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Travel to Cambodia, an Exotic Place for Adventure in Southeast Asia

I feel somehow changed by my visit to Angkor Wat. I have been to many wonderful venues in the world, but none made me feel the awesomeness of human determination and accomplishment as did this visit to Cambodia.

Discover Cambodia’s Hidden Treasures

Once the site of horrible crimes against humanity, Cambodia is a beautiful country with a rich culture and a people who, in spite of the tragedy only a generation ago, are warm and bouncing back with incredible hope and life. From the stunning outline of the Angkor Watt complex to the scenic coastlines and deep jungles, Cambodia has a lot to offer an adventurous traveler.

Green stamp on jungle style

In a country best known for its temples, Jane Dunford finds a floating ecolodge that's a gateway to a pristine environment.

Lucky Adventure Travel Indochina – Summer Promotion 2013

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA has launched “Great summer holiday with lucky travels” for summer promotion 2013 in Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia. The program applies for all customers request tour on website from 25 March to 30 September 2013.

11/20/13

Cambodia is Colorful

 "SHOES OFF," read the sign at the entrance of the temple. Remembering that shoes are not allowed to be worn inside of Buddhist temples, I slid my sandals off and placed them on the nearby shoe rack.I continued into the temple sans les chaussures, feeling the hot,sun-soaked tiles under my feet. My jaw dropped as I walked into my very first Buddhist temple, Wat Phnom. 

Colorful Cambodia
The first thing I noticed was the bright colors of Wat Phnom. Saffron candles stood proudly in the temple's corners.  Burgundy bunches of incense released silver streams of smoke past the silent, yellow gold Buddha. Lilac-hued flowers lay on the ground and jasmine petals lay immersed in silver jars of water. Every inch of the temple seemed to glow.

Colorful Cambodia
While my eyes were drawn to all that was glittering and gold, Wat Phnom was a feast of scent and sound as well. I could hear the whispered chanting of loyal Buddhists who knelt before the golden alter. A light breeze stirred a clamour from tiny bronze bells. Invigorating jasmine cut through the smoky, rich scent of old-world spices that hung in the air.

I slowly walked around the central alter, upon which sat a gilded Buddha figure. The Buddha was quite stunning but my eyes were really drawn to the temple walls. Covered with murals, the walls of  Wat Phnom are painted with scenes from Buddhist mythology such as from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. I reveled in the paintings of gods, goddesses, elephants and men. 

Colorful Cambodia
Looking up, I noticed even more murals on the ceiling of Wat Phnom! It seemed like every inch of this temple was covered in vivid color. To this day, Wat Phnom remains one of the most impressive religious sites I've ever seen. These murals are really hard to beat!

Even the floor of Wat Phnom radiated color! I loved how delicate the fushia and cream lotus pods looked as they rested delicately over the printed tile floor. 

Colorful Cambodia
After circling the central alter, taking in the gorgeous murals and people-watching for a bit, I continued outside to have a look at the exterior of Wat Phnom. Because it is situated atop a man-made hill, Wat Phnom offers some nice views of the city. I had to dodge a few wild monkeys while walking around the temple but I found the temple's exterior to be lovely!

Colorful Cambodia
I walked down the naga-lined stairs to see a sculpture in honor of the Khmer King Sisowath. I learned that he was king during a time of fierce conflict within the country when French colonial rule became norm.

I enjoyed the beauty of Wat Phnom and I think it was a perfect introduction to Cambodia, Phnom Penh and Southeast Asian Buddhism. If you're traveling through Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom shouldn't be missed. 

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Cambodia Discovery  tour.Ancient temples, empty beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests... and (outside Angkor) only a handful of tourists. But the word is out - Cambodia has emerged from decades of war and isolation and is well and truly back on the Southeast Asian travel map. From Phnom Penh we fly to Siem Reap. At Angkor we have 3 whole days to explore the complex; from the splendor of Angkor Wat to the enigmatic faces of the Bayon and the haunting Ta Prohm temple, enveloped in the clutches of the jungle.

10/1/13

Top 5 Reasons to Cycle Cambodia

by World Biking 

Cambodia is well-loved for its exotic temples and spicy cuisine.Rachel Hugens shares some of the reasons why this southeast Asian country is a current hot-spot for bicycle tourists.

Reason #1  Location, Location, Location

Cambodia is a wonderful destination for a short cycling trip or travelling through as part of an extended adventure. Nestled between Thailand to the west, South Vietnam to the East, Laos to the North, and a coastal region to the South, there is so much to see in Cambodia and many border crossings.

