Things - Royal Embassy of Cambodia to The United Kingdom



Things - Royal Embassy of Cambodia to The United Kingdom
The Essence of Cambodia
The finer
More than
on where
drink andexplore
From remote temples
to idy llic isl a nds: E xplore C ambodia by helicop ter
Delve into the tastes of a kingdom
life unfold while cruising
the m ys tic al Mekong
Volume 3 US$6
Three levels
of TasTe
Italian cuisine,
music lounge &
deli shop
Ice Cream,
& International
Chinese cuisine
& Dim Sum
Dim Sum Emperors
# 1C, Street 288, Phnom Penh
& Kings Road Angkor, Siem Reap
in Phnom Penh
and Siem Reap
Tel:. 023 214 660
Tel.: 023 997 541
#19, Street
#48, Street 53
163, Phnom (Cnr. Street 130),
Phnom Penh
& Kings Road
& Street 315
Angkor, Siem (Cnr. Street 516),
Phnom Penh
Tel.: 023 637 6663
Feel free to send your comments to:
[email protected]
6 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photo: Omar Havana
over rice paddies
that stretch as far as the eye
can see; sugar palms cast their
distinctive shadows over the
tiny figures in the distance who
are finishing a day’s labour. This is the
Southeast Asia you were hoping to see:
a place where the ravages of modernity
have often been kept at bay, but where
a progressive spirit grips the populace.
This is Cambodia, and it is truly a place
like no other.
Get off the main highways for a
moment. Wander down red dirt roads,
where traffic is reduced to scuttling
chickens and the growl of engines is
replaced by a chorus of “hellos” from
waving children. Just hours later,
find yourself settling into an opulent
armchair in a five-star resort, where the
most rustic experience will be provided
by the mint in your mojito.
For many visitors, Cambodia’s greatest
wonder is this juxtaposition of disparate
worlds. It is a place that can shake the
soul one moment, before bringing on a
rush of delight the next. Nowhere does
sorrow and joy quite like Cambodia, but
to visit this place and feel the warmth of
its people is to fall in love.
With more than 35 years of cumulative
living experience in the country, our
editorial team have not only fallen in
love; they’ve married, bought a house and
have a child on the way. Once Cambodia
casts its furtive glances, even the surliest
of hearts begins to melt. Luckily, our
fixation is your fortune, as it means we’re
well placed to provide the inside track on
the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’.
From the country’s incomparable
temples to its little drops of island
perfection, from the wild frontiers to the
wondrous hum of its urban enclaves,
Cambodia thrills and tempts in equal
measure. Allow us to guide you
through this magical land as you begin
your very own affair of the heart. We’re
confident it will be love at first sight.
he sun sets
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 7
The Essence of Cambodia
Discover contents
The Essence of Cambodia
about cambodia
Publisher Tassilo Brinzer
Editor in Chief Dene Mullen
14 T he bigger picture
The highlights of a Kingdom caught on camera
Editor Jemma Galvin
20 M
ind the map
Art Director Luke Lelonkievitz
Brush up on your local knowledge with a quick geography lesson
Associate Art Director Lim Mengkong
22 E
mpires and evacuations
A brief look at Cambodia’s tumultuous history
Photographer Sam Jam
32 U
nder the big top
Daniel Besant
Victor Blanco
Rebecca Foster
Omar Havana
Jeremy Holden
Anne Holmes
Irwin Loy
Daniel Otis
Amanda Saxton
All the fun of the fair at Siem Reap’s Phare circus
36 C
ambodia rocks
Music from a golden age to the modern stage
38 G
etting to know you
Feign Cambodia expertise by learning these five key names
Accounting Ngorn Bunchon, Chry Soklay
Distribution Chea Sam Oeun, Khun Veasna
Online Director Poeudore Sophan
Amazing grace
Sales & Marketing
Chea Eak Muy
Paul D. Weinert
Katy Lo Wing
+855 (0)93 999 000
The ancient art of Apsara dancing was once
reserved for royalty, but now visitors can savour
this feast for the senses
Published by
Southeastern Globe
Communications Ltd.
Printed by Digital Advertising
The pop starlet works it for the camera and reveals
how her Cambodian roots provide her with inspiration
Famous faces who have fallen under the Kingdom’s spell
Global gourmands
Chefs from Asia, Europe and South America
create mouth-watering meals using their favourite
Cambodian ingredients
46 T he music man
‘The Ray Charles of Cambodia’, Kong Nay, shares his story
54 T aste of asia
From Filipino to Vietnamese, get stuffed with our Asian food
56 C
ooking with gas
Master the art of Khmer cuisine with a hands-on cooking class
58 In the mix
Local ingredients inspire the Kingdom’s most creative cocktails
8 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: Omar Havana (1); Sam Jam for Discover (2)
Meas Soksophea
40 A
-list appeal
#6A Street 294, 12301
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855 (0)23 223 747
On the cover
Photographer: Sam Jam
Styling: Jemma Galvin
Model: Naomi Trotz
Dress: Jasmine Boutique
Location: Koh Rong
If you like the printed
magazine, you will love
the digital edition –
available to download
for free from our
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for the next issue now!
Information and travel details are correct at the time of going to press and may change. All content
is owned by the publisher and may not be reproduced without prior permission.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 9
Discover contents
the guide
62 P
hnom Penh
The very best spots in Cambodia’s thriving capital
80 B
ust out the bucks
114 A
ngkor’s secrets
82 C
raft work
116 N
atural selection
84 L otions and potions
122 S
how and tell
Got the urge to splurge? The capital’s
boutique scene is blooming
68 S
iem Reap
What to do in Temple Town once the tours are over
Keep traditions alive through
responsible shopping
72 T he south
Our inside tips on how to make the most of the coast
76 e lsewhere
A recipe for relaxation can be found in
Cambodia’s top spas
Get off the tourist trail and explore the hidden delights
of provincial Cambodia
Take a closer look at the seat
of the Khmer empire
Enchanting flora and fauna at Phnom Samkos Wildlife
Delve deeper with our selection
of essential reads
124 S
ave the date
78 L gbt-friendly
Don’t miss a thing with our handy events calendar
The Kingdom has much to offer LGBT visitors
126 T he directory
All the contact details you need
to make the most of Discover
128 L ast look
One of Cambodia’s most luxurious rooms with a view
Cruise control
Take to the Mekong River and witness the
daily passage of life as it unfolds in some of
Cambodia’s most charming villages
Suite dreams
Uncover the finest places to lay your head,
whet your whistle and fill your belly in our
guide to the best of the Kingdom
86 F ore play
Get to grips with the undulations of
Siem Reap’s golfing scene
94 O
ff the track
Cambodia offers adventures galore for
those willing to let their hair down
On the wild side
10 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Creative collective
Leading gallerists choose a trio
of exciting Cambodian artists
worth seeking out
100 G
et outta town!
Photos: Archive
Ethnic communities, towering jungle
canopies and a volcanic lake colour Cambodia’s
Ratanakiri province
Take a short trip from Phnom Penh to
enjoy a different side to Cambodia
106 S
omething different
Savour the quirkier side of the Kingdom
Download the free
digital magazine at
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 11
shot in the koh rong archipelago, this postcard-perfect image is just the beginning here
you’re only just scratching the surface of the kingdom of wonder
Photograph by Sam Jam
Photograph by Omar Havana
Elaborate floral motifs surround
a carving of a celestial Apsara
dancer, one of thousands
to be discovered at the
unmissable highlight of
any Cambodian journey: the
temples of Angkor.
Photograph by Sam Jam
Water rushes over sandstone
boulders in the emerald jungles of
Phnom Kulen, the storied birthplace
of the Khmer nation. No matter where
your Cambodian journey takes you,
the Kingdom provides a true feast for
the eyes.
Get your bearings
Oddar Meanchey
Preah Vihear
Food, glorious food
Page 64
Indulge your tastebuds in Phnom Penh’s
foodie paradise at restaurants such as
The Common Tiger, Romdeng and Topaz
Drink and be merry
Page 66
From relaxed riverside cocktails to banging
nightclubs, explore Phnom Penh’s varied
and vibrant nightlife
Hands that heal
Page 84
Unwind with a massage at some of
Southeast Asia’s finest – and most
reasonably priced – spas
Buying power
Page 80
Give your credit card a bashing in
Phnom Penh’s quirky boutiques
Under the big top
Page 32
Marvel at the high-flying skills of former
disadvantaged youths at Siem Reap’s
Phare Circus
Wander through time
Page 114
A highlight of any Cambodian itinerary
is exploring the nation’s magnificent
Angkor temples
All aflutter
Page 96
Get back to nature with a boat trip through
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
Perfect isolation
Page 108
Island hop just off the south coast, where
cobalt waters and bleached beaches await
Southern jewel
Page 72
Eat fresh crab and savour the sea views in
Kep, Cambodia’s most relaxed destination
East is east
Page 110
Splash down in volcanic lakes and explore
ethnic communities in wild Ratanakiri
Pick up a pod
Page 102
Spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins just outside
the colonial riverside town of Kratie
View from the top
Page 88
Feel the wind in your hair at the incredible
Prasat Preah Vihear, an Angkorian temple
perched in the Dangkrek Mountains
Mekong meeting
Page 100
Soak up the sleepy vibes of Kampong Cham,
in Cambodia’s most populous province
The really wild show
Page 116
Lose yourself among the incredible wildlife
of Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, in
Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains
Banteay Meanchey
Stung Treng
Siem Reap
Kampong Thom
Kampong Chhnang
Kampong Cham
Koh Kong
Don’t know
your Kep from
your Kratie,
your Kampong
Thom from your
Kampong Cham?
Get acquainted
with Cambodia’s
geography using
our handy map,
and work your
way through our
must-do checklist
20 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Prey Veng
Kampong Speu
Svay Rieng
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 21
sands of time
Delve deeper into Cambodia's history at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource
Centre, located in Phnom Penh. A diverse collection of records ranging from
Khmer Rouge propaganda radio recordings to thousands of photos from
yesteryear, makes it easy to while away the hours on a rainy afternoon.
An ancient kingdom: postcards from the early 20th Century show a young traditional dancer in costume (left); people standing in front of the
ruins of Bayon temple (centre); and a group of Cambodian women making a pilgrimage to Angkor Wat, the centre of Khmer civilisation
A brief look at the Kingdom’s
ebbs and flows
22 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: David Hutchins Collection
The making L
of a nation
egend has it that the land now called Cambodia
was the result of a marriage between an Indian
Brahmin and the daughter of a dragon king.
As a dowry, the dragon king drank the waters
inundating his aquatic kingdom, then bequeathed the
land to his new son-in-law.
The oldest artefacts unearthed in Cambodia are
stone tools dating from 6,000 to 7,000 BCE and, by
the beginning of the Christian era, it is believed that
Cambodians spoke a language resembling modern Khmer.
The first cohesive Cambodian states arose around this
time in the Mekong Delta. The largest of these kingdoms,
which traded extensively with India and China, was called
Funan by the Chinese.
As Funan waned in the 6th Century, a kingdom named
Chenla emerged. Its sprawling 7th-Century capital,
Sambor Prei Kuk, can still be seen in
present-day Kampong Thom province.
Like Funan, Chenla largely borrowed
its religious and cultural life from the
Indian subcontinent.
Both Chenla and Funan were
dominant forces in a land dotted with
rival kingdoms and principalities. In
the late 8th Century, an ambitious
ruler named Jayavarman II began
uniting these disparate settlements
through alliances and conquests. In
802, Jayavarman II declared himself
universal monarch of a newly unified
Cambodia, thus birthing the Khmer
Empire – one that would go on to
dominate mainland Southeast Asia
for the next 600 years.
Towards the end of the 9th Century,
Angkor became the seat of the Khmer
Empire. Built by a successive line of
kings, the city’s crown jewel, Angkor
Wat, was constructed in the early
12th Century.
Under the reign of Jayavarman VII
(1125 to 1218), Buddhism replaced
Hinduism as the empire’s state religion.
The monarch is also credited with
constructing the walled city of Angkor
Thom and the majestic Bayon Temple.
Drought, population pressures
and the failure of Angkor’s complex
hydrological system coincided with
the rise of the Ayutthaya Kingdom
in present-day Thailand. A series of
conflicts with this ascendant power
in the 14th and 15th centuries
hastened Angkor’s demise, and by
1431, the city had been sacked and
largely abandoned.
The next four centuries are
commonly referred to as Cambodia’s
Dark Ages. Besieged by Thailand
to the west and Vietnam to the
east, the country was in danger of
disappearing from the map until
King Norodom I was coerced into
establishing a French protectorate g
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 23
King Sihanouk secured
Cambodia's independence in
1953, ushering in a golden
age of peace, prosperity and
cultural development
Brutal rule: Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, known as 'Brother Number One', in 1994. Under his rule, an estimated two
million Cambodians died from execution, disease and starvation. Pol Pot, born Saloth Sar, died in 1998
Colonial times: an aeriel view of Phnom Penh's Central Market, designed in the
Art Deco style and completed in 1937. It is still open for business today
24 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
in 1863. The capital was moved from Oudong to
Phnom Penh, and French colonialists began arriving
to exploit the country’s resources.
In 1941, the country’s French overlords placed 19-yearold Prince Norodom Sihanouk on Cambodia’s throne.
After much passionate lobbying, King Sihanouk secured
Cambodia’s independence in 1953, ushering in a golden
age of peace, prosperity and cultural development that
would end with the outbreak of the Vietnam War. A coup
d’état in 1970 saw Sihanouk – who had dominated his
country’s political affairs – deposed. For the next five
years, the government of pro-American General Lon Nol
vainly fought off a mounting communist insurgency.
