Posts Tagged ‘Unique Experiences’

Dancing in the heavens

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Recommended viewing in Phnom Penh. Contemporary classical Cambodian dance at its best.

The Lives of Giants - photo by Chan Sopheap

The Lives of Giants – photo by Chan Sopheap

Art and culture lovers are in for a real treat in Phnom Penh from 12-15 March when the Sophiline Arts Ensemble will put on a performance of contemporary classical Cambodian dance at the Chaktomuk Theatre on the riverfront in the capital city. Their performance of “The Lives of Giants” is expected to attract big crowds for this rare run of shows at the city’s top venue.

The story is based on the “Reamker,” or the Cambodian version of the Sanskrit epic, the “Ramayana,” but more deeply informed by the legacy of a traumatized Cambodian civil society. Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, the founder and artistic director of the Arts Ensemble, was only eight years old when Pol Pot’s regime took over the Cambodian capital in 1975, establishing an authoritarian order that resulted in the deaths of around two million Cambodians. Shapiro survived, and became the first generation to be trained by the remaining masters of classical Cambodian dance, part of millennium-old Khmer traditions nearly stamped out by the Khmer Rouge.

Now a significant leader in teaching traditional Khmer arts and pushing its experimentation, Shapiro’s passion to advance Cambodian dance in the wake of national devastation and loss shines through in this production. The drama focuses on the corruption of power, in which the giant Akaeng Khameaso, picked on by angels in the heavenly realms since childhood, begs the local divine ruler, Preah Eyso for help. Given a magic finger for self-defense, the abused becomes the abuser, and soon Khameaso wreaks havoc in the heavens.

Ticket prices for the 4 shows, which begin at 7pm, except the final day, when it starts at 4pm, are priced between $3 for students up to $15. Call 011 594 673 or email tickets@khmerarts.org to reserve your tickets. It’s a show that is definitely worth watching.

Surviving on Koh Rong

Thursday, February 26th, 2015
One of Koh Rong's lovely beaches

One of Koh Rong’s lovely beaches

Television’s longest running reality TV show, Survivor, now into its 30th season, will be heading to the island of Koh Rong off the coast of Cambodia in March to film two episodes. The American show debuted in 2000 and is a reality contest where a group of strangers in an isolated location must find their own water, food and shelter whilst competing in challenges. The locals are hoping that the positive publicity will be a boost for tourism on the island, its gorgeous beaches and along the coast.

Koh Rong is the second largest island in Cambodia and offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. After years of minimal development, the island was leased to the Royal Group (Mobitel, ANZ Royal and many more companies) who laid out some grand plans to create the next Koh Samui, including an airport and ringroad. However, as the global economy imploded, these plans were put on hold and the island has begun to develop in a more traditional, organic sense, with lots of small backpacker pads and bungalow resorts springing up on the island. When it comes to activities on Koh Rong, it is mostly about relaxing on the beach. However, snorkelling and diving trips are popular and can be easily arranged.

Cambodia on the rise

Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Angkor Wat, Cambodia's premier attraction

Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s premier attraction

Cambodia is one of the top 10 fastest-growing tourism destinations for British travelers, according to a report released by UK-based travel company Kuoni. The report said visitors view the Kingdom “as a natural next step from Vietnam”, with Cambodia moving up five places from 27th position to 22nd in the top 30 destinations for British tourists. Thailand remains at number two, Vietnam are in 13th place. According to the British embassy, 133,000 British nationals visited Cambodia in 2014, up 10,000 from 2013.

HanumanAlaya in the Best Small Hotels

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

With TripAdvisors’ 2015 Traveller’s Choice Awards in full swing, we are very pleased to report that our very own HanumanAlaya Boutique Residence in Siem Reap is included amongst the Best 25 Small Hotels in Cambodia.

The HanumanAlaya features 15 exquisitely decorated rooms alongside our renowned Reahoo Restaurant, Asura Bar, Rama Lounge, Sita Spa and our Hanuman Traditional Arts Gallery, we also have our very own delightful Ganesha Pool, the centerpiece of our beautiful property, complete with ornate naga fountains and classic statue of Ganesha.

