Archive for March, 2013

On board the Mekong

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Two new cruise boats will be plying the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia later this year and next.

Life along the Mekong River

Life along the Mekong River

Mekong Secret Cruises will begin operating their new Vietnam and Cambodia cruises from 29 September this year. Along the famed Mekong River, from the delta to the Tonle Sap Lake, their Le Tamarin cruise boat will operate three programs, an 8-day Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap depending on the season, a 4-day Phnom to Siem Reap and an 8-day Phnom Penh to Siem Reap via Kratie. On the lower deck of Le Tamarin are eight fully equipped cabins and on the upper deck are another six with an air conditioned dining room and lounge bar. It’s full board accommodation on this brand new boat, which is family-friendly.

Launching next year in 2014, the M/V Aqua Mekong will be a custom-built, architecturally-designed luxury cruise-ship including a spa, screening room, outdoor pool and 20 guest suites with floor to ceiling windows offering river views of Vietnam and Cambodia along the Mekong River. Their itineraries will include 3, 4 and 7 day options traveling upriver between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam stopping in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia (with downriver itineraries traveling the reverse route).

3 new Phnom Penh hotels

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The bustling capital of Cambodia continues to expand its range of room options as more and more visitors make a beeline for Phnom Penh.

Villa Borann in Phnom Penh

Villa Borann in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh’s accommodation options have been further enhanced with the opening of three more hotels in the last couple of months. The biggest of the three – and an addition to the stable of hotels that includes Plantation, Pavilion, Blue Lime, Kabiki and more – is the urban TeaHouse Hotel on Street 242. Inspired by the world of tea, it offers 52 affordable rooms on four floors, with a TeaLounge for dining and to test out different varieties of tea, a small pool and spa.

At Villa Borann, recently opened on Street 19, a converted villa offers 14 rooms on three floors with the usual amenities, as well as a dining area next to the pool. The hotel is a sister property to Villa Samnang. Last but not least is The Sangkum, located in the former French Quarter of the city near the British Embassy on Street 75. With a pool and private garden next to a large, airy dining area, the Sangkum has twelve rooms, some with balconies including two suites.

Find out more about each property at their own websites:

http://www.theteahouse.asia/

http://www.villa-borann.com/

http://sangkum.com/en/

The pool area at Villa Borann

The pool area at Villa Borann

Take a look at Indochina

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Take a trip through Indochina with Hanuman Travel TV to see the sights and experiences you can all enjoy in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We are waiting to welcome you.

 

Tour of the Week: Grand Laos Journey

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Following on from our visit to the incredible Vieng Xay Caves, we feature this Grand Laos Journey, which covers the major highlights of the country from north to south.

Monks at Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang

Monks at Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang

An in-depth journey throughout the old kingdom of Laos that will take you beyond the highlights and under the skin of this beguiling country, beginning with the the Luang Say cruise along the Mekong River, via the Pak Ou Caves to the World Heritage recognized city of Luang Prabang. Home to 32 stupa-studded wats, it remains one of the most atmospheric destinations in all Asia. We take in the Royal Palace Museum, classic Wat Xieng Thong and enjoy a trek to the turquoise waters of the multi-tiered Kuang Si Falls. We then head to the Plain of Jars, a mysterious mountainside dotted with ancient burial jars from a forgotten civilisation for a brief adventure before we continue to the capital city of Vientiane. Then we head south where no trip would be complete without a visit to the incredible Wat Phu and the 4,000 islands and waterfalls on the border with Cambodia.

For more details on this tour, visit the Hanuman website: http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Laos/Grand_Laos_Journey.html

The vibrancy of Cambodia

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Come and experience Cambodia with Hanuman.

A three and half minute taster of the sights, sounds, colours and vibrancy that is Cambodia, shot by the Hanuman Travel TV team. Temples, culture, wildlife, beaches, we have it all, so why not come and experience Cambodia for yourself, courtesy of Hanuman.

Exploring the incredible Vieng Xay Caves in Laos

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The Hanuman team recently undertook a remote overland trip to remote Hua Phan Province in Northeast Laos, home to the Vieng Xay Caves where the Pathet Lao leadership were based during the US bombing campaign from 1964-73.

