Nestled in the tranquil hills surrounding Kep, Starling Ridge Plantation Resort offers a luxurious private plantation stay for visitors to Cambodia’s South coast. With stunning views over the Kep National Park and the Gulf of Thailand coupled with a cooling sea breeze, you can relax in one of the resort pools, cycle one of the hill trails, hike through the forest or enjoy a relaxing massage at their spa. Starling Ridge Resort is a part of the family owned pepper plantation located in the heart of the world’s premier pepper growing region, Kampot. With a choice of accommodation options, such as their Hermitage Villa or their intimate wooden bungalows, this newly-opened resort also offers a series of excursions and of course, their own plantation tours. Well worth considering if you are seeking a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.
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Luxury cruise company Pandaw breaking new ground in Laos.
Paul Strachan, founder of the expedition company Pandaw, said he is looking forward to the day when all the countries the river runs through – China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia – can be seen in one trip. “You can’t do it on one ship due to waterfalls and other obstructions but within two years we hope to have boats on all these stretches,” he said. The 5,000-mile journey from Saigon, in Vietnam, to Harbin in China, would take around three weeks in total.
In the meantime, Pandaw is launching a new 10-night river cruise in Laos. Billed as a luxury cruise, the Laos Mekong sailing on the line’s newest ship, RV Laos Pandaw, will be available from November next year, with just ten suites onboard. The Mekong river flows through over 1,000 miles of the landlocked country, from north to south, and Pandaw is the first river operator to cross it. A stay in the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Prabang with time to explore its Buddhist temples and Royal Palace, and the chance to travel into the mountainous north are among the highlights. The Laos Mekong is a three-country expedition as the itinerary touches Thailand and Myanmar as well. Excursions will see passengers traversing rapids and gorges, swimming in jungle pools and visiting tribal villages and Buddhist temples along the Mekong river to observe the morning alms.
Pandaw currently operates cruises in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia and more recently the Brahmaputra in northeast India. “We are always looking for new cruising territory,” said Strachan. “We were the first on the Mekong (in Indochina) the Irrawaddy and Chindwin (in Burma), the Ganges (in India) and on Borneo’s Rajang river. Earlier this month Pandaw announced a new cruise to Halong Bay in Vietnam that takes in the Red River, a key tributary of the Mekong.
Pandaw press release says: “The new Halong Bay and the Red River itinerary provides agents with a luxury expedition product like no other. Customers looking for that once in a lifetime experience without compromising on luxury will, for the first time, be able to visit the iconic Halong Bay as well as the remote upper Red River in one 10-day itinerary.” Pandaw’s newest sailing includes two days of sightseeing in the bustling city of Hanoi before entering the Red River with its emerald green rice paddies and 8th and 11th century Buddhist temples. Unexplored by any other river expedition company, Pandaw’s route into the upper Red River will visit the region close to China’s Yunnan Province where the river narrows. Hiking from a remote river village is on offer for guests keen to make the most of this unique off-the-beaten-track experience.
Pandaw guests will enjoy a ‘yacht-like’ feel onboard the 16-suite Angkor Pandaw as well as five-star luxury service and a crew to passenger ratio of 2:1. All excursions are included in this unique itinerary. Guests will also visit floating villages, a floating school and limestone caves in Halong Bay before entering the Kinh Thay River, mooring at Yen Duc Village surrounded by historic mountains. On the Duong River, the Angkor Pandaw will visit local villages known for their 11th century folk painting and traditional ceramic production.
Check out some of Siem Reap’s good cause dining possibilities when in temple town.
Siem Reap has some good restaurants that support worthy causes or assist in the training of Cambodia’s future hospitality staff with a subsidized ticket into the tourism industry. If you dine at the training places, it gives the trainees a good opportunity to hone their skills with real customers.
Marum, Wat Polanka area: Brings the best of Friends to Siem Reap. Set in a delightful wooden house, there’s a good selection of mains, vegetarian and seafood dishes and mouthwatering desserts. We recommend a visit.
Haven, Sok San Street; A culinary haven indeed, dine here for the best of East meets West. Proceeds go towards helping young adult orphans make the step from institution to employment. Loved by Trip Advisor regulars.
Blossom Cafe, Street 6; Creative cupcakes and coffees and the profits assist Cambodian women in vocational training.
