Into remote Cambodia

March 30th, 2015
Filming the Red Bull mountain bikers in Cambodia

Filming the Red Bull mountain bikers in Cambodia

Hanuman recently looked after a major overland expedition for Red Bull Media House, the extreme sports specialists. For this trip they were following some competition mountain bikers, including Rebecca Rusch, the “Queen of Pain”, down the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos and onwards south down the ‘Sihanouk Trail’ in Cambodia.

2 mountain bikes, 5 dirt bikes, 8 4WDs, this was an expedition through some of the most remote parts of Cambodia. Crossing into Cambodia at Trapeang Kriel, the crew headed northwest to Siem Pang before crossing the Sekong River and surfing through the sand to Veun Sai. After a comfortable overnight in Ban Lung, they continued south to Koh Nhek, using the old ‘Death Highway’ from Lumphat. From there, they blasted through Sen Monorom on the new road before veering off to follow the old King’s Highway through the jungles of Kaoh Seima Protected Forest, one of the most beautiful roads in Cambodia.

All of this was captured on state-of-the-art Red Epic Dragon 6K cameras, that means 9X the pixels of an HD camera or one hell of a lot of memory. It should make for an epic endurance film through some of the most remote and beautiful parts of Indochina.

Large Shadow Puppets in Phnom Penh

March 23rd, 2015
Large shadow puppetry at the National Museum

Large shadow puppetry at the National Museum

We spent an hour of culture at the National Museum last night in the company of a full house who turned up to watch The War of Indrajit, the first showing of a large shadow puppetry performance, that will begin its run of shows on Sunday evenings from June thru til August at the Museum in Phnom Penh, courtesy of Cambodian Living Arts’ Plae Pakaa program. It’s a slice of the Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Ramayana starring gods and demons, monkeys and drunken soldiers, all manipulating the traditional large leather sbaek thom puppets. You can also watch a sbaek thom show in Siem Reap at Wat Reachbo Pagoda every Saturday too. This truly Cambodian art form was recognised with World Patrimony Status of intangible culture by UNESCO in 2005. Cambodian Living Arts, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the transformation of Cambodia through the arts, hosts a range of traditional art forms under its Plae Pakaa program at the National Museum in Phnom Penh. Check their website for details @ http://www.cambodianlivingarts.org/.

The large leather puppets are held behind and in front of the screen

The large leather puppets are held behind and in front of the screen

Dancing in the heavens

March 4th, 2015

Recommended viewing in Phnom Penh. Contemporary classical Cambodian dance at its best.

The Lives of Giants - photo by Chan Sopheap

The Lives of Giants – photo by Chan Sopheap

Art and culture lovers are in for a real treat in Phnom Penh from 12-15 March when the Sophiline Arts Ensemble will put on a performance of contemporary classical Cambodian dance at the Chaktomuk Theatre on the riverfront in the capital city. Their performance of “The Lives of Giants” is expected to attract big crowds for this rare run of shows at the city’s top venue.

The story is based on the “Reamker,” or the Cambodian version of the Sanskrit epic, the “Ramayana,” but more deeply informed by the legacy of a traumatized Cambodian civil society. Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, the founder and artistic director of the Arts Ensemble, was only eight years old when Pol Pot’s regime took over the Cambodian capital in 1975, establishing an authoritarian order that resulted in the deaths of around two million Cambodians. Shapiro survived, and became the first generation to be trained by the remaining masters of classical Cambodian dance, part of millennium-old Khmer traditions nearly stamped out by the Khmer Rouge.

Now a significant leader in teaching traditional Khmer arts and pushing its experimentation, Shapiro’s passion to advance Cambodian dance in the wake of national devastation and loss shines through in this production. The drama focuses on the corruption of power, in which the giant Akaeng Khameaso, picked on by angels in the heavenly realms since childhood, begs the local divine ruler, Preah Eyso for help. Given a magic finger for self-defense, the abused becomes the abuser, and soon Khameaso wreaks havoc in the heavens.

Ticket prices for the 4 shows, which begin at 7pm, except the final day, when it starts at 4pm, are priced between $3 for students up to $15. Call 011 594 673 or email tickets@khmerarts.org to reserve your tickets. It’s a show that is definitely worth watching.

Surviving on Koh Rong

February 26th, 2015
One of Koh Rong's lovely beaches

One of Koh Rong’s lovely beaches

Television’s longest running reality TV show, Survivor, now into its 30th season, will be heading to the island of Koh Rong off the coast of Cambodia in March to film two episodes. The American show debuted in 2000 and is a reality contest where a group of strangers in an isolated location must find their own water, food and shelter whilst competing in challenges. The locals are hoping that the positive publicity will be a boost for tourism on the island, its gorgeous beaches and along the coast.

Koh Rong is the second largest island in Cambodia and offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. After years of minimal development, the island was leased to the Royal Group (Mobitel, ANZ Royal and many more companies) who laid out some grand plans to create the next Koh Samui, including an airport and ringroad. However, as the global economy imploded, these plans were put on hold and the island has begun to develop in a more traditional, organic sense, with lots of small backpacker pads and bungalow resorts springing up on the island. When it comes to activities on Koh Rong, it is mostly about relaxing on the beach. However, snorkelling and diving trips are popular and can be easily arranged.

Cambodia on the rise

February 12th, 2015
Angkor Wat, Cambodia's premier attraction

Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s premier attraction

Cambodia is one of the top 10 fastest-growing tourism destinations for British travelers, according to a report released by UK-based travel company Kuoni. The report said visitors view the Kingdom “as a natural next step from Vietnam”, with Cambodia moving up five places from 27th position to 22nd in the top 30 destinations for British tourists. Thailand remains at number two, Vietnam are in 13th place. According to the British embassy, 133,000 British nationals visited Cambodia in 2014, up 10,000 from 2013.

