The Dancing Nymphs of Angkor

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

This week, Will Ottley explores the Buddhist/Hindu temples of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex and discovers that ancient civilizations’ wisdom lives on in the treasure trove of temples and monuments they left behind.

What surprised me most about Siem Reap, Cambodia was not the grandeur and sophistication of the temple complexes. Walking among the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, I was struck by the overriding presence of the ‘feminine’. Carved into every wall of this vast complex are the images of Devata (goddesses) and playful Apsara (nymphs). This beautiful setting blends a rich history of Buddhist and Hindu influences that exude a feeling of peace and hint at the grandeurs of the lost Khmer civilisation.

Siem Reap, a Temple Base Camp

Siem Reap is a short (less than an hour) flight from the international airports of Bangkok, Phnom Pehn, and Ho Chi Minh City. It serves as the base for visiting the surrounding temples and caters for all travellers’ requirements. It can equally be enjoyed as a single traveller or a family. You can stay in a five-star luxury colonial style hotel that offers traditional afternoon tea, such as Raffles (+855 63 963 888), boutique alternatives such as Shinta Mani Club (+855 63 761 998) or mid-range options such as Tara Ankor hotel. (+855 63 966 661).

Shinta Mani

Shinta Mani

There is an array of excellent local restaurants easily reachable from your hotel by tuk-tuk (think horse and carriage, with a motorbike in place of the horse). They offer traditional Khmer and Asian cuisine, such as the local delicacy, Amok, a thick curry soup made with coconut cream. Two good options are the Khmer kitchen (+855 63 964 154) and the Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant (+855 92 733 150).

Khmer Kitchen

Khmer Kitchen

There are traditional dance and dinner shows such as Apsara Theatre (+855 63 963 561). These can be quite touristic and you ideally need to book in advance. There are also luxury spas, such as Bodia spa that offer a full range of body treatments including the traditional Khmer massage (+855 63 761 593).

The Temples of Angkor

Visiting the wondrous temples of the UNESCO Archaeological Park, can, at times make you feel like Indiana Jones. From the 9th to 15th century Angkor, was the heart of the Khmer Kingdom. The most famous temples of Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, exemplify changing periods of Khmer architecture. Mini-buses packed with tourists set off early to see Angkor Wat, on what is termed the inner-circuit route to see the main temples, followed by the outer circuit on subsequent days (it will make sense when you get there).

Bayon

Bayon Temple

These package tours break for breakfast and lunch at the same time each day, leaving the temples virtually empty. My advice is to hire your own tuk-tuk or taxi, from as little as $15 a day, and to visit the temples in the opposite direction to the arranged tours, taking a later breakfast and lunch. By staying out later, you also get to watch the sunsets shimmering above the tree line. A 5am start to see the stately sunrise over Angkor, is also very popular.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

You can hire a knowledgeable tour guide with good English from $45 per day, or just enjoy the experience of discovering the temples for yourself with a guide book. Each temple is unique. The complex of Bayon for example has amazing head carvings, whilst the complex of Ta Prohm was so overgrown when it was excavated that they had to leave trees in place to protect the structure from collapse. This haunting temple was used when filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and is a definite highlight.

Getting There and Around

You can travel to Siem Reap via Bangkok from London with British Airways (0844 493 0775; ba.com), and Air France (0207 660 0337) from under £500 per person return. Internal flights to Siem Reap from Bangkok with Air Asia from £70.

Cambodian visa information: www.cambodianembassy.org.uk

Will Ottley is a freelance travel writer and author of the inspirational fable, “Mountain Garden”, but does not work with or for any of the parties mentioned in this article.

Follow Will Ottley on: www.mountaingarden.co.uk

The Explorateur’s Exclusive Getaways

Friends, families, freewheelin’ babes and badasses… our swanky friends at The Explorateur – an insider travel concierge of sorts – wanted me to share some sweet news about a few very exclusive trips they’ve added to their repertoire for the Fall. Tell them our Editor-in-Chief, Layla Revis, sent you if you sign up to their newsletter. That way, they’ll treat you extra nice 😉

Just Chillin in Tanzania

A bit about The Explorateur. We heard about them when we were working with Small Luxury Hotels of the World and their Founder came highly regarded. We needed some tips on Croatia and we were told that he was the guy who made an art of arranging yacht trips around the Croatian coast. So what is The Explorateur? A unique forum filled with fabulous insider information (sorta like us). They also arrange exclusive offers at the world’s most unique and interesting hotels, shops, and restaurants around the world much like the travel agent you *wish* you had. Their ever-globetrotting editorial team blends their collective decades of experience in the travel industry with savvy insider knowledge of the world’s most eclectic finds. Stylish, yet unpretentious, they help guide travelers with a hint of wanderlust.  The team has the scoop on anything and everything a traveler needs to know. And, if they don’t know, like us, they’ll travel to find out.

