Nestled in the tranquil hills surrounding Kep, Starling Ridge Plantation Resort offers a luxurious private plantation stay for visitors to Cambodia’s South coast. With stunning views over the Kep National Park and the Gulf of Thailand coupled with a cooling sea breeze, you can relax in one of the resort pools, cycle one of the hill trails, hike through the forest or enjoy a relaxing massage at their spa. Starling Ridge Resort is a part of the family owned pepper plantation located in the heart of the world’s premier pepper growing region, Kampot. With a choice of accommodation options, such as their Hermitage Villa or their intimate wooden bungalows, this newly-opened resort also offers a series of excursions and of course, their own plantation tours. Well worth considering if you are seeking a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.
The Water Festival, known as Bon Om Tuk in the Khmer language, is one of the most eagerly-awaited festivals of the Cambodian calendar. It is celebrated every November and marks a unique reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River into the Great Lake. It also commemorates the end of the rainy season. Nearly every town and province joins in the festival with boat races, though by far the biggest festivities take place in Phnom Penh with the best of the country’s boats taking part in races for three days in front of the Royal Palace, and attended by the King. The races draw an enthusiastic audience from the provinces, who use the opportunity to pour into the capital and the celebrations, which include concerts, fireworks and general merriment, attracts several million people each year. Hanuman Films caught some of the festivities at the 2014 festival, held last week, after a three-year hiatus.
The success of the six-nights per week Plae Pakaa performances from the artists of Cambodian Living Arts at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the tourist high season, will now extend to Siem Reap, the gateway to the majestic Angkor temples. Starting from 17 November, the Wat Bo Pagoda in the heart of Siem Reap will host one-of-a-kind experiences for visitors allowing them to connect to Cambodia’s rich heritage through arts and music dating back to the 8th century. Over 40 local artists from the Wat Bo Shadow Puppet Troupe and the Sounds of Angkor – 15 centuries of Khmer music – will be involved, providing the artists with much-needed regular income. Performances will last 45-60 minutes and be available Monday-Saturday at 6:45pm.
The Plae Pakaa shows in the capital of Phnom Penh have become a major attraction for tourists, who are able to watch Cambodia’s artistic traditions thrive and flourish, all thanks to the foresight and hard work of Cambodian Living Arts. The six-nights a week shows in Phnom Penh have already started their high season run again and are recommended viewing and start at 7pm. The Phnom Penh program is as follows:
CHILDREN OF BASSAC – A Snapshot of Cambodia through Dance (Mondays & Thursdays)
MAK THERNG – The Quest for Love & Justice (Tuesdays & Fridays)
THE SPIRIT WITHIN – Rediscovery of Cambodian Identity (Wednesdays & Saturdays).
The 27th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF Japan 2014) was a resounding success for The Last Reel team and the principals from Hanuman Films as debutant Director Sotho Kulikar won the Spirit of Asia Award.
The Last Reel won the Spirit of Asia Award by the Japan Foundation Asia Center at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2014. There were 2300 submissions to TIFF 2014 and fewer than 200 films were selected for screening, with just 11 awards up for grabs. In her acceptance speech, Director Sotho Kulikar dedicated the award to Cambodia and Cambodians everywhere. For some photographs from the award ceremony and the latest news on The Last Reel, visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Last-Reel/1581309628755913
During the week Kulikar also met with Lord David Puttnam, Producer of The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and The Mission, which collectively won 10 Oscars and 25 Baftas in the 1980s. Indiewire called The Last Reel “a remarkable Cambodian film that we’ll be reviewing presently, but which details the country’s troubled recent history with real personal emotion”.
Up next is the Cambodia premiere of The Last Reel as the opening film of the Cambodia International Film Festival on 5 December and then the Singapore premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival on 7 December.
Hanuman is excited to announce that the feature film debut from our sister company Hanuman Films will enjoy its World Premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2014 on Sunday 26 October at 14.10pm at the TOHO Cinemas, Roppongi Hills.
The Last Reel is the directorial debut from Sotho Kulikar and is a Hanuman Films Production. It is the one of the first full-length feature films to be directed by a Cambodian woman and is generating significant international interest. The Last Reel was shot entirely on location in Cambodia during 2013 with a cast of leading local talent, including Ma Rynet, Dy Saveth and Rous Mony.
A lost film buried beneath the Killing Fields reveals different versions of the truth. In an abandoned cinema, rebellious teenager Sophoun discovers an old film starring her mother, offering her the chance to dictate her own destiny at last, but at the cost of uncovering some dark secrets from the past about her parents lives during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Visit The Last Reel website http://www.thelastreel.info/ to learn more about the film in English, Khmer or French, including a fullscreen version of the trailer to whet your appetite. The website also include the official brochure for the film, a gallery of film stills and behind-the-scenes images, and the official poster for the film. There is also an official The Last Reel Facebook page and we welcome all Likes: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Last-Reel/1581309628755913
The Last Reel exposes the legacy of civil war and genocide and the shadow this violence has cast over subsequent generations. The trauma may have only been experienced by those who lived through the dark years of Khmer Rouge rule, but the impact of the living nightmare has been passed on to the next generation. Almost nobody talks about the past, almost nobody has dealt with their past, but have chosen to suppress or ignore it as a coping mechanism to deal with the pain. However, this suppression of raw emotion comes at a cost and affects the behaviour of an entire older generation in their everyday lives. In trying to protect the next generation by concealing a painful past, many parents have in fact damaged the next generation instead by not allowing themselves to heal. It is hoped that The Last Reel will play its part in a long overdue recovery process in Cambodia by encouraging generations old and young to talk more openly about the past. The ghosts of the past are not easily buried and will continue to haunt a generation unless they are able to give a voice to the victims and their own suffering.
