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November is the time when Cambodia enters dry season meaning there will be almost no rain for the next six months, although the odd, short shower early in the month is not unusual. Comfortable temperatures (average tem is about 25°C), low humidity and plenty of sunshine makes November a popular time to travel in Cambodia. This is the best time for you to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia.

You can see sample itinerary: SPLENDORS OF VIETNAM & CAMBODIA

Exploring the Angkor temples

One of the destinations you should not miss is Angkor ruins including thousands of temples with many different sizes. Angkor Wat is the most famous temple in Cambodia, built by King Suryavarman II in the 11th century. At the beginning, this was a Hindu temple. Then, the Angkor Wat was becoming a Buddhist temple after Khmer dynasty worship Buddha.

Besides, there are many temples situated in the park beyond archeology.  Fares for one-day tour is USD $20, three days is USD $40 and USD $60 per week. The special thing here is your photo printed in your ticket. After your trip, you can keep it as a souvenir.

The vast area of the Angkor Thom ruins, over a mile on one side, contains many stone temples and other features to explore. The city has five monumental gates (one in each wall plus an extra in the eastern wall), 20m high and decorated with stone elephant trunks and the king’s favorite motif, the four faces of Avalokiteshvara.

Ta Prohm temple was covered by tangled tree roots, is one of the most strange and unique structures of the complex. Going further, Preah Khan and Banteay Srei temples have a lot of elaborate carvings. Phrom Kulen National Park in Kbal Spean, two-hour drive from Siem Reap, still preserved the works of ancient rock carvings called lin-ga (symbol of Shiva’s penis in India Hindu).

Some notes when visiting the Angkor ruins you should remember:

– You should plan to schedule a tour of his temple, even hired a tuk-tuk driver, or rent a bike for a day. You can find a tuk-tuk everywhere and the drivers are always ready to take you to any temples in your schedule.

– Wake up early and visit the temples at the earliest time is the best way for you to experience the beauty of the temples. Starting at dawn, you not only get the opportunity to admire the sunrise but also avoid the crowds.

– Because you are visiting spiritual religious sites, you should pay attention to your clothes, just a scarf or a sarong is not enough in Cambodia. Therefore, dressing politely will help you avoid many problems.

temple

Visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake

From November, it is flooding season in Siem Reap, so it is high time for you to discover the largest lake in Cambodia – Tonle Sap, far from the center of Seam Reap about 25km, recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve in the world.

A boat trip through the traditional colorful floating villages is a chance to return to nature and explore the daily life in Cambodia. You can feel the peaceful atmosphere and cool wind. Sometimes you can be surprised at a giant python wrapping around some people on the boat. Then, you can visit some floating restaurants on the lake to enjoy the cool coconut water.

On Tonle Sap Lake, people live in simple floating houses. There are also schools, clinics, temples, etc. like on the land. If you want to visit the floating village to explore the lives of local people, you should come to Khneas Chong, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, etc. And don not hesitate to jump out off the boat and go kayaking through morning – glory and trees in pristine Kompong Phluk  “flooded forests” to have amazing experience. Moreover, you can discover Prek Toal bird sanctuary including many rare birds such as white storks endangered milk, spot-billed pelican, etc.

After your visiting with many activities, you can be relax with local people at their house. This is a great opportunity to experience the peaceful river life, integrate into normal life of the people and enjoy a variety of delicious dishes made from fish caught in the lake.

tonle-sap

Visit the traditional villages in Siem Reap

There is a place in Siem Reap where there are many serious activities to preserve and restore art and ancient Khmer craftsmanship, while create means of livelihood for the local people. That is , a social enterprise, dedicated to providing high quality products such as handmade clothing, lacquer ware, painting on silk, jewelry and ceramics made by more than 1,300 local artisans. You can sign up for the free guided tour in seven languages to have a visit around the main shops as well as travelling free to the Angkor Silk Farm by fast bus, which takes you about 20 minutes.

village

Now, are you ready for your trip to Siem Reap on November? Enjoying many above activities or just leisure in the long sandy beaches on time when sunshine comes back may be your best memory in Cambodia.

If you interest this post, please follow: Indochina travel Cambodia

 

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History of Apsara Dance

Who’ve ever been to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom must be overwhelmed by the enormous scales and the extraordinary architect, along with the sophisticated sculpture on the stone wall. Thousands of stories are being told by the skillful hands of people in centuries in the past. And it’s not too hard to recognize the picture of the people with special posture, wearing unique costume and accessories. They’re dancing on the wall, called Apsara.

