Archive for June, 2013

Flight of the Gibbon Angkor

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

The Hanuman Team recently explored the treetops of Angkor by zipline, the latest adrenaline activity on offer around the world-famous temples.

Ziplining is a new activity at Angkor

Ziplining is a new activity at Angkor

Ziplining has become a major player in the world of adventure travel and ecotourism in Southeast Asia. Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai is one of the leading visitor attractions in Northern Thailand, and everyone has heard of The Gibbon Experience in Laos long before they visit the country. Cambodia is now on the ziplining map of Southeast Asia thanks to Flight of the Gibbon Angkor, a new network of lines running through the treetops around Ta Nei Temple.

We tested the new experience last weekend on a family trip to Siem Reap and it is definitely a great new addition the activities on offer around Angkor. The trip starts with a safety briefing in the jungle reception out at Angkor. Harnesses and helmets are put in place before a transfer to the Faraway Tree. At least it felt like the Faraway Tree with a spiral staircase winding upwards into the jungle canopy. Safety is paramount and guests are clipped to safety lines at all times using karabiners. Once among the uppermost branches of the tree, guests prepare for their first zipline experience, a relatively short line just to get used to the aerial experience. After some clear and concise instruction, you fly through the air above the jungle canopy, an exhilarating experience.

There are currently four lines up and running, including the longest 400m line which offers the chance to spread your arms like a bird.  The final line is a tandem line, allowing for two people to travel together, high-fiving or dancing all the way. Eventually 10 lines are planned, including a treehouse at the midway point for refreshment and rest. The trip ends with a 15m abseil to the ground from the final platform. Flight of the Gibbon Angkor adds a unique adventure to the incredible temple experience. Coupled with quad biking, horse riding, mountain biking, trekking and helicopter rides, it reinforces Siem Reap’s growing reputation as an adventure centre, as well as a UNESCO world heritage site.

This is a unique experience at a premium price, but ziplining around the treetops of Angkor will live with you long after your visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia. It’s also family-friendly with children over 120cm open to try the experience. The verdict from 9-year old Julian trying ziplining for the first time was an overwhelming thumbs up.

If you thought Angkor was all about the temples, it’s time to think again.

Close up with Cambodia’s vulnerable wildlife

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Join us and Wildlife Alliance for a close up look at Cambodia’s endangered wildlife.

Trunk-painting with Lucky the elephant

Trunk-painting with Lucky the elephant

One of many highlights from my recent tour of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center was having my t-shirt painted by Lucky, a large female elephant, whilst I wore it. Handed paint-brushes dipped in different colours by her trainer, Lucky will swing her trunk and you end up with a unique piece of trunk-painted art to keep as a souvenir of your visit. Lucky is one of over 1,200 animals rescued by the Wildlife Alliance team that works with the forestry authorities to oversee the recovery and rehabilitation, and in some cases, a release back into specially-protected wilderness areas. There are five elephants, three females who you can walk with through the park – you can also take a bath with Lucky if you so wish – and two males, one of which is a youngster who has a prosthetic foot. Chhouk was caught in a snare and lost his foot but with loving care and attention, he’s got used to his new shoe and you get to see it being cleaned and changed and how his trainers teach him with reward-based instructions, as part of Wildlife Alliance’s new behind-the-scenes tour.

Seven beautiful tigers were the next port of call, up close and I mean literally just a matter of inches away, as they spend time in their own cages, where they come for food and rest from the hot sun. The Free The Bears organization have done great work in saving over 100 sun bears and have their own enclosures, with recently-finished viewing platforms, where three young adult bears hammed it up for the audience. I visited a few other animals such as the vulnerable binturong, aka bearcat, before heading into the off-limits nursery area to come face to face with a gorgeous baby leopard cat, who I fell in love with, and the playful young macaques, who were adorable. If you love animals, then you will enjoy this tour and knowing that your donation goes directly to helping Wildlife Alliance protect endangered and trafficked wildlife.