On April 17, 1975, the communists captured the capital,
beginning the brutal rule of Pol Pot and his Khmer
Rouge. Under Pol Pot, urbanites, artists, intellectuals and
ethnic minorities were systematically eliminated as the
communists sought to transform Cambodia into a Maoist
agrarian utopia. An estimated two million people (about a
quarter of the population) died in this period – half from
starvation and disease, the other half from execution.
The Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror was brought to an
end by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979. The Khmer Rouge
took refuge in the west and the north of the country,
sparking a civil war that would last for two decades.
With the Vietnamese came a clutch of former Khmer
Rouge fighters who had fled their party’s internal purges.
Photos: Arte; DPA; SEA Globe collection
Civil war: a boy delivers ammunition to soldiers fighting for General Lon Nol
two months before Phnom Penh fell to Khmer Rouge forces in April 1975
Among them was a chain-smoking exguerrilla named Hun Sen who had lost
his left eye during the 1975 capture
of Phnom Penh. Initially installed as
foreign minister, Hun Sen became his
country’s prime minister in 1985 at
the age of 33.
The Vietnamese withdrew in 1989,
leaving Hun Sen and his ex-Khmer
Rouge comrades in power. In 1992,
the United Nations arrived in the
country to broker a peace deal between
Cambodia’s warring factions. A 1993
election saw Sihanouk’s son, Prince
Norodom Ranariddh, win the poll,
but with Hun Sen and his Cambodian
People’s Party (CPP) refusing to cede
power, a co-prime ministership was
established. In a 1997 coup, Ranariddh
was ousted from power. Meanwhile, in
1999, after decades of fierce fighting,
the CPP-controlled army finally
managed to dismantle the Khmer
Rouge. Elections in 2003 and again in
2007 saw the CPP win easy victories as
Cambodia’s royal family disappeared
as a relevant political force.
The past decade has brought muchneeded stability to this small Southeast
Asian kingdom. Cambodia now boasts
an impressive GDP growth rate of
6.5%, fuelled primarily by its growing
garment and tourism industries.
Surviving Khmer Rouge leaders,
moreover, are finally being brought
to trial, and with an influx of foreign
investments, many Cambodians
are enjoying improvements to their
quality of life.
However, in the country’s 2013
election, CPP hegemony was
challenged for the first time in
15 years. Riding a wave of youth
support, Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia
National Rescue Party (CNRP) made
huge gains in the country’s 123-seat
parliament. Earlier in the year, 61-yearold Hun Sen publicly stated that he
would rule until the age of 74, and
despite widespread criticism, he may
get his wish. After all, the CPP has
given Cambodia’s older generation
something that they have craved for
decades: peace.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 25
They pivot, their fingertips touching their
forearms as though their wrists
were made of rubber
from above
For a behind-the-scenes look at this art form,
it is possible to visit traditional dance classes at
Cambodian Living Arts. Be sure to arrange your
visit in advance. See
Sent from the
For centuries, the delights of Cambodia’s celestial Apsara dancers were a treat
reserved for royalty and the gods. Nowadays, mere mortals have been granted
the opportunity to savour this feast for the senses
By Daniel Otis Photography by Omar Havana
move gracefully in perfect, slow unison
to a melodious mix of cymbals, xylophones, drums,
reeds and a chorus of human voices. Their elaborately
sequinned and brocaded costumes dazzle in the
light as they pivot, their fingertips touching their forearms
as though their wrists were made of rubber. Their arms,
ankles, waists and hair are clasped with gold. Each wears an
he dancers
26 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
elaborate towering crown. Their movements are hypnotic,
mesmerising the crowd with ethereal glamour and poise.
Any visitor to Cambodia will notice the thousands of
Apsara dancers adorning the stone walls of Angkorian
temples. These Hindu spirits of cloud and water
traditionally represented the paragon of feminine beauty,
elegance and refinement.
Boruntium fugit quam denda
qui dollabori idipsam, ut
volores endianis doloribea
venistrum et, sunti totaerios
auda doluptam volupti
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 27
All that’s gold: the Apsara dancers’ wrists, ankles, waists and hair are adorned
with decadent jewellery and lengths of threaded jasmine
Kings themselves enjoyed the Apsara’s
charms, with large royal harems being
composed of classical dancers until
the middle of the 20th Century
They are heavenly nymphs that dance and entertain,
seducing both men and divinities.
Their mortal counterparts have been an integral part of
the Cambodian court for more than a thousand years, with
temples hosting troupes of dancers that could be summoned
in order to please the gods. Kings themselves enjoyed their
charms, with large royal harems being composed of classical
dancers until the middle of the 20th Century.
The art form is generally called the Royal Ballet of
Cambodia, and it shares many similarities with classical
dance elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Common performances
include interpretations of the Reamker, an epic Cambodian
poem adapted from India’s ancient Ramayana.
28 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Boruntium fugit quam denda
qui dollabori idipsam, ut
volores endianis doloribea
venistrum et, sunti totaerios
auda doluptam volupti
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 29
Blooming lovely: dancers
from Raffles Grand Hotel
d'Angkor scatter petals
as they perform on the
Apsara Terrace
While most dancers are female, men play a few crucial
roles. In any dance, each movement and gesture is steeped
in symbolism.
What was once an art reserved exclusively for festivals and
the enjoyment of royalty became public under the reign of
the recently deceased King Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk
released the Royal Ballet from the confines of the palace,
and included performances in several of his films.
The Royal Ballet of Cambodia dazzled visiting heads of
state and common Cambodians alike until 1975, when the
Khmer Rouge came to power. Along with other artists and
intellectuals, many of Cambodia’s classical dancers were
purged in Pol Pot’s agrarian revolution.
Classical Cambodian dance began to be revived in the
1980s and 1990s, due in large part to the efforts of one of
Sihanouk’s daughters, Princess Bopha Devi, who served
as the prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia
until 1970. Today, the ancient art form is kept alive
King Norodom Sihamoni is a
trained dancer who taught and
choreographed Cambodian ballet in
Paris for nearly 20 years
The cycle of nature lends itself to the language of this classic dance
form. Five basic hand gestures symbolise the continuous cycle of life,
while communicating abstract meanings:
The cycle of
nature begins
with the tree
position. When
pointed upwards
it represents
daytime. But
when pointed
at a person,
it displays
The tree grows
to form position
two, the leaf.
When pointed
upwards, this
gesture is
used to beckon
30 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Position three
is the flower
bud. When held
to the chest,
this gesture
is a signal of
The flower
position evolves
to become the
flower blossom,
the fourth
position of the
dance cycle.
The fruit is the
final gesture
of the Apsara
cycle of nature.
It drops and
becomes a
new tree,
symbolising the
continuity of
nature's cycle.
Body posture is also key to
communicating meaning in Apsara dance.
Body positions include:
The hand
in the leaf
position over
the eyes
signifies crying
and distress.
Hands crossed
at the chest
is a signal of
love, as it is in
sign language.
This is a
commonly used
gesture to show
respect and
obedience to the
gods. Dancers
bow in this
positon before
and after the
Both hands in the
leaf position, one
elevated and one
at the waist, is a
display of beauty.
largely thanks to a host of cultural institutions in the
US, France and Cambodia. Even Cambodia’s current
king, Norodom Sihamoni, is a classically trained
dancer who both taught and choreographed traditional
Cambodian ballet in Paris for nearly 20 years before
ascending his country’s throne in 2004.
There are many opportunities to see traditional
Cambodian ballet while visiting the Kingdom. The
pictured performers were captured at the Raffles Grand
Hotel d’Angkor, which hosts Siem Reap’s most luxuriant
Apsara show. The historic hotel’s peaceful gardens
are home to the Apsara Terrace, where a majestic
performance awaits along with a pan-Asian barbecue on
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Meanwhile, another
of temple town’s finest hotels, Residence d’Angkor, offers
a similarly captivating dance experience on Tuesdays,
Thursdays and Saturdays.
In the capital, an excellent troupe of musicians and
dancers educated by cultural non-profit organisation
Cambodian Living Arts performs a classical programme
called Plae Pakaa every Friday at 7pm at the National
Museum. The capital’s Sovanna Phum Art Association
also hosts a rotating roster of traditional performances
every Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 31
flying high
Phare performs nightly at 7:30pm. Tickets are available from 7pm at the door, or
in advance from Beyond Unique Escapes. Three-course set dinners are available
as part of a package (pre-booking is required). To learn more about Phare Ponleu
Selpak and performances in Battambang, visit
Under the
big top
Siem Reap’s circus with a conscience
brings all the thrills of
the three-ring to Cambodia
All photos: Sam Jam for Discover
32 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
and drums resound as the performers
emerge, each clad in traditional black trousers and
painted with spiralling mandalas and Khmer spirit
tattoos. Tonight’s show is entitled Eclipse. Deeply
steeped in traditional folklore, it tells the story of a young
hunchback and his feelings of anger at being ostracised
from his community because of his deformity. With the
story introduced – via handy English, French and Japanese
subtitles on a screen above – the performers tell their tale
by diving into a dazzling repertoire of gravity-defying and
muscle-rippling stunts.
Despite only moving to Siem Reap in March 2013,
Phare: The Cambodian Circus is already one of Temple
Town’s top attractions. Located in a 350-seat tent behind the
Angkor National Museum, Phare offers nightly shows that
fuse dance, music, juggling, contortion, fire play and daring
acrobatics with an ever-changing roster of original theatrical
stories that deal with contemporary Cambodian life, Khmer
spirituality and the country’s past.
Phare is Cambodia’s answer to the infamous Cirque du
Soleil, albeit with a twist. Many of Phare’s young performers
were disadvantaged youths (street kids, orphans, victims of
human trafficking) who received free artistic training from
Phare Ponleu Selpak, a Battambang-based NGO founded
in 1994 by a group of former Cambodian refugees. The
organisation’s mission is to heal psychological wounds
caused by poverty and war by fostering the development of
new forms of expression and reviving artistic traditions lost
during decades of turmoil.
Circus has a long history in Cambodia. The 12th Century
bas-reliefs at the majestic Bayon temple, for example,
show performers engaged in balancing acts, juggling
and tightrope walking – arts that disappeared during the
bedlam that was the 1970s.
lutes wail
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 33
Balancing act: circus has a long history in the Kingdom but
was largely wiped out by the Khmer Rouge. Phare Ponleu
Selpak’s circus school was created in October 1998
stage. Taking turns, a
With hundreds of students
performer stands on one
in Battambang, Phare Ponleu
Many of Phare's performers were
end while two more leap
Selpak (which translates as
disadvantaged youths who received
onto the seesaw’s upraised
“The Brightness of the Arts”)
arm, sending the first
now provides children and
artistic training from Phare Ponleu
somersaulting and twisting
teenagers with training in
Selpak, a Battambang-based NGO
through the air as the band
theatre, music, visual arts
– complete with flutes,
and circus performance. Its
drums and a xylophone –
endeavours have been wildly
works itself into a frenzy. The performers’ enthusiasm is
successful, with troupes of graduates going on to perform in
infectious, and with plenty of comedic relief and audience
Asia, North America and Europe.
interaction, the crowd stays riveted until the very end of
“Sometimes I feel scared while jumping through the air,
the show.
but most of the time I feel confident,” Khanha Choup, a
“The group that I’m working with now is exceptionally
20-year-old performer, says softly. Choup began his artistic
good,” says Thina Kim, the team’s coach and a Phare
training at the age of 12. “One day, I’d like to be famous in
graduate himself, who puts his group through a gruelling
Cambodia and around the world.”
daily training regimen. “I want everyone to perform
With wide smiles on their faces, the performers conclude
their best.”
the evening by dragging a massive seesaw onto the
34 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 35
more music
Cambodia’s most extensive
source of live gig listings can
be found at
Scan this QR to listen to
tracks from Cambodia's
brightest music stars.
Cambodia r
the khmer rouge may have eliminated many of the icons
of cambodia's golden age, but their musical legacy lives on
1960s until 1975, Cambodians were
gripped by rock’n’roll fever. While temperatures
ran high, slick-suited crooners sang alongside divas
in cocktail dresses and bouffants to wailing horns,
thrashing drums and the fuzz and twang of electric guitars.
This was Cambodia’s golden age of music: an eclectic period
that saw artists fuse local instrumentation and styles with the
aesthetics of pop, Latin, jazz and the latest rock’n’roll sounds
rom the early
Top stages
In recent years, Cambodia's live
music scene has begun to take off,
with ever-increasing numbers of
special nights and venues that cater
to those seeking a few tunes.
A great place to start is Doors –
which does a fine job of combining
36 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
a high-quality restaurant and music
venue under one roof – in the Wat
Phnom area of the capital. Bold street
art adorns the walls and industrialinspired touches elevate the space
to something akin to a Williamsburg
warehouse. Tuck into the signature
Spanish tapas while enjoying DJs,
sweeping the world’s airwaves. At the time, Cambodia’s
principal troubadour was soulful Sinn Sisamouth, who wrote
thousands of songs, echoing both the output and stature of
American musical giants such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis
Presley on his home turf. The movement’s leading ladies
included hard-rocking bob-haired Pan Ron, and the stunning
Ros Sereysothea, who sang everything from lushly composed
love ballads to raging distorted garage rock. These musicians
acoustic sets and live bands almost
every night of the week.
