut by hand to make the characters and scenes from the Reamker, the classic Cambodian retelling of the Hindu Ramayana epic.
Believed to date back to the time of the Buddha, Kantoaming is one of Cambodia’s rarest art forms. In this funeral lullaby, a group of instruments featuring gongs, drums and a unique Khmer reed instrument called the Srolai play music to guide the spirit of the dead back to its homeland for rebirth. In 2016, Kantoaming was performed by Master SENG Norn in New York as part of An Occupation of Loss, an installation by Taryn SIMON.
Battambang is known for its charming, laidback atmosphere. Its beautiful architecture reflects the different phases of its history with New Khmer, French-Classical and traditional Khmer homes and buildings lining either side of the river. Battambang is also Cambodia’s visual arts and circus hub.
Our founder, Arn CHORN-POND, spent his early years in Battambang, where his family ran a popular Yike company, a type of Cambodian theater. During the Khmer Rouge regime, he was separated from his family and was sent to a child labor camp in the countryside.
The Khmer Magic Bus
Arn spends much of his time in Cambodia touring with the Khmer Magic Music Bus, his latest initiative to get traditional music out into villages that would otherwise lack access to it. Traditional songs and dances remain popular around the country, attracting young and old alike. Depending on the availability of the bus, we can arrange for you to visit one of their village performances during your tour.
Battambang captivates visitors with a buzzing visual arts scene, and is home to many young and emerging artists. A Battambang resident will guide you through its galleries and historic sites, meeting local artists and gaining insight into the life experiences that shape their work. Phare Ponleu Selpak, an organization providing arts education to disadvantaged youth, is also based in Battambang.
The country’s capital and the base for most of our operations, bustling Phnom Penh has a lot to offer in history, culture and entertainment. In the midst of rapid change, the city now has excellent restaurants and hotels yet is still considered one of the friendliest capitals in Asia. This is an opportunity to see Cambodia come into its own.
Tuol Sleng genocide museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is an informative and deeply moving museum located at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison S-21. Set in a former high school, it is an important place to visit to understand Cambodia’s recent past. A live performance of Smot, a hauntingly beautiful form of chanted poetry often performed at funerals, completes the experience and offers a sense of healing..
The Film industry
Cambodia has had a long history of film. The 1960s were regarded as Cambodia’s “golden age” of cinema, with then-Prince Sihanouk not only a patron of the arts but himself a director, producer, and screenwriter. The entry of the Khmer Rouge all but wiped out the film industry, but in recent years a new scene has started to re-emerge. Oscar-nominated director Rithy PANH is the country’s most well-known filmmaker and the founder of the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre, and younger talents are earning international recognition, including Cannes award winner Davy CHOU, former CLA student NEANG Kavich, Kulikar SOTHO, Lida CHAN and Kalyannee MAM.
Sunset on the Mekong
No trip to Cambodia would be complete without experiencing the famous Mekong River. Cruise down this iconic waterway listening to local artists perform as the sun sets over Phnom Penh’s skyline. To make your evening complete, we can arrange your cruise with or without dinner for groups of any size.
Traditional Dance Show
The traditional dance show, set within the elegant grounds of the National Museum, has been running for more than five years. It provides stable employment to dancers, musicians and technicians, and gives audiences an insight into authentic classical and folk dances from around Cambodia. Guests will be able to take a peek behind the scenes, and talk to the artists themselves.
Phnom Penh Workshops: Learn and interact
As well as watching performances, you will have the opportunity to take part in workshops. This is the perfect way to gain a deeper understanding of some of Cambodia’s unique art forms, while also meeting artists in an intimate setting and finding out more about their own stories.
Phnom Penh Arts Tour
From architectural heritage sites to contemporary galleries, Phnom Penh is rich in arts and culture. We will share with you the city’s key sites, galleries and back-alley secrets in the company of the artists and cultural leaders who are shaping them. Key stops include the Chaktomuk Theatre, built by the famous Khmer architect, Vann Molyvann, and the Royal University of Fine Arts, a beautiful 100-year-old campus where over 1000 students learn dance, music, visual arts, sculpture, architecture and more. We’ll visit the galleries and projects showing the latest work and innovation, and will showcase CLA’s diverse programs as we travel through the city.
During our tours you will sample authentic Cambodian cuisine made by fantastic chefs with local produce. We will arrange meals at some of Cambodia’s finest restaurants and in the private homes of our artists and friends. We make every effort to accommodate dietary restrictions.
As you journey through Cambodia’s art scene, we will accommodate you in some of the country’s most luxurious and unique hotels renowned for their heritage and art. There will be plenty of time to relax and sample Cambodian hospitality at its finest, take a break by the pool, or unwind at the spa. Whatever you need, we’ve got you covered.
Our dedicated host team are here to ensure your experience is both magical and impactful. During your trip you’ll also get a chance to meet CLA’s front-line staff to learn about the wide-ranging work our organization carries out and help place the thought-provoking experiences from our trip into context.
Cambodia is a developing country with many vulnerable children. We take child protection exceptionally seriously. and all our staff have taken part in training and our hotels are all endorsed by the Friends International Child Safe program. We do not include orphanage visits in our itineraries. For further information on child protection in Cambodia, please visit friends-international.org
© Photo Credits: Chean Long, Long Lysong, Craze, Mckay Savage, Choeun Socheata, Keat Sokim, Anders Jiras, Sangker Gallery, Laura Petit
With all of its wonderful sights, adventures and people - focused around the arts of Cambodia, it was an experience not otherwise possible to normal tourism"
This trip was life changing for me in so many ways. The richness of the experience is almost overwhelming."