Changing Chhouk's false shoe

Changing Chhouk’s false shoe

Everyone loves the baby leopard cat

Everyone loves the baby leopard cat

Sacred Mountain Safari

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Join Hanuman for a safari to the home of the lost city of Mahendraparvata.

Two stone lions keeping guard at Srah Damrei on Phnom Kulen

Two stone lions keeping guard at Srah Damrei on Phnom Kulen

The international news media has been awash with stories over the past few days about the discovery of an Atlantis-like lost city found in the jungle of Cambodia. In fact, the city of Mahendraparvata on the Phnom Kulen plateau, a few miles north of the main Angkor complex, has over two dozen temples that are already well-known, but by using Lidar technology — a cutting-edge airborne laser technology used in archaeology to help map features that may be indistinguishable on the ground — the research team could clearly see a whole urban network including roads and dykes linking the temples. That was the main discovery, that under the vegetation on Kulen mountain lies the remnants of a city older than Angkor Wat. Perhaps the international news media went a little overboard with their headlines but the discoveries are of great archaeological value.

Hanuman has been running its own Sacred Mountain Safari onto Phnom Kulen for the past couple of years. One of the most holy places in Cambodia, the location where King Jayavarman II proclaimed the independence of Cambodia and pronounced himself a Deva Raja or God-King. Located about 50km from Siem Reap, the jungle plateau is home to a rich array of natural and historic sites offering the most diverse variety of experiences amongst our safari products. The Sacred Mountain Safari is a fantastic way to get off-the-beaten-track around the temples of Angkor and get closer to nature at this remote and beautiful location. If clients are to do just one safari on their trip to Cambodia, this would certainly be our top recommendation for the sheer variety of attractions and experience.

Our 2 day-1 night safari to Kulen includes a visit to an important place of pilgrimage for Cambodians at the giant reclining Buddha, a trek to see the monolithic stone animals at Srah Damrei, some of the remote ancient temples identified by the new laser technology, the riverbed carvings of the River of a Thousand Lingas and the famous waterfall so loved by Cambodians making the trip to this holy location. And you also get to experience our comfortable safari overnight accommodation far from the madding crowds.

For more on our safari experiences, please visit http://www.hanuman.travel/safari/safari.html.

A virtual trip through Myanmar

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Come and enjoy a virtual trip through Myanmar with Hanuman Travel TV.

A Unique Cardamoms Experience

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Come and experience the pristine Cardamoms with Wildlife Alliance.

Looking over the Cardamom Mountain region

Looking over the Cardamom Mountain region

Wildlife Alliance are an international non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the environment, habitat, wildlife and reducing poverty. They are known in Cambodia for their care for endangered and trafficked animals, their innovative wildlife patrols, their efforts to halt deforestation as well as empowering local communities to earn a sustainable income and to preserve their environment. Now, the folks at Wildlife Alliance want to share their successes and challenges in their brand new Southern Cardamoms Experience. Aimed at the upper sector of the tourist market, their 4-day itinerary is packed full of exciting and unique opportunities to experience their ground-breaking work, as well as getting to see a slice of Cambodian life that few have seen before.

It begins with a personalized tour of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, where 1,200 animals are housed in modern, comfortable enclosures. Wildlife Alliance has rescued more than 50,000 animals from poachers and illegal wildlife traders and many find their way to Phnom Tamao before being released back into the wild. An in-depth inspection of the elephant, tiger, bear, gibbon and waterbird enclosures are included. Next on the agenda is a helicopter ride into the Southern Cardamom mountains, a stop-over at a ranger patrol station and a visit to an inaccessible and rare ancient site containing burial jars that have remained undisturbed for centuries.

Another of Wildlife Alliance’s success stories that you will get to see, is the rural community eco-tourism center at Chiphat, which allows the community to derive benefits from tourism and appreciate the long-term incentives to protect the surrounding forest and environment. Planting your own tree at the Million Tree Nursery will precede a spot of lobster night-fishing and an overnight stay at the Koh Sathun ecolodge.