Joe-to-Go, near Psar Chas; Gourmet coffees, shakes and light bites, with proceeds supporting street children. Upstairs is a small boutique supporting The Global Child.
Les Jardins des Delices, Paul Dubrule School; Enjoy good standards at affordable prices with a three-course meal prepared by students training in the culinary arts.
Peace Cafe, Street 26; Popular cafe serving affordable vegetarian meals. A focus of community activities, there are cooking classes daily, yoga sessions and Khmer classes every weekend.
Sala Bai School; This school trains young Khmers in the art of hospitality and serves an affordable western and Khmer cuisine.
Sister Srey Cafe, Pokambor Ave; Offers an ambitious breakfast menu and a Western lunch with a creative twist.
Laos remains one of the most authentic locations in Asia. See it soon.
According to Lonely Planet writer Nick Ray, Laos, long a forgotten backwater, combines some of the best elements of Southeast Asia in one bite-sized destination. If you want a guidebook that does the same, get a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Laos, which came out earlier this year, and is filled with detailed information on what to see and enjoy in this charming and authentic country. Over 340 pages with great tips, maps, photographs and recommendations that will help make your visit so much more enjoyable. The LP Laos Top 10 is a listing of what you must not miss. Here it is:
1 – Luang Prabang. 2 – Si Phan Don. 3 – The Gibbon Experience. 4 – Vang Vieng. 5 – River Trips. 6 – Trekking & Homestays. 7 – Vieng Xai Caves. 8 – Bolaven Plateau. 9 – Tham Kong Lo. 10 – Vientiane.
So what makes Luang Prabang the No 1 attraction? Hemmed in by the Mekong and Khan rivers, this timeless city of temples is a travel editor’s dream: rich in royal history, saffron-clad monks, stunning river views, world-class French cuisine and the best boutique accommodation in Southeast Asia. Hire a bike and explore the tropical peninsula’s backstreets, take a cooking class, go on an elephant trek or just ease back with a restful massage at one of the many affordable spas. Prepare to adjust your timetable and stay a little longer than planned.
Battambang, the real Cambodia, far from the jet-set destinations of Phnom Penh and SiemReap.
Unfurling along the banks of the Sangker River, Battambang is one of the country’s best-preserved colonial-era towns. Shophouses host everything from fair-trade cafes to bike excursions. Beyond the town lie the Cambodian countryside and a cluster of ancient temples – while they’re not exactly Angkor Wat, they do lack the crowds. And don’t forget the fun and thrill of a ride on the bamboo train. Battambang in a word? Charming. See for yourself with our Hanuman Travel TV video tour of Cambodia’s laid-back second city.
The latest Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia has just been published. Read on.
Despite having the eighth wonder of the world in its backyard, Cambodia’s real treasure is its people, says the introduction to the brand new Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia, that hit bookshops this month. Hanuman agrees. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh may be the heavyweights, but to some extent they are a bubble, a world away from the Cambodia of the countryside, it continues. Well you can see for yourself by getting a copy, whether its the print edition or online. There are 370 pages of great tips, maps, photos and recommendations that will enhance your visit to Cambodia and here is LP’s Top 10 of what you must not miss:
1 – Siem Reap & Temples of Angkor. 2 – Phnom Penh. 3 – Sihanoukville. 4 – Battambang. 5 – Kampot & Kep. 6 – Mondulkiri. 7 – Ratanakiri. 8 – Kratie. 9 – Prasat Preah Vihear. 10 – Khmer Cuisine.
It’s obvious why Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples made it to the top spot. LP confirms why: One of the world’s most magnificent sights, the temples of Angkor are so much better than the superlatives. Choose from Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building: Bayon, one of the world’s weirdest, with its immense stone faces: or Ta Prohm, where nature runs amok. Buzzing Siem Reap, with a superb selection of restaurants and bars, is the base for temple exploration. Beyond lie floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake, adrenalin-fuelled activities like quad biking and ziplining, and such cultured pursuits as cooking classes and birdwatching.
