Posts Tagged ‘Boutique accommodation’

No 1 Best-Selling Guide to Cambodia

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The latest Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia has just been published. Read on.

Fish amok - Cambodia's national dish

Fish amok – Cambodia’s national dish

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.

On dry land and the waterways

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Phnom Penh’s first capsule hotel opens. And take the opportunity to enjoy the Mekong waterways in style.

A deluxe room at the Tama Hotel

A deluxe room at the Tama Hotel

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.

Serene La Maison d’Angkor

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Relax at the serene La Maison d’Angkor in Cambodia’s temple town.

The serene La Maison d'Angkor

The serene La Maison d’Angkor

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.

A deluxe room at La Maison

A deluxe room at La Maison

Myanmar is THE place to go

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

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.

Shwedagon Paya, Myanmar

Shwedagon Paya, Myanmar

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.

The heart of Shinta Mani

Friday, August 1st, 2014

A warm and generous welcome awaits you at the Shinta Mani Club in Siem Reap.

Shinta Mani Club

Shinta Mani Club

If you are looking for 4* contemporary luxury at an excellent price, great extras thrown-in and a hotel that supports the local community through their dedicated foundation, then look no further than Shinta Mani Club in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Paying that little bit extra can get you a lot of quality in temple-town. Here’s what they are offering guests:

  • complimentary mini bar
  • 1 time 30 minute foot massage
  • complimentary early and late check in / out (subject to availability)
  • complimentary room upgrade (subject to availability)
  • complimentary light refreshments served at Bensley’s Bar between 3-5 pm daily
  • complimentary poolside treats
  • complimentary 2 pieces of laundry per stay
  • complimentary visit to their development centre to learn more about Shinta Mani Foundation

The Shinta Mani Foundation is a registered local NGO and focuses on the three core areas of education, small business start-ups and health care. The Foundation is guided by a philosophy of Open Doors, Open Hearts and is the essence of the Shinta Mani brand.

Ask Hanuman for more details and read what we have to say about Shinta Mani Club @ http://www.hanuman.travel/Hotels/Cambodia/Siem_Reap/Shinta_Mani.html.

Vietnam – courtesy of Lonely Planet

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Lonely Planet Guide to Vietnam – A Mecca for foodies and a paradise for beach bums, Vietnam is also loaded with cultural interest.

The Hue Citadel and its royal buildings in Central Vietnam

The Hue Citadel and its royal buildings in Central Vietnam

Sensory Overload

Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam.

There’s the sublime: gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands from the deck of a Chinese junk in Halong Bay.

The ridiculous: taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi.

The inspirational: exploring the world’s most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

The comical: watching a moped loaded with oinking pigs weave a wobbly route along a country lane.

And the contemplative: witnessing a solitary grave in a cemetery of tens of thousands of war victims.

A Culinary Superpower

The Thais may grumble but in South-East Asia nothing really comes close: Vietnamese food is that good. Incredibly subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw for travellers – the dozens of cooking schools in Hoi An are testament to this. Geography plays a crucial role, with Chinese flavours influencing the soups of northern Vietnam, spices sparking up southern cuisine and myriad herbs and complex techniques typifying the central region, rightly renowned as Vietnam’s epicurean epicentre.

Thrills & Chills

If you’ve got the bills, Vietnam’s got the thrills and chills. Some activities require physical effort, like motorbiking up the jaw-dropping Hai Van Pass in central Vietnam. Others require even more sweat: kitesurfing the tropical waters off Mui Ne or hiking the evergreen hills around Bac Ha or Sapa.

And after the adrenalin rush, relax and indulge in Vietnam’s outstanding spas – from marble temples of treatments, to simple family-run massage salons with backpacker-friendly rates.

Meet the Locals

The Vietnamese are energetic, direct, sharp in commerce and resilient by nature. The locals love a laugh and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialise with them and hear their tales.