Our trip started in Bali, Indonesia 3 months earlier and we cycled into Cambodia from Bangkok to Siem Reap on the dustiest road ever! As you pass through the border from Thailand, there is a switch from riding on the left side of the road to riding on the right and you begin to see the land of extremes.


Reason #2. Land of Extremes

You see ox carts that you later recognize as the same as the stone carvings on the walls of the ancient temples; overloaded vehicles (trucks, wagons, motorbikes, bicycles) carrying people and anything from live pigs to ice. Locals are wearing rounded straw hats or checkered scarves wrapped around their head and face or face masks to protect from the dust. Big black vases at the side of buildings collect water. Batteries are left at the side of the road to be recharged. There are no coins for money. Prices are quoted in US Dollars. Contrast this to the Lexus and Landcruisers carrying tourists or NGO personnel.

A taste of the exotic.

Because of the history of Cambodia, landmines are still being found, so it’s not recommended to free camp or get off the trusted footpaths. The good news is why would you want to camp in a tropical climate when there are wonderful guesthouses with reasonable (cheap) rates, hot showers, western style toilets, and TV with BBC news?

Reason # 3  Friendly People

As you cycle by you hear the children shout, “Sah- bye- dee, Sah- bye- dee, and bye-bye”, all in one sentence. School kids on bikes riding to? from? school any time of the day, and we never figured out the school hours.


Lots of waves and shouts!
Reason #4 Culture and History

Siem Reap with the ancient temples (wats) is Cambodia at its best. Plan to spend time in the city to see all the temples of Angkor. You can cycle or hire a tuk-tuk to take you around to see the sites. Besides the temples, it’s fun to see the monks in Cambodia known to carry umbrellas.

Phnom Penh with the history of the Vietnam war, Khmer rouge and the killing fields is at its worst. Though grim, the killing fields is a must see to understand the country you are traveling through.

The grim side of history.

The French left a legacy of good coffee and baguettes. As you look at the food stalls along the side of the road or in the city markets, you see anything that crawls has been deep fried: snakes, frogs, crickets, scorpions– things people learned to eat to survive during dark times. To pose a question: Did the French teach the Cambodians to eat escargot or did the Cambodians teach the French to eat snails?


Come on, try something new for a change.

Our route through Cambodia was crossing the border from Thailand to Siem Reap. We took a boat to Battambang and cycled to Phnom Penh before continuing on into South Vietnam and eventually to Llhasa Tibet. We want to go back and explore more. Cambodia is a great country to see by bicycle!


ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Cycling Angkor Temples tour. Let’s discover the world’s remarkable awesome historical site through this adventure trip and grasp the reasons why the Tomb Raider’s film maker team chose the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap for its screen backdrops. Also experience the biodiversity of Tonle Sap listed as the World Ecological Wonder.


Highlights: 




  • Beautiful cycling roads 
  • Impressive Angkor temples
  • Boat trip on Tonle Sap

8/15/13

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Written by Mikey

So, the big one: Angkor Wat! Travis, Mike and Tracey have all been telling me it’s an incredible sight and that Siem Reap is incredible too. I must say, I was pretty sceptical. I’m the kind of person who will visit the Eiffel Tower, look at it for about 2 minutes, then turn around and watch people watching it instead!

But I must say, for the first time since my first trip to Ha Long Bay, I’ve had a tourist attraction live up to the hype. It’s absolutely incredible, and I want to a) let you know exactly what to expect, and b) why it is as incredible as people say it is.

Angkor Wat Temple
First of all when people refer to ‘Angkor Wat’, they are not normally referring to the Angkor Wat temple (the famous one, above); they are normally referring to the whole area of hundreds of temples, of which the temple is undoubtedly the most visited and most famous. The area lies just outside the town of Siem Reap, which acts as a launchpad for your visit and is full of hotels of all standards, and restaurants of all types of cuisine.

To visit the temples, you will normally get picked up from your hotel by a tuk-tuk driver (cycling is possible, but the distances are quite large). There are two main ‘routes’ around the main temples in the central region, but ultimately if you have done the research and wish to deviate from these paths, it is totally possible; your driver will take you where you want to go and when you do. Having said this, they know the area intimately, including the normal path of the crowds, so it can pay to heed their advice.