Shinta Mani Club scoops 3rd spot

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Just a 15-minute remork ride from the world-famous temples of Angkor Wat, Shinta Mani Club Siem Reap has just been awarded number 3 in the top 25 hotels in the world, in the Travelers’ Choice Awards on TripAdvisor, based on TripAdvisor reviews, guest satisfaction and general guest comments. So that’s number 1 in Cambodia, number 1 in Asia and number 3 in the world. A fantastic achievement.

Located in Siem Reap’s leafy French Quarter, the food is excellent (choose from international comfort food or Khmer street food), the relaxing spa features traditional Khmer healing rituals and there is a variety of personalized services offered such as sightseeing tours, cooking classes and community-based excursions.

But perhaps what distinguishes Shinta Mani the most is the level of service. When you are a guest at the resort, you truly feel like you are being treated as an individual and not just part of the masses. There’s a level of caring at this place that you can feel in an instant and extends to its support of the Shinta Mani Foundation that strives to create a lasting and positive impact for the people of Cambodia.

Congratulations to our friends at Shinta Mani Club in Siem Reap. We celebrate by bringing you their most recent video of magical Shinta Mani moments.

TripAdvisor’s prestigious award is the latest high profile international acknowledgment of Shinta Mani Club which in late 2014 was chosen among the Top 25 Hotels in Asia by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler and praised by its editors: “Bangkok-based American designer Bill Bensley created spaces that are serene and minimalist yet theatrical, with rectangular columns, recessed doorways, and other dramatic features inspired by the architecture of Angkor.”

Tree Alliance’s latest addition

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Cambodia-based NGO Friends-International has opened Khaiphaen restaurant, its sixth training restaurant and vocational school, and their second in Laos.

The staff at the newly-opened Khaiphaen restaurant

The staff at the newly-opened Khaiphaen restaurant

Named after the tasty local snack of fried Mekong River weed, Khaiphaen will give marginalized and at-risk youth the chance to receive professional restaurant training, safe accommodation and counseling, including work placement support after they graduate from the 18-month program. Khaiphaen was funded by the 2013 Luang Prabang Half Marathon, which raised over $120,000 to open the vocational training restaurant from scratch. Currently nine teachers guide 21 students ranging from 15 to 24 years of age – some of them coming from villages over four hours away. The students will receive hands on experience in food, beverage and service, developing confidence and skills highly sought after in Luang Prabang’s bustling hospitality and tourism industry.

Located between the French Institute and the Mekong River, Khaiphaen is open Monday to Saturday 11am to 10:30pm (kitchen closes at 9.30pm). The other TREE Alliance outlets include Makphet in the Laotian capital of Vientiane, the two restaurants in Phnom Penh, Friends and Romdeng, Marum in Siem Reap and Sandan in Sihanoukville. All profits from the six TREE restaurants are invested in the students who train there and the social programs which support them on their journey to becoming a skilled, productive and happy young person with a more secure future. Definitely recommended.

Feeling at home

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Sambo, Phnom Penh’s biggest star, heads for retirement in Mondulkiri’s forests.

Sambo says goodbye. Photo courtesy of PPP.

Sambo says goodbye. Photo courtesy of PPP.

There’s an important guest of honour at the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri, northeast Cambodia this week. Sambo, the elephant who for many years was a well-known and distinctive Phnom Penh resident, has officially retired from giving rides at Wat Phnom, and is taking a well-earned retirement in the bamboo thickets of his new home in Mondulkiri. The Elephant Valley Project do fabulous work in providing a safe haven for former working elephants and Hanuman’s clients have been enjoying visits to the project for a few years now, to see these giants of nature enjoying themselves in their natural environment. And now visitors have a familiar face to meet when they visit EVP. Long may it continue. The Phnom Penh Post picture shows Sambo saying goodbye to well-wishers in the city.