For something a little more intimate,
try The Groove – one of the capital’s
newest music venues. Established
by Ritchy Boisson, a French musician
who has become something of a
household name in Phnom Penh,
the smokey lounge is open six nights
a week and live jazz performances,
featuring Boisson and special guests,
take place until the wee hours each
and every evening.
Carry on the smooth jazz flow in
Siem Reap, where the Heritage Suites
Hotel’s Thursday night Jazz in the
dazzled on film and in Phnom Penh’s clubs – stars in a
scene awash with artists, actors, debutantes and royalty.
When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975, such
people were systemically eliminated. Along with them,
their art was destroyed – an entire generation’s creative
output lost forever. Or was it?
At some point after the Khmer Rouge’s fall, Sinn
Sisamouth and co. began to be heard again. Although
the master tapes of their recordings were lost, the
voices of Cambodia’s golden age endured thanks to a
handful of forgotten LPs that were taped, played on
the radio, then taped again ad infinitum. Even today,
Cambodians young and old wax nostalgic for these
classic songs, which can still be heard in karaoke bars
and on Cambodian radio, where covers and original
Sereysothea and Sisamouth serenades are played
alongside the blander pop ballads that are popular with
today’s youth.
The four-volume Cambodian Rocks CD series serves
as a great introduction to the genre, with a particular
emphasis on Khmer interpretations of Western
rock’n’roll classics such as “House of the Rising Sun”,
“Hey Jude”, and “Wooly Bully”. In markets across
Cambodia, CDs, VCDs and cassettes with songs by
golden-age artists are cheap and readily available (just
say any of the musicians’ names), though many of
these albums feature annoying overlaid midi beats to
make them more karaoke-friendly – give them a listen
before buying. In Phnom Penh, the Russian Market’s
Vintage Shop (just south of the central noodle stalls)
sells excellent unadulterated CD compilations as well as
rock’n’roll memorabilia, such as silkscreen posters and
technicolour LP replicas.
For a raucous night of classic Khmer rock’n’roll, The
Cambodian Space Project regularly plays the capital’s
expat bars (find their Facebook page for show dates
and venues). The massively kitschy Rock Entertainment
Centre in Phnom Penh (No. 468, Monivong Boulevard)
sports a fun house band that plays classic and modern
Khmer tunes to more subdued local audiences. For
something modern, check out Equinox, a venue that
sports a regular roster of local rock and punk bands.
City has become one of the town’s
most popular events. Drawing in
a mixed crowd of NGO workers,
big-business boys, hotel guests and
travellers, expect an eclectic mix of
musicians whose sets pair perfectly
with a nice glass of wine. Pop across
town to the Victoria Angkor Resort
& Spa’s Explorateur Bar, where
Friday nights go off to the beat of a
live band churing out bop-worthy
'60s and '70s pop-rock. A bounty of
scrumptious canapés accompany
the bar’s two-for-one happy hour
and we hear the burger is well worth
a try, too.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 37
There are a number of
well-regarded books
that will come in useful
for those wishing to
get up to speed with
Cambodia's modern
history. Cambodia's
Curse: The Modern
History of a Troubled
Land by Joel Brinkley,
and A History of
Cambodia by David
P. Chandler are good
places to start.
Legend has it that a
woman named Penh
founded the shrine of
Wat Phnom in the late
14th Century. The shrine
began attracting numerous
pilgrims to what was then
a small settlement. Phnom
Penh, “Hill of Penh” in
Khmer, continued to grow
and became the Kingdom’s
capital under King Ponhea
Yat in the 1430s.
Lok Yeay Penh
Hun Sen
Feign a deeper knowledge of the
Kingdom with this cheat sheet
of famous names
38 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The most celebrated architect in
Cambodia’s modern history, Vann
Molyvann pioneered New Khmer
Architecture’s distinctive style,
which flourished in the 1950s and
1960s. During this Golden Age of
architecture, he designed some
of the Kingdom’s most iconic
landmarks, including Phnom
Penh’s Olympic Stadium and the
Chaktomuk Conference Hall.
Rithy panh
Perhaps the best-known filmmaker to come out of
Cambodia, Rithy Panh’s suffering under the Khmer
Rouge regime was to become a huge influence
on his later work. His personal experiences in
a Thai refugee camp certainly fed into his first
documentary film, Site 2, which chronicled the
lives of Cambodian refugees in a settlement
during the 1980s. In 2013, Rithy Panh scooped the
top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the
Cannes Film Festival for his 2013 documentary,
The Missing Picture.
Cambodia’s current king assumed
the regal mantle when his father, King
Norodom Sihanouk, abdicated in 2004.
Allegedly, Sihanouk and the prime minister
engineered Sihamoni’s election as king to
edge out Prince Ranariddh, Sihamoni’s halfbrother and a political rival of Hun Sen. Little
is known of the king’s political views, although
he is widely recognised for his work as a cultural
ambassador in Europe due to his passion
for Khmer traditions. Also a classical dance
instructor, the king remains a lifelong bachelor.
Vann Molyvann
most relaxing
Spa in Cambodia
to know
King Norodom
Photo: Sam Jam (1); Ivan Babej/Getty (1); Martin Bureau/AFP (1); Vivek Prakash/Reuters (1)
With a reputation for cunning and an
underestimated capacity for pragmatic
leadership, the Prime Minister and leader
of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has
been in Cambodia’s political driving seat
for almost three decades. The former Khmer
Rouge cadre prides himself on having restored
relative peace and stability to the Kingdom,
although his vice-like grip suffered a setback
in the July 2013 elections, when the CPP
ceded significant support to the opposition
Cambodia National Rescue Party.
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The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 39
Star signs
Cambodia has never struggled
to attract A-list attention
one of the darkest periods experienced by any nation on the planet from 1975-1979, Cambodia has
enjoyed a place on the itineraries of the rich and famous both before and after Pol Pot’s genocidal reign. Drawn by
the Kingdom’s natural beauty, subtle culinary flavours and an ability to offer the finer things in life, world-renowned
names continue to be intoxicated by the warmth of welcome extended to all of the Kingdom’s visitors. The collage of
famous faces with an association to the country is ever expanding and, while Angelina Jolie’s love of Cambodia is the most
publicised, a variety of stellar personalities have enjoyed discovering the Kingdom’s treasures over the years.
espite enduring
With an impressive career
spanning more than 75
years, Charlie Chaplin
and his onscreen
persona ‘the Tramp’
kept audiences across
the world chuckling
into their popcorn.
Consequently, excitement
reached fever pitch when the
British comedian arrived on Cambodian
soil in April 1936. During his trip to
Phnom Penh, ‘Charlot’, as he was known
in Indochina, had time to take in the
Silver Pagoda and the Royal Palace,
where King Sisowath Monivong greeted
him. Almost 80 years after his visit,
Charlot’s presence remains strong in
Cambodia, where a love for slapstick
has endured, and contemporary Khmer
comedians continue to draw inspiration
from the 20th Century’s most celebrated
pioneer of silent cinema.
In recent
years, French
actor Gérard
has become
the epitome
of ‘larger than
life’, with his often-outrageous personal
life providing great fodder for a willing
press. However, having starred in 170
movies since 1967, it is Depardieu’s
acting that earned him two Cesar
Awards and one Golden Globe. The
film heavyweight arrived in Cambodia
in 2003 to film the thriller City of
Ghosts, in which he starred alongside
Matt Dillon as the owner of a seedy
Phnom Penh hotel. During filming,
the streets surrounding the set teemed
with fans hoping to catch a glimpse
of the French star who, according to
local rumours, has a love child living in
Phnom Penh to this day.
Jackie Kennedy
Eternal style icon and First Lady of the US
from 1961 until 1963, Jackie KennedyOnassis was dubbed “America’s unofficial
roving ambassador” by Life magazine when
she visited the Kingdom in November 1967.
Kennedy’s lifelong ambition to set eyes on the
magnificent Angkor Wat was fulfilled when
she toured the ruins with Prince Norodom
Sihanouk, who would go on to become the
country’s beloved King Father. Kennedy also
wined and dined with royalty at Phnom
Penh’s Le Royal Hotel and was serenaded with Sihanouk’s own jazz
compositions. Today, guests at Le Royal, which is now operated by
Raffles, can indulge in the signature “Femme Fatale”, a legendary
champagne cocktail named after Jackie O.
40 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
As famous for his
ferocious temper
as his culinary
prowess, Gordon
Ramsay visited
Cambodia to film
the second season
of his television
series Gordon’s
Great Escape. As well as documenting
Ramsay’s gastronomic journey through
Southeast Asia, the Cambodia episode
showcased the revolution being enjoyed
by traditional Khmer cuisine in recent
years. Between scoffing down fried
tarantulas and chicken embryo eggs,
Ramsay found time to help prepare a
banquet for the royal family. However,
despite impressing the royals, the multiMichelin starred chef was still unable
to achieve full marks for his Khmer
pumpkin curry.
Bérénice Marlohe
After shooting to fame as the latest
Bond girl, Bérénice Marlohe has
become one of the most recognisable
Cambodian faces on the planet.
Despite being born and raised in
Paris, the French-Cambodian actress
remains proud of her Khmer heritage,
and has pledged to use her newfound
fame to benefit her father’s home
country. In an interview, Marlohe
revealed her Skyfall fame had provided
a platform for her to direct international
media attention towards the Khmer
Rouge tribunal and to further justice and
human rights in the Kingdom.
Photos: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP (1)
Charlie Chaplin
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 41
She’s got
the moves
Meas Soksophea hopes to elevate Cambodian music to
the international stage by fusing an appreciation of the
past with the possibilities of the future
in a slinky
metallic evening gown, Meas
Soksophea brings an air of
glamour to an otherwise
lifeless, stark white photo studio.
Accompanied by her entourage of
stylist, hair and make-up artist and
husband-cum-manager, the pop starlet
has all the intrigue one would expect
of an A-lister.
Meas Soksophea, or Phea, as she
is known to her friends, is one of
Cambodia’s new generation of music
stars. Without any formal training
under her belt, she shot to fame in
2005 with a cover of the LeAnn Rimes
song “How Do I Live”. Since then,
Phea has teamed up with various
producers and sound engineers to
refine her sound, and whether singing
in English or Khmer, her career has
been ultimately defined by her love of
her homeland.
“My inspiration mainly comes from
my country, its people and the beautiful
scenery around me. Travelling across
Cambodia, seeing the landscape and
people during my tours, helps inspire
my music and lyrics.”
According to Phea, her most
memorable achievement to date came
in 2011, when her fans were able to
show just how much they appreciate
ashaying about
42 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
I still remember the
cheering and applause
when they announced
my name. I couldn't
hold my tears back
her diverse tunes. As part of the
Anachakdara awards, a countrywide
vote was cast and Phea was honoured
with one of the event’s most prestigious
titles – Female Singer of the Year.
Known as the Academy Awards
of Cambodia, the ceremony gives
recognition to the cream of the music,
film and entertainment crops.
“To this day, I still remember the
cheering and applause when they
announced my name. I couldn’t hold
my tears back. I just cried,” she says.
“It meant more to me than anything.
It made all of my hard work worth
it as it came from my fans, and
my country.”
On the back of such success,
the singer has toured the globe,
including the US, Australia, Europe
and Japan. Today, Phea is working
with KhmerTree, a production group
based out of the place where dreams
are made – Hollywood. Developing
her sound with catchy tracks such as
“Dance Today”, designed to appeal to
an international audience, Phea says
she hopes Cambodian artists will one
day make as big of an impact as some
other Asian stars have.
“There are songs such as ‘Gangnam
Style’ by Psy that dominated the
charts. Even with the whole song
All photos: Sam Jam for Discover
By Jemma Galvin
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 43
heart of gold
The Meas Soksophea Heart Foundation aims to assist Cambodia’s disadvantaged and protect the environment.
Visit to find out how you can help.
being in Korean, it became a huge
international hit. I hope that one day
Cambodian music can do the same
thing,” she says.
“There is a lot to be said for music
and artists from Cambodia today. I
feel like we have a lot of talent and
it is very promising,” Phea adds. “A
lot of investors in Cambodia are also
contracting Khmer entertainers to
market their companies. Before, we
would never see ourselves on billboards
or in commercials.”
While Phea is heavily influenced by
current chart-topping pop, RnB and
dance artists, it is the Kingdom’s golden
era of rock’n’roll that remains her most
constant source of inspiration.
“I love Pan Ron’s voice,” she says,
referring to the female Cambodian
Before, we would
never see Khmer
entertainers on
billboards or in
44 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Styling by Jemma Galvin
pop artist from the late ’60s and early
’70s who is thought, tragically, to have
perished during the genocide of the
Khmer Rouge years. “My mother and
I still listen to her music.”
As Phea wraps up her photoshoot,
her hair stylist removing her silky
hair extensions and scraping her
shoulder-length locks into a high
bun, she says she would love to one
day sing with Beyoncé. It is this, the
starlet’s wide-eyed perspective on
today’s music industry, coupled with
her dedication to her heritage, that
makes her so engaging.
“I am very proud of our culture, right
from the Angkor era. We have our own
language, arts, traditions and history.
I am very proud to be Khmer.”