Generally, the rule is the more uncomfortable the (always tiny) seats in the bar or cafe, the more fun you’ll have.

Poor in parts but never squalid, Vietnam is developing at an astonishing pace and inevitably there are some issues to consider (including a few minor scams).

However, on the whole this is an extremely safe (apart from the traffic!) and wonderfully rewarding country to explore.

Vietnam Top Five

1. Hoi An

Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan and civilised town, this beautiful, ancient port is bursting with gourmet Vietnamese restaurants, hip bars and cafes, quirky boutiques and expert tailors. Immerse yourself in history in the warren-like lanes of the Old Town, shop till you drop, tour the temples and pagodas, and dine like an emperor on a peasant’s budget (and even learn how to cook like the locals). Then hit glorious An Bang Beach, wander along the riverside and bike the back roads. Yes, Hoi An has it all.

2. Food

Perhaps Asia’s greatest culinary secret, Vietnamese food is on the radar but hardly a global phenomenon. Essentially it’s all about the freshness of the ingredients – chefs shop twice daily to source just-picked herbs from the market. The result? Incomparable texture and flavour combinations. For the Vietnamese, a meal should balance sour and sweet, crunchy and silky, fried and steamed, soup and salad. Wherever you are, you’ll find exquisite local specialities – the “white rose” of Hoi An, the canh chua of the Mekong Delta or the good ol’ pho of the north.

3. Mui Ne

Perhaps the adrenalin epicentre of Vietnam, the relaxed, prosperous beach resort of Mui Ne is a kitesurfing capital with world-class wind and conditions, and excellent schools for professional training. For those who prefer dry land, sandboarding and golf are popular alternatives. The resort itself has more than 20km of palm-fringed beachfront that stretches invitingly along the shores of the South China Sea. From guesthouses to boutique resorts, designer bars to fine-value spas, Mui Ne has a broad appeal.

4. Sapa and the Tonkinese Alps

Dubbed the Tonkinese Alps by the French, the spectacular Hoang Lien Mountains soar skywards along the rugged edges of northwest Vietnam towards the Chinese border. Shape-shifting clouds and mist ebb and flow in the mountainous area around Sapa, parting to reveal a glimpse of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak. From the sinuous and spidery ridges, rice terraces cascade down into river valleys, home for several centuries to ethnic minority villages of H’mong, Red Dzao and Giay peoples.

5. Hue

The nation’s capital for 150 years in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hue is perhaps the easiest Vietnamese city to love. Its situation on the banks of the Perfume River is sublime, its complex cuisine is justifiably famous and its streets are relatively traffic free. And that’s without the majesty of the Hue Citadel, with its royal residences and elegant temples, formidable walled defences and gateways. On the city’s fringes are some of Vietnam’s most impressive pagodas and royal tombs, many in wonderful natural settings.

What’s New

> Zone 9, Hanoi

Filling a former pharmaceutical factory with bars, galleries and art spaces, Hanoi’s Zone 9 precinct is the city’s hippest and most vibrant new destination.

> Hill Station Signature Restaurant

In chic surroundings in Sapa, learn how to cook H’mong cuisine at the Hill Station Signature Restaurant. Wash it all down with a tasting set of delicious ruou (traditional rice wine).

> Cat Ba Island Hotels

New hotels are opening up on private islands in the Cat Ba area, including Cat Ong Beach Cottages, which has its own private beach and bungalows.

Getting There

Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned carrier, flies to 28 international destinations, including Australia.

Top Tips

Prepare yourself for the crazy driving: traffic can come at you every which way, and in the cities swarms of motorbikes reach biblical proportions.

Try to keep calm and consider arranging a massage after a long journey. Be aware that Vietnam has more than its fair share of scams; most concern overcharging.

Though very rare, there are some more serious dangers (like unexploded ordnance) to also be aware of. Relevant warnings are given in destinations throughout this guide.

In towns like Hue and Sapa, and beaches popular with tourists, expect plenty of hustle from street vendors, cyclo drivers and the like.