A secret wildlife rehab station, deep in the forest, will give you a first-hand insight into how WA re-introduce animals back into their natural habitat, whilst a patrol boat ride with the rangers will demonstrate the challenges they face  in countering illegal loggers and wildlife traffickers. Wildlife Alliance will also take you to see how they have helped some of the poorest farmers develop sustainable agriculture all year round, before you enjoy the luxury and relaxation offered by the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge on the Tatai River.

If you are interested in finding out more about this unique interactive tour – Wildlife Alliance also have a six-day itinerary that spends more time in Chiphat and travel is by road rather than by helicopter – contact the Hanuman team at sales@hanumantourism.com. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

On a river patrol with park rangers

On a river patrol with park rangers

Flying Through Angkor

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Coming soon – Fly through the forest around the temples of Angkor.

Flight of the Gibbon - Angkor Experience

Flight of the Gibbon – Angkor Experience

Later this month, there will be a brand new experience for visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. None other than The Flight of the Gibbon – Angkor Experience, which has been running successfully in rainforest locations in Thailand for the last few years. The new arrival at Angkor offers an opportunity to soar on ziplines, traverse suspended sky bridges and abseil from towering trees, all within the forest surrounding the Angkor temples, giving you a birds-eye view of the jungle canopy. It will provide access to the forest in an exciting fashion while also protecting the eco-system. Planting new trees and other conservation projects will be a key element of the new Flight of the Gibbon Experience. More details, once we experience it for ourselves. We can’t wait.

Tiger Treks in Laos

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

On the trail of tigers and big cats in north-eastern Laos.

Leopard caught on camera trap in Nam Et-Phou Louey

Leopard caught on camera trap in Nam Et-Phou Louey

In the vast Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, rare civets, Asian Golden Cats, river otters, white-cheeked crested gibbons and the utterly unique Laotian warty newt share 4200 sq km of relatively pristine forests with around a dozen tigers. Approximately half is an inaccessible core zone. The remainder includes 98 ethnic minority hamlets. Two-day wildlife-watching excursions have been pioneered to the park’s remote Nam Nern field station, a road-less former village site where a campsite and surrounding walking trails have been professionally cleared of UXO. Highlights of the trip include a night-time boat ride ‘spotlighting’ for animals and day-time guided hikes learning about wildlife tracking. Actually seeing a live tiger or leopard is unlikely but there’s more hope of spotting Sambar and Barking Deer and for each significant sighting, nearby villages receive a small payment. This is a cleverly thought-out scheme that encourages the local population to work actively against poachers. Find out more at http://www.namet.org/.

Green Season Travel in Indochina

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Rain clouds over Angkor Wat... and not a tourist in sight.

Rain clouds over Angkor Wat… and not a tourist in sight.

The majority of visitors to Indochina prefer to travel during the high season which runs from November through March. Here are some insightful reasons to buck the trend and travel during low season which we prefer to call the ‘green’ season.

Angkor is certainly more crowded than it used to be. That is why Hanuman has carved a niche for itself as the company that approaches the temples differently, striving to avoid the crowds and to make the experience more personal, more intimate, more spiritual. Visitor numbers have risen tenfold in a decade from around 250,000 to around 2.5 million. However, the vast majority of these visitors are travelling during high season and the five months from November to March. Why not consider promoting Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam during green season? Here are a few highlights about the green season that could make the difference.

Saving Money

In these difficult economic times, price matters. Until recently, there was little difference between high season and low season prices, so there was no real economic incentive to promote the region during green season. This has all changed with the advent of the global crisis and green season rates are now substantially lower than high season, particularly for some mid-range to high-end hotels and long-haul flights. A number of hotels in places such as Siem Reap, Luang Prabang and Hoi An are offering great discounted rates off their high season prices. This particularly applies to Myanmar, where high season rates at hotels are spiraling out of control along with tourist numbers, and the green season offers an attractive alternative.