The landscape around the Vieng Xay Caves

The landscape around the Vieng Xay Caves

The Cu Chi Tunnels is one of the must-see destinations in Vietnam, showcasing the incredible tenacity of the Vietnamese people in their long war against the Americans. Many a tourist has explored the enlarged tunnel sites and marveled at the enduring spirit and strength of the people who survived in these conditions. For those that have braved the original, non-enlarged tunnel passages, it is nightmareishly claustrophobic experience that provokes fears of being buried alive. However, there is another Indochina war-era destination that sees very little tourist traffic and is every bit as fascinating, the Pathet Lao caves in Vieng Xay district.

The Pathet Lao (PL)  or communist leadership in Laos were given the control of two northern provinces of Laos, Hua Phan and Phongsali, as part of the Geneva Conference resolution of 1954 that temporarily divided Vietnam into North and South. The PL set about establishing a network of bases in the region and as the war in Vietnam war heated up in the 1960s, the leadership decided to retreat into the caves for protection from US bombing raids over Laos.

The caves are set beneath striking limestone karsts, similar to those seen around Yuanshou in China or Marble Mountains in Vietnam. Natural caves were enlarged, connected and reinforced to ensure the communist leadership had a safe haven during the 9-year US bombing campaign. Laos has the unfortunate distinction of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world, with more bombs dropped on this small country than all the bombs dropped by all sides during WWII.

The cave experience includes an excellent audio tour put together by Narrowcasters of Australia, the same company that has more recently enhanced the Killing Fields visit in Cambodia. Starting at Kaysone Phomivane’s house and cave, the PL leader who became the first communist prime minister of the Lao PDR after 1975, the tour gives an incisive background to the Lao conflict. Entering the caves, it is possible to visit Phomivane’s office and basic bedroom, as well as the emergency room, complete with bombproof doors and an independent oxygen supply.

The tour includes a number of other cave homes of significant PL leaders, including: Prince Souphanouvong, the so-called ‘Red Prince’, who became the first president of communist Laos;  and Khamtai Siphandone, military commander of the PL and later prime minister of Lao PDR. From 1973 and the cessation of the US bombing of Laos, the PL leadership felt sufficiently safe to venture out of the caves and construct permanent houses close by. The style of housing offers an interesting glimpse into the taste of each leader, with PL leader Phamivone opting for an austere, almost-Soviet block, Prince Souphanouvong choosing a more attractive French-influenced villa, and Siphandone choosing a striking wooden stilt house similar to those found in the 4000 Islands  region of Champasak, not unlike Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house in Hanoi.

The tour includes the impressive Xanglot Cave that was used mass weddings, political rallies, cinema screenings (not Hollywood!) and theatrical performances. Communist troupes came here from all over the world to rally the PL fighters, including China, Cuba and North Korea.

The audio tour really makes the Vieng Xay caves one of the highlights of rural Laos. Vieng Xay is very remote and only accessible by long and winding mountain roads. In Laos-only itineraries, it is best combined in a long looping journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang that includes stops at Vang Vieng, Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars and Nong Khiaw along the way. An easier option is to undertake an adventurous overland journey from Vietnam to Laos, starting in Hanoi and travelling via the White Thai villages of Mai Chau, the Vieng Xay experience, the striking scenery and Nong Khiaw and finishing with some well deserved pampering in Luang Prabang at the end. This sort of trip can also be combined with Halong Bay and Sapa for those with more time to explore Northern Vietnam.

There are several flights a week to Sam Neua’s Nathong Airport, 30km from Vieng Xay, but these are in small and ageing aircraft flown by Lao Air. For those longing for the nostalgia of Soviet-era flights, the planes leave Vientiane on Mon/Wed/Fri at 13.00pm, returning at 15.00pm. There are plans afoot to build a new airport with international links using Vietnamese money, but this is unlikely to materialise before 2016.

