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Indochina – A Land of Contrasting Cultures

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment
Indochina is a land of contrasts, where foreign cultures clash with
ancient values and technological advancement goes hand in hand with a
centuries old way of life. Rice paddy fields and buffalos meet bustling
urban metropolises, where hand drawn carts jostle for space with
motorbikes – nowhere else in the world quite exhibits the contrast
between old and new like Southeast Asia.
Vietnamese women

Vietnamese welcome. Image courtesy of gomilspec
And now, for those looking to explore the urban chic, wonderful
nature and charming heritage of this exotic corner of the world, a new
ten-day tour from Luxury Vietnam Travel looks to have all the bases
covered, taking in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in
Cambodia.
Beginning in Vietnam’s dynamic capital, also known as Saigon,
visitors will be able to explore the city’s colorful markets, its
designer shops and its delicious foods.
Ho Chi Minh city

Saigon. Image courtesy of 0.tqn.com
The legendary Cu Chi Tunnels offer a chance to relive the horrors of
the Vietnam War, while an eclectic religious ceremony at the Cao Daism
temple provides an insight into a unique fusion of the region’s most
prominent religions.
To explore the traditional side of life in Vietnam, visitors can also
take a longboat trip around the Mekong Delta and its charming narrow
canals.
A cruise on the Mekong River

Mekong Delta. Image courtesy of vfej
From Saigon, we fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Teeming with exquisite
natural beauty, gorgeous architecture and an orgy of history, the
ancient city of Cambodia is fast becoming one of Southeast Asia’s
must-see attractions. Angkor Wat is resplendent as the world’s largest
ever religious monument – a true wonder of the world.
beautiful Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious temple

Angkor Wat Temple. Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Local charm and untold luxury are combined with fun-filled activities
in this action packed Southeast Asian tour. Accommodation is provided
in hotel state rooms where no comfort is spared, including a daily
breakfast together with a candlelit dinner each night.
Other activities include a health and beauty spa, guided visits to
local museums, dance classes, full-day shopping trips and a romantic
charted boat cruise on the famous Tonle Sap Lake.

Tonle Sap River. Image courtesy of Blogspot
Visit www.luxurytravelvietnam.com for more information and bookings.
Travel News From Argophilia
Categories: Travel

The call of Cambodia: Where nature’s beauty and mankind’s cruelty combine

May 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Nature’s been kind to Cambodia, but
man hasn’t. That’s the fascination of the place – it’s what makes it
more than just another edgy tropical paradise on the backpacker trail.
In fact, this is the most compelling tourist destination in South-East Asia. You can go just to unwind.
The
scenery is rich, the food – with its French colonial overtones –
exotic. Park by the pool, order the beers and soak up the old Indochina,
free of Thailand’s rampant commercialism or Vietnam’s frenetic crowds.

Angkor Wat, temple in the evening

From glory to ruin: Angkor Wat reminds you of the feats humans can attain, and how quickly the jungle can claim it all back
But this would be missing the point. The history of Cambodia adds up to a short course in human futility.
Successive
rulers have tried to impose their own ideas of earthly heaven, which
have all ended in varying kinds of ruin. And it is all there; awful, in
every sense.
Monuments to ancient grandeur and modern cruelty, both probably unequalled anywhere in the world.
I
came away half-haunted by three faces. First, King Jayavarman’s is
carved over and over again in stone 15ft high, staring down on what he
helped to create. In the 12th century, Angkor was the greatest city on
Earth. A million people lived in it – at a time when London could only
count 20,000.
Now, half
overgrown by tropical forest, it is arguably the greatest wonder of the
old world. It is the centre of a sprawl of vast temple cities, spreading
across 80 square miles, monumental in their magnificence, many covered
in acres of intricate allegorical carving.
Second,
there is Chan Kim Srun, who stares at you from a black-and-white
photograph in the former Khmer Rouge interrogation centre, her newborn
baby in her arms and an unfathomable sadness in her eyes.
Her
husband was high in the ranks of those mass murdering madmen before, in
their paranoia, they turned on their own. You can tell she knows
they’re both about to be murdered.
They were taken to the killing fields the night that photograph was taken.