Before coming onboard as Executive Producer, Lloyd Levin (Producer of major Hollywood films such as Tomb Raider, Boogie Nights, Hellboy, Green Zone and United 93) had this to say about The Last Reel: “I’m overwhelmed. It’s magnificent. It’s beautifully shot. Acting and writing is terrific. Just beautifully made from top to bottom. This is such a sophisticated film thematically I can’t believe it was directed by a first time director. The way it weaves regret, remorse, joy, love, guilt, redemption, politics with the past and present. I was moved by the sentiment that movies can be the thing that can bring together disparate people – political enemies, oppressors and their victims, fathers and daughters – despite everyone’s different version of the truth. And the idea that a movie can be just as, if not more real, than reality, and can become our reality, is truly sublime. That’s a beautiful idea and The Last Reel is a wonderful movie.”
The Last Reel is in the running for the Asian Future prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival. If you have any questions about the film, please do not hesitate to get in touch. In the meantime, thanks in advance for all your help in spreading the word as The Last Reel approaches its world premiere.
So what does Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, have to offer for children?
With chaotic traffic, a lack of green spaces and sights that are predominantly morbid, Phnom Penh would not seem like the most child-friendly city. Thing again. There are plenty of little gems to help you pass the time with your children in the capital. Plus, what kid doesn’t like a remork ride? One rule of thumb is that kids also love Buddhist temples – especially colourful temples like Wat Langka or Wat Ounalom, and hill temples like Wat Phnom, or outside of town, Oudong. Shimmering gold Buddhas, shiny stupas, animal statues and the occasional monkey give children plenty of visual stimulation (just keep their eyes averted from potentially scary demons). The Royal Palace is similarly rich in Buddhist iconography.
If your kids ride two-wheelers, consider renting bicycles and crossing the Mekong by ferry from the dock behind Imperial Garden Hotel. On the other side, smooth roads and trails lead 15km or so north to Smango, a guesthouse with decent food and a refreshing swimming pool. Phnom Penh has decent public play spaces, including a playground northwest of the Cambodian-Vietnam Friendship Memorial in Wat Botum Park, and another playground just south of Wat Phnom. To escape the heat (or the rain), Kids City on Sihanouk Boulevard, is a vast indoor play palace, with a first-rate climbing gym, an elborate jungle gym, a science gallery and an ice rink. Other indoor playgrounds (bring socks) with elaborate slides, bouncy castle and the like can be found at amusement park Dream Land, which also has a ferris wheel and other rides; and for younger children, Monkey Business, which has wi-fi and a cafe for adults. Many of the restaurants and cafes are child-friendly, but there are a few specifically aimed at families, including Le Jardin. The most interesting attraction is beyond the city limits and makes a good day trip: Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary, a rescue centre for Cambodia’s incredible wildlife.
The clock is ticking on seeing the rare Irrawaddy dolphins in Cambodia.
The freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin is an endangered species throughout Asia, with shrinking numbers inhabiting stretches of the Mekong River in Cambodia and Laos, and isolated pockets in Myanmar. The dark blue to grey cetaceans grow to 2.75m long and are recognisable by their bulging foreheads and small dorsal fins. They can live in fresh or salt water, although they are seldom seen in the sea. Before the civil war, locals say, Cambodia was home to as many as 1000 dolphins. However, during the Pol Pot regime, many were hunted for their oils, and their numbers continue to plummet even as drastic protection measures have been put in place, including a ban on fishing and commercial motorised boat traffic on much of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng. The dolphins continue to die off at an alarming rate, and experts now estimate that there are fewer than 85 Irrawaddy dolphins left in the Mekong between Kratie and the Lao border.
The place to see them is at Kampi, about 15km north of Kratie, on the road to Sambor. Motorboats shuttle visitors out to the middle of the river to view the dolphins at close quarters. Encourage the boat driver to use the engine as little as possible once near the dolphins, as the noise is sure to disturb them. It is also possible to see them near the Lao border in Stung Treng province, at Preah Rumkel, which also boasts a community homestay. Another serious threat to the lifespan of the dolphins is the environmental impact of a series of hydroelectric dam projects that are in the works in both Laos and Cambodia. No-one really knows the impact on the Mekong River and its tributaries or the knock-on effect on the dolphins and fish stocks that inhabit the rivers, but environmentalists fear the outcome will be nothing short of catastrophic. Our message is simple, see them while you can.