Apsara dance’s existence is known since 6th-7th centuries. The Javayarman VII King (most famous Khmer King of the Angkorian period), supposed to have thousands of dancers in his courts.

If you want to get more information about Apsara Dance, please view: Indochina tours Cambodia

During the Khmer Rouge regime (aka the Pol Pot’s genocide, a dark past in the Cambodia’s history, many artists had to leave the country or being arrested, tortured and killed. After the fall of the regime in 1979, the country wanted to revive the traditional arts, although at the same time people had to deal with many other challenges, thanks to a few surviving dancers who passed on their knowledge to young generations.

Apsara dance was traditionally performed only for the King, but now it is performed public for everyone and become a famous show attract tourists.  Though, the most important facet of traditional classical dance is still performed as a part of certain sacred ceremonies and award presentations in modern Apsara.

The Apsara sculpture in Angkor Wat

The Apsara sculpture in Angkor Wat

In 2003, the UNESCO recognized the Apsara dance as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Costume

The dancers’ costume is recognized for its ornate costumes and headpieces. The costume is made of many of the silk drapings, which is called sampot sarabap in the Khmer language, in different colors. The headpiece of the lead dancer’s always be made in a brighter shade to highlight her with the others. There are some accessories the dancers usually wear like a choker, red or golden collar necklace, decorated with designs and copper adornments, are worn in addition to long earrings modeled after the krorsang flower.

As the Apsara dance focus very detail in each movement of the dancer’s body part, especially the gesture of hands, fingers, and feet, the dancers wear very big bracelets around their wrists and ankles. They will slide elegantly and clink together during the performance when the dancers move. The sangvarwhich can either be worn as a belt or carried on its own, is made of lightweight copper and decorated with golden and red floral designs.

One scene of the dance - the monkey and princess

One scene of the dance – the monkey and princess

The Beauty of Art in motion

Every single movement of the fingers has a particular meaning, worship the spirits of nature by depicting a blossoming flower or refer to the hundreds of legends of Buddhism or Hinduism. The dance is display for the different religions which Cambodia had been built upon ( Animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism).

The stories are told via the Apsara dance often depicted in the carvings of Angkor Wat with four primary roles: the male, the female, the giant and the monkey (usually played by a male dancer). Although traditionally, male dancers do play certain roles in Apsara dance, today the art is practiced and performed mostly by women.

The movement of the dance is extremely complex, thus the children (particularly girls) must be trained since they’re very young, so they can get enough skills and flexibility to execute intricate movements and bend their fingers like a flower.

Taking photos with the dancers after the show

Taking photos with the dancers after the show

Where is the show in Siem Reap?

If you are in Cambodia, Apsara dance is an experience not to be missed.   These are some places you can enjoy the show:

The Crystal Angkor Restaurant

Address: 30 NR6, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: +855 12 786 786

Apsara Terrace

Address: Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
Tel: +855 (0) 63 963 561

Apsara Theatre
Address: Off Wat Bo Road, opposite Angkor Village Hotel
Tel: +855 (0)63 963 561

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KEP or SIHANOUKVILLE? Which is better? Which is more peaceful? Which is more dynamic and has various nightlife activities? Which would be more suitable for me? This seems to be a frequent question of many people when they arrange their beach vacation in Cambodia.I have also found that this is also a question that I have received from many clients when assisting them making their traveling plan to Cambodia recently. Hence, I decide to write this post to give you some ideas regarding both beaches. Hope you guys would have the best answer and the best decision for yourself.

Back in the 1960s, when Sihanoukville was just a fishing village, KEP, 25km from Kampot, was already an affluent seaside resort. Subsequent events were unkind to the town and Kep has been fallen to oblivion. Traces of the town’s sombre past remain. The region is dotted with the gutted shells of colonial villas – tragic evidence of the Khmer Rouge’s destruction. Until recently, most were smothered by prolific tropical vegetation and home to squatters; now some have been restored, with more likely to follow, although the difficulty of establishing ownership means this will be a slow process.

You can see more information at: Indochina tours Cambodia

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Sihanoukville also known as Kompong is a coastal city in Cambodia and the capital city of Sihanoukville Province, located at the tip of an elevated peninsula in the country’s south-west at the Gulf of Thailand.

general-information-sihanoukville

In reality, the beach of Kep is quiet narrow and the sand is thin. Though the condition of the beach has been better recently when the local Government imports sand from nearby Kampot, which has the sand but no beach every two weeks and have somewhat changed all that, time and tide wait for no beach, so at the end of the fortnight the gritty black stuff makes a re-appearance.