Phnom Penh at sunset with Independence Monument

Dark history: Cambodia’s stunning architecture is contrasted by its black history
And, third, Hun Sen, the
current prime minister, a former Khmer Rouge commander before he ratted
on them and was put into power by the Vietnamese, who brought the
insanity to an end.
He’s
been in charge of Cambodia for a quarter of century, a former
ultra-Maoist who now encourages capitalism so he and his cronies can rip
it off.
He heads what
is widel y acknowledged as one of the most corrupt governments in the
world, a kleptocratic elite that has made itself fabulously wealthy
through seizing public assets and illegal logging, leading to repeated
complaints of corruption from the World Bank.
The
U.S. ambassador publicly accused government officials of stealing $500
million a year. All this when one in three Cambodians live on less than
$1 a day.
This is more
than a holiday. It’s an education. Start in Phnom Penh, an attractive
riverside city, tatty but game after the years of war and extermination.
They call it Lexus City these days because of all the gleaming 4x4s the
officials buy with their graft money.
Stay, if you can, in Le Royal, the
grandest of French colonial hotels, now done up by the Raffles Group. It
has sweeping hardwood staircases, scents of cinnamon, oozing luxury and
Jeeves-like service.
The ghosts of Somerset Maugham and Andre Malraux slink down the corridors in their silk dressing gowns.
Michael Buerk
Fascinated foreign correspondent: Michael Buerk and his wife Christine
Go for a drink in the Foreign
Correspondents Club. I was the only real foreign correspondent they’d
had in the place for years – it’s now a lively gathering place for
gap-year girls.
Eat at Friends – a non-profit Jamie
Oliver-type place that teaches street youths catering skills; a good,
cheap, philanthropic feed.
There’s plenty to see here. The Royal
Palace complex is a relatively modern masterpiece of distinctive
Cambodian architecture. The Silver Pagoda within it has a floor made up
of six tons of ill-fitting solid silver tiles.
But the real, and awful, fascination
is the four-year nightmare rule of the Khmer Rouge at the end of the
Seventies. They murdered a million people while a million more starved
to death, one in five of the population.
The former school they used as an interrogation centre is now a museum. In its way, it’s as chilling as Auschwitz.
The rough bedsteads with their iron
shackles surrounded by bloodstains, the classrooms, crudely subdivided
into cells like hutches, the children’s climbing frame they turned into a
gallows, are all still there.
Worst
of all are the pictures. The Khmer Rouge photographed their victims
just before they were taken off to be murdered. They look at you now,
hundreds and hundreds of them, blank, bewildered, doomed.
Human
bones and fragments of clothing are still coming out of the ground
today. Above, clouds of yellow and white butterflies – the sacred
colours of the country’s two historic religions – dance in the afternoon
sun.
It’s a dreadful place, marked now by a stupa with 17 tiers of crushed skulls.

Apsara and Makala dancers at Angkor Thom

Recovering: Traditional dancers are once again becoming common after they were massacred by the Khmer Rouge
The glories of Cambodia are the
magnificent temple cities, just north of the modern town of Siem Reap,
itself a short flight from Phnom Penh. The most famous, and best
preserved, is Angkor Wat, the world’s largest and surely most impressive
religious monument.
It is an entire Hindu universe (it became Buddhist in the 13th century) realised entirely in laterite and sandstone.
It’s
also huge – more than 500 acres – and fantastically rich in sculptural
detail. More than half a mile of its walls are covered in narrative
bas-reliefs. It is only one of numerous fabulous temple complexes.
Jayavarman’s legacy, Angkor Thom, is even bigger in total area and, in places, even more intricately decorated.
But
the centuries, and the jungle, have taken a greater toll – soaring
tropical trees swell out and up through the ruins. This is a place to
dwell on the futility of human ambition while you keep a sharp look out
for Indiana Jones. 
It is joint first on my list of 1,000
places to see before you die (only Machu Picchu and the Galapagos come
close). Go there soon, before the planned international airport opens
and the world’s most impressive tourist site becomes one of the world’s
busiest.
The place to stay is the Hotel de la Paix, a well-run modern hotel in the centre of bustling Siem Reap.
The
service and the food are exemplary and they lay on traditional
Cambodian dancing with all its old grace and control – an art thankfully
recovering after the royal dancers, like everyone with any skill,
talent or education, were massacred by the Khmer Rouge.
One day, somebody will explain why the most horrible things tend to happen in the nicest places.
Cambodia is utterly beautiful, its people are charming, its heritage unequalled.
Yet,
in the lifetime of a single generation, it’s been carpet-bombed by the
Cold War, partly wiped out by a clique who made an ideology of insanity,
and systematically raped by crooks with blood on their hands.
Tourism isn’t the best hope. It may be the only hope for Cambodia to have the future it surely deserves.