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 45
The music man
Master chapei player Kong Nay is a Cambodian living legend. Overcoming
unimaginable hurdles, his music continues to inspire both young and old
By Jemma Galvin
46 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
Kong Nay’s life has certainly not been
“To learn how to play, I would first
in his
without its perils, though. As an artist,
ask my teachers to play the songs for
distinctive way, legs curled
and an often satirical one at that, he
me. I would then listen carefully to the
beneath his body, Kong Nay’s
was deemed dangerous by the Khmer
rhythms and intonations of the music
hauntingly beautiful, raspy
Rouge, which was responsible for the
and try to replicate that,” he says.
voice carries on the light breeze
displacement and murders of about
After two years of training, Kong
swirling around Wat Phnom. With
90% of the Kingdom’s artists and
an audience of some 60 admirers, the
intellectuals. In 1979, Kong Nay and
village at the age of 15. Today, aged
master chapei player treats his crowd
his family almost became victims of the
68, he has undoubtedly taken his place
to a few songs. One has the spectators
among the legends of Cambodian music. brutal regime as they were marched
giggling from start to finish. Another
from their home to the killing
is so captivating that blinking
fields to be executed. If it weren’t
suddenly seems unnecessary.
for Vietnamese soldiers rescuing
Sporting his signature dark
them at the very last minute, Kong
shades and with a bright smile
Nay’s story would have been
spread across his face, Kong Nay
abruptly cut short.
– who has been dubbed the Ray
Although the Khmer Rouge
Charles of Cambodia – takes a
permanently affected arts and
break from strumming the two
education in Cambodia, Kong
strings of his long-necked, luteNay is confident that the ancient
like instrument to share a little
chapei tradition will live on.
about his life and music.
“The chapei became very
Contracting smallpox as a young
popular among Cambodians for
child, Kong Nay was blind by
its ability to tell stories. The music
the time he was four years old.
educates people in how to live a
It wasn’t until he was seven,
good life and be a good person,”
however, that he realised the
The chapei way: Kong Nay entertains a small crowd at Wat Phnom
he says. “Many young people
extent of his ailment and how it
today like the chapei, and not only that
All-star jam sessions, international
would affect his future.
– many also come to me and ask me to
tours and praise from industry bigwigs
“I became a musician because of my
have all dotted Kong Nay’s career, but it teach them how to play.”
blindness,” he says. “I cannot read
There are those, however, that don’t
was a performance in Sihanoukville that
or write so I thought that learning an
view chapei music quite so positively.
instrument would be a good way for me remains his fondest memory.
“A small amount of people see the
“When I was 17 years old I was invited
to make a living. When I was 13, my
father bought me my first chapei and my to play at a temple in Sihanoukville,” he music negatively,” Kong Nay says.
says. “I was so excited as I was so young “They believe that if they learn to play
uncle taught me how to play.”
the chapei then they will become blind
and there were so many people there to
Listening to the flawless pulse of Kong
watch me. The song I played was a kind like me and Neth Pe – the best chapei
Nay’s performance, it’s hard to believe
singer in Cambodia. But this is simply
of parting song. It was very meaningful
such perfection could be achieved
not true.”
for me. I will never forget that day.”
without the ability to see.
erched on a bench
With his signature dark
glasses and bright smile,
Kong Nay has been
dubbed the Ray Charles
of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 47
here is something a little bit special about
Cambodian cuisine. A combination of local tastes,
mixed with the best of Chinese, Indian and Thai
influences makes for a culinary crusade like no
other. The unique flavours are subtle and refined, with
many dishes taking hours to prepare, although it all begins
with the array of fresh, local produce available across the
country. These ingredients have attracted skilled epicurean
48 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
adventurers from across the globe, and the country has
begun to garner a reputation as a foodie paradise, with
exciting culinary talents taking Cambodian ingredients
in thrilling new directions. Discover asked three of the
country’s finest chefs, from three different continents, to
choose their favourite local ingredients and create a dish
that exudes the flavour of a nation that is forging ahead
on an exhilarating culinary journey.
All photos: Sam Jam for Discover
Gastronomic artistes
from across the globe
showcase local
ingredients in a
whole new light
Favourite ingredient:
Mango cannelloni with marinated salmon and a passion fruit espuma
Gisela says: “Here in Cambodia, a lot of the ingredients are similar to those we use in Venezuela, so I’ve been eating mango and passion
fruit since I was very small. They are my two favourite fruits. I like the idea of playing with salty and sweet, and acidic in the case of the
passion fruit. In the dish, I took out the pasta that would normally be used for cannelloni and replaced it with mango, and the salmon
inside is marinated in ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime and olive oil. I used passion fruit as part of an espuma , mixing it with mustard and
honey, because the flavours combine so well. Even if you’re just walking down the street in C ambodia , a guy will pull up on his bike and
offer you fresh mangoes. They ’re in the markets, in the street, up on trees; they ’re just everywhere.”
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 49
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Photography by Sam Jam
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amlor Korko
: “Many
in this region
, so it is cusant
an ingredient
that most chefs need. It has
so many uses, such
as in tea
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and even for incense, but in C ambodian kitchens we mainly use it for salads, stews, soups and desserts. C ambodia is a great place to get
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lemongrass, because the methods used to grow it are usually quite natural, so C ambodian lemongrass is very flavoursome compared to
Favourite ingredient:
neighbouring countries. Samlor Korko is a traditional, stew-like dish in C ambodia that includes pork, lemongrass and lots of wild herbs.
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The word 'korko' relates to the long stirring and mixing process that the dish requires. We use the green part of the lemongrass, chopped
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fine, pounded and mixed into a paste we call kroeung.”
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Quidunditium aut experum ne
remolendicit maio
It is fitting that a film festival
dedicated to the preservation of
culture and environment be held
in Siem Reap, home to one of the
world's most famous empires.
The Angkor Wat International
Film Festival (February 17-19) will
present a selection of Cambodian
and international films as well as
filmmaker panels. The highlight will
be films directed by former King
Sihanouk (pictures left). Following
hot on its heels, the CamboFest film
and tv festival is an independent
film event that distributes and
books titles in Cambodia and
Southeast Asia.
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animinctiis es aut estrum dollore rspictur aut
harchilit ex eationsequos mo erro ipid quis aut
rempor autem exerrum nis millupta quis corerun
totatibeaque dollam, nonsed eum, sinistrum as et
aut harchiliandi te voluptur ratur sam abores net
harionest escimi, ut apisquas iderro quaturibus
min ni consequi que excepudi aut eos nihiciliquat
doloria ipsus intorepedIl mint, sum hitatur simenim
di aliqui dolupiendunt aut quibus sitaquatem
reptum fugal.
Boruntium fugit quam denda qui
dollabori idipsam, ut endianis
venistrum et, sunti totaerios auda
doluptam volupti
50 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photo: Xxxxxxxx, Xxxxxxxx
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 51
Favourite ingredient:
52 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Quail salad with lotus root, stem and seed
Johannès says: “I chose lotus because it is a very important plant in Asian culture: the symbolism of lotus, of purity, is found everywhere.
Also, you can do everything with it. You can use the leaf to wrap food, you can make fabric from the sap and you can use it to make food.
The stem is quite crunchy and starchy, the seeds taste like very fresh green peas and the root is boiled to bring a very soft texture to the
dish. This is my take on a traditional C ambodian salad. It ’s very classic with vegetables, meat, herbs, peanuts and some dressing. The idea
was to work on the different textures you can get from lotus. It is quite traditional in preparation but a bit more contemporary with the
use of lotus, which is not usually used for salads.”
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 53
bottoms up
Hit the street and get a slurp of Asia by enjoying the
revitalising nectar of a fresh coconut or chase down a vendor
pushing a cart loaded with sweet sugarcane. Its juice comes
served in a small plastic bag with ice – truly Cambodian.
Flavours of Asia
Sampling local dishes is a must in Cambodia, but the capital
also offers visitors the chance to broaden their culinary horizons
Nowhere in Phnom Penh is attacking the
intricacies of Japanese cuisine with the
inventiveness found at Kanji. Executive chef
Mike Wong brings postmodern interpretations
such as volcano rolls – California rolls topped
with diced, cheesy scallops – to the table in
a collision of East and West. Traditionalists
will not be left harrumphing into their teriyaki
salmon either, with smooth sashimi and nigiri
playing a lead role on the extensive menu.
Shoji screens and fusuma panels provide
privacy for diners on Kanji’s upper levels,
while the main restaurant employs unique
touches such as a huge, brass wok, which is
put to use on special occasions.
Bistro Lorenzo
While most visitors to Cambodia will probably be well
versed in Asian cuisine from China and Japan, the large
portions of Filipino fare served up at Bistro Lorenzo may
be less familiar. What this place does best is home-cooked
comfort food, and it is wildly popular with Phnom Penh’s
substantial Filipino population. Walls are adorned with
classic Spanish movie posters, but all eyes will be on the
carnivore’s dream that arrives at the table. The tocino,
a kind of sweet cured pork, is fantastic here, while every
group should share the crispy pata, a gigantic pork
knuckle that is deep-fried until the meat is tender and
the skin becomes a crispy crackling delight.
Emperors of China
Phnom Penh is certainly not short of Chinese restaurants – any
cruise along Monivong Boulevard attests to that – but few offer
the refinement of Emperors of China. Contemporary, elegant and
unmistakably Chinese, this place is masterminded by co-owner
and renowned Hong Kong chef Dick Wong. Sample the xiao long
bao and Peking duck for two of Chinese cuisine’s stalwarts, or
branch out with the incredible fried crab with garlic chilli, and
beggar’s chicken, which is stuffed, wrapped and roasted. Given
Wong’s Hong Kong roots, Emperors of China also offers some of
Cambodia’s best dim sum.
Confirming Phnom Penh’s reputation as a city where
quality food does not necessitate a visit from your
accountant, Ngon is one of the prettiest spots in the
capital for dinner. Set outdoors on Sihanouk Boulevard,
hundreds of lights twinkle in the trees after sundown,
while numerous cooking stations lend an upscale food
market vibe to this Vietnamese favourite. Be sure to
gorge on the huge bowls of pho, Vietnam’s aromatic rice
noodle soup, although the cao lau, a pork noodle soup
from Hoi An, is arguably even tastier.
54 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 55
Star of the show:
the creamy, fragrant
fish amok is one of
Cambodia's most
and delicious,
Teacher's pet:
students are guided
through an array of
Khmer ingredients before getting their hands
dirty in the kitchen
Taste test
Why let the
professional chefs
have all the fun?
Khmer cooking
classes provide
great insights into
an undervalued
By Daniel Otis
cooking with gas
Beyond Unique Escapes offers both half- and full-day
cooking classes in Siem Reap. Groups are small and all
participants take home detailed recipe cards. For more
information, visit
56 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
a sprig of lemongrass tells us that a portion of our class fees will
go back to the community. So far, she says,
growing alongside a pathway
they have been able to install 83 water
in the lush Treak village on the
filters in the village.
outskirts of Siem Reap. “When
After chatting, we take a short walk to
a boy and girl want to get married,” she
says, “they take two pieces of lemongrass, our kitchen: a thatch gazebo set amidst a
serene garden of banana plants. Whereas
plant them upside down, then pray to
locals cook on small wood-burning stoves,
the Buddha for good weather on their
our fan-cooled kitchen is outfitted with
wedding day.”
She points out trees heavy with mangos, modern utensils, gas appliances and an
immaculate granite countertop.
papayas and custard apples. We enter a
shaded plot guarded by fragrant kaffir lime Chef Channey and Pisey trade gentle
trees. “Many villagers plant these to keep banter as we get to work. Today’s menu
snakes away,” Pisey, our guide and fount is quintessentially Cambodian: Khmer
of ethnoculinary knowledge, says with a mango salad, the popular coconut fish
curry known as amok, and palm sugarsmile. “Snakes hate the smell.”
filled sticky rice balls.
We tour a village home, talking to its
friendly owner about traditional cooking “I have a lot of experience cooking Thai
food, but Cambodian cuisine is littlemethods and her favourite dishes. Pisey
063 964343
Downtown: The Alley West
(near Pub Street)
isey plucks
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
Teacher's pet:
Those who attend
a cooking class
will learn not only
about ingredients,
but about Khmer
culture, too
023 211701
Downtown: #08E0, Str. 57
Riverside: #7, Str. 178
Phnom Penh International Airport
known back home in the UK,” says one
of my classmates. “The food I’ve had in
Cambodia has been so delicious. I had to
try cooking it.”
Under Channey’s watchful eyes, we
begin slicing and dicing ingredients. Most
of the aspirant chefs whirl through the
preparations, while the novices among
us work slowly with Channey’s friendly
encouragement. “Beginner or master,
this class is for everyone,” she says with
a laugh.
Over the course of the morning, we
grind herbs into kroeung – a paste used
in various Cambodian dishes – simmer
our curries, grate green mangos and
roll rice flour into balls in our hands.
Channey explains the various uses of
each ingredient. Some, such as coconut
cream and garlic, are familiar, while
others, such as galangal and kaffir lime
leaves, are more exotic. Channey suggests
alternatives for items that we might not
be able to find in Western grocery stores.
The thick ngor leaves used in the fish
Siem Reap International Airport
amok, for example, can be replaced with
thinly sliced broccoli leaves; the palm
sugar placed in the centre of the sticky
rice balls can easily be substituted with
cubes of brown sugar. Some of the more
pungent ingredients – such as fish sauce
and shrimp paste – result in wrinkled
noses, but all trepidations disappear as
soon as we begin sampling our dishes.
