Posts Tagged ‘Unique Experiences’

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.

Dolphin watching

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

The clock is ticking on seeing the rare Irrawaddy dolphins in Cambodia.

The increasingly rare Irrawaddy dolphin

The increasingly rare Irrawaddy dolphin

The freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin is an endangered species throughout Asia, with shrinking numbers inhabiting stretches of the Mekong River in Cambodia and Laos, and isolated pockets in Myanmar. The dark blue to grey cetaceans grow to 2.75m long and are recognisable by their bulging foreheads and small dorsal fins. They can live in fresh or salt water, although they are seldom seen in the sea.  Before the civil war, locals say, Cambodia was home to as many as 1000 dolphins. However, during the Pol Pot regime, many were hunted for their oils, and their numbers continue to plummet even as drastic protection measures have been put in place, including a ban on fishing and commercial motorised boat traffic on much of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng. The dolphins continue to die off at an alarming rate, and experts now estimate that there are fewer than 85 Irrawaddy dolphins left in the Mekong between Kratie and the Lao border.

The place to see them is at Kampi, about 15km north of Kratie, on the road to Sambor. Motorboats shuttle visitors out to the middle of the river to view the dolphins at close quarters. Encourage the boat driver to use the engine as little as possible once near the dolphins, as the noise is sure to disturb them. It is also possible to see them near the Lao border in Stung Treng province, at Preah Rumkel, which also boasts a community homestay. Another serious threat to the lifespan of the dolphins is the environmental impact of a series of hydroelectric dam projects that are in the works in both Laos and Cambodia. No-one really knows the impact on the Mekong River and its tributaries or the knock-on effect on the dolphins and fish stocks that inhabit the rivers, but environmentalists fear the outcome will be nothing short of catastrophic. Our message is simple, see them while you can.

Pandaw to cruise Laos

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Luxury cruise company Pandaw breaking new ground in Laos.

Pandaw on the Mekong

Pandaw on the Mekong

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.

Walking with the herd

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Original elephant adventures with Cambodia’s EVP.

Gee Nowl, one of the EVP elephants

Gee Nowl, one of the EVP elephants

For an original elephant experience, visit the Elephant Valley Project. The project entices local mahouts to bring their over-worked or injured elephants to this sanctuary, where, in the words of project coordinator, Jack Highwood, ‘they can learn how to act like elephants again.’ A Briton with a contagious passion for elephants, Highwood is on a mission to improve the lot of Mondulkiri’s  working elephants. While Bunong tradition calls for giving elephants a certain amount of down time, Highwood says that economic incentives to overwork elephants prove too great for the impoverished mahouts of Mondulkiri. In addition to toting tourists around on their backs, elephants are hired to haul around anything and everything, including illegally cut timber. Most tour companies in Mondulkiri stress that their tours employ only humanely treated elephants. Highwood commends this, but says it’s the exception rather than the rule. “Most elephants in Mondulkiri are in a highly abused state. They are beaten on the head and made to do things they aren’t meant to be doing.’

Enter the Elephant Valley Project. Mahouts who bring their elephants here are paid a competitive working wage to retire their elephants full time to ecotourism. Mahouts continue to work with their elephants, feeding and caring for them and making sure they don’t escape into the wild. The elephants, for their part, can spend their days blasting through the forest in search of food, uprooting saplings to get to their yummy roots and hanging out by the river spraying mud on one another. You are not allowed to ride the elephants here. Instead, you simply walk through the forest with them and observe them in their element. In the process you learn a lot about not only elephant behaviour but also Bunong culture and forest ecology. Other project components include health care for the Bunong communities in the project area, and health and veterinary care for the mahouts of Mondulkiri. The Wildlife Conservation Society lauds the EVP for helping to protect the eastern reaches of the Seima-Protected Forest.

The main option for visiting the EVP is a day trip in which half the day is spent observing the elephants, and half the day is spent washing the elephants and doing other tasks around the project site. There are a few exquisite bungalows at EVP but at the moment they are not able to accept overnight stays. Access to the site is strictly-controlled so don’t show up unannounced and the maximum number of day trippers allowed per day is 12. The site is not open to visitors on Saturday and Sunday, however there are plans to open six days a week in the future.

The EVP recently announced a fund-raising effort so that one of Phnom Penh’s best-known residents, Sambo the elephant, can see out his final years enjoying himself with the other elephants at the project. Forced to retire by authorities from giving rides at Wat Phnom and then his daily walk along the riverfront of the capital, Sambo has been in limbo for a while but it looks likely that he will be the latest addition to the EVP. Which is welcome news. Hanuman have been big supporters of EVP for many years, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more details on this excellent adventure in northeast Cambodia.