Archive for June, 2014

iRoHa Garden opens its doors

Monday, June 30th, 2014
A view of the main villa and pool at iRoHa Garden Hotel

A view of the main villa and pool at iRoHa Garden Hotel

A newcomer to the slew of boutique hotels opening their doors in Phnom Penh is the iRoHa Garden Hotel, tucked away in a quiet, secluded street in the Chamkarmon district of the capital city. Set in a renovated 1950s villa, with extensive gardens and a large swimming pool, iRoHa has 27 rooms in seven categories, with their good-sized superior and deluxe rooms with or without a balcony of particular interest. They also have two suites. A restaurant and bar is part of their offerings, alongwith a Samata Spa room, all tastefully furnished in a contemporary Khmer style. Some great opening room deals can be had too, so consider this quiet retreat in the heart of the city on your next visit to Cambodia.

One of the tasteful rooms at iRoHa Garden Hotel

One of the tasteful rooms at iRoHa Garden Hotel

A nighttime view of the iRoHa Garden Hotel in Phnom Penh

A nighttime view of the iRoHa Garden Hotel in Phnom Penh

The Green Season is Calling

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Come to Cambodia in the Green Season. We list below a few reasons why coming to this beautiful country in what is considered the low season, but what we like to call the Green Season, is a great time to visit.

Rice harvesting in Kratie

Rice harvesting in Kratie

  • A temple to yourselves. Angkor is considerably quieter in the green season, which is great for visiting the temples. Most of the big tour groups have vanished, the temples are often deserted, especially early in the mornings and even the Bayon and Angkor Wat are quiet. If you head out to Koh Ker and Beng Mealea you will not see many other tourists at all and our guides can take you to some lesser known temples like the isolated Ta Nei where you may be lucky to see some recently released Gibbons in the vicinity of the temple.
  • The scenery. Cambodia is at its most beautiful in the green season. The rice paddies are gorgeously green and verdant, the moats and Barays near the temples are full and when conditions are just right, you can expect spectacular sunsets.
  • It’s cooler. The rains break up the heat, it’s easier to explore and spend longer at each site and for much of the time it is still cloudless and sunny in the mornings.
  • Value for money. Cambodia is pretty unbeatable value for money compared to most other destinations, but in the green season, we offer seriously competitive rates and special offers.
  • The Tonle Sap Lake. The green season is the best time to visit the floating villages of Kompong Pluk and Kompong Khleang. Water levels are getting higher, making it much easier to navigate through the villages by boat. Travel in June and July and see the water levels rising, but still appreciate the height of the bamboo skyscraper houses on stilts. Visit in August and September and the water levels completely flood the mangroves, which is a beautiful sight and it laps at the front steps of the stilted houses.
  • Flights. They are much cheaper in the spring and summer months, both from the United Kingdom and Europe, and internally within Cambodia.
  • Pick of the very best guides. Our tour guides are not as rushed off their feet as they are in the high season, so take a look at our customer feedback and request the guides who appeal to you.
  • A second visit? Many first time visitors travel to Cambodia in the high season. The country takes on a different look and feel in the green season. The landscape changes, the Mekong River reverses its flow into the Tonle Sap Lake which expands, and there are less tourists. It’s a perfect time to return and visit some new and interesting areas like Battambang, Kampot, Kep, Kratie and even venture up to Mondulkiri in the Northeast.

So there you have it, 8 great reasons to visit Cambodia now. Contact the Hanuman sales team for the special offers and competitive rates we will be happy to provide.

On Yer Bike

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Hanuman are big fans of Battambang, Cambodia’s laid-back second city, and the work of Soksabike is one good reason to stay an extra day in this quiet haven.

Soksabike in Battambang

Soksabike in Battambang

Soksabike bicycle tours are a social enterprise offering people an insight into the traditional livelihoods of the Cambodian countryside. They place an emphasis on educating guests in the realities of life in rural Cambodia, and ensure that the visit makes a positive impact on the local communities – economically, socially and ecologically. The cycling guides are all knowledgeable Battambang locals. Soksabike have created unique bicycle tours that provide an imaginative insight into the Cambodian countryside and daily life but also supports local the local economy and culture. They have half day and full day tours. The trips call in at a rice paper making village, a wine making village, a village that makes Prahok (fermented fish paste) and a cake making village. The full day trip includes lunch with a Cambodian family in a rural setting. The trails follow quiet, flat, partially shaded country roads and the distances travelled are 25kms and 40kms respectively.

Soksabike work in tandem with Kinyei Café, which is located on Street 1.5, right next to the Battambang’s central market. The cafe is staffed by youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and the premises comprise two floors and comfortable balcony of a French colonial era townhouse. The cafe serves expertly made espresso coffee – they recently won a nationwide barista championship – and a small selection of baked goods. The first floor has been renovated to a gallery space that will feature visual art. A worthy cause I’m sure you’ll agree. Ask the Hanuman sales team for more details.

Recognition for Angelina

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Cambodian citizen Angelina Jolie becomes an honorary British dame.

