Archive for February, 2012

Arts on Display

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Children of Bassac dance troupe are performing at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, every Thursday evening until the end of March. They have plans to make the shows more regular towards the end of 2012. It’s a fabulous performance of classical and traditional dance and music that you should not miss in our opinion. We filmed the troupe at practice and during one of their shows last week. Contact the Hanuman team for more details. The Children of Bassac are part of Cambodian Living Arts – keeping the arts alive in Cambodia.

Exclusive Boutique Properties from Khowan

Monday, February 6th, 2012

The small but perfectly formed Khowan Group of hotels includes the Samar Villas Resort & Spa in Siem Reap and the Muang La Resort in Northern Laos.

Samar Villas Resort & Spa

Samar Villas Resort & Spa

Samar Villas Resort & Spa

From the Hotel: An exclusive hotel on the doorstep of Angkor, The Samar Villas Resort & Spa provides a charming, luxurious and relaxed environment for a restful and peaceful stay. A discrete entrancereveals one of the most beautiful traditional Angkor houses, incorporating Khmer style aesthetics with a touch of modern design.

From Hanuman: One of the most intimate of the beautiful boutique hotels that are found around Siem Reap, Samar Villas has just eight rooms finished in traditional Khmer wooden buildings. The interior design changes from room to room with Khmer themes, a Chinese touch and some colonial influence. Male guests receive a complimentary daily shave and female guests are given a complimentary foot massage.

Muang La Resort

Muang La Resort

Muang La Resort

From the Hotel: With only 5 wooden villas and 10 bedrooms, built following traditional architecture, the notion of a retreat assumes its full meaning. An ambiance of peace and tranquility exudes from the lodge. Refined decoration and comfort are everywhere; the scents from the lush, tropical gardens accompany your every step.

From Hanuman: Part of the exclusive Khowan Group of unique and different boutique hotels, the Muang La Resort is an unexpected treasure in this remote part of Northern Laos. Accommodation is set in traditional Lao style bungalows and the rooms are artfully decorated with silk textiles and local handicrafts. Try private island dining at The Sala for a romantic evening to remember, complete with traditional torches.

Life sentence for Duch

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

The Khmer Rouge tribunal delivered its final verdict in its landmark first case against Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the former chief of the S-21 prison, known to present-day visitors as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, but which in the late 1970s housed the torture center responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000 people. In July 2010 a sentence of 35 years was handed down to Duch, with an expectation that he would serve 19 years with deductions for time served and illegal detention. That verdict caused uproar amongst the Cambodian public and was appealed by all parties, either seeking an acquittal by his defence team, or a life sentence from the prosecutors.

At today’s session, the trial chamber judge announced that the original sentence would in fact be increased, to a life sentence. The verdict determined that Duch trained, ordered and supervised his staff to conduct “systematic torture and execution of prisoners” and he showed “dedication to refining the operations of S-21, which was the factory of death.” The high number of deaths under Duch’s command “undoubtedly place this case among the gravest before international criminal tribunals.”

It was a verdict that met with the approval of many in the packed courthouse. Kulikar Sotho, the executive director of Hanuman who lost her own uncle at S-21, was present to hear the announcement. “For me, it was a satisfactory verdict. I was nervous beforehand, I didn’t know which way the verdict would go, so to hear that he would be in prison for the rest of his life, was a satisfying result. I must admit that the way the court announces its decisions is confusing for the older generations of Cambodian people that were present,  as the court doesn’t use their everyday language, but when they heard that Duch would remain in prison for his life, they couldn’t help themselves from clapping and cheering in the courtroom. This result gives me more hope and optimism that we will see justice in the second case against the former Khmer Rouge leaders.”

Wat Phu comes alive

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

A standing Buddha image at Wat Phu in Laos

The annual Wat Phu festival in southern Laos attracts thousands of visitors each year to the region and will begin in two days time, on 5 February. The three day festival coincides with the new moon of the lunar calendar and is one of the holiest days for Buddhists who come from far and wide to attend the celebrations.

The stunning Khmer temple of Wat Phu, set under the shadow of Lingaparvata Mountain, overlooks the mighty Mekong River. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its exact origins are shrouded in mystery, but it is believed to have been sacred to early animist cultures. Constructed progressively between the 6th and 13th centuries, the sandstone and brick sanctuaries are built in tiers up the hillside, each level featuring barays, pavillions and sacred ponds. There are fantastic views from the upper terraces. It is a magical place, rich in the spirituality of animism, Hinduism and Buddhism, the fusion religion which predominates in Laos today.

Processions, recitals, and chants take place during the three days of the festival. Boats races and games like volleyball and petanque are also held. For this year’s festival, on 7 February, young female dancers from the Samdech Preah Ream Buppha Devi Dance School in Banteay Srei, near Siem Reap, have been invited to perform a very sacred dance ritual to celebrate Meak Bochea day. They will also perform classical and traditional folk dances later that same evening.