Mail Online

Categories: Travel

Eight journeys every backpacker should take

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Welcome sight … a trip through Africa to Cape Town is something every backpacker should do. Photo: iStock
You want the short answer? Okay, here it is: the only journey every backpacker should take is to the airport.
Where you go after that doesn’t really matter – you’re
travelling, you’re seeing the world, and life doesn’t get much better.
Plenty of would-be backpackers don’t even make it that far.
But it’s not always as simple as that. When you’re
spending your savings on what could be the one great adventure of your
life, you want it to be as amazing as possible, the ultimate that the
budget travel world has to offer.

If you’re in the planning stages of that big journey right now, or
even if you’re a seasoned traveller looking for the next great
experience, you could do worse than head out on one of these eight
trips.

They’re affordable, most don’t require so much time that
you’ll have to chuck in your job to achieve them, and they can be done
as hardcore as you choose – everything from with a tour group to winging
it on public transport.

Regardless, you’ll have the time of your life.

Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia
You’ll
probably start this trip in Bangkok, first heading down to the Thai
islands to party it up, then back up and across to Cambodia to check out
Phnom Penh and the temples of Angkor. Both countries are cheap, the
people are friendly, the food is great, and you can mix up your
transport to keep things interesting (train down south, bus across to
Cambodia, ferry up to Siem Reap).

Hanoi to Saigon, Vietnam
A classic backpackers’
trip that can be done in a few weeks, and for next to nothing. Head out
to Halong Bay, then down the coast to Da Nang, have some clothes made in
Hoi An, laze on the beach in Nha Trang, jump on a motorbike and head in to Da Lat, and finish off in Saigon. Great food, decent accommodation, and an easy place to travel around.

La Paz, Bolivia to Lima, Peru
This is
another well-worn tourist trail, but for good reason: it has
everything. There are incredible historical sites (Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines),
backpacker party towns (Cusco), one of South America’s most interesting
cities (La Paz), and some things that are just plain strange (the floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca). Plus, you get to feast on ceviche.

Western Europe in a bus/van/train/car/bike
How
you do it is completely up to you. Whether it’s a first-ever OS trip
heading around on a boozy bus tour, buying a van and spending a whole
summer trundling around, or even just more traditional public transport,
Western Europe is the ultimate backpacker destination – fun,
interesting and relatively safe.

Kerala to Delhi, India
I’ve written it before,
and it remains true: everyone should go to India at least once. On this
trip you get the relative calm of Kerala, the hippy hang-out of Goa,
the Bollywood madness of Mumbai, a quick spin past the Taj Mahal, before
finishing up in relaxed, sedate Delhi (kidding). Trains are the only way to go.

Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa
Safest way to do this is with an overland truck tour,
but the more adventurous can definitely get by with public transport.
On this trip you’ll see the best East Africa has to offer: the Masai
Mara, Serengeti, Lake Malawi, the Okavango Delta, Swakopmund,
and the beauty of Cape Town. It’s an amazing journey, but the sight of
Table Mountain is a welcome one after a few months of roughing it.

Mexico City to San Cristobal, Mexico
You’ve
got to love travelling in Mexico. Awesome food costs a few dollars from
street vendors. Buses are cheap, comfortable and reliable.
Accommodation is affordable. Plus on this trip you get the best of the
big city, then maybe a stop in historical Oaxaca City, a few weeks’
beach hopping around Puerto Escondido, and then finish up in the beautiful Mayan city of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Istanbul, Turkey to Cairo, Egypt
Again,
you can do this one with an organised tour, or the more experienced can
strike out alone. Regardless, you’ll get to travel through a relatively
misunderstood part of the world, taking in Turkish beaches, Syrian
markets, Lebanese nightclubs, Jordanian ruins, Israeli holy sites and
Egyptian history. That should keep you occupied for a while.

Have you made any of these journeys? Where do you think every backpacker should visit?

Hope you’re enjoying the Backpacker blog – there will
be a new one published every Tuesday and Wednesday on the Fairfax Media
websites. To contact me with any topic suggestions or personal abuse, visit my website, follow me on Twitter, or email me at bengroundwater@gmail.com.


The Sydney Morning Herald
Categories: Angkor Wat, Travel

10 Lost Cities Of The World

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

These ancient wonders are well worth a visit, even in troubled times.