Angkor Wat Temple
I’ll deal with the main temple itself in a minute, but first I want to list some highlights that should not be missed. First is the temple of Bayon, in the centre of Angkor Thom (very close to Angkor Wat, much more spread out and less of one impressive structure). This temple, built in the 12th or 13th century is famous, for its multitude of mysterious faces looking out at you from every pillar. The size and number of them, along with the enigmatic smiles leave you feeling like it was built by some mysterious other worldly power. The picture below goes some way of showing what I mean, but it’s nothing compared to being literally surrounded by them.

The next temple of note is Ta Phrom, often referred to by the drivers as the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’. Yes, it features in the Lara Croft film ‘Tomb Raider, but it’s so much more. This was probably my favourite of them all. More so than any of the other ‘main temples’, it has a sense of being reclaimed by nature. Some of it is in ruins, but none of the sense of scale is lost, and many of the ornate carvings still remain. There are parts that are more tree than temple, and if the tree was to be removed the temple almost certainly collapse. It can get quite busy, but it’s not too hard to slip away from the crowds to find a place to sit alone and contemplate this really unique and special place.

Ta Phrom

Now seems a good time to mention the maintenance work throughout the complex. In many parts of the temples you will see maintenance work being done – machinery, scaffolding, bricks with identification numbers etc. Some people I spoke to expressed disappointment at this, but I think if you look at the information boards regarding restoration it is worth it. (I even thought seeing the ancient stone work, and the jungle both juxtaposed against the moden equipment looked kind of cool in its own way!) It is in itself a wonder in itself that in the early 20th century, archaeologists were able to reconstruct from ruins in the centre of the jungle with very little equipment and no computers. Finally, some of the carvings have been restored and are not original. At first this can be off putting as you don’t know exactly how old what you are looking at is, but after a while it becomes easy to tell. It is a difficult debate, because restoration allows you to see otherwise ruined temples in their former glory, but it loses some authenticity. All I can say to this is they seem to have struck a nice balance between leaving some temples as they were found, and some restored.

This brings me on to the last of the other temples I want to focus on – Banteay Srei. You’ll have to make a special request of your driver to get to here, as it a 30km drive through countryside to get there, but it is so worth it. If you go, go early and you may even get the place to yourself if you’re lucky. Hidden away in the middle of dense jungle, you begin to imagine being one of the original explorers who were told by the locals there were temples in the jungle ‘built by the gods’. This is one of the best temples to visit if you like the ornate carvings on the walls, as these are mostly in very good condition. Visit the museum there to learn about the restoration works.

Monks
So with my highlights out of the way – the big temple itself, Angkor Wat. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, it’s not the most ornate. What it is, is the most stunning example of what an early 12th Century civilization could do. With the central tower standing 65 metres tall, a grand walkway leading up to the central area, and a 190 metre wide moat surrounding the whole thing, it is hard to even begin to picture the amount of man-power needed to complete this wonder. It’s hard to say whether to see this first, or save it for last – we went for sunset of day 1 and it was reasonably quiet, but by then the carvings on the wall were not as jawdropping as the first ones we saw. Having said that the sheer scale, and it standing there in front of you, free from any overgrowth or collapsed wall eclipses anything you’ve seen before it. I think the best thing is to speak to your driver and see what he thinks it will be like on that day, but make sure you go at some point in your itinerary. The steps to the viewing platform close at around 5 though, so be careful (we missed it!).


Cycling Angkor Wat Temple
So to summarise; no trip to Asia can do without seeing these amazing sites. In fact, if you miss it on your first trip, it tends to mean you are not finished with South East Asia – you’ll be back! Nowhere else is the incredible history of this region as obvious, as magical, and as intriguing as here, made all the more unique by the collapse of the Khmer Empire and other tragic events in more recent Cambodian history. And in Siem Reap you have the perfect place to relax after a hard days exploring. Sure, it’s getting more developed and touristy by the day, but it is still so far off the situation at the pyramids you can still enjoy it without feeling like you’re on a conveyor belt, surrounded by McDonalds and tour buses. If you have not been here yet, add it to your list of future trips right now – you won’t regret it.

Recommend Cycling Angkor Temples and Kayaking Halong Bay by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA:

Highlights :

  • Beautiful cycling roads
  • Impressive Angkor temples
  • Boat trip on Tonle Sap
  • Hanoi tour
  • Halong Bay kayaking
  • Overnight on junk



7/26/13

Cambodian Street Food

When traveling in Southeast Asia, a snack or a meal is never hard to find.  Food vendors who make a mean bowl of noodles, fried vegetables, dumplings, or sweets swarm the street corners and fill any available space in alleyways.  But, if the ubiquitous fried noodles or pad thai is starting to sound a bit boring, Cambodia is the perfect place to exercise your more adventurous taste buds. The streets of Phnom Penh boast a number of vendors who sell a variety of fried critters.

