Archive for July, 2010

Cambodia accommodation update

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
One of the individualistic bedrooms at Villa Paradiso in Phnom Penh

One of the individualistic bedrooms at Villa Paradiso in Phnom Penh

The pool and pavilions at The 252 in Phnom Penh

The pool and pavilions at The 252 in Phnom Penh

Boutique accommodation in Phnom Penh is pretty scarce to rival the favourites such as Pavilion, The Quay, Kabiki and River 108, so when something new opens up it’s well worth having a look to see how it compares with the opposition. Whilst fans of the larger hotels will be catered for with a new 12-story Sofitel opening up near the river before the end of the year, those seeking a more intimate place to stay might be interested in some of the following: The 252 on the street with the same number is smart, stylish and contemporary with polished stone and wood in its 19 rooms. It has a nice pool, restaurant and chill-out pavilions and a view of Gold Tower 42 nearby. The Villa Paradiso on Street 222 is a converted villa, has 10 rooms, each with a distinctive style of their own, a medium sized pool as well as spa, jacuzzi and sauna. We liked its individuality. One of the favourite boutique locations in the city, Villa Langka on Street 282, has just added 19 new contemporary rooms in an adjoining block with a lift. They now have 43 rooms in four categories, wireless internet, buffet breakfast included and a pool that’s a favourite of the local expats too.

La Villa, Battambang’s finest hotel by a country mile, is normally full as it only has seven rooms. However, the management have asked us to let potential guests know that building work next door is ongoing and it can get noisy during the day-time. In Siem Reap, the Angkor Village Hotel is closing from mid-August until mid-October this year for renovations an a general spruce-up. It’s sister, the Angkor Village Resort will of course remain open to welcome guests.

If you are looking for something a bit special and very personal, RiverWind on the far bank of the Mekong River across from Phnom Penh, is a beautiful and luxurious villa that can be your private hideaway, complete with lush tropical gardens, a private swimming pool, timeless sunsets and one or both of the 300 square meter self-contained suites at the property. Update: The owners have now decided to lease the property for a year so this exclusive villa is no longer available.

Kulikar at Duch’s trial verdict

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Kulikar Sotho waiting to hear the verdict outside the Tribunal courtroom

Kulikar Sotho (right) waiting to hear the verdict outside the Tribunal courtroom (pic Dave McKee)

Kulikar Sotho, the Executive Director of Hanuman, attended the verdict reading in the judgement day of the first trial, that of former S-21 commander Comrade Duch, under the auspices of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Phnom Penh Monday. This historic event, taking place more than thirty years after the Khmer Rouge regime came to an end, was personal for so many Cambodians, including Kulikar, who lost her uncle at Tuol Sleng prison.

The outcome of the verdict has shocked many people here in Cambodia. Comrade Duch (pronounced Doik) admitted responsibility for the prison activities which tortured and murdered more than 13,000 people in the late 1970s. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 35 years in prison. However, with time already served and another period taken off for illegal imprisonment, he will now serve just another 19 years behind bars. This has been greeted with dismay by many Cambodians, who recoil at the thought of Comrade Duch ever being able to walk free from his prison cell.

Kulikar too found the sentencing hard to stomach. “I can understand the reasoning of the judges but in my view it doesn’t bring any justice to the justice system and to Cambodians affected by the Khmer Rouge regime. There was a lot of anger when the sentence was announced. 90% of the Cambodians at the court were crying. One lady fainted on my shoulder. Others were wailing and screaming and very distraught. The whole process has reopened up the past for many and the fact that Duch may walk free in the future, it’s just not justified in the eyes of Cambodians.”

She continued. “99% of Cambodians will not accept this sentence. It’s too little. And I agree, it’s not justice for what he did. The people will lose belief in the justice system of the tribunal. For crimes against humanity, 19 years is simply not enough.” In addition, she said that the verdict was not explained clearly at the court which just made the situation a lot worse. “I think the court has made a mistake in not educating the Cambodian people properly, before the verdict and sentence were given. They don’t really understand the idea of reconciliation or mitigating factors and now no-one understands why Duch, a confessed architect of so many deaths, may one day walk free, when so many Cambodians will never be able to be free.”

“I’m not even talking about fairness, because being fair would be to treat him as he treated so many others, imprisoned them, tortured them and killed them. I can’t expect that to happen or want it to happen, as we would be just the same as him and history would repeat itself. What I am talking about is acceptance and the level of acceptance. Duch sent more than 13,000 people to their deaths, that’s 13,000 life sentences he imposed on them. So only a life sentence for Duch is acceptable for me,” she said.

Also at the court was a documentary team following former Olympian rower Rob Hamill, from New Zealand, as he uncovers the truth about his brother Kerry, one of the handful of westerners killed at the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Last year Rob Hamill gave testimony at the trial of the S-21 chief Comrade Duch and was back in Phnom Penh this week, to attend the trial verdict. Find out more about the documentary, Brother Number One, at http://www.brothernumberone.co.nz/index.htm.