Avoiding crowds
Peak season is a busy time and it means the leading destinations (and by default the leading hotels) are very busy. Travel off-season and the numbers plummet. This means the sights are less crowded and the hotels less busy, adding up to a more relaxed and serene experience. In the recent past, our team has been in both Luang Prabang and Siem Reap and it is very tranquil compared to the high season. It almost feels like a flashback to bygone days when Cambodia and Laos were truly off-the-beaten-path and only for the most adventurous travellers. This can be particularly important for the more wealthy and discerning traveller who really wants a different experience. It is that much harder to create with ten times the number of tourists in town. The best rooms are available, the best places calm and peaceful and the best restaurants not overcrowded. Coupled with price, this is quite an incentive.

The Weather
This is the big fear when it comes to green season travel. What will the weather be like? Well the honest answer is that we don’t know anymore. Global warming, unexpected typhoons and many elements have combined to ensure the weather is not as predictable as it once was. The monsoon no longer arrives and departs to schedule.  Even when it rains, the showers are usually short and sharp, falling at the end of the day, some time between 5pm and 8pm. Yes, there may be some instant floods here and there, but this can be quite a spectacle in itself. So the weather should no longer be an obstacle for a low season visit, as it is too unpredictable these days. If we are choosing our favourite green season months, then June to August are probably the best. May is very hot in many areas and still arid, while September is traditionally the wettest, although in recent years Siem Reap has experienced major flooding in October. There’s never been a perfect season to travel to Vietnam, as there are microclimates up and down the country, so make that the perfect excuse to travel to Indochina when you want and not when everyone else does.

Spectacular Clouds
Well it’s linked to the weather, but the incredible clouds that appear during the wet season are something to behold. Like post-nuclear mushroom clouds, they tower in the sky and make for some spectacular sunsets. These are clouds the like of which you may never have seen. Similarly the storms are a force of nature and witnessing one roll in across the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to Can Tho is something visitors will never forget.

The Landscape
Travel in many parts of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar from December to April and it will be dry and arid in the countryside as the rice has already been harvested. Travel in the green season and the landscape is a rich tapestry of emerald greens glistening in the sun. Not only are the paddy fields more alive, but the lakes, rivers and streams are flowing with water, making for faster and safer boat trips across the region. The moats and ponds at the temples of Angkor fill up, making for spectacular reflections for photographs. The moss and lichen that clings to many temples comes alive, adding a dramatic carpet of green or orange to many of the ancient stones.

So whether you are looking for better value, a more intimate experience without the crowds or a more spectacular landscape, the low season can deliver. Add these together and it might just be a better time to travel to the countries of the Mekong region.

HanumanAlaya is playing its part in promoting the green season with a Stay Longer, Save More promotion through til 30 September 2013. For more details, visit http://www.hanumanalaya.com/.

Rambutan Oasis in Phnom Penh

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

We pay a visit to one of the latest boutique offerings in Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh, the Rambutan Resort.

Rambutan Resort pool

Rambutan Resort pool

Set on street 71 on the doorstep of the capital’s popular Boeung Keng Kang 1 district, the Rambutan Resort is one of Phnom Penh’s newest urban resorts. Its unassuming entrance is easy to miss but once guided through you enter a hip, sleek lobby and restaurant area with a small open kitchen facing out to an enticing saltwater pool. A warm greeting sets the tone for your stay and friendly local staff sit you down for a refreshing drink and a swift check in before you are whisked away to your room. The 19 rooms are bright, well sized and nicely finished with brushed concrete floors, whitewashed walls and well placed splashes of colour and art work. The Pool Deluxe’s are a good option, set on the 2nd and 3rd floors with spacious balconies complete with bathtub overlooking the pool below. The top floor is dominated by the Penthouse which boasts a large balcony and jacuzzi with a good view over the cities rooftops. This is a welcome addition to Phnom Penh’s rapidly growing boutique hotel scene and is also gay-friendly. A great option for couples, good value for money and a prime location close to sophisticated bars, cafes and restaurants.