Enjoy a scoop of salty fried grasshoppers for a quick on-the-go snack.

For a meatier snack, try fried cockroaches.  Don’t think you can manage to gulp down a roach?  Just think of it as revenge for all those times they’ve scared you in the middle of the night in your hostel bathroom.

For a juicy crunch, try the fried larvae.

If you feel like something chicken-ish, try fried baby-sparrows (bottom), or fried bats (top).
For the Cambodian version of meat kebobs, try frog-on-a-stick.
For a slithery snack, try coiled snake.
Let's explore the culture of Cambodia with us: http://www.activetravelcambodia.com/country/?cat=16

7/11/13

WHY ANGKOR WAT IN CAMBODIA IS SUCH A MAGICAL PLACE.

BY NISA

What defines a magical place? For me, this is an easy answer: It’s a place with which I associate positive thoughts, calmness & strength. I’m not an esoteric person but when it comes to Angkor Wat, it almost feels like there’s some sort on energy in the air.

IMPORTANT HISTORICAL DETAILS ABOUT ANGKOR WAT.

What most people don’t know is that Angkor Wat (which literally means “City of Temple”) was actually the name of the main temple, not the entire complex. It was built in the time of King Suryavarman II in the 12th century and is the best-preserved & most visited temple at the site. The complete temple area was known only as Angkor (which is situated on the plain of present-day Siem Reap province north of the Great Lake of Tonle Sap) and it served as the seat of the Khmer Empire until the 15th century. Each king built at least one giant temple during his ruling, which led to a total size of 200km2.
Second thing a lot of people don’t know: The discovery of Angkor by the french explorer Henri Mouhot is a bit of a myth. It is said that he re-discovered Angkor Wat in 1860 and that he was the first European to visit the area; both of which is not true. Angkor was never really “lost”. The Khmer knew of the existence even after the kingdom broke down. Some of the temples have been used all the time by fishermen and farmers who lived in the surroundings. In the 16th century, Portuguese missionaries reached the city and even reported about it. The interests of the colonial powers seemed to have swept this under the table…

ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE BUILT FOR KING SURYAVARMAN II.
TOURISTS AT ANGKOR WAT.

The temple area of Angkor is the most famous tourist site in Cambodia. It has become a symbol of this country, also appearing on its national flag. More than two million visitors come here every year. For the country itself this is a good thing, because there’s not that many other tourist attractions but for the complex, it’s not that convenient. Why? Well, let me try to get this straight: The average person doesn’t really look out for anyone but themselves … and that’s the truth. I could give you a million examples but for Angkor Wat in particular, I’ll give you these two:

1.) During our visit in 2010, we saw how some tourists leaned on a clearly not stable part of a less known temple … Do I don’t have to tell you how the story ended? No. Did they report it? I wouldn’t count on it. Did we report it? Yes, but the guys that we told didn’t seem to care that much.

2.) Four million feet each year (including a couple of thousand from elephants as seen in the photo below) can’t be good for these grounds. But that’s just my opinion.


Obviously I was not the only one who thought this because nowadays, you’re not able to get to all the temples as easy anymore. Some parts are even cut off completely (for example the door of Ta Prohm temple also seen below). Maybe the perfect photograph is ruined this way, but after all we want to enjoy this magical place for much longer!

THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE LAST THING WE WOULD EVER DO...
Of course it’s also possible to enjoy Angkor Wat without all the tourists. Just leave the normal path and you’re in the middle of a (almost spooky) jungle. The arsenal is so huge, you could walk for hours and maybe even get lost at some point…

ONE OF THE FACES AT BAYON TEMPLE.

THE JUNGLE IS TAKING OVER.

Not only the destruction of the temples is visible but also how the jungle is taking over the temple complex. It’s no wonder that Angkor Wat succumbed to the encroaching jungle…

THE WORLD FAMOUS TA PROHM TEMPLE IN 2007.
TA PROHM TEMPLE 
Above all, if temples aren’t your thing, don’t force yourself to see every last one of them. Travel is about making yourself happy.  Do what makes you happiest. 

Or you can refer the bike itinerary of one travel company: Activetravel Asia_one of the Indochina's leading adventure travel companies, offering Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling and family travel packages. Read more their Biking Angkor Wat itinerary at: http://www.activetravelcambodia.com/tour.php?op=detail&tourId=67

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