Gazing at the Andean peaks soaring above the Lost City of the Incas
and the lush valley below, it’s easy see why it was voted one of the New
Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. The 15th century A.D. Peruvian site
was abandoned shortly after Spanish conquistadors invaded the
neighboring areas, falling to ruin until 1911, when an American scholar
stumbled across the remains.

History’s once glorious metropolises have become ever more
sought-after destinations as Americans get back into travel mode. Machu
Picchu welcomes as many as 1 million tourists annually, and that number
is said to be growing as much as 6% per year.
The Americas offer travelers dozens of lost cities to explore. Mexico
has the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, with Mesoamerica’s largest ball
court and the hulking pyramidal remains of Teotihuacan, with its
well-preserved, color-splashed murals. There’s Tical in Guatemala and
Copan in Honduras. Even the the Western U.S. boasts the
tumbleweed-strewn ghost towns of two centuries ago. 
Petra, Jordan

Photo: Ed Freeman/Getty Images

1. Petra, Jordan

Country: Jordan

Civilization: the Nabataeans

Inhabited: sixth century B.C.

This rose-colored city carved from cliffs garnered fame in the West
thanks to the 1980s blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

2. Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Photo: John Elk III/Getty Images

Country: Mexico

Civilization: the Mayans

Inhabited: 600 to 1000 A.D.

Site of one of Mesoamerica’s largest ball courts, this royal city is
located near a massive underground cenote, or sinkhole, where the bodies
of human sacrifices were dropped. 

3. Derinkuyu Underground City, Turkey

Derinkuyu Underground City

Photo: Thinkstock

Country: Turkey

Civilization: possibly the Phrygians

Inhabited: Approximately eighth century B.C.to 10th century A.D.

This underground network has more than 10 floors and room for up to
50,000 people, plus livestock. It is rumored to have been a hideout for
early Christians escaping Roman persecution.

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Photo: Glowimages/Getty Images

Country: Peru

Civilization: the Incas

Inhabited: 15th and 16th centuries A.D.

Conquistadors carrying small pox wiped out the inhabitants of this
royal mountaintop fortress, but the Lost City of the Incas was never
actually discovered by the Spanish–in fact, it wasn’t discovered until
1911.

5. Angkor, Cambodia

Angkor, Cambodia

Photo: Otto Stadler /Getty Images

Country: Cambodia

Civilization: the Khmer Empire

Inhabited: ninth century to 15th century A.D.

More than a thousand temples, including Angkor Wat, populate this
long-time Khmer capital. It declined after a successful attack by
invaders from what is now Thailand. 

6. Pre-Roman Carthage, Tunisia

Pre-Roman Carthage, Tunisia

Photo: iStockphoto

Country: Tunisia

Civilization: the Phoenicians

Inhabited: 650 to 146 B.C.

Carthage was home to the Roman Empire’s arch-nemesis, Hannibal. It was burned and the earth salted during the final Punic War. 

7. Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Photo: Dhuss/iStockphoto

Country: Italy

Civilization: the Roman Empire

Inhabited: seventh/sixth century B.C. to 79 A.D.

Pompeii was a cultural center and vacation destination for Roman high
society until it was destroyed in 79 A.D. by the eruption of Mount
Vesuvius. Left behind are naturally ash-encased mummies. 

8. Memphis, Egypt

Memphis, Egypt

Photo: DEA /A. VERGANI/Getty Images

Country: Egypt

Civilization: the Ancient Egyptians

Inhabited: third millennium B.C. to seventh century A.D.

Located at the mouth of the Nile delta, Memphis thrived for centures
as a center of trade, commerce, religion and royalty. Foreign invasions,
including one by Alexander the Great, let to its demise. 

9. Teotihuacan, Mexico

Teotihuacan, Mexico

Photo: Dmitry Rukhlenko/iStockphoto

Country: Mexico

Civilization: possibly the Totonac people

Inhabited: 100 B.C. to 250 A.D.

This city, the founders of which remain a mystery, is home to some of
the largest pyramids in pre-Columbian America. It inspired several
major empires, those of the Zapotec and Mayans.

10. Mosque City of Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Mosque City of Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Photo: Lonely Planet Images/Alamy

Country: Bangladesh

Civilization: Khan Jahan Ali

Inhabited: 15th century A.D.