When the cooking is finished, Channey
and Pisey arrange and garnish everything
with expert ease before serving us at
a neatly set table in the shade of a
delightful pavilion, which stands in the
centre of a fish-filled pond. Cracking
cold sodas and beers, we toast a morning
well spent, then proudly dive into our
succulent creations: each an exemplary
example of Cambodia’s subtle yet
complex cuisine.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 57
top tipple
Happy hour-hunting is a favourite pastime of visitors to and
residents of Phnom Penh alike. One popular choice is The Quay
hotel's rooftop bar, where drinks are half-price from 4pm to 8pm
daily and the views are some of the best in the city.
In the mix
Cambodia’s bountiful fruits and herbs provide an invigorating
basis for some truly unique cocktails
bou sraa waterfall
Elephant Bar, Raffles, Phnom Penh
Lending their name to Raffles’ iconic watering
hole, elephants can be spied here woven into
carpets and peering down from walls. Wicker
armchairs with views of the lush garden
transport guests to an era of colonial elegance,
while an artisan barman conjures up Cambodiainspired cocktails, including the acclaimed
Bou Sraa Waterfall – a frothy concoction that
focuses on locally grown dragon fruit, along
with tamarind spirits, green tea, palm sugar
and crème de peach, served in a tall, wooden
cup. This jungle cocktail arrives with tasty
companions – bowls of taro chips with fresh
salsa, wasabi peas and peanuts – making the
Elephant Bar’s half price happy hour from 4pm
to 9pm particularly enticing.
On a leafy street between the Mekong and
Wat Botum, Bouchon’s exposed brickwork and
tables fashioned out of wine boxes provide the
air of a French wine cellar. Despite the place’s
popularity among wine drinkers, Bouchon
makes a mighty martini. The Kampot Pepper
and Vanilla variety is not for the faint-tongued
– each sip gives a resounding kick of vodka,
followed by a robust peppery tingle, slightly
softened by the wafting vanilla. This is not a
drink to be rushed; instead, savour the spicy
bite – you won’t be the first to fall in love
with pepper in Cambodia. Kampot’s signature
seasoning is world-renowned for its delicate
yet powerful flavour.
Bouchon, Phnom Penh
Tucked away in an alley behind Siem Reap’s
bustling Pub Street, Miss Wong oozes vintage
Shanghai chic with its Chinese lanterns,
crimson walls, dark leather booths and Oriental
prints. While the bar sports a tantalising
array of homemade cocktails, its refreshingly
simple Lemongrass Collins is a clear favourite.
Stolichnaya vodka is infused with fresh
lemongrass on site, then mixed with dashes of
vanilla syrup and lime juice before being topped
off with ginger ale and ice. Garnished with a sprig
of fragrant lemongrass, the drink offers a unique
twist on a ubiquitous Southeast Asian herb.
58 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
Miss Wong Cocktail Bar, Siem Reap
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 59
Photo: Sam Jam for Discover
The Guide
Whether discovering the vibrant tourism hubs of Phnom Penh and
Siem Reap, the diverse towns dotted along the coast, or the outdoor
adventures in the countryside, make sure you experience the best the
country has to offer, whatever the destination...
Discover Cambodia: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
60 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 61
Discover Phnom Penh: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
Phnom Penh
There has rarely been a better
time to visit Cambodia’s
capital, which finds itself at a
fascinating crossroads. Well
down the path to modernity in
many respects, the Penh also
manages to retain a smallcity vibe that is rarely found
in Southeast Asia. Perfectly
imperfect streets bustle with
life, and skyscrapers remain
the exception rather than the
rule. With gourmet dining
options sprouting up by the
week, and a cultural scene
that runs the gamut, the ‘Pearl
of Asia’ is beginning to shine
once more.
9Raffles Hotel Le Royal
The elegant halls of the iconic Raffles
Le Royal have played host to the likes of
Jacqueline Kennedy, and the hotel was
a hideout for Vietnam War journalists in
the turbulent 1970s. Today, it remains a
landmark in the capital and its colonial
charm enchants even the weariest of
travellers. Check out the hotel’s bakery –
it’s full of treats for all tastes.
Tel: +855 (0)23 981 888
Photos: Jeremie Montessuis (1)
The Plantation
62 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Spread over half a hectare, the luscious
Plantation is a sprawling urban oasis
in the heart of Phnom Penh. The main
pool is surrounded by private cabanas
positioned close enough to the water’s
edge for guests to slide straight in. With
an additional pool, two bars and topnotch staff, it’s no wonder the hotel won
Trip Advisor’s Traveller’s Choice Award
for 2013. Reserve the fancy rooftop
suite for an extra dose of luxury.
Tel: +855 (0)23 215 151
eWhite Mansion
eSofitel Phokeethra
The Sofitel opened in late 2010 and has
quickly established itself as one of the city’s
premier deluxe hotels. As guests enter the
cavernous marble lobby with its citrusscented air, the level of decadence on offer
becomes immediately apparent. As well as
a range of top-class dining, the delicious
complimentary macaroons offered to guests
when they least expect it is a lovely touch
that is hard to forget.
Tel: +855 (0)23 999 200
Very late check-in
Got swept up in
your adventures
and left your
booking to the
last minute?
Check out the
Check In Tonight
app. Available
for Android,
iPhone and iPad,
it collects deals
from hotels that
have unsold
rooms and offers
discounts as large
as 70%. Phnom
Penh, Siem Reap,
Kep and Kampot
are all covered
in its Cambodia
The abundance of natural light and
whitewashed walls make an instant
impression when stepping through the
unassuming gate of White Mansion.
Beautiful high ceilings, sleek yet plush
furnishings and a distinctly Khmer flavour
make this new boutique hotel a hot pick
for both private and business travellers.
Lounge by the crystal-clear pool, cocktail in
hand, after a long day of sightseeing.
Tel: +855 (0)23 555 0955
Trying to keep up with a rapidly changing nation can be difficult, but a number of reliable and informed city guides are available in cafés, restaurants and online.
The Cambodia Pocket Guide, AsiaLife and are among the best sources for finding out what’s on in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 63
Discover Phnom Penh: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
The Duck
Meta House
A contemporary cafe bistro, The Duck is
the work of New Zealand head chef Marcus
Newton. Open from 7am until late, the
eatery covers all bases – from eggs Benedict
and sour dough toast to Wagyu scotch fillet
and crispy-skinned red snapper. The refined
yet relaxed ambience is a draw card in itself
here – perfect for a romantic dinner for two
or a relaxed meal with friends.
Tel: +855 (0)89 823 704
For a night of intelligent, thoughtprovoking entertainment, Meta House
never fails to deliver. The German
Cambodian Cultural Centre features
art exhibitions, film and documentary
screenings, foodie events, music nights
and other creative happenings. The
centre is a vital part of the country’s
bourgeoning arts scene and approaches
it in a refreshingly unique way.
Tel: +855 (0)10 312 333
Built upon a foundation of local produce
prepared with enthralling twists, The
Common Tiger’s short menu changes
regularly in order to make use of the
freshest ingredients. Ordering the
five-course taster menu is highly
recommended, especially as it results
in South African head chef-cum-owner
Tim Bruyns presenting each course at
your table, along with a rundown of the
wonders contained therein.
Tel: +855 (0)23 212 917
Cambodia’s most renowned chef, Luu
Meng, presides over the kitchen at Malis
and the result is some of the country’s
best Khmer cuisine. The menu presents
traditional dishes finessed by modern
cooking processes for a gourmet finish.
As such, Malis is a great place to sample
prahok, Cambodia’s famously fishy
fermented condiment.
Tel: +855 (0)23 221 022
Set in the 150-year-old former Indochina
Bank building, Van’s offers the height of
romance with its coloured-glass windows,
wood panelling and original colonial
tiles. Ambient lighting and pretty foliage
create the perfect atmosphere for guests
to enjoy its array of French fine dining
options. The extensive and diverse
vegetarian menu is a nice treat not often
found in Phnom Penh.
Tel: +855 (0)23 722 067
9Oudong Mountain
The ancient former capital of Cambodia, Oudong is the final
resting place of many Khmer kings. Located about 40km
outside of Phnom Penh, temples and magnificent views can
be found after a short but strenuous climb to the twin humps
of Oudong’s small mountain. Khmers say the peaks resemble
the shape of a Naga – the magical multi-headed serpents
that guard the Buddha.
Feel the heat
If meat is the
name of your
dining game
then the capital’s
eateries have
got you covered.
Sovanna BBQ
on Street 21
is a great spot
for a beefy
while BBQ Party,
on the corner
of Monivong
Boulevard and
Street 86, offers
an all-you-cangrill buffet for
just $7 a head.
Venues that give visitors to Cambodia the
chance to gamble big bucks are few and
far between, but NagaWorld has those
wanting to take a punt covered. The ritzy
establishment is home to slot machines,
roulette tables and ongoing poker
tournaments, as well as a number of quality
dining options to refuel in between games.
Tel: +855 (0)23 228 822
First chain
of health and
beauty stores
in Cambodia
eSweet tooth
Satisfying that craving for a naughty treat has never been
easier in the capital. For delectable cupcakes with huge
dollops of icing, check out Bloom Cakes, which employs
and trains women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Chocaholics should swing by The Chocolate Shop for a huge
selection of fine Belgian treats, and those who scream for
ice cream are well served at Toto, which has two locations
in Phnom Penh that serve a smorgasbord of flavours in
cute, candy cottage surroundings.;;
Local NGO Mith Samlanh operates this
popular eatery that concentrates on
Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant
functions as a training programme where
former street youths hone their cooking
and hospitality skills to prepare them
for a life of independence. Visitors can
taste local specialities such as deep-fried
tarantulas and beef with ants for those
brave of heart and mouth.
Tel: +855 (0)92 219 565
Family fun: For an excitement-packed day for the whole family, head to Kids City on Sihanouk Boulevard.
Little kids and big kids alike can try their hand at ice skating, indoor rock climbing, laser tag and more
over 11 levels of fun. A Blue Pumpkin cafe outlet is on site should mum and dad need a little break, too.
64 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
NagaWorld Hotel
and Casino
A favourite among Phnom Penh’s
discerning foodie population, Topaz offers
the best in high-end, innovative French
fare. Lavish seafood dishes, fresh twists
on classics such as Niçoise salad and
sculptural desserts satisfy one’s hunger,
even before the first bite. The escargot is
widely regarded as the city’s best, and Hak
Seyha was a recent winner in the country’s
first sommelier competition.
Tel: +855 (0)23 221 622
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover (3)
9The Common Tiger
023 22 50
We provides only certified
medication, mostly imported
from France and USA
9Phnom Tamao Wildlife
Rescue Centre
Located just 45 kilometres outside of the
city, Phnom Tamao’s animals have all been
rescued from poacher traps or confiscated
from traffickers. This wonderful day out for
the whole family allows visitors to come
face-to-face with magnificent Bengal tigers,
feed curious otters and watch playful
monkeys swing from branch to branch
throughout the centre’s expansive grounds.
• #26-28 Sothearos Blvd
• #39 Sihanouk Blvd
• #41-43 Norodom Blvd
• #254 Monivong Blvd
• #844 Kampucheakrom Blvd
• #207-209 Sisowath Quay
(+855) 23 222 499
(+855) 23 224 099
(+855) 23 224 299
(+855) 23 224 399
(+855) 23 884 004
(+855) 23 223 499
(+855) 63 965 396
(+855) 63 966 683
(+855) 63 766 049
• Old Market in front of pub street
• Lucky Mall inside Lucky Mall
• Airport International Departure
[email protected]
[email protected]
The Essence
Cambodia Discover 2014 65
Discover Phnom Penh: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
The Boat House
9Eclipse Sky Bar & Restaurant
The sweeping, 360-degree view of a twinkling Phnom Penh brings
to mind similarly elevated spots in bustling Bangkok or stylish
Singapore. Opened in December 2012, Eclipse is the only sky
bar in the country and boasts drinks ranging from the fruity to
the potent. Regular music and art nights are other nice features
on offer here.
Tel: +855 (0)23 964 171
Key phrases
g Hello
Sua s’dei
g Goodbye
Lia hao-y
g How are you?
Sok sabai?
g Sorry
Sohm toh
g Yes
Baat (man)
Jaa (woman)
g No
g Thank you
Life doesn’t get much better than watching the sun set over the
Tonle Sap river, cold drink in hand, with a couple of good mates.
The Boat House is the ideal place to while away a weekend
afternoon and the owners are some of the best hosts in town.
Their freshly prepared charcuterie boards are the perfect
accompaniment to their tidy list of beverages.
Tel: +855 (0)92 553 743
The Exchange
Exposed brick, bulbous wine glasses and tall, shuttered windows
give The Exchange an air of exclusivity. To wet your whistle, get
into the range of refreshing martinis – the ginger and lemongrass
version showcases staples of the Khmer flavour spectrum, while the
basil and pineapple adaptation begs to be ordered more than once.
Tel: +855 (0)23 992 865
9The Fox Wine Bistro
One of the newest watering holes in the city, The Fox is more than
just a pretty face. The fancy glass exterior and whimsical branding
may lure patrons inside, but it’s the comprehensive wine and
cocktail lists, and well-priced nibbles, that make them stay.
Tel: +855 (0)90 625 656
66 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
From the early morning to the middle of the night, ‘Street 240½’ is swiftly becoming the epicentre of
all things avant-garde. For a breakfast that’ll keep you going until lunchtime, pop to Mumoo’s and grab
a smoothie and a jumbo muffin. A little retail therapy is always a staple of a well-rounded holiday and
Paperdolls stocks an eclectic mix of fashion, accessories and art work – perfect for a morning of dressups. Grab a healthy bite for lunch at the laid-back Artillery café, known about town for its raw food recipes
and imported organic ingredients. As night rolls around, Public House brims with a cool crowd, hearty
grub and warm hospitality. Finally, after a hard day’s shopping and scoffing everything in sight, wash it all
down with a cocktail at Emergency Room, where creative concoctions such as the Linda Blair cocktail are
sure to get the party started. Wrap up the 240½ journey at Bar.Sito – a sleek, smoky warren of a bar that
offers strong drinks and a speakeasy vibe.