Hanuman’s Vietnam and Laos Revealed trip offers an adventurous overland itinerary from Hanoi to Luang Prabang via the Vieng Xay Caves: http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Indochina/Vietnam_Laos_Revealed.html

For more on the history of the caves, including some excerpts from the audio tour, visit the official Viengxay website: http://www.visit-viengxay.com/viengxay-the-past-voices.html

For more on Lao Air and their schedule to Nathong Airport in Sam Neua, visit http://www.lao-air.com/airline.php

Tour of the Week: Tickle Your Tastebuds

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Our Tour of the Week provides an opportunity to tickle your tastebuds with our Culinary Vietnam special.

Culinary Tour of Vietnam

Culinary Tour of Vietnam

This week-long trip is designed to stimulate the senses by introducing visitors to the delicate aromas and spices that make Vietnamese food such a delectable experience. Starting in Hanoi, we bring visitors face to face with the sights, sounds and smells of the Old Quarter. Our first epicurean encounter is at Highway 4 Restaurant, famed for its blend of modern Vietnamese and traditional hilltribe cuisine. We learn some signature recipes before continuing our journey to Halong Bay, a stunning world heritage site where nature has run amok. After enjoying a night on a traditional junk, we travel south to Hoi An, a timeless trading port on the Thu Bon River. We visit a local market to shop for produce before travelling downriver to the Red Bridge Cooking School. Set amid ricefields on the banks of the river, it is an inspiring location to learn the art of the Vietnamese table. We leave some free time to soak up the charms of Hoi An or explore nearby Marble Mountains or the Cham Museum in Danang.

For more details on our 7 day/6 night Culinary Vietnam itinerary, visit the Hanuman website at: http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Vietnam/Culinary_Vietnam.html.

Traditional Khmer Hospitality

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Enjoy a traditional Khmer-style picnic lunch in a beautiful wooden Khmer home just outside Siem Reap, home to the temples of Angkor.

Traditional Khmer country home

Traditional Khmer country home at Roluos

If you are visiting the earliest capital in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya, now known as Roluos, or en route to the floating village of Kompong Pluk, we recommend taking time out to enjoy a Khmer-style picnic lunch at the beautiful wooden home of one of the country’s foremost archaeological experts. Designed by renowned Khmer architect Hok Sokol, this two-storey house is a striking contemporary take on the traditional Khmer house and is located near the rural town of Roluos. A picnic lunch will be provided as you rest and relax, perhaps after a morning spent travelling back in time to visit Bakong, the earliest of the temple mountains, which later became the signature of Khmer kings. It is a giant pyramid, its cardinal points marked by giant elephants. After lunch, why not head for the medieval floating village of Kompong Pluk, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as seven metres above the water. Everything lives on the water, pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this incredible floating town and its nearby flooded forest.

5-day Khmer New Year Special

Sunday, March 10th, 2013
Hanuman’s Khmer New Year Special Tours take place next month. Our Tour of the Week is our 5-day & 4-night tour in Siem Reap beginning on 12 April.
Khmer New Year Special

Khmer New Year Special

Your starting point is Siem Reap, the gateway to the fabled temples of Angkor. And it’s where you get under the skin of the Khmer New Year celebrations by visiting a pagoda to see the ceremonies first-hand. Opulent resorts and sophisticated restaurants, designer bars and exclusive shops are evidence that Siem Reap is very much back on the map. The temples of Angkor are a profound experience, as few sights on earth can match the majesty of Angkor Wat, nature unleashed at Ta Prohm or the mysterious faces of the Bayon. You visit the sleeping jungle-clad ruin of Beng Mealea, a prototype for Angkor Wat and enjoy a lifestyle visit to a floating village on the Great Lake, including lunch with a local family.

We are also offering 7-day, 10-day and 14-day trips to coincide with the Cambodian New Year celebrations. Find out all about these memorable special tours at http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Cambodia/Khmer_New-Year.html.

A look at the Frangipani Royal Palace

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Hanuman Travel TV takes you inside the brand new Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel & Spa in Phnom Penh.

Located near the popular riverside area as well as the National Museum and of course, the Royal Palace, the hotel has 70 rooms, a roof-top swimming pool and bar as well as spa and restaurant facilities.

To view the video directly on Hanuman Travel TV’s Youtube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRgspz31O48