The city formerly known as Khalifatabad was founded by a Turkish
general. It boasts more than 50 Islamic monuments and the Sixty Pillar
Mosque, constructed with 60 pillars and 80 domes.
Categories: Angkor Wat, Travel

Cambodia and the kids agree

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Old ruins, rugged roads, pelting rain and a very Third World
setting may make Cambodia sound like a place to skip if you’re
travelling with kids but, in fact, the kids love it.
Charlie is sprawled languorously in the armchair, his eyes half-closed
in blissful stupor as the reflexologist kneads and prods his feet.
I
know just how he feels. We’ve spent the morning clambering around the
ancient temples of Angkor, and a massage at the self-explanatory Dr
Feet is proving the perfect counterbalance. But Charlie is still a week
off his third birthday, you see, and not known for peaceful repose, so
I’m amazed to see him so compliant.
Still, I am getting used to
surprises. Siem Reap, Cambodia’s leaping-off point for countless
atmospheric and breathtaking temples, has been high on our holiday
wish-list for some time. Yet when we planned a short break with friends
and booked our flights, I had a nagging certainty that the trip would
be hard work with children (ours are seven, four and two, and our
friends’ kids are seven and five).
A sight to behold: Angkor Wat at dawn.
As it turns out, the hardest part is leaving.
In
varying states of grandeur or decay, the World Heritage-listed temples
nestle amongst the rice paddies or loom out of the jungle. These
architectural marvels dating back to the Khmer empire both dominate the
landscape and also somehow blend effortlessly into the local way of
life.
The most famous is the iconic Angkor Wat, best viewed at
sunset when its five beehive-shaped towers are bathed in a honeyed
glow. The world’s largest religious building, Angkor Wat is a massive
complex of three levels, surrounded by a moat over 5km in length and
featuring bas-reliefs of incredible detail depicting everything from
religious and battle scenes to everyday life in the 12th century.
It
is a truly awesome sight, but as we approach across the causeway for
the first time, I wonder if it will be possible to get the children,
whose definition of “old” is their parents, to appreciate the temple’s
800-year-old splendour. I needn’t have worried.
 
Women carrying baskets to sell in Siem Reap.
While
we marvel at the scale, symmetry and symbolism within Angkor Wat, the
kids hunt for shells and unlikely forms of treasure. Or they explore
the seemingly endless steps, passageways, rooms and courtyards of this
vast and beguiling building, described by Frenchman Henri Mahout, who
stumbled on it in 1860, as “grander than anything left to us by Greece
or Rome.”
In all, there are more than 1,000 ruins dotted around
Siem Reap province, covering an area of roughly 300 sq km, so only the
most dedicated scholar would attempt to see them all. Built by kings
and wealthy landowners, each attempting to outdo their predecessors,
the buildings showcase magnificent sculpture, intricate carving and, in
their heyday, were decorated with jewels and gold.
We manage to
see half a dozen temples in our four-day stay. At Ta Prohm, which is
literally being swallowed by the jungle, huge tree roots wrap
viper-like around the masonry while piles of moss-covered stones lie
abandoned alongside.
For many visitors, this sprawling temple is a point-and-click Tomb Raider
moment (parts of the movie were filmed here amidst the dramatic
strangler figs and crumbling walls). But take a few steps away from the
main thoroughfare of wooden walkways, and it is possible to gain a far
greater sense of the other-worldly atmosphere of this place.
 
Children playing in the grounds of the Bayon Temple.
It
is at Ta Prohm that the kids discover the joys of incense, lighting a
half-dozen wafting sticks between them until we tire of putting riel in
the offerings box. It is also here that we pass a band of busking
landmine victims, and are reminded that for all the ancient glory of
this country, it is the more recent tragic history — the Khmer Rouge
rule and subsequent decades of civil war — that shapes the lives of
ordinary Cambodians.
The ruin that remains etched in my memory
is the Bayon, its 54 towers topped by more than 200 enigmatic carved
faces, enormous visages that eerily watch over us as we progress to the
temple’s heart. Built by Jayavarman VII, renowned as the greatest
monument builder of all, the Bayon lies at the heart of the walled city
of Angkor Thom.
If you tire of temples, there is plenty more to
see. We tour a tiny corner of the huge Tonle Sap Lake, where villagers
have had to adapt to a constantly changing environment. For six months
every year, the Tonle Sap River, a tributary of the Mekong, reverses
its flow and runs uphill, swelling the lake to around 10,000 sq km,
more than triple its dry-season size.
To cope, surrounding
houses are on stilts up to 10m high, while at Chong Kneas, residents
live on houseboats and floating platforms. We pass a floating school,
police station, church and even a (well-fenced) basketball court before
the clouds open and pelting rain produces a deafening percussion on our
boat’s tin roof.
 