At home in Banteay Chhmar

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Homestay accommodation at Banteay Chhmar is pretty basic

Homestay accommodation at Banteay Chhmar is pretty basic

One of the serene giant faces at Banteay Chhmar

One of the serene giant faces at Banteay Chhmar

One of the wonderful carvings to be seen at Banteay Chhmar

One of the wonderful carvings to be seen at Banteay Chhmar

Another recent outing by the Hanuman team was to one of Cambodia’s biggest temple complexes that is seen by very few visitors, though that’s likely to change in the future. Once word gets out, Banteay Chhmar will become a regular stop on the itinerary for many. Not only does it have a temple to rival some of the very best in the country but the rural landscape on your doorstep and interaction with the locals will be a magnet for adventurous travellers. Accommodation and facilities at Banteay Chhmar are still in the rough and ready category, with a few homestay options available. They are of the bed and mozzie net, with squat toilets and bucket-shower variety and food is usually served up by the members of the community group that can also arrange village visits as well as lunch and dinner picnics in the temple itself.

If you weren’t aware of the 12th century temple of Banteay Chhmar, it’s worth finding out a bit more. They are pushing ahead to get World Heritage status and the Global Heritage Fund is currently working to renovate some of the temple’s majestic wall carvings. These and Bayon-style giant faces, along with a host of other carvings, make the temple a treasure trove of ancient Cambodia, but its ruined state lets you experience temple-hunting as it must”ve been, back in the day.

Hanuman guests regularly visit Banteay Chhmar and we take along our very own luxury overnight accommodation, in the shape of our safari tents. We pitch them inside the temple complex or next to one of the satellite temples and allow you to spend more time at the site, alone in this remote part of Cambodia. If you like the idea of having a majestic Cambodian temple all to yourself, contact us for more details.

Rural adventures

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
One of the waterfalls that can be visited from Chi Phat

One of the waterfalls that can be visited from Chi Phat

Guesthouse accommodation in Chi Phat

Guesthouse accommodation in Chi Phat

One of the most talked about locations for adventurous tourists to visit in Cambodia in the last year or so has been the community of Chi Phat, which sits in the Southern Cardamom Mountain region. Their pioneering community-based ecotourism project, supported in large doses by the NGO Wildlife Alliance, has really caught the imagination of travellers looking to get under the skin of rural Cambodia. In Chi Phat the community have been working hard to put in place homestay and guesthouse accommodation, which are clean though pretty basic (most have squat toilets and ladle-shower facilities alongwith fan-cooled rooms with beds and mosquito nets though power usually switches-off at 10pm), as well as dining facilities at the community headquarters in the village. On offer to visitors looking for rural adventures are mountain bike trails, guided trekking routes and boat trips taking in waterfalls and rapids, ancient burial jars, birdwatching sites, bat caves and the surrounding protected forest. They have more activities planned for the future including candlelit dinner on floating rafts, and will soon link with another community project at nearby Trapeang Rung, which Wildlife Alliance are also encouraging. Chi Phat can be reached by road and by river from the main road to Koh Kong NH48, in a few hours from Phnom Penh. If, after your rural adventures you feel like some home comforts, the upscale 4 Rivers Floating Lodges at Tatai are less than an hour away.

All change at 4 Rivers

Friday, July 9th, 2010
The bedroom accommodatiuon at 4 Rivers Floating Lodges

The bedroom accommodation at 4 Rivers Floating Lodges

The unique 4 Rivers Floating Lodges on the Tatai River in the lee of the Cardamom Mountains in southwest Cambodia are undergoing some changes in time for the next high season. Renovations of the tented accommodation and flooring is taking place as I type and half a dozen of the tents will be back in operation in less than two weeks time. The rest of the floating tents will be ready by the end of September, by which time the new 4 Rivers management team will be in place. 4 Rivers has already proved popular with foreign guests and expats seeking an extra level of comfort and service in one of the remoter regions of Cambodia and that trend looks set to continue.

Fancy a dip?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
The renovated pool at Victoria Angkor in Siem Reap

The renovated pool at Victoria Angkor in Siem Reap

The Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa in Siem Reap have re-opened their saltwater swimming pool to guests after renovation work that included a new water filtration system, new pool tiles and upgraded sandstone around the pool terrace.

Over at Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, the hotel’s pool will be out of operation for renovation for a month for all of September. Guests can use the pool at Sokha Hotel in the meantime.

Down on the south coast, the brand new swimming pool is a very welcome addition to the popular Veranda Natural Resort on the hillside overlooking Kep.

Residents of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam can now enjoy exclusive rates when staying at the Aman resorts of Amanpuri (Phuket, Thailand), Amantaka (Luang Prabang, Laos), and Amansara (Siem Reap, Cambodia) from 1 July through to 31 October 2010. Proof of residency is required to guarantee reservation and upon check-in but the savings are well worth it. Ask the Hanuman team for details.