Sihanoukville is totally different. With a surrounding coastline of white-sand beaches and sun-drenched islands would be Cambodia’s most happening sun-sloth destination for people.

About the restaurant, there are only some small restaurants opposite to the beach of Kep.  The most famous food of Kep is the crab – particularly the offerings at the crab market which attracts Cambodians a lot but I’m sure this is not a really attractive thing to travelers.

In the evening, if you have already stayed in Kep and you would look for more dinner options, you should travel back to Kampot – a small town which is 25kms away from Kep to have more choice.

Things are better when you are in Sihanoukville because there are wide range choices for your meals.

For the best place to stay and best things to do in Sihanoukville, if you are young traveler and you love parties, The Serendipity Beach area would be the perfect place for you.

If you love quiet place, further away from the hustle, in the far south of town, is relaxed Otres Beach, where cheap bungalow joints and bohemian-flavoured guesthouses are now neighbours with rather swish boutique resorts.

Otres-05

Otres Beach

If you are type of the adventurous can find sandy strips rimmed by casuarina trees and coconut palms to have all to themselves at Beyond Otres.

Sihanoukville is also the jumping-off point to Cambodia’s southern islands, where castaway-cool beckons.

Back to Kep, there is not much adventurous activities in this area. You can choose to visit some pepper plantation in Kampot, check out the crab market, hanging out at the beach or pay a short visit to Rabbit island – known as Koh Tonsay – a lovely little island about 25 minutes away from Kep. It is also one of the least-developed island, with no motor vehicles, no mains electricity and few residents, making it an ideal getaway from the grind.

rabbit island

Rabbit Island

You can also head out to Koh Svay (Mango Island) or Koh Pos (Snake Islan) to escape the crowds on Koh Tonsay. They are, like many Cambodian beaches, quite litter-strewn however. You can hire snorkelling gear on Koh Tonsay to bring along.

To compare about the two beaches, the beach of Kep itself is not that much but quainter and (usually) much less crowded than Sihanoukville. If you’re looking for lazy days of sunbathing or night time bar hopping, Sihanoukville should be ticked in your box.

In general, if you would look for a real beach escape, my recommendation would be: Just go ahead to Sihanoukville.

If you would look for a quiet place for yourself to chill in a short of time(may be a day or 2), then Kep would be for you.

Happy traveling!

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traditional costume of Khmer

traditional costume of Khmer

I am pretty sure that travelers to Cambodia have a dozen of reasons to explain why they immediately fell in love with this country. Apart from spectacular Angkor temples, amazing beaches, lush jungles or crazy nightlife out of the sleepy towns, what will you do to relax for half a leisure day? If you have no plans yet for this question, taking a traditional Cambodian photo shoot will be not a bad idea.

traditional costume of Khmer

traditional costume of Khmer

Why the traditional Khmer photo shoot is the traditional one in Cambodia?

Normally, the traditional Khmer photo shoots taking is a serious pre-wedding part for bride and groom as they will display these beautiful Khmer portraits at their special ceremony. Cambodians also take these shots for children in small-sized costumes of Khmer people. For foreigners, this is the best souvenir anyone can get from Cambodia after visiting this memorable country. Recently, this activity become widely known for expats in their honeymoon to save the joyful memory together.

A lovely couple photo prewedding

A lovely couple photo prewedding

How can I do my lovely Khmer photos?

Anywhere in big cities like  Phnom Penh & Siem Reap and also in many of the smaller town, you can easily find a studio for Khmer photos shoot. The way to recognize them is to see the huge prints advertised outside with the images of Khmer couples in their sparkly costumes and historical sites as the theme.

Upon entering the studio, you may find it a bit challenging to choose from many types of costumes and postures in the sample book. But do not worry, the friendly staff may be very supportive in choosing the best costume for you. After this, do not forget to negotiate about the price to avoid the surprise after finishing your shoot. It can cost about 15 – 25 USD for a set of printed photos of at least 4-5 photos depending on number of people join and includes rental fee for clothes, hair & make-up for women and usually sets of fake eyelashes to transform you to a real Khmer women. As men will not have make up and hair, they will pay less.

When you and the studio both agree about everything, you will be ready to the next step: hair & make-up. Within only 15 minutes, the makeup artists will change you into a masterpiece of stripper eyelid and fake lash. Followed with the work of hairdresser to apply a lot of hairspray to stablize  your carefully combed and twisted hair.

Based on your own interest in colors or styles, you then will get dressed in Cambodian traditional outfits named Khmer Boran.  After around 90 mintues, this process finishes then you may find you a totally new person and will be very eager to start your Khmer photos.