TANZANIA-  6 Days, Stunning Explorations- starting at US $1500 per person, double occupancy

Itinerary includes:  Begin at Kilimanjaro for an overnight at Kia Lodge and option to explore the mountain, followed by  a drive the next day for a visit to Lake Manyara, game drive for phenomenal animal viewing + 1 night at Migunga Tented Camp including all meals, transfer to Serengeti for an early morning game drive and visit to Olduvai Gorge + 2 nights at Ikoma Tented Camp including all meals, transfer to Ngorongoro Crater for a gorgeous crater exporation tour and overnight at Crater Forest Lodge, all  meals, followed by early morning transfer back to Arusha.

My Chateau or Yours?

FRANCE – Spectacular New Years Experience at Chateau de la Barre- 1295 Euro per person, based on 12 sharing.

Mingle with royalty and get treated as such when you round up 12 friends to share the chateau as guests of Comte and Comtesse de Vanssay in their Loire Valley chateau.

30 Dec- Get treated to a champagne reception and visit of the chateau followed by cheese and vintage wine tasting supper in the billiard room in front o fthe monumental XIVth century fireplace- enjoy chocolate and port wine in your room.

31 Dec- Explore the remarkably restored old city of Le Mans, stage set to many films followed by festive New Year’s Eve dinner in the XVIIth centrury grand dinign room of the chateau with all the family silver and crystal- usher in the new year at midnignt with champagne in the Grand Drawing Room underneath the ancestral portraits

01 Jan- Renaissance day- visit famous Chenonceau castle with a new year’s day lunch feast at Leonardo da Vinci’s home served as if you were in 1530- or a private lunch in XVIIth century Chateau Chene de Coeur hosted by the owners

02 Jan- Depart with a special present from Chateau de la Barre

PLUS- Daily English breakfast and afternoon tea, fresh flowers in room, wine tasting at nearby winery built into a Xth century limestone cave

Kda-oo naH, pray-uhH 'euy (Translation: "Oh God, It's Hot")

CAMBODIA –  Hotel de la Paix – Siem Riep’s most stylish hotel set against some of the world’s most spectacular ancient sights

Explore this incredible land in the comfort of this stunning art deco hotel starting at US $275 per night- and receive the following lovely treats to enrich your stay:

– Welcome drink and cold towel on arrival
– Daily gourmet hot breakfast buffet
– Wireless Internet access in all guestrooms
– Daily turn-down service with treats
– Pre-loaded iPod with music and narratives on Cambodia, which may be taken on outside excursions
– Access to undercover Khmer inspired swimming pool
– Access to award winning Spa Indochine

So take a jaunt, check out The Explorateur, and let us know what you think (just don’t make us too jealous when you go on and on about that trip to Chateau de la Barre or Tanzania!

 The Explorateur 

Cambodian Recycled Tire Sandals

Cambodian Recycled Tire Sandals

It’s summer and you know what that means?

Time to break out the sandals and take care of those crunked footies. Recently, our Editor-in-Chief’s husband came across a group of Mexicans in the mountains of the Sierra Madre that made huaraches (sandals) out of recycled tires. They also ran about 100 miles in them. So, we thought we’d show our loyal Jaunt Magazine readers another off-the-hook idea for those travelin’ twinklin’ toesies.

Old Ho’s Rubber Tire Sandals

First of all, we thought the name was fun. Second of all, they’re hand-made in Cambodia from old tires. The sandals are snug and comfortable, making great footwear for going to the beach or backcountry travel.

The History of Tire Sandals
Rubber tire sandals were used extensively by the Viet Minh and Viet Cong during the war in Vietnam from the late 1940’s until the fall of Saigon in 1979. In the face of equipment shortages the guerilla army of Vietnam turned to using old truck tires as footwear and quickly saw the advantages of the resulting sandals compared to boots. The climate of jungle-Southeast Asia is harsh. During the war many American infantrymen suffered from “trench-foot” or fungal infections (yikes!) which resulted from wearing boots in the humid climate. Many looked with envy to the sandals worn by the enemy. Tragically, this footwear is also widely associated with the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Only the upper cadre of the Khmer Rouge wore these sandals and it was a sign of political power within the regime. They were seen as a good example of self-sufficiency and were very practical.

The sandals also have many benefits; they’re easy to clean, they stay snugly on your feet, they’re comfortable and they dry quickly.

Old Ho's Recycled Tire Sandals

Old Ho’s Rubber Tire Sandals are incredibly durable, as well, and it’s unlikely that you will damage the soles during normal use. They are, after all, made of truck tires! There is a possibility that the straps may loose elasticity after rugged use, but they’ll tell you how to replace them. Piece ‘a cake.

