Archive for December, 2009

Phare Ponleu Selpak – arts for the people

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

The buzz coming out of Battambang these days is all about Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), the Cambodian NGO that is enhancing the lives of over 1,000 children and students in the northwest city with their educational and artistic programmes.

Tours overseas have helped spread the word about PPS and their circus school, their success has spawned an annual international circus festival, Tini Tinou, and they continue to go from strength to strength. They host a weekly circus show, on Thursdays, at their headquarters which is open to the public and display a variety of disciplines including acrobatics, choreography, juggling, clowning, live music and much more. Tickets for the public shows cost $8 and an after-show dinner can be arranged in advance.

However, PPS aren’t just a group of circus performers. They have evolved since their 1994 beginnings into providing a wide range of cultural and educational services to their community and an increasing number of children. These include a child care centre, a library and three artistic schools – the circus and theatre school, a visual arts school that includes animation and graphic design, and a music school.

If you have time during a visit to Battambang, PPS welcome visitors to their headquarters. They also offer a variety of unique shows that can be booked to entertain your own group or special event anywhere in Cambodia. Contact us at Hanuman and we will provide you with the whole range of services provided by this wonderful artistic community that is opening doors for the youth of Battambang.

Read more about PPS at http://www.phareps.org/

New boutique offerings in Luang Prabang

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Boutique Hotels in Luang Prabang

The Hanuman team has also been to Luang Prabang in Laos to take a look at some of the latest boutique offerings and here are our thoughts on what we found.

Amantaka

This is the one all Aman junkies have been waiting for, the much heralded conversion of the old colonial-era hospital in Luang Prabang. Set in immaculately landscaped gardens, the elegant old buildings have been beautifully renovated under the watchful eye of UNESCO and the results are stunning. There are several suites on offer, but our favourites were the pool suites with a private plunge pool in a hidden courtyard, and the Khan suites, which feature a fully integrated bathroom, living room and larger pool. Facilities are similar to other Amans around the world, with Bose sound system but no television. As befitting an old French-era property, the ceilings are extremely high and the rooms very airy. Facilities include a large swimming pool, a fully-equipped gym and a restaurant serving traditional Lao cuisine. Rates are currently significantly lower than sister property Amansara in Siem Reap, so take advantage to promote it in the coming year. Hanuman has some great value combination packages which include 3 nights in Amantaka and 3 nights in Amansara, making such luxury affordable at last.

Satri House

Originally the home of a Laotian prince, this beautiful old colonial-era mansion has been given an extensive makeover in the past year. The original house has been converted into a pair of elegant suites overlooking the garden pool. An entirely new wing has been added, including a larger lap pool, an indulgent spa and a dozen entirely new rooms. The decoration is tasteful Chinese-Laotian style, including many period pieces from the region. Owner Lamphuon also owns textile and antique shops in Luang Prabang and Vientiane and her impeccable taste is on show throughout. Rates are still to be finalised, but it looks like it will at the upper end of the current range.

The Apsara

One of our long-running favourites, this chic little boutique hotel has always been a bastion of understated style. The original wing remains a good mid-range option in Luang Prabang for those who want to be in the heart of the historic quarter. The restaurant remains one of the best tables in town for fusion food and the wine list reflects owner Ivan Scholte’s background as a wine dealer in Hong Kong. The Apsara is about to open the doors to a new wing across the other side of the Nam Khan River. This purpose-built property is designed in a combination of Lao colombage and French colonial-era architecture and includes an inviting swimming pool overlooking the river. Rooms include stylish bathrooms and fine furnishings, making for a romantic retreat for those wanting a bit more intimacy than the lively old town. Guests will be able to take a boat shuttle across to the original Apsara, making town just a few minutes away. Rates look set to be considerably higher than the original building, but will be discounted for the first year.

New boutique faces in Siem Reap

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Boutique Hotels in Siem Reap

Several new boutique hotels have opened their doors in Siem Reap, Cambodia in the past few months. The Hanuman team has been to take a look and is pleased to offer our insights into these new places.

Sojourn

Tucked away amid ricefields behind the Angkorian temple of Wat Athvea, this is definitely aimed at those who want to get away from it all. Accommodation is set in ten bungalows dotted around a landscaped garden with a swimming pool at its heart that includes an unexpected swim-up bar. Bungalows are well-appointed with contemporary bathrooms and ample space. Temple Villas include an outdoor shower, Balinese style, set in a hidden rear garden. The restaurant serves a mix of Khmer, Asian and Western cuisine, important to note as many guests may end up dining in-house, given the distance to town. The rates are currently very good value, but may reflect the gamble in locating the property about 5km from the centre. The drawback is the location, as while it is undoubtedly beautiful, it is a long way from the restaurants, bars and shops of Siem Reap. This is one for romantics or those seeking a spiritual retreat, but not for the average Angkor explorer.

Villa Kiara

Located on the edge of the countryside to the southwest of Siem Reap, this is a small boutique hotel set in modern clusters of villas. The rooms and suites are stylish and spacious with lots of natural light. However, the beds are perhaps a little too contemporary with a mattress on a raised platform rather than a traditional bed. The pool is the charming focus of the resort and is surrounded by lush foliage. The resort includes small restaurant and bar. Villa Kiara has a certain charm, but the rates are a little high for the time being and we would find it hard to promote among other offerings around town. Sojourn remains a better value retreat for now

Suites and Sweet

This collection of boutique villas is set around a pond, with 18 suites in all. The design pays homage to a traditional Asian fishing village and looks very atmospheric by night. Rooms are contemporary in design with rich silks from Sentosa design boutique and the minibar is free for the use of guests. The resort includes a small restaurant serving a variety of Asian and European cuisine. It’s a unique place by comparison with many of the mainstream hotels in Siem Reap, but we can’t help but feel the US$200+ rates are ambitious, particularly given the remote location and lack of a swimming pool.