We
take respite at a floating crocodile farm, but for the locals a bit of
water is clearly just part of life. Alongside us, children delight in
the downpour, splashing each other joyously from their bowl-like
vessels. A picture of childish innocence, they are still savvy enough
to know that providing a photo opportunity to tourists could be worth a
dollar or two.
Siem Reap itself is a lively town with an
attractive centre featuring colonial shophouses and pavement cafes. The
main restaurant and bar strip is found along Pub Street, while there
are plenty of upmarket jewellery and clothing boutiques in the
alleyways around the Old Market.
The busy market is crammed with
silkwares, handbags, clothing and basketry. It is a great place for
souvenirs, but the best purchases we make in Siem Reap can be found at
the Blue Pumpkin bakery and ice-creamery, where we fill our cones with
flavours like green lemons and kaffir lime, caramel and cashew, and
dark chocolate.
A doorway engulfed by tree roots at Bayon Temple.
We eat incredibly well in Siem Reap. The FCC
(Foreign Correspondents Club), next to the Royal Residence, looks
dauntingly funky as we draw up in our tuk-tuk full of
chattering children, but proves an ideal dining venue with a huge lawn
where the kids can run while we savour our cocktails and fusion
cuisine. At Viroth’s, on Wat Bo Road, we sample delicious local dishes
like fish amok and fried eggplant with minced pork.
On
our final morning, we transcend skyward in the Sokha Yellow Balloon, a
tethered hot air balloon that reaches a height of around 200m. The rice
paddies stretch beneath us, a carpet of impossible green reaching to
Angkor Wat, which is simultaneously imposing and serene.
Perhaps
it is the silence away from the tour groups, but the temple is somehow
even more majestic from above — it is a shame the thousands who
laboured to create it never enjoyed this perspective.
At the
children’s request, though with little resistance from us, we manage a
last visit to Dr Feet before cramming into a pair of tuk-tuk,
our feet resting on suitcases and hair tousled in the breeze as we make
our way to the airport. It is a memorable way to leave.
And, we all agree, it has been a truly memorable holiday. 
Categories: Angkor Wat, Travel

Phnom Penh welcomes new 201-room luxury hotel

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment
THE SOFITEL PHNOMPENH PHOKEETHRA CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING MARCH 29
Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra Hotel
The Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, H.E. Tea Banh, presided over the
grand opening ceremonies last week of the Sofitel Phnom Penh
Phokeethra, the first five-star hotel debut in Phnom Penh since the
1990s.

As a representative of Prime Minister Hun
Sen, General Tea Banh noted that the hotel’s opening was bound to
improve the country’s “maco-economy” and “social development” and to
aid in the reduction of poverty.

The March 29 Grand Opening caps a USD 70 million investment in seven
classes of rooms and suites, eight restaurants and bars and one of
Southeast Asia’s most ambitious meetings facilities. Its
Sofitel-designed spa and executive club are the first of their kind in
Southeast Asia. And the Phokeethra Sports Club is opening as one of the
Kingdom’s most stunning new fitness facilities.

The Phnom Penh property is the second hotel in Cambodia for the
Phokeethra Group. Its Siem Reap hotel has won worldwide renown for its
service and is a perennial favorite on the lists of Southeast Asia’s
best hotels.

Opened in 2007, the Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap has hosted the
Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open for the past four years.

“The Sofitel team and Phokeethra Group have the same goal,” said the
Phokeethra Group’s Mr. Supachai Verapuchong, and that is “to create the
best service and facilities” of any hotel in Cambodia.

After a morning, ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the hotel,
hundreds of guests returned in the evening for a gala dinner and a
dance by Cambodian apsaras.

Ambassadors from seven countries, including Australia, France, India,
Japan, Laos, Russia and Thailand attended the Grand Opening.

Categories: Travel

100 Journeys for the Spirit

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment
Immerse yourself in mysterious places and go on a spiritual journey as you leaf through these pages.
Some landmarks are world-renowned gems, such as Angkor Wat in
Cambodia, or Mount Sinai in Egypt, but you’ll also discover some
less-known secrets such as Cheju Island in South Korea or Sheikh
Lotfollah Mosque in Iran.
Through superb photography and evocative descriptions from esteemed
writers, you’ll feel as if you have actually visited all these exotic
sites.
More than a beautiful book for the coffee table, there’s practical
visitor information so you can go and experience these places for
yourself.
Categories: Angkor Wat, Travel