A Portion of the Profits Benefit HeritageWatch
HeritageWatch is an international Non-Governmental Organisation dedicated to reducing the destruction of cultural heritage in Southeast Asia. The organisation is involved in a number of activities that are designed to raise awareness of the importance of cultural heritage and reduce the occurrence of looting. Granny’s Country Store purchases the sandals through Heritage Watch, helping to benefit their programs.

http://www.grannysstore.com/Green_Goods/Tire_Sandals.htm

$30/pair. Since they’re unable to restock on the larger sizes, they’re closing out the remaining stock of small sandals. Feel free to send them back for a bigger or smaller size if the first pair doesn’t fit right, but get ’em while it’s still summer.

Cambodia: From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia

Part II of Jaunt Contributor, Victoria Yanakos’, trip to South East Asia has landed her at the top of one of the world’s most popular temple destinations… Angkor Wat. Now, if she could only figure out how to get down.

Fear of Heights
By Victoria Yanakos

Turns out I’m afraid of heights. Well, not so much “heights” as the falling very fast from them. I realized this about half way up the 70 or so “steps” to the top of one of the Angkor Wat temples.

It seemed like a good tactic for getting away from mobs of Japanese tour groups and their incessant picture taking (of which my climb – in a skirt- is now part of at least a few albums). Now at the top, apparently unmoved by my mid-way epiphany, I have a whole new perspective of the situation. I’m actually much higher than I realized, and the “steps” are only about 6″ deep and covered in sand. This wasn’t a problem going up, but add gravity and flip flops and the descent feels much less safe. So here I sit, writing a journal, reflecting on Cambodia, and slowing devising a plan to get down…

Even in comparison to other parts of SE Asia, Cambodia has an irrationality that is wholly its own. Tuk-Tuk (rickshaw) from the bus station to hostel, $3. Tuk-Tuk for the whole day? $5. Thousands of people trying to sell me pineapple, no one able to sell me bug spray. Whiskey Sour is a vodka drink. Happy Pizza is a drug (pot). “Local specialty” on the menu: tarantula. No safety regulations for anything (hence why I am now stuck at the top of one of the temples).

For a country that has endured such devastation, oppression, torture, and is in a perpetual quest for genuine rebirth, it is no wonder that things in Cambodia may feel a little off. But the people are warm and laid back and the country beautiful, even amid the lingering scars of war.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

PHNOM PENH PENSIONS/HOSTELS

OKAY Guesthouse
#3BE, R# 258, S/K Chaktomuk, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
okay.2001@hotmail.com
Tel: 855-12 300 804
Clean, very helpful staff, predictable hot water (for Cambodia budget lodging this is saying a lot!)
$5-$15

Sunday Guesthouse
Tel: 211623
97PH 141
Very helpful, friendly English speaking staff, good deal for the price
$5-$17

PHNOM PENH RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, ETC.

Camory Cookie Boutique
#167 Sisowath Quay
sales@camoryfoods.com
http://www.camoryfoods.com
Amazing cookies! Proceeds go to Cambodian orphanages

Amara Spa
Corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 110
spa@hotelcara.com
Great drinks and cafe outside, posh spa inside

Chow
At the Quay along Sisowath
http://www.chowcambodia.com
Chic bar, modern vibe, smokers welcome

Kmer Saravan
No. 16Eo, St Sotheraros (3)
vuthy_vann@yahoo.com
Best Kmer food I’ve had! Try the curry dishes and banana flower salad – wonderful!

Happy Herb Pizza
#345 St Preah Sisowath
Tel: 023 362 349
It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Make sure to specify if you want your pizza Not Happy, Happy, or Very Happy.

SIEM REAP HOTELS (the town serving Angkor Wat Temples)
FCC Hotel, Siem Reap
If you’re looking to splurge:

The FCC properties in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are design-driven and luxurious.
http://www.fcccambodia.com

The Hotel De La Paix
The perfect place to indulge in a weekend of decadence or even just a mixed drink at the sexy bar downstairs.
http://www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com/index.php
$330 – $750/night

For budget-conscious digs:

Shadow of Angkor Guesthouse
Tel: 964774
353 Pokambor Ave
shadowofangkor@hotmail.com
This is where I stayed. A great location overlooking the river

Or check out these websites for more guesthouse/backpacking suggestions:

http://www.canbypublications.com
http://www.travelfish.org

THINGS TO DO – SIEM REAP

Le Tigre De Papier Cooking School
letigredepapier@hotmail.com
Bar St
Courses $12
A great way to get in touch with the culture, courses include a trip to the market

Kmer Kitchen Restaurant
The Alley
Tel 964154
Visited by Mick Jagger and with one of the best pumpkin coconut soups on the globe, this place should definitely be part of your visit to Siem Reap

Of course, while in Siem Reap, the main attraction is the Temple of Angkor Wat. They sell 1-day, 3-day and 1 week passes. Don’t bother with a tour, hire a tuk-tuk for about $10-$15 a day, buy a book, and go at your own pace.

Next stop… well, when I was originally writing this, it was “land” but now? Looks like it’s Hong Kong, baby.