Keeping fit and raising money in Kep

February 9th, 2015
Participants in the 2015 Kep Solidarity Run

Participants in the 2015 Kep Solidarity Run

Hanuman were proud to be an event supporter for yesterday’s Kep Solidarity Run 2015, held at the seaside resort in Cambodia. Organised by Max Discovery, the run was over a course of 12kms and other lesser distances for the younger runners and was staged around Kep National Park. The proceeds of this charity event will go towards supporting the educational needs of underprivileged children in the Kep region – with the help of 1234KIDS Organization this money will be allocated to children who they will identify as in most need of this support. Well done to all the participants yesterday, young and old, some of whom can be seen in the photo above.

HanumanAlaya in the Best Small Hotels

January 23rd, 2015

With TripAdvisors’ 2015 Traveller’s Choice Awards in full swing, we are very pleased to report that our very own HanumanAlaya Boutique Residence in Siem Reap is included amongst the Best 25 Small Hotels in Cambodia.

The HanumanAlaya features 15 exquisitely decorated rooms alongside our renowned Reahoo Restaurant, Asura Bar, Rama Lounge, Sita Spa and our Hanuman Traditional Arts Gallery, we also have our very own delightful Ganesha Pool, the centerpiece of our beautiful property, complete with ornate naga fountains and classic statue of Ganesha.

Shinta Mani Club scoops 3rd spot

January 22nd, 2015

Just a 15-minute remork ride from the world-famous temples of Angkor Wat, Shinta Mani Club Siem Reap has just been awarded number 3 in the top 25 hotels in the world, in the Travelers’ Choice Awards on TripAdvisor, based on TripAdvisor reviews, guest satisfaction and general guest comments. So that’s number 1 in Cambodia, number 1 in Asia and number 3 in the world. A fantastic achievement.

Located in Siem Reap’s leafy French Quarter, the food is excellent (choose from international comfort food or Khmer street food), the relaxing spa features traditional Khmer healing rituals and there is a variety of personalized services offered such as sightseeing tours, cooking classes and community-based excursions.

But perhaps what distinguishes Shinta Mani the most is the level of service. When you are a guest at the resort, you truly feel like you are being treated as an individual and not just part of the masses. There’s a level of caring at this place that you can feel in an instant and extends to its support of the Shinta Mani Foundation that strives to create a lasting and positive impact for the people of Cambodia.

Congratulations to our friends at Shinta Mani Club in Siem Reap. We celebrate by bringing you their most recent video of magical Shinta Mani moments.

TripAdvisor’s prestigious award is the latest high profile international acknowledgment of Shinta Mani Club which in late 2014 was chosen among the Top 25 Hotels in Asia by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler and praised by its editors: “Bangkok-based American designer Bill Bensley created spaces that are serene and minimalist yet theatrical, with rectangular columns, recessed doorways, and other dramatic features inspired by the architecture of Angkor.”

A timeless river

January 15th, 2015
River of Time by Jon Swain

River of Time by Jon Swain

‘A romantic, evocative and touching book, the story of a young man’s coming-of-age in the shocking but desperately alluring war zones of Cambodia and Vietnam’ - Sunday Telegraph.

Jon Swain, one of Britain’s foremost foreign correspondents, visited the Hanuman offices yesterday, whilst on a whistle-stop visit along the Mekong River in southern Vietnam and Cambodia. Swain, who reported for the Sunday Times for 35 years in some of the world’s most troubled hotspots, is the author of River of Time, a beautiful book exploring his time in both Vietnam and Cambodia, and a book we recommend you read as it’s definitely one of our personal favourites. He stayed for a couple of nights at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh, the same hotel where he was holed up with the rest of the press corps just before the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh in 1975. Swain was awarded the British Journalist of the Year for his reporting from Cambodia at that time and his character was famously portrayed in the movie, The Killing Fields, which then formed the backdrop for his bestselling memoir.

Jon Swain (right) with Hanuman's Andy Brouwer at the Elephant Bar, Raffles Le Royal

Jon Swain (right) with Hanuman’s Andy Brouwer at the Elephant Bar, Raffles Le Royal

Tree Alliance’s latest addition

December 26th, 2014

Cambodia-based NGO Friends-International has opened Khaiphaen restaurant, its sixth training restaurant and vocational school, and their second in Laos.

The staff at the newly-opened Khaiphaen restaurant

The staff at the newly-opened Khaiphaen restaurant

Named after the tasty local snack of fried Mekong River weed, Khaiphaen will give marginalized and at-risk youth the chance to receive professional restaurant training, safe accommodation and counseling, including work placement support after they graduate from the 18-month program. Khaiphaen was funded by the 2013 Luang Prabang Half Marathon, which raised over $120,000 to open the vocational training restaurant from scratch. Currently nine teachers guide 21 students ranging from 15 to 24 years of age – some of them coming from villages over four hours away. The students will receive hands on experience in food, beverage and service, developing confidence and skills highly sought after in Luang Prabang’s bustling hospitality and tourism industry.

Located between the French Institute and the Mekong River, Khaiphaen is open Monday to Saturday 11am to 10:30pm (kitchen closes at 9.30pm). The other TREE Alliance outlets include Makphet in the Laotian capital of Vientiane, the two restaurants in Phnom Penh, Friends and Romdeng, Marum in Siem Reap and Sandan in Sihanoukville. All profits from the six TREE restaurants are invested in the students who train there and the social programs which support them on their journey to becoming a skilled, productive and happy young person with a more secure future. Definitely recommended.