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
The Alley – 240½
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 67
Reap: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
Siem Reap
No visit to Cambodia is complete
without laying eyes on Angkor’s
ancient splendour, making
Siem Reap the country’s most
visited destination. However,
one of Temple Town’s greatest
successes has been retaining
its intimacy despite the millions
of visitors. Also home to some
of the country’s finest hotels,
brightest culinary minds and
most exhilarating countryside
excursions, a trip to Siem Reap
is always so much more than
temple gazing.
9Park Hyatt
What used to be the iconic Hôtel de la Paix
is now the luxurious Park Hyatt. Having
undergone a complete renovation in 2012,
the hotel boasts private gardens and
swimming pools in selected guest rooms as
well as delicious French-Indochina-inspired
food in its three dining venues. The opulent
lounge known as the Living Room delivers
the final wow to Siem Reap’s newest kid on
the luxury block.
Tel: +855 (0)63 211 234
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
tLa Residence d’Angkor
68 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The warm, wooden rooms here come
complete with verandas and inviting
bathtubs big enough for two. Jump in the
beautiful swimming pool for a few laps
before indulging a little at the lush Kong Kea
Spa. How a place renowned for its luxury
retains an air of a small, traditional home is
a mystery that only the owners can shed light
on. La Residence’s restaurant, Circle, enjoys
a reputation as one of the best in town.
Tel: +855 (0)63 963 390
eNavutu Dreams
Surrounded by rice paddies and sugar
palms, Navutu Dreams feels a world away
from the bustling centre of Siem Reap town,
despite it being only a few minutes in a tuk
tuk. Modern white villas give off something
of a Mediterranean vibe, while two pristine
pools and a yoga centre lie within the
manicured grounds.
Tel: +855 (0)63 688 0607
Best bus
Among the
numerous bus
between Phnom
Penh and Siem
Reap, Giant Ibis
has established
a reputation
for reliability
and comfort.
The company’s
fleet is more
luxurious than
the average, with
leather seats,
air conditioning
and WiFi worth
paying slightly
extra for. The
added leg-room
can make all the
difference on a
six-hour journey.
Tel: +855
(0)23 999 333,
Built in 1962 to accommodate friends and
guests of then Prince Norodom Sihanouk
who were unable to stay at the nearby royal
residence, the Amansara had a facelift
when it was taken over by Amanresorts in
2002. The astounding architecture, along
with the ambience of an elegant home,
keep Siem Reap’s most illustrious guests
coming back time and again, not to mention
celebrities such as Angelina Jolie.
Tel: +855 (0)63 760 333
Victoria Angkor Hotel
An impressive courtyard pool is the
perfect introduction to this elegant,
colonial-influenced hotel. The comfy
rooms are finished with ‘antique traveller’
flourishes and many boast lovely views
of the pool area. Guests can enjoy not
only the comfort expected of a five-star
establishment but also a buffet breakfast
that has become renowned as one of the
best in town.
Tel: +855 (0)63 760 428
While many visitors will be approached to visit an orphanage while in Cambodia, they are not tourist attractions and are often detrimental to the lives of the children living there. To
better contribute to the development of Cambodia, pick up products made by children in vocational training programs run by organisations such as Friends International.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 69
Reap: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
The Yellow Sub
The temples of Angkor are impressive
enough from the ground, but from the air
they are a whole new spectacle to behold.
Skyventure offers a range of flight plans
that take passengers above the magnificent
ruins of the ancient Khmer capital by
microlight aircraft – truly exhilarating.
Each of the four floors of this lively gastropub is full of Beatles memorabilia,
with everything from filmed interviews to original record sleeves on show.
The two owners, both from Singapore, have nearly 40 years of hospitality
experience between them, so guests can expect the service to be just as good
as the drinks. Give the bubblegum martini a try for something a little offbeat.
Tel: +855 (0)88 665 5335
eThe Sugar Palm
Kethana, owner of the Sugar Palm,
has quite a claim to fame: she taught
Gordon Ramsay how to cook amok –
one of Cambodia’s most famed dishes.
Rightly so, as Sugar Palm’s version is
arguably the best in the country. It is
indicative of the rest of the menu too
– beautiful Khmer food, cooked with a
traditionalist’s touch.
Tel: +855 (0)63 964 838
9The Hashi
One of the newest eateries in Siem Reap, The Hashi (meaning
‘chopsticks’) has quickly established itself as the premier
Japanese restaurant in town. High-end without a doubt, the
menu features Kobe beef imported from Japan, salmon from
Norway and tuna from the Philippines. Quality is clearly the
name of the game here.
Tel: +855 (0)63 969 007
Khmer ceramics
If rummaging through the Night Market
fails to turn up the perfect memento, why
not make your own? At Khmer Ceramics
and Fine Arts Centre, visitors can create
their own replicas of traditional Khmer
pottery designs using age-old techniques.
The final creations are fired, glazed and
delivered to your hotel within 24 hours.
Tel: +855 (0)63 210 004
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover (4)
Saddle? Check. Trusty steed? Check. Temple
ruins? Check. That’s right, you’ve landed
in the Wild, Wild East. Take a gentle trot
around the enchanting countryside away
from the tourist crowds with The Happy
Ranch. Guides will sadldle you up and
lead you on selected horse and pony
tours, lasting from one to three hours.
Tel: +855 (0)12 920 002
Set in a traditional wooden house, Asana is smackbang in the middle of Siem Reap and one of the
quirkiest places in town. Its interior has been
reimagined with funky furnishings, and with live
music and other artistic happenings occurring
regularly, it’s the perfect spot to sip on an inventive
cocktail. Try the Tamarind Sauce – one of Asana’s
signature concoctions.
Tel: +855 (0)92 987 801
Bungled bills
Be sure to
carefully check
the change
given to you in
shops and by
tuk tuk drivers.
Should a damaged
or marked bill
make its way into
your pocket, it
can be extremely
difficult to
Miss Wong
An institution in Siem Reap, Miss Wong evokes a bygone era of 1920s
Shanghai chic. The cocktails here are focused on local ingredients, with the
mango daiquiri a particular favourite among the fabulous staff and patrons
alike. Gay-friendly and extremely popular with the town’s expat community,
there’s also a small dim sum menu on offer – perfect for late-night munchies.
Tel: +855 (0)92 428 332
Billowing, sail-like shelters and candle-lit daybeds give Nest an instant
air of contemporary cool. One of the best cocktail lists in town is
complemented by Mediterranean- and Asian-inspired nibbles, while the
bar’s ambient tunes set the whole experience off nicely.
Tel: +855 (0)63 966 381
The finest French dining in town is served up in an equally lovely
garden setting at Abacus. Everything from steak in black truffle sauce
to deliciously succulent salmon features on the refined menu. For
those with less polished tastes,
or just a craving for something
naughty, the beef burger is a
huge rectangular affair that
never disappoints.
Tel: +855 (0)12 644 286
Cuisine Wat Damnak
Regarded by some as the best restaurant in Cambodia, Wat
Damnak serves up refined takes Cambodian cuisine across two set
menus that change weekly. Located in a traditional Khmer wooden
house, chef Johannès Rivière is something of a local celebrity and
never fails to score a hit with his ever-changing selection of fresh,
seasonal ingredients.
Tel: +855 (0)63 965 491
Family fun: Should the troops need a break from temple-hopping, downsize and partake in a round
of mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt. The 14-hole course is elaborately designed with nine replicas of the Angkor
temples dotted about the greens. There are also bouncy castles available for youngsters not interested in
bettering their handicap, while worn out parents can sit back and relax at the on-site bar.
70 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 71
Discover The South: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
The south
Cambodia’s coast can be whatever
you want it to be. Sihanoukville is the
only choice for those with drinking
and dancing tendencies, while Kep’s
hillside resorts take relaxation to new
levels. The Kingdom’s finest beaches
are found offshore, with the Koh
Rong archipelago demonstrating just
what Thailand lost in its unregulated
scramble for tourists – but be quick,
large developments are looming.
Back on dry land, Kampot is arguably
Cambodia’s most charming small town
– a perfect spot for meandering along
quiet streets.
Rabbit Island (Koh
This tiny island is two square-kilometres of
pretty beaches, jungle hikes and bamboo
huts. Amenities are basic and it’s simple
pleasures that reign, such as wallowing in
the warm ocean and lounging in hammocks
beneath coconut palms. Development hasn’t
struck (yet), making Rabbit Island a taste of
unexploited charm just a short hop from Kep.
eBokor National Park
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover. Model wears swimsuit from Promesses boutique and accessories from Paperdolls
Song Saa private island
72 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Think luxury. Think exclusivity. Think rusticchic villas on a tropical island, melding
jungle, ocean and fine dining. The room
price includes some of Cambodia’s best
food, drinks and abundant entertainment
options – from sea kayaking to sunrise yoga
to your own private cinema – ensuring your
leisure is enjoyed at liberty. Extras span
mouthwatering beach picnics to speedboat
rentals. Off the coast of Sihanoukville
with eco-luxe principles, Song Saa is
Cambodia’s premier private resort.
Tel: +855 (0)23 686 036 0
eSokha Beach Resort
It can prove difficult to leave Sokha during
any trip to Sihanoukville – its pristine private
beach being reason enough to stay put. The
three restaurants, six bars and two pools
help too. However, if you need more than
water and food, tennis courts, playgrounds,
two luxurious spas and a glitzy ballroom
are all at hand. This 23.5-hectare retreat is
definitely family, fitness and feasting friendly.
Tel: +855 (0)34 935 999
Something fishy
Head out to the
great blue yonder
for a spot of deep
sea fishing. The
Fisherman’s Den
in Sihanoukville
offers charters
for “the serious
and they say a
decent catch
is guaranteed.
marlin, snapper
and many more
aquatic friends
are on the
hunting list.
Tel: +855
(0)12 702 478,
Described by a guest as “Fred Flintstone
meets the Swiss Family Robinson”,
Veranda perches in the jungly hills
above Kep. Stones, shells and wood are
integral to each suite’s construction,
while elevated walkways linking buildings
amidst the trees provide a nature resort
vibe. Exotic fruit trees, ocean views and
a marvellous pool make Veranda an idyllic
getaway for all ages.
Tel: +855 (0)36 638 8588
Villa Romonea
Ever fantasised about having your own
seaside villa? This modernist 1960s
beauty will fulfil your dreams, adding huge
grounds, a tennis court and an infinity pool
overlooking the ocean. Villa Romonea has
just six bedrooms, with the two master
suites offering cavernous bathrooms,
as well as a kitchen where staff are on
hand to cook up a storm. Hire the whole
place and enjoy the ultimate holiday find
for groups wanting to escape the city.
Tel: +855 (0)12 879 486
Knai Bang Chatt
Understatedly stylish, this refurbished
1970s villa has a “signature blend
of privacy and personalised service”.
Cooking courses, sailing opportunities and
rejuvenating spa treatments are offered
on-site. Knai Bang Chatt’s respect for
hospitality and aesthetics make it Kep’s
most upmarket hotel.
Tel: +855 (0)78 888 556
Rent motorbikes from Kampot and tackle
the well-paved ascent to Bokor. Twist
up above the humidity to either mistshrouded ruins or stunning views across
the Gulf of Thailand, depending on the
weather. Despite the recent invasion by
developers, the ride up (and down) is
among the prettiest in Cambodia.
Sign yourself up at one of Cambodia’s diving
schools to get more than a peek of the
Kingdom’s underwater wonderland. Learn
from story-spinning guides, experience the
smiles and curiosity of local fishing villages
and soak up sunsets on perfect beaches
while devouring a juicy pineapple. Though
not as en vogue as Thailand for diving, the
outfits operating from Sihanoukville still
offer good value dives and scuba courses.;
eKampot Caves
Limestone cave systems await adventurers
who make the short hop eight kilometres
out of Kampot. Discover golden shrines and
dodge dripping stalagmites in the passages,
where a torch and sturdy footwear will
aid your explorations. A dollar is usually
requested upon entry to the area, which
consists of quarries and grazing goats as
well as the impressive rock formations.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 73
Discover The South: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
Sailing Club
This charming, white-washed wooden
house is owned by and situated next
door to Knai Bang Chatt, and serves
transcendent cocktails with ocean and
mountain views. Happy hour coincides
with Kep’s glorious sunsets, with
fishing boats and a long, wooden jetty
making the Sailing Club particularly well
equipped for enjoying them. Seats and
tables go quickly at this time of the late
afternoon, so it’s best to arrive early or
book ahead.
eThe Deck
Visitors consider a trip to Sihanoukville
to be worth it for this Japanese gem
alone. Their green iced tea with palm
sugar tantalises the tastebuds and with a
menu ranging from sashimi to Japanesestyle hamburgers, there’s something for
everyone. Set among pretty gardens, Ku
Kai’s enormous popularity is testament
to its excellent fare – meaning it’s best to
reserve a table in advance.
Tel: +855 (0)97 697 132 7
Combine fine wine from all over the
world with the best of Cambodian
service, and enjoy it while overlooking
a white-sand beach lapped by the
turquoise sea. The Deck, found at the
end of Sokha Resort’s private beach,
offers al fresco and air-conditioned
seating in a five-star atmosphere.