Hollywood actor and UN special envoy Angelina Jolie was accorded one of the highest accolades granted by the British establishment when she was made an honorary dame in the Queen’s birthday honours a few days ago. The 39-year-old Oscar winner, who has spent much of this week co-chairing a London summit on war rape with foreign secretary William Hague, becomes a dame commander of the order of St Michael and St George courtesy of the foreign office in recognition of her work on conflict sexual crime. Jolie is co-founder with Hague of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) and was nominated in the diplomatic service and overseas birthday 2014 honours for services to UK foreign policy and the campaign to end war zone sexual violence.

Jolie, who is UN special envoy for refugees, said of the award: “To receive an honour related to foreign policy means a great deal to me as it is what I wish to dedicate my working life to. Working on PSVI and with survivors of rape is an honour in itself. I know that succeeding in our goals will take a lifetime and I am dedicated to it for all of mine.”

It was while she was in Cambodia in 2001, shooting Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (see the Hanuman Films video link below), that Angelina Jolie became aware of the suffering of the people in that war-ravaged country — “my eyes started to open,” she would later say. That experience — and a greater understanding of a worldwide humanitarian crisis – led the actress to contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees later that year. In the years since, her work as a Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of the homeless and dispossessed has taken her to more than 30 countries — including a few war zones — and to Washington, D.C., where she has pushed for legislation to assist refugees in troubled regions around the world. In recognition of her conservation efforts within Cambodia, King Norodom Sihamoni awarded her Cambodian citizenship on 31 July, 2005.

 

Talking about awards, did you know that Cambodia is the current holder of the title, ‘World’s Best Rice’?

It was a moment to savour for Cambodian Rice as Cambodian Premium Fragrant Rice was awarded the ‘World’s Best Rice’ Award for the second straight year in a row at the global rice tasting competition during the World Rice Conference in Hong Kong, China in November last year. Cambodia owed its victory for being not only tasty but also natural, green and healthy. This second year win in a row, 2012 and 2013, has helped to raise Cambodian rice’s status to greater world recognition, leading to a boost in demand for the best rice on the global market and attracting an increased number of international buyers. Now Cambodia will seek to make it a hat-trick of wins at the next World Rice Conference. Fingers crossed.

Actually to make it a hat-trick of awards, “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant” or PSE as everyone knows it by, have proudly announced that their book “The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia” participated in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2013 ceremony – which took place in Beijing last month – and won the award as Best Fundraising Book in Asia. The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia was created by a team of PSE staff who went on a journey through 11 provinces and collected 29 traditional Khmer desserts recipes, tales, legends, cultural and tourist information as well as astonishing pictures of landscapes and individuals. Books in English and French cost US$20, while the Khmer edition costs US$14. PSE offers schooling and vocational training to thousands of impoverished children in Cambodia.

Vibrant Phnom Penh

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Hanuman Travel’s latest video – vibrant Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia.
 

Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s resurgent and vibrant capital. Once dubbed the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh is fast regaining its sheen, boasting the glimmering spires of the Royal Palace, the fluttering saffron of monks’ robes and a luscious location on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. The city streets and markets are a continuous hive of activity, the capital’s landmarks are an eclectic mix of old and new and Phnom Penh is now among the hip cities of the region, with an alluring café culture, bustling bars and a world-class food scene. Find out more about Phnom Penh and Cambodia with Hanuman. Visit our website at http://www.hanuman.travel/.

Coming home to Cambodia

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Visitors to the National Museum in Phnom Penh will soon be able to view three important historic sculptures that this week found their way back home to Cambodia.

Three ancient statues return home to Cambodia. Picture from Sabay.com.kh

Three ancient statues return home to Cambodia. Picture from Sabay.com.kh

Three statues, amongst many, were smuggled out of Cambodia in the chaos of the civil war in the 1970s, from Prasat Chen at the Koh Ker temple complex in northern Cambodia to be precise, and after much pressure from the Cambodian government, have been returned to their original birthplace. The Balarama (returned by Christie’s auction house), Duryodhana (from Sotheby’s auction house) and Bhima (from the Norton Simon Museum) statues – which were originally displayed with six other statues to depict a mythical battle scene from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata at Prasat Chen – will be housed in a special collection at the National Museum in Phnom Penh very soon.

Unesco country representative Anne Lemaistre said the return of the three statues was of particular significance in light of the conflict-related devastation of artifacts in countries such as Syria and Iraq. “It gives me extreme satisfaction to see them back and for me it’s—wow—an historic moment,” she said. “We’ve been working on it for three years, and now that I see them there, it’s like a dream. I cannot believe it.” The statues will ultimately be displayed in a permanent setting at the National Museum, Ms. Le-maistre added. “Young Cambodians now will be able to enjoy these new pieces of heritage…and we are not talking about small pieces, we are talking about masterpieces,” she said.

Vietnam’s Remote Beaches

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Vietnam is is fast emerging as one of Southeast Asia’s new beach destinations.