Off the beaten track there’s little or no hassle.

This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Vietnam (12th Edition) by Iain Stewart and Hanuman’s own Nick Ray amongst others.. © Lonely Planet 2014. Published this month.

Koh Ker awaits

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Abandoned for centuries, the temple complex of Koh Ker with many major structures including the pyramid of Prasat Thom, can now be seen in a day trip from Siem Reap. Hanuman Travel TV takes you there.

Koh Ker was the capital of the Angkor Empire from AD 928 to AD 944, but for a long time was one of the most remote and inaccessible temple complexes in Cambodia. Located a little over two hours northeast of Siem Reap by road, the complex has 42 major structures including the 40-metre high seven-tier pyramid of Prasat Thom and some of the largest lingas in the country. Koh Ker is also known for some of the most impressive sculptures of the Angkor period, some of which can be found in Phnom Penh’s National Museum.

Contact the Hanuman Team for more details on visiting Koh Ker, including our popular overnight safari. A trip there can be combined with a visit to Beng Mealea, another favourite temple of many visitors.

Sailing the Mekong

Saturday, July 12th, 2014
Pandaw on the Mekong

Pandaw on the Mekong

The mighty river Mekong flows from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and the South China Sea. You can experience the fascinating and varied river life along the Mekong between Vietnam and Cambodia on a river cruise aboard the RV Mekong Pandaw. Pandaw River Expeditions operates weekly departures between Saigon and Siem Reap/Angkor. You will pass from the vibrant French colonial port of Saigon, through the vast delta so rich in human life and endeavour, to travel along the main channel into the rich countryside of Cambodia.  With a full day in charming Phnom Penh, you will then explore remoter waterways on the way to the great monuments of Angkor.

The RV Mekong Pandaw received a full refit in September 2013. In their spacious state rooms, guests can find finest teak wood, new bathroom, new air conditioning and new sliding French windows leading to the promenade deck. The numbers of cabins have been reduced to just twenty-four making way for a much enlarged spa, new gym, lecture and movie theatre, art gallery, fair-trade-shop and library on the lower deck.

Pandaw is providing pre-programmed iPads with new one-touch-applications to its guests on the RV Mekong Pandaw: itineraries, meal and spa menus, gather information on rivers tops, weather forecast, skype, send e-postcards, watch movies, read e-books and surf the internet. This ship has the largest public space to passenger ratio of any cruise ship in the world. Pandaw is preserving the classic yacht atmosphere but enhances service and facilities. On all Pandaw ships you will experience Asian hospitality and enjoy the highest staff – guest ratio afloat ensuring sensational service.

For July and August sailings the prices are reduced by up to 20%. Fantastic deals, contact the Hanuman Team today for more details.

Open-air cinema at Le Palais

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

An unusual aspect of a new hotel that has partially opened in Phnom Penh is the creation of an open-air cinema within the hotel’s main restaurant.

The exterior of Le Palais des Anges Hotel in Phnom Penh

The exterior of Le Palais des Anges Hotel in Phnom Penh

Part of the newly renovated Le Palais des Anges Hotel was previously known as Cine Hawaii, and it’s now been converted into a three-storey restaurant, called Phkar Romyool, which doubles as a dine-while-you-watch theatre. The only original feature that remains after renovations is a floral emblem above the space where the screen stood. Tables and chairs face a blank white canvas onto which films are projected after dinner. Everything is open to the sky – an extendable roof can be closed if there’s a threat of rain.

The hotel will host 70 rooms and a roof-top swimming pool and sky-bar when its finalised in a few months time. At the moment, thirty rooms have been completed and are open to the public. Le Palais des Anges is located a stone’s throw from the Cambodian capital’s recently renovated Central Market. Both buildings exude the yellow-painted charm of the French colonial style.

The interior of one of the rooms at Le Palais des Anges

The interior of one of the rooms at Le Palais des Anges

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