9Crab Market
It is rumoured that there was once a visitor
to Kep who did not visit these simple
seafood restaurants set along the coast,
but this tall tale has never been confirmed.
Famed for serving the best, freshest
seafood in the country, these charming
places turn out Kep’s speciality – crabs
stir-fired with Kampot green pepper – with
ease. The choice of restaurants is vast, but
many expats agree that Kimly is the pick of
the bunch.
Sea-gaze with a sea breeze, slurp down a
cocktail and relax as your choice of fresh
seafood is prepared in either an Asian or
European style. Breezes is romantically
situated along the fringes of Kep’s ocean,
providing a fantastic sunset spot and an
ambient setting that encourages guests
to linger. For those who stay a little too
long, Breezes provides complimentary tuk
tuks for the homeward-bound.
Tel: +855 (0)16 251 454
Mea Culpa
Craving the taste of Naples? Fear not, for
perfectly wood-fired pizzas can be found
in Kampot, waiting to be devoured on
the pleasant terrace at Mea Culpa. Their
crispy crusts can be complemented by
your choice from the well-stocked bar.
Non-Italian dishes are also on offer.
Tel: +855 (0)12 504 769
travelling by
bus is the most
taxis are the
fastest way to
travel to and
from southern
Cambodia. Whole
cars can be hired
to Sihanoukville
for about $50
and to Kep/
Kampot for about
$40. Ask your
hotel’s concierge
to make the
and your driver
may be available
for your entire
stay in the south.
If your idea of the perfect sunset activity
is listening to the lap of waves while
sipping a cocktail in a tranquil haven
then Tamu is for you. ‘Barefoot chic’ is
the order of the day at the bar, situated
at the more isolated end of Otres beach.
Take a sip of your cold concoction, ease
back and relax.
Tel: +855 (0)15 258 340
Family fun: Kids will love putting on their explorer caps for a day in the wilds of Ream National Park. Just 18
kilometres from downtown Sihanoukville, little tykes will be enthralled by the evergreen forest, beautiful
waterfalls, wholesome beaches and myriad flora and fauna that make up the 21,000-hectare reserve.
74 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover (3)
eKu Kai
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 75
Elsewhere: Sleep « Eat « Drink « Explore
Balcony Bar
Get to the real heart of
the nation by exploring
Battambang is
experiencing a
rapid rise and becoming
an arts capital, Koh
Kong is a zoological
playground, and the
eastern provinces of
Mondulkiri and
Ratanakiri are famed for
their natural wonders.
Set in a lovely wooden house and perched high above Battambang’s
Sangker river, Balcony Bar boasts an intimate and relaxed
atmosphere. Usually playing host to an interesting mix of travellers
and expats, it’s a great place to catch a sundowner or two,
accompanied by one of the bar’s renowned burgers or enchiladas.
Tel: +855 (0)12 437 421
Koh Kong Bay Hotel
Situated at the mouth of the Ko Pao river and overlooking the
stunning Cardamom Mountains, the Koh Kong Bay Hotel is set
among one of the Kingdom’s most gorgeous natural landscapes.
Refreshing cocktails, fresh juices and top-notch wines can be
enjoyed by the pool or on the breezy pontoon.
Tel: +855 (0)77 555 590
9 Terres Rouges
When exploring the wilds of Ratanakiri,
style and comfort needn’t be sacrificed
when finding a place to lay your head.
Terres Rouges can organise a number of
excursions to nearby waterfalls, villages,
hiking trails and forests. As the sun sets,
the hotel’s pool provides an invigorating
end to a long day.
Tel: +855 (0)12 770 650
4 Rivers Floating Lodge
If a slice of untouched Cambodia is what
you’re after then 4 Rivers is the place to
go. Each tented villa is decked out with
creature comforts such as a flat screen
TV and WiFi, while the resort’s restaurant
offers refined Khmer and Western dishes
to please any palate. The uninterrupted
sounds of the jungle’s inhabitants are
definitely the highlight of a stay on this
picturesque river in Koh Kong.
Tel: +855 (0)23 217 374
Rajabori Villas
Located on the island of Koh Trong, just
across the Mekong from the sleepy town
of Kratie, Rajabori Villas consists of ten
traditional wooden houses, decorated with
Khmer treasures collected from around the
country. The island is traced with whitesand beaches for eight months of the year,
while breezes from the river provide a
refreshing atmosphere to the leafy grounds.
Tel: +855 (0)23 215 651
Sanctuary Villa
Sanctuary is comprised of just five villas,
representing the four elements of earth,
wind, fire and water, plus the medieval
element of ‘quintessence’, which is
captured in the fifth room. The salt-water
pool is perfect for lazing away a warm
afternoon, while the resort’s complimentary
bicycles are a great way to get around and
see Battambang’s sights.
Tel: +855 (0)12 206 250
Beer here!
Two of the most
popular local
brews – Anchor
and Angkor
– have rather
similar names.
Get your local
lingo and your
drink order
down pat by
to pronounce
Anchor, not
as English
prescribes, but
with an emphasis
on the ‘ch’ sound,
as it is used in
‘change’, for
Family fun: There are few better ways to immerse oneself in the culture
of Cambodia than by staying with a local family. Ecotourism outfit Mlup
Baitong arranges homestays in villages just outside of Stung Treng,
providing their residents with alternative income generation.
76 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Lonely Tree Café
Exposed brick walls, high ceilings
and golden lighting give this pocketfriendly Battambang eatery a warm,
cosy feeling. The menu includes a dash
of Spanish flair, with dishes such as
prawns in garlic sauce and gazpacho
stealing the limelight. Yummy
homemade yogurt is a special treat
as is the chance to indulge in a little
retail therapy – the downstairs area
has a selection of handmade goodies
for sale.
Tel: +855 (0)53 953 123
9Koh Kong Conservation
Stretching from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville, nature
lovers will be spoilt for choice in this biological
dreamscape consisting of 16 distinct ecosystems.
Two- and three-day camping expeditions in the
Cardamom Mountains allow visitors the chance
to encounter elusive Asian elephants, bears and
crocodiles. For water babies, hire a boat to explore
Botum Sakor National Park or take a dip in the
splendid pools of the Tatai waterfall.
Café Alee
Situated in Ratanakiri’s provincial
capital, Ban Lung, Café Alee is an
ideal place for travellers who want
to suss out the local scene and have
a chat with locals over a few cans of
Anchor beer. The rustic eatery, whose
main bar and restaurant area has
recently been rebuilt, also serves up
a satisfying selection of home-cooked
Western and Khmer specialities.
Bamboo train
Photos: Anne Holmes, Peter Harris
Let your hair down on Battambang’s exhilarating
bamboo train as it zips its way through dense
vegetation and over rickety wooden bridges.
Although a well-oiled tourist operation, it’s an
experience not to be missed, as visitors climb
aboard a bamboo platform on wheels powered
by a small engine. What happens when two
bamboo trains meet on the single track? Get off
and disassemble one of them, of course.
The height
of adventure
Embrace your
inner Indiana
Jones and
dare to scale
the Kingdom’s
highest peak –
Phnom Aural.
Standing at
1,813 metres,
the mountain
is home to
villages (where
English is
rarely spoken)
and the Phnom
Aural Wildlife
For more information, please contact:
+855 (0)12 638 999/ +855 (0)23 432 999
Bellevue Serviced Apartments
No.68-69, Tonle Sap Street, Chroy Changvar, Phnom Penh
[email protected]
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014
LGBT: Sleep « Explore « Eat «Drink
Specialising in Khmer and vegan
cuisine, K’nyay – the Khmer word
for ginger – places its emphasis on
fresh, local produce and traditional
cooking techniques. The lentil fritters
and banana and jackfruit curries are
well worth a try.
Tel: +855 (0)93 665 225
Hospitable service and hearty food
are at the core of The Empire’s
success. Situated in an intimate
space just off Phnom Penh’s
riverside, its motto – ‘watch it,
drink it, eat it’ – encompasses its
pride in its drink list, food menu
and quaint movie theatre that has
regular screenings of both new and
classic films.
Tel: +855 (0)77 851 230
Although homosexuality remains a tricky
issue for many Cambodians, the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
community is beginning to make its
voice heard. Attitudes and awareness
are not at the level of neighbouring
Thailand, but Cambodia’s gay-friendly
hotels, restaurants and bars assure a
warm welcome for all guests.
The work of the friendly people behind
Siem Reap’s ever-popular Golden Banana,
Rambutan has quickly become one of the
popular kids on the capital’s hotel scene.
The salt-water pool complete with waterfall,
signature outdoor bathtubs and bubbly
staff make this contemporary boutique
hotel an oasis in the heart of Phnom Penh.
Tel: +855 (0)17 992 240
Web wonder
Log on to
for an extensive
of gay- and
relating to travel
in the region.
From sights and
tours to dining
and dating, the
site is a fantastic
way to gain
insight into the
local scene, both
before arriving
and while here
enjoying the
9Golden Banana
Now in its tenth year of operation, Golden Banana remains
a favourite among visitors to Siem Reap, not least because it
represents excellent value for money. From simple bungalows
to upscale boutique rooms, the hotel also boasts three
swimming pools and daily fresh breakfast is included in the
reasonable room rate.
Tel: +855 (0)12 654 638
Cambodia Pride Week
The first one-night pride party took place back in 2003, and the Kingdom has now held five LGBT Pride Weeks, each one bigger and better than the last.
Local and international support, as well as attendees to the events, are increasing year by year. Usually scheduled in April, Cambodia Pride plays host
to art exhibitions, parties, a Pride Film Festival and much more.
78 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
9Emergency Room
Read the stories behind the
story, and delve deeper
into one of the world’s most
vivacious regions.
Every month, Southeast
Asia Globe brings you the
colours of Asean - in print,
on the web and for your
eLinga Bar
Unquestionably the cornerstone of gay
nightlife in Temple Town, Linga Bar
attracts a fun-loving bunch of Cambodians
and foreigners and hosts what is probably
the best drag show in the Kingdom on a
Saturday night. Sip on a fruity cocktail
while watching passersby gawk at the
Beyoncé impersonator belting out a
number from Dreamgirls.
Tel: +855 (0)12 246 912
to you
Self-medicate in style at Emergency Room on the
lively 240½ alley. Choose from ten ‘doctor’s orders’
cocktails, including the Legless Cinderella and the
Linda Blair, while kicking back in the kitsch-meetsindustrial surrounds. The owners are also responsible
for The Dollhouse salon and Paperdolls boutique.
Tel: +855 (0)16 620 907
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover(3)
The Empire
Get up to
speed on
the people,
places and
events shaping
Southeast Asia
Blue Chili
An institution of Phnom Penh’s gay nightlife scene,
Blue Chili draws in a heaving crowd almost every
night of the week. Watch out for the drag queens
knee sliding down the bar – they’ve been known to
overshoot it and end up out on the footpath.
Tel: +855 (0)12 566 353
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The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 79
1 Ceramic monkey, Trunkh, $15; 2 Chair, Trunkh, $275;
3 Traditional shop painting, Trunkh, $225; 4 Ring (worn in
hair), Waterlily, $16; 5 Necklace, Waterlily, $89; 6 Maxi dress,
Paperdolls, $80; 7 Shorts, KeoK’jay, $41; 8 Shoes, KeoK’jay, $15;
9 Shirt, Trunkh, $40; 0 Hat, Paperdolls, $18; q Iron, Trunkh, $17;
w Bag, by David Holiday at Paperdolls, $25
all credit
save a little space in the
suitcase – Phnom Penh has
goodies for all tastes
Styling by Jemma Galvin
Photograph by Sam Jam
80 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photo: Sam Jam for Discover; Make-up: Jemma Galvin;
Models: Joanna Mayhew and Sergio Caldero; Shot on location at Trunkh
be a sweaty affair in the
Kingdom, so a day spent dedicated to the fine
art of shopping provides a nice break from
the tourist trail. Visitors to the capital with
an urge to splurge are well catered for these days,
with everything from handmade clothing to bespoke
furniture ripe for the picking.
KeoK’jay, located on the Riverside, is a fair-trade
fashion label that produces original designs made
using recycled and sustainable materials for both men
and women. For the quirky at heart, Paperdolls on the
increasingly fashion-forward Street 240 1/2 is
a treasure trove of clothes, shoes, accessories and
unique knickknacks.
On the main Street 240 thoroughfare is Waterlily –
a long-running accessories line famous for its
whimsical, out-of-the-box creations. Pop in to find
tiny drawers filled with pretty rings, necklaces and
bracelets and mannequins donning outlandishly
wonderful headpieces crafted using everything from
buttons to blossoms.
To truly take a piece of Cambodia home with you,
swing by Trunkh on Sothearos Boulevard. Its owners
scour rarely visited corners of the country, sourcing
intriguing bits and bobs, from cheeky ceramic
monkeys to restored art and furniture. Each piece
comes with a great story behind it, which Trunkh’s
owners are only too happy to share.
ightseeing can
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 81
While visiting Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, stop by CHA (Cambodian
Handicraft Association), an organisation that trains female victims of
landmines and polio. A well-stocked boutique and workshop awaits,
offering clothing, bags, jewellery and photo albums.
Buying power
ambodia’s artistic traditions have experienced devastating setbacks over the years, mainly due to
the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which systematically slayed artists and intellectuals. While the
Kingdom has been experiencing something of an artistic revival in recent years, much still needs to be
done to preserve this important history, and tourists can play an important role in doing so.