Khmer cuisine made it into the Top 10 so its worth hearing why LP included it: Everyone has tried Thai and Vietnamese specialities before they hit the region, but Khmer cuisine remains under the culinary radar. Amok (baked fish with lemongrass, chilli and coconut) is the national dish, but sumptuous seafood and fresh-fish dishes are plentiful, including Kep crab infused with Kampot pepper. It wouldn’t be Asia without street snacks and Cambodia delivers everything from noodles (mee) and congee (bobor; rice porridge) to deep-fried tarantulas and roasted crickets. With subtle spices and delicate herbs , Cambodian food is an unexpected epicurean experience.
Phnom Penh’s first capsule hotel opens. And take the opportunity to enjoy the Mekong waterways in style.
The Tama Hotel is perched on the 22nd floor of the Phnom Penh tower, an addition to the already existing chic D22 Restaurant, which serves French-Italian cuisine. The hotel – also known as H22 – is Phnom Penh’s first ever capsule hotel. Hotel guests can squeeze themselves into narrow bunks, which are right next to the glass windows of the tower, to enjoy a stunning aerial view of the city. For those visitors requiring a bit more space, larger deluxe and superior rooms are available. 26 rooms in total. Definitely a room with a view.
Down on the South Coast, the desirability of Kep is showing no signs of slowing down with roads in and out of the resort dramatically improved in recent months. Another new face on the accommodation front in town is a new private beach hotel, Samanea, which is spread over two hectares of natural landscape with 10 spacious and elegant villas, a sea-front infinity pool, al fresco restaurant and spa. Well worth checking out.
Cruising the waterways of Cambodia and Vietnam, is becoming increasingly popular for many visitors. With that in mind, Haimark are keen to expand their operations along the Mekong River and will introduce the 68-guest Mekong Navigator in September, a few days after they launch the 56-passenger Irrawaddy Explorer in Myanmar. In twelve months time, they will also set sail with a 24-guest, all-suite, “spa concept” ship named Mekong Princess. The company says it will have “the most extensive spa menu of any ship on the Mekong River” with several types of massages, facials, scrubs, and body wraps. Each guest will receive one free hour-long spa treatment during the cruise to begin the week-long rejuvenation.
Also gearing up for a luxury river-cruise launch is the Aqua Mekong in September. They will be offering a truly personalized, enriching and unique life-on-the-river experience, on board a five-star floating boutique hotel. Their itineraries have been customized to allow guests to get up close to life on the river and experience first-hand the colorful and varied cultures, religions and timeless traditions. After the excursions each day, guests are able to return to an elegant river facing suite on their floating sanctuary, and enjoy the comforts of the ship, like the plunge pool, indoor and outdoor bar, observation deck and gym, private screening room, games room, library, and last but not least, the spa. The cuisine will be taken care of by Chef David Thompson who has just been named a top ranked chef in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.
Relax at the serene La Maison d’Angkor in Cambodia’s temple town.
La Maison d’Angkor is a charming boutique resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia and ideally located for discovering the nearby Angkor complex. Within its lush tropical gardens, it hosts 17 beautifully furnished rooms that provide a serene way to unwind after a day visiting the glorious temples. Each room balcony overlooks the infinity swimming pool and the outdoor dining room. Relax and enjoy the tranquility. Definitely recommended.
The Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar is hot off the press. It’s definitely worth reading especially as previously off-limits areas are opening up and the crowds are heading to Myanmar in ever-increasing numbers.
The brand new Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar, 425 pages of hotel and eating suggestions, maps, photographs and recommendations that will help you to plan your perfect visit from your armchair at home. Their Myanmar Top 10 is a listing of what you must include in your itinerary, and here it is:
1 – Shwedagon Paya. 2- Inle Lake. 3- Bagan. 4 – Mrauk U. 5 – Kalaw. 6 – Pyin Oo Lwin. 7 – Mt Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock). 8 – Mawlamyine. 9 – Hsipaw. 10 – Myeil Arcgipelago.
So why did the Shwedagon Paya come in at number 1? Is there a more stunning monument to religion in Southeast Asia? We don’t think so – says LP. In fact, the sheer size and mystical aura of Yangon’s guilded masterpiece may even cause you to question your inner atheist. But it’s not all about quiet contemplation: Shwedagon Paya is equal parts religious pilgrimage and amusement park, and your visit may coincide with a noisy ordination ceremony or fantastic fortune-telling session. If you’re looking for one reason to linger in Yangon before heading upcountry, this is it. Make sure Myanmar is on your radar.