Vietnam's Remote Beaches

Vietnam’s Remote Beaches

Some of Vietnam’s beaches are already quite heavily developed, but this 8-day itinerary from Hanuman ventures off the trail to connect you with some more remote beach destinations. The journey begins in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) where we visit the War Remnants Museum and the haunting Requiem exhibition of war photography. Later we venture further afield to see the Cao Dai Temple at Tay Ninh, a unique religion that blends the world’s spiritual beliefs together. We also venture underground to explore the Cu Chi Tunnels. We then fly to the remote Con Dao Islands. Once used as a political prison by the French authorities, they are emerging as Vietnam’s best kept secret. Try pristine snorkelling or just relax on the beach. We then continue south to Phu Quoc, destined to become the Phuket of Vietnam one day soon. Relax on the beaches or explore the nearby An Thoi Islands or inland forests. This is a beach holiday with a difference.

For our top recommended hotel on this itinerary, look no further than Six Senses. The spectacular Con Dao archipelago of islands hosts the Six Senses Hideaway Con Dao along a white sand beach surrounded by dramatic mountain landscapes. The remote setting and preserved natural landscape provides an extraordinary sense of seclusion, creating an ideal place to escape and relax close to the natural elements. Six Senses are masters of subtlety and style and their new development in the Con Dao Islands is the perfect blend of eco-friendly island retreat, modernist design and unabashed luxury. A different destination, done differently, look forward to exploring these beautiful islands the Six Senses way. Embrace the slow life.

Contact the Hanuman sales team for more details or visit our website here.

Six Senses Con Dao

Six Senses Con Dao

A personal look at Yangon

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Fodor’s Travel invited author Jan-Philipp Sendker to blog about one of his favourite cities, Myanmar’s Yangon.

With the exception of the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, the city of Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, is surprisingly devoid of major sightseeing highlights. But what the city lacks in obvious points of interest, it makes up for in ubiquitous charm. The best way to enjoy the city is oftentimes simply just to step outside your door and wander. Rather than worry about checking off all the major tourist destinations in a city, you’ll be free to simply enjoy Yangon without the pressure of having to “see it all.” Here are five things to keep in mind when exploring the city.

Keep an Open Mind

Strolling the city without a must-see, must-do list is one of the most pleasant and exciting things about visiting Yangon. Only a few years ago, Yangon was one of the most laidback cities in Southeast Asia, with only a few cars on the streets, no high-rise buildings, and no neon signs. Today, the first thing you’ll notice is how much it’s changing. This sleeping beauty is evolving into a typical Asian cosmopolitan city, with the cars, traffic jams, and construction to match. Still, Yangon has held onto its unique charm and the best way to enjoy the city is simply to see where the wind takes you.

Visit Downtown

Though the size of downtown means that it is far too large to see all at once, it’s worth a stroll through the city’s center. Leave the main roads and crisscross the side streets, where the sidewalks are covered with stalls full of tropical fruits and chairs and tables from tea houses. You should sit down and try the local specialty, a Burmese tea, a strong black tea with lots of sweetened milk. While enjoying your beverage, people may walk by and greet you with a smile or a nod, or a student may approach you hoping to practice his or her English. Be sure to take in the impressive colonial style buildings you find downtown and you’ll understand why many travelers have called Yangon the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia. For a taste of local diversity, walk through Chinatown and Little India. They are only a few blocks apart, and both are overcrowded and full of small shops and restaurants, but have completely distinct feels: different smells, different sights, and different sounds.

Keep an Eye on Local Events

Grab a copy of one of the English-language weeklies or dailies to see what is going on in the city, or buy an issue of The Irrawaddy, the best monthly political magazine. It will update you on all the challenges the country is facing in its difficult transition to democracy.

Be Wary of Traffic

Traffic is heavy nowadays and most people only acquired a driver’s license rather recently. But Yagonians drive the way they conduct other businesses, patiently and passively. Rarely will you hear a horn or see cars jump lanes or cut off other drivers. When you want to cross the street, it won’t take long for someone to stop and let you cross. In other Asian cities, you could be waiting for days. The particularly daring traveler should head to 19th Street at night, when the area is closed to traffic and full of crowded restaurants. Chairs, tables, and grills crowd the sidewalk and road, with the delicious smell of freshly barbecued meat, fish, and vegetables wafting through the air. Enjoy your food with a cold beer or white wine from Myanmar. The local vineyard was founded and is still run by a German.

See the Shwedagon Pagoda

No matter how often you’ve been to Yangon, the highlight of any trip is sure to be a visit to the magical Shwedagon Pagoda. Crowded from sunrise to sunset with people praying, meditating, eating, and chatting, you can easily spend hours here. Find a spot in the shade of the temple or pavilion and people watch while listening to the chime of the bells. Very little has changed here, with the exception of new ATMs scattered throughout.

Jan-Philipp Sendker is the internationally bestselling author of  The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. His latest novel is A Well-Tempered Heart.

For inspiration on visiting Myanmar, take a look at Hanuman’s suggested tours throughout the country at http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Myanmar/Myanmar.html.