Luxury cruise company Pandaw breaking new ground in Laos.
Paul Strachan, founder of the expedition company Pandaw, said he is looking forward to the day when all the countries the river runs through – China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia – can be seen in one trip. “You can’t do it on one ship due to waterfalls and other obstructions but within two years we hope to have boats on all these stretches,” he said. The 5,000-mile journey from Saigon, in Vietnam, to Harbin in China, would take around three weeks in total.
In the meantime, Pandaw is launching a new 10-night river cruise in Laos. Billed as a luxury cruise, the Laos Mekong sailing on the line’s newest ship, RV Laos Pandaw, will be available from November next year, with just ten suites onboard. The Mekong river flows through over 1,000 miles of the landlocked country, from north to south, and Pandaw is the first river operator to cross it. A stay in the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Prabang with time to explore its Buddhist temples and Royal Palace, and the chance to travel into the mountainous north are among the highlights. The Laos Mekong is a three-country expedition as the itinerary touches Thailand and Myanmar as well. Excursions will see passengers traversing rapids and gorges, swimming in jungle pools and visiting tribal villages and Buddhist temples along the Mekong river to observe the morning alms.
Pandaw currently operates cruises in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia and more recently the Brahmaputra in northeast India. “We are always looking for new cruising territory,” said Strachan. “We were the first on the Mekong (in Indochina) the Irrawaddy and Chindwin (in Burma), the Ganges (in India) and on Borneo’s Rajang river. Earlier this month Pandaw announced a new cruise to Halong Bay in Vietnam that takes in the Red River, a key tributary of the Mekong.
Original elephant adventures with Cambodia’s EVP.
For an original elephant experience, visit the Elephant Valley Project. The project entices local mahouts to bring their over-worked or injured elephants to this sanctuary, where, in the words of project coordinator, Jack Highwood, ‘they can learn how to act like elephants again.’ A Briton with a contagious passion for elephants, Highwood is on a mission to improve the lot of Mondulkiri’s working elephants. While Bunong tradition calls for giving elephants a certain amount of down time, Highwood says that economic incentives to overwork elephants prove too great for the impoverished mahouts of Mondulkiri. In addition to toting tourists around on their backs, elephants are hired to haul around anything and everything, including illegally cut timber. Most tour companies in Mondulkiri stress that their tours employ only humanely treated elephants. Highwood commends this, but says it’s the exception rather than the rule. “Most elephants in Mondulkiri are in a highly abused state. They are beaten on the head and made to do things they aren’t meant to be doing.’
Enter the Elephant Valley Project. Mahouts who bring their elephants here are paid a competitive working wage to retire their elephants full time to ecotourism. Mahouts continue to work with their elephants, feeding and caring for them and making sure they don’t escape into the wild. The elephants, for their part, can spend their days blasting through the forest in search of food, uprooting saplings to get to their yummy roots and hanging out by the river spraying mud on one another. You are not allowed to ride the elephants here. Instead, you simply walk through the forest with them and observe them in their element. In the process you learn a lot about not only elephant behaviour but also Bunong culture and forest ecology. Other project components include health care for the Bunong communities in the project area, and health and veterinary care for the mahouts of Mondulkiri. The Wildlife Conservation Society lauds the EVP for helping to protect the eastern reaches of the Seima-Protected Forest.
The main option for visiting the EVP is a day trip in which half the day is spent observing the elephants, and half the day is spent washing the elephants and doing other tasks around the project site. There are a few exquisite bungalows at EVP but at the moment they are not able to accept overnight stays. Access to the site is strictly-controlled so don’t show up unannounced and the maximum number of day trippers allowed per day is 12. The site is not open to visitors on Saturday and Sunday, however there are plans to open six days a week in the future.
The EVP recently announced a fund-raising effort so that one of Phnom Penh’s best-known residents, Sambo the elephant, can see out his final years enjoying himself with the other elephants at the project. Forced to retire by authorities from giving rides at Wat Phnom and then his daily walk along the riverfront of the capital, Sambo has been in limbo for a while but it looks likely that he will be the latest addition to the EVP. Which is welcome news. Hanuman have been big supporters of EVP for many years, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more details on this excellent adventure in northeast Cambodia.
Bringing the Siem Reap River to life with exciting new raft adventures.
With the Flight of the Gibbon ziplines already a firm favourite amongst visitors to the Angkor Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a brand new activity is just about to take off with the arrival of Float Angkor, and their eco-tour raft adventures. Amongst the temples of Angkor lies the Siem Reap River, as it meanders its way from the hills above Angkor, through the temple complex and out into the Tonle Sap Lake. Float Angkor will bring the river and the natural beauty of the surrounding forest to life. Their rafts will accommodate no more than six people at a time, everyone gets a safety briefing and equipment before they are allowed on the river and go-pro helmet cams are also available. All of the river guides have been trained by a world champion kayaker, Eric Southwick, so you know you’ll be in safe hands. Float Angkor is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year.