Bon Om Tuk returns to Cambodia

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

 

The Water Festival, known as Bon Om Tuk in the Khmer language, is one of the most eagerly-awaited festivals of the Cambodian calendar. It is celebrated every November and marks a unique reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River into the Great Lake. It also commemorates the end of the rainy season. Nearly every town and province joins in the festival with boat races, though by far the biggest festivities take place in Phnom Penh with the best of the country’s boats taking part in races for three days in front of the Royal Palace, and attended by the King. The races draw an enthusiastic audience from the provinces, who use the opportunity to pour into the capital and the celebrations, which include concerts, fireworks and general merriment, attracts several million people each year. Hanuman Films caught some of the festivities at the 2014 festival, held last week, after a three-year hiatus.

New performances in Siem Reap

Monday, November 10th, 2014
Plae Pakaa

Plae Pakaa. Photo (c) Dennis Drenner

The success of the six-nights per week Plae Pakaa performances from the artists of Cambodian Living Arts at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the tourist high season, will now extend to Siem Reap, the gateway to the majestic Angkor temples. Starting from 17 November, the Wat Bo Pagoda in the heart of Siem Reap will host one-of-a-kind experiences for visitors allowing them to connect to Cambodia’s rich heritage through arts and music dating back to the 8th century. Over 40 local artists from the Wat Bo Shadow Puppet Troupe and the Sounds of Angkor – 15 centuries of Khmer music – will be involved, providing the artists with much-needed regular income. Performances will last 45-60 minutes and be available Monday-Saturday at 6:45pm.

The Plae Pakaa shows in the capital of Phnom Penh have become a major attraction for tourists, who are able to watch Cambodia’s artistic traditions thrive and flourish, all thanks to the foresight and hard work of Cambodian Living Arts. The six-nights a week shows in Phnom Penh have already started their high season run again and are recommended viewing and start at 7pm. The Phnom Penh program is as follows:

CHILDREN OF BASSAC – A Snapshot of Cambodia through Dance (Mondays & Thursdays)

MAK THERNG – The Quest for Love & Justice (Tuesdays & Fridays)

THE SPIRIT WITHIN – Rediscovery of Cambodian Identity (Wednesdays & Saturdays).

 

Child-friendly Phnom Penh

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

So what does Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, have to offer for children?

Climbing walls at Kids City

Climbing walls at Kids City

With chaotic traffic, a lack of green spaces and sights that are predominantly morbid, Phnom Penh would not seem like the most child-friendly city. Thing again. There are plenty of little gems to help you pass the time with your children in the capital. Plus, what kid doesn’t like a remork ride? One rule of thumb is that kids also love Buddhist temples – especially colourful temples like Wat Langka or Wat Ounalom, and hill temples like Wat Phnom, or outside of town, Oudong. Shimmering gold Buddhas, shiny stupas, animal statues and the occasional monkey give children plenty of visual stimulation (just keep their eyes averted from potentially scary demons). The Royal Palace is similarly rich in Buddhist iconography.

If your kids ride two-wheelers, consider renting bicycles and crossing the Mekong by ferry from the dock behind Imperial Garden Hotel. On the other side, smooth roads and trails lead 15km or so north to Smango, a guesthouse with decent food and a refreshing swimming pool. Phnom Penh has decent public play spaces, including a playground northwest of the Cambodian-Vietnam Friendship Memorial in Wat Botum Park, and another playground just south of Wat Phnom. To escape the heat (or the rain), Kids City on Sihanouk Boulevard, is a vast indoor play palace, with a first-rate climbing gym, an elborate jungle gym, a science gallery and an ice rink. Other indoor playgrounds (bring socks) with elaborate slides, bouncy castle and the like can be found at amusement park Dream Land, which also has a ferris wheel and other rides; and for younger children, Monkey Business, which has wi-fi and a cafe for adults. Many of the restaurants and cafes are child-friendly, but there are a few specifically aimed at families, including Le Jardin. The most interesting attraction is beyond the city limits and makes a good day trip: Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary, a rescue centre for Cambodia’s incredible wildlife.