While taking your photos, if you can not find the best position, the photographer may help to look exactly like Khmer people do. Most of the photos will be for your free style and in the end you will have chance to choose the themes that you love then you are done.

The next day or so you can come back the studio and see how you look in a Khmer manner.

Are there any tips for the best Khmer photos?

The answer is surely YES. In this part, I think it is mainly useful for women as they need to be applied too much for a readiness.

Ladies should wear your own makeup if you do not want your sensitive skin to be affected by cheap communal makeup. Moreover, the color intension is suitable for Khmer-colored skin, you may look quite funny in the bold and heavy make up if you are paler than that or just get used to having a light and natural makeup.

One more thing, most of women hate the fake eyelashes as it seem to cover all the sun light and the thick and dark eye shadow that may make your eyes huge and a little frightening.

Be prepared for any shoots as the camera man will give you only 90 seconds in front of the camera. All you should do is to choose your favorite posture before getting dressed and remember the loveliest ones then have a smile always.

If you do not like anything, do not need to follow their requirement as this activity is actually so much fun.

Now do you think this Khmer culture is actually a unique experience while traveling to Cambodia?

Do you like your Khmer portrait?

Do you like your Khmer portrait? 

Happy portraiture and share with me your stunning shoots.

 

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We had our tour to the Toul Sleng prison and the Killing Fields in a summer afternoon of July. The car drove on the crowded streets of Phnom Penh, get through markets, residential area and the clutter constructions. After about 20 minutes driving on a route of 20km, we got the Toul Sleng, also known as the S21 concentration camp. You can join our trip with Indochina tours Cambodia

At the entrance, tourists can borrow the portable radio and headset with the guidance leaflets – the fee is included in the entrance ticket. There are many languages available to choose – English, France, Spanish, Vietnamese, etc.

While waiting for our tour guide to buy the entrance tickets, I looked around the area and noticed that the camp was surrounded by the high, old walls with barbed wire. S21 used to be a school before it was occupied by the Pol Pot’s Government as a concentration camp. Passing the souvenir shop selling T-shirts & canvas bags, we reached the main campus. The atmosphere was weird, it was so quiet and gloomy. A concrete courtyard with a row of white graves, the perpendicular gray blocks, in stark contrast to the bustle and noisy scenes in the outside of the walls.

Although the weather in July was full of sunshine and temperature in  35 degrees Celsius, when I put the headphone in, the abyss sad music from the radio made me tingle. The time run back 40 years ago, told us about the darkest history of Cambodia.

Follow the instruction on the leaflets, I visited each place – the room for confining prisoners, the torture camps, the buildings dedicated to chain people, where innocent and miserable were not supplied by any foods or drinks for a long time, barely naked, chained by the leash like animals, suffered and pained by the ferocious torture, deprived all rights as a human. How sad to know all of these actions just to satisfy the morbid thoughts of a small group to build a dictatorial authority.

The past was recreated truly and vivid like it just happened yesterday. We even can see the dry blood stains scattered on the floor. Some special tools for torturing still there, and the black and white photos of the victims with many different expression obsessed me so much.

We continued to move to the Killing Fields – where there are mass graves of genocide victims. Here comes a high tower with numerous skulls and bones and other body parts were found in the graves after the battle. The skulls are arranged in different area – women, men and children. We followed a small trail, winding the public graves. The notes on the signboard showed us each grave, where the people were buried alive, where the Pol Pot’s army killed women and children, the death tree where people were hanged.  A lot of scraps of cloth can be seen. Even some bones can be seen on the ground. Nobody knows who they are, names, hometowns or what did they do.

We got on our car to back to the downtown. None speak or laughter, no selfie pics like when we visited the Royal Palace in the morning. We follow own thoughts, the plaintive music from the audio seems like ringing in our ears. Behind the car window, naive Cambodian were hustled back home after a hard working day. The frangipani swinging in the wind, ending an emotional day in Phnom Penh.

Although this site is a must see in Phnom Penh, should consider for children and people who are having psychological problems.

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Cambodia is widely known as the home country of majestic Angkor temples with must-see Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, ‘Citadel of the Women’ – Banteay Srei with very nice architecture or the famous Ta Phrom temple with its giant trees where Angelina Jolie filmed the movie Tomb Raider. For those who are interested in history – the capital city of Phnom Penh with Royal Palace and historic sites of Tuol Sleng Museum (S-21 prison) and the “Killing Fields” of Choeng Ek is definitely an attractive destination as well. More than that, Cambodia also has Battambang – an totally different place which its uniqueness, yet often ignored by tourists.

If you interest, please follow our relevant the topics at:  Indochina tours Cambodia

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

With almost 3 hours driving from Siem Reap or around 5 hours travelling on coach from Phnom Penh, you will reach Battambang – the Cambodia’s second largest city which is located on the Sangkae River. From the very first moment, Battambang attracts me by unique French colonial architecture, Wat Ek Phnom pagoda with giant budda statue and impressive carvings – reachable from city centre within 20 mnitues by car and Kamping Pouy basin with fresh air and lotus flowers, etc

pagoda

Especially, bamboo train is also a unique experience here. A short ride on this simple vehicle is a fun experience even in light rain. Especially, it is very interesting when your driver needs to dismantle and reassemble the trolley and runners when another trains is in the rail. If Battambang is on your list then bamboo train is absolutely a not to be missed activity. A small note, if you are very sensitive to mosquitos and other insects, it is better to do the bamboo train before late afternoon. Else, when it is getting dark, you may get trouble with these “friends”

bamboo-train

For travellers who are big fans of street food and prefer eating outside at small vendors instead of fancy restaurants, there are plenty choices near the river at night. You may see some small local kids come and beg for food – a different aspect of the country that will hardly be seen in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.

If you are wondering where to stay when visiting Battambang, here are some suggestions for accommodation in this city:

  • Bambu Hotel Battambang – address: Phum Romchek 5, Sangkat Rottanak, KO Street, Battambang, Kingdom of Cambodia. This is a lovely boutique hotel with combination local Khmer and French colonial architecture. The hotel offers 16 clean and comfortable rooms and a salt water swimming pool available exclusively to staying guests only.
  • Battambang Resort – address: Wat Kor Village, Cambodia. If you are seeking for a more luxurious place, Battambang Resort will be a nice choice, especially for those who enjoy quiet atmosphere and prefer to escape from the centre of town activity in Battambang.

All in all, with its own charms which are hardy to be found in any other places, Battambang is a special destination that worths a visit if you have time in Cambodia.

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Located on the southwest slopes of the Kulen mountain, 25 km from the main Angkor group of monuments, Kbal Spean consists of a series of stone rock relief carvings in sandstone formations of the river bed and banks. It is commonly known as the  “Valley of a  1000 Lingas” or “The River of a Thousand Lingas”.To reach the river, you must trek through a well-worn path through the jungle for about 45 minutes. This was a bit of an arduous journey if you do your trip in the summer.

Road to Kbal Spean

Road to Kbal Spean- source: internet

There will be no craggy stone steps to climb up, but you should watch your steps cause there’re many roots crawling on the surface, looks like many snakes that make you trip up at any time.

Along the way, you will see many kinds of tropical plants and many jungle creatures. Stop for a while and you can hear the bird chirping, or can’t take your eyes off some flying butterflies, a hardworking spider is making a cobweb, or a numerous of the black ants are taking home with their food.

jungle creatures in Kbal Spean

jungle creatures in Kbal Spean- source: internet

There are also some interesting rocks looks like the giant mushroom. Under the rock are so many small wood sticks. Local people usually collect the sticks nearby and put them under the mushroom to let them dry.

Kbal Spean stream

Kbal Spean stream-source: internet

As soon as you feel hot and tired, the sounds of gurgling streams will give you extra motivation. Take some more steps and you will be awarded by the crystal water stream. The water is so fresh that you can see many carvings on the stone sculpted under. The motifs for stone carvings are mainly myriads of lingams of Hindu god Shiva, depicted as neatly arranged bumps that cover the surface of a sandstone bedrock, and lingam-yoni designs. There are also various Hindu mythological motifs, including depictions of the gods Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi, Rama, and Hanuman, as well as animals (cows and frogs).

Although the water is very clean, tourists are advised not to drink directly the water from the stream. You also shouldn’t step on foot on this are because it is supposed to be a sacred place.

Kbal Spean waterfall

Kbal Spean waterfall- source: internet

Follow the stream, you can see a small waterfall where you can standing under the cool water and enjoy the nature. Remember to bring dry clothes along if you have intended to be wet.

If you are a nature lover and would love a bit adventurous activity, the trip to Kbal Spean is an activity that should not be overlooked. You also can combine with a visit to Banteay Srei temple because these two locations is only 5km far.

When decide to come to Cambodia travel tours, don’t forget to grab a bottle of water for the trek. You should also bring some snacks or sweets as the trekking requires a lot of energy. Also, wearing comfortable clothes, sports shoes, a hat and applying the insect repellent. Follow a local guide to make sure you’re not got lost in the jungle.

Do you know what “lingas” means in the Khmer language? Let’s come to Kbal Spean and find the answer.

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