Today, most visitors to the Kingdom leave with at least one traditional souvenir in their suitcase. Stone
carvings, Angkor-style paintings, silks and lacquerware are among the most popular items to take home.
Their history and significance is far greater than one might expect when browsing a market stall
packed to the rafters with trinket Buddha statues and stacks of rattan place mats.
For example, the history of silk weaving dates back as early as the 1st Century and historical
motifs can still be found on textiles produced today. Stone carving, meanwhile, finds its place
on the tourist trail in the various depictions of Buddha and Jayavarman VII (both pictured
left), although it has been utilised most memorably at the majestic temples of Angkor.
To help preserve and promote these techniques, businesses such as Artisans
Angkor have been established. The company provides vocational training and
job opportunities to people living in rural communities, who are instructed
by experts in techniques including wood and silk carving, lacquering, silver
plating and silk-painting and -weaving.
In a similar vein, Rehab Craft in Siem Reap is a fair-trade nongovernmental organisation and one of the longest-running shops
with a cause in the country. Run for and by Cambodians with
disabilities, the store specialises in silk in every shape and
size; from wallets and handbags to ties and notebooks.
Profits from Rehab Craft sales go toward training and
sustaining the group’s disabled community.
So while cheap imitations of traditional arts and
crafts may be tempting, seeking out authentic
work created by talented local artisans will see
shoppers reap the rewards – through buying
quality items and helping these precious
traditions live on.
Photo: Sam Jam for Discover
Cambodia is famed for a range of crafts, be sure to
shop responsibly to ensure these traditions live on
82 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Stone carvings, Angkorstyle paintings, silks and
lacquerware are the most
popular items to take home
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 83
Primped and pampered
Treat a sunburnt face with Ytsara’s Bamboo Shoot Time
Control Quenching Mask from the Sofitel’s So SPA
unwind after a long, hot day with an indulgent session
at one of the Kingdom’s most luxurious spas
Feel fresh from top to toe with
the Tantalising Turmeric and
Mint Rice Scrub from Bodia
Lather up with the
delicate Ytsara Wild
Rice Invigorating
Body Wash from the
Sofitel’s So SPA
Refresh and smell delicious after a
hard day's bargaining with Bodia’s
Lemongrass and Rice Shower Gel
Take the
experience home
in your suitcase
with Bodia’s Ylang
Ylang Bath Salts
84 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Senteurs d’Angkor
boutiques in Siem Reap
and Phnom Penh are great
destinations for souvenir
hunting, and visitors with time
for a pamper session should
take a trip to Siem Reap’s
Kaya Spa where the full range
of products is available. The
Indochina Massage treatment
is best followed by a trip to
the Kaya Café.
Travellers seeking to
soothe aching muscles
should head to Siem
Reap’s Frangipani Spa
to indulge in the Sport
Massage and Traditional
Thermal Compress,
which uses a delightful oil
comprising the rich aromas of
ginger, eucalyptus and lavender.
Frangipani guests can also pamper
themselves with the light, creamy
Algotherm range of products on
offer at the spa.
Frangipani Spa’s creamy and
Refreshing Grain Exfoliant is heaven
for the delicate skin on your face
So SPA at the
Sofitel Phokeethra
Beginning with a drizzle of honey on the
lips, clients can revel in the sweet taste of
luxury with So SPA’s signature Exhilarating
Body Massage treatment. The opulent range
of Clarins and Ytsara products can also be
enjoyed with a hot shower in one of the spa’s
lush private treatment suites.
This pretty trio of Coconut Oil-Based
Soaps from Senteurs d'Angkor
makes for a great little gift
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
Bodia Nature’s organic products are
made and, where possible, sourced
within the Kingdom, and the full range
of fruity flavours can be savoured at
Bodia’s spas in Phnom Penh and Siem
Reap. Clients will not be disappointed
by the Classic Aromatheraphy Massage,
which employs a combination of
European and Asian techniques to
rejuvenate the body’s energy flow by
improving circulation and relaxing
tension in both the body and mind.
and handmade,
this Mango Lip Balm
by Senteurs d’Angkor
is perfect for keeping
your pout picture
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 85
Above par
Shotgun start:
David Maxwell, 61,
has been a PGA teaching
professional for 45 years and
has worked around the globe
including in Europe, the
UK, US and now here
in Cambodia
Increasing numbers of visitors are taking time out of their brimming temple
itineraries to squeeze in a quick round of golf at one of Siem Reap’s international
standard courses. David Maxwell, resident golf pro at Phokeethra Country Club,
packed away his sand wedge long enough to discuss the game in Cambodia
how popular is golf
becoming in Cambodia?
The Phokeethra Country Club
opened in 2007, and was the first
championship golf course in the
country. At the time, Cambodia was
not a golfing destination; people
came to Cambodia mainly to visit
the temples. However, as the years
went by, we noticed an increase in
the interest of tourists in playing
golf while here visiting the temples.
Nowadays, we even see groups of
golfers coming exclusively to play.
Interest in the game has increased
considerably through the years, and
long may it continue.
f Is it played mainly by Westerners
or by locals?
The game is new in Cambodia and
is unfortunately reserved to the elite
class – it remains expensive and
therefore very few people can play.
86 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
We receive players from the local elite
player, to expatriates working here,
to tourists groups who find time to
play a round of golf while visiting
the temples.
f What can Cambodia offer as a
golfing destination that other, more
traditional golfing destinations can’t?
The Phokeethra Country Club offers
the chance to tee off in the 11th
Century and finish your round in the
21st. Indeed, the Roluh Bridge found
between the ninth and tenth holes
dates back ten centuries to the Khmer
empire. The friendly people and
historic monuments here in Cambodia
provide a great backdrop to enjoy the
quiet, uncrowded golf courses.
f What kind of golfing packages are
available in Cambodia?
I can only speak for the Phokeethra,
but we offer hotel-and-golf packages,
Photo: Sam Jam for Discover
as well as incentives at the course.
We can also design tailor-made offers
for guests who want to include hotel,
golf, a temple tour and anything else
while visiting Siem Reap.
f What does the future hold for golf
in Cambodia?
I believe that with a bit more
communication and lower prices
at some of the courses, there is
very good potential for the game
in Cambodia. The improving
infrastructure and transportation
means it is becoming easier to
develop Siem Reap as a proper
golfing destination.
f Is it true that Prime Minister Hun
Sen is a big golf fan? Has he ever
played at your course?
Indeed, the rumours are founded and
we have had the pleasure of receiving
the prime minister several times,
along with a lot of his ministers and
governors. We also regularly receive
Cambodia’s number one amateur,
Ly Hong.
f What would you rate as the top
two golf courses in Siem Reap?
Obviously, the Phokeethra Country
Club for its natural beauty and
challenging design. The Angkor
Golf Resort also scores highly for
its immaculate maintenance.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 87
great heights
Helistar Cambodia offers scenic flights and custom
helicopter charters to all corners of the country from
its bases in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. To book
a flight, visit
View finder
Flying high to Cambodia’s remotest temples before
soaring south to pick out idyllic island gems
By Daniel Otis
88 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
All photos: Sam Jam for Discover
Siem Reap province
is a splash of vibrant greens
sparkling in the dew-heavy
dawn. Farms, plantations and
patches of forest stretch in every
direction, with the massive stone
temples of Angkor towering above the
region’s verdant plains.
As we fly northward, the true scale of
Angkor is revealed: a myriad of temples
aligned on roads that are still being
traversed more than 1,000 years after
their construction. These roads, which
run in perfect lines into the surrounding
countryside, are the remnants of
a medieval highway network that
connected Angkor, the capital, with an
empire that at one time encompassed
most of peninsular Southeast Asia – an
area more than ten times the size of
modern Cambodia.
“Down there is my favourite picnic
spot,” our Australian pilot, Phil
Butterworth, says through the headset
as he swoops in low over the towers
of the 10th Century Pre Rup temple.
“There’s no better place in Angkor to
watch the sunset.”
Eye spy: Helistar
guests can admire
the true expanse
and architectural
accomplishment of the
Koh Ker temple complex
rom above,
Dipping in and out of clouds, we pass
hamlets and farms before reaching
our first landing zone. A waiting truck
takes us over a newly paved road, past
military encampments and up a steep
hill to the majestic mountaintop temple
of Prasat Preah Vihear. We only left
Siem Reap about an hour ago – the
journey would have taken three times
as long overland.
“Preah Vihear symbolised Mount
Meru, the home of the Hindu gods,”
says our guide, Khan Bunthan. “It was
built by seven kings over a period of
300 years. When it was completed in the
12th Century, it was dedicated to Shiva
– the Hindu god of destruction.”
The 800-metre-long temple is
shrouded in mist. Sandbags dot the
site, the remnants of a border dispute
between Thailand and Cambodia. While
sporadic fighting began in the middle
of 2008, no shots have been fired here
since May 2011, and an International
Court of Justice ruling is expected
within the lifetime of this guide. In the
meantime, armed Cambodian soldiers
have made themselves at home, with
their families tending to vegetable plots
placed amidst bunkers in the shadows
of this magnificent temple.
We tour the iconic site, taking in
its splendidly carved lintels and the
sweeping views of northern Cambodia
afforded by the 550-metre-tall cliffs the
temple is perched upon.
On our way back to the helicopter,
Bunthan points out a square pond at the
temple’s eastern edge. “For centuries,
water from this sacred pool has been
used to anoint kings – including the
current king of Thailand.”
The seven-tiered Prasat Thom
pyramid rises above the forests and
Guarding the past: thousands of sculptures and
carvings tell the history of the Khmer empire
overgrown temples of Koh Ker – an
ephemeral city that served as the
seat of a usurper king in the 10th
Century. The city, which was hastily
constructed around 928 CE, was
largely abandoned to the jungle less
than 20 years later.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 89
In the details:
monks sit amidst
crumbling ruins,
evoking the sacred
spirit of Angkor
Bunthan points to the pyramid. “The
Khmer people believe that it is filled with
Nagas,” he says, referring to Hinduism’s
mythological serpents.
We land inside the ancient city.
A group of children quickly
surrounds us, shouting “hello” and
“kontomruy” – the Khmer word for
helicopters and dragonflies.
A waiting van conveys us around the
expansive site. We see temples flanked
by stone elephants, giant lingas (phallic
representations of Shiva), and buildings
of brick, laterite and sandstone. With
few visitors, the entire place has an
aura of neglect and abandonment, the
only sounds being birdsongs and the
hum of insects.
The most sublime of Koh Ker’s many
temples is Prasat Bram, so named for its
five towers that are being strangled, torn
apart and held together by the thick roots
of strangler fig trees.
From Koh Ker, we fly southwest to
Phnom Kulen: a sprawling forested
plateau that hid the 9th Century city of
Mahendraparvata until laser imaging
revealed its existence this past year.
Our pilot flew the helicopter that
carried the state-of-the-art laser
equipment that helped uncover the
abandoned capital.
Phil points out the few visible remnants
of the ancient capital: several ruined
towers peeking through the forest and
the summit of Prasat Rong Chen, a
pyramidal temple that is thought to
be the site where King Jayavarman II
90 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Views on history: a new perspective reveals even more of mighty Angkor Wat’s splendour
Ladies first: Helistar’s red Eurocopter can seat six passengers, plus the pilot, and is equipped with seat belts, drinking water, air conditioning and headsets for communication
“We cruise over mangrove forests… then reach sihanoukville,
where beaches stretch the entire length of the shore”
birthed the Khmer empire in 802 CE.
The features uncovered by lasers – such
as roads and square housing plots –
remain shrouded by forest.
The chopper lands in a rocky clearing
next to a stone riverbed where more than
1,000 lingas have been carved. We follow
the river and hike down a short path
to the base of an impressive 20-metre
waterfall crowded by ferns and a tangle
of dripping vegetation.
We return to Siem Reap with
slanting light reflecting off the
flooded Western Baray – the
largest reservoir ever built by the
Khmers. From above, we can see
archaeologists busily working at the
West Mebon, a small Hindu temple
situated on an artificial island in the
reservoir’s centre. Orange light begins to paint Angkor
Wat as we make our final descent.
The only temple in the area that faces
west, it has watched Cambodia rise
and fall and rise again in a period
spanning more than 300,000 sunsets.
rom the air,
Phnom Penh is
like an island of development
in a sea of shimmering rice
paddies and lakes. Its handful
of new office towers dwarf all other
buildings, and on the city’s eastern
edge, the wide Mekong River and its
sister, the twisting Tonle Sap, look like
a pair of brown snakes that intertwine
before slithering into the countryside.
Within minutes of leaving the Sofitel
Phokeethra hotel, the city is behind
us, replaced by an eccentric flooded
patchwork of rice paddies stretching
in all visible directions. This
landscape is only punctuated
by lone sugar palms, pale ribbons
of road and clusters of fruit trees
and houses. Farmers stop to watch
us fly past while flocks of aquatic
birds alight from their fields.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 91
park it
Looking for other ways to get high in Cambodia?
Angkor Balloon offers hot air balloon rides from
their base in Siem Reap, with the most popular flight
taking in the temples of Angkor.
Get a good look: Cambodia’s southern coastline is essentially untouched,
but plans for heavy development are afoot, including a number of casinos
Children greet
us on the beach,
where we have
a picnic of
and Champagne
Closer to heaven: monks stand atop Phnom Chisor. The mountain’s crowning ancient temple was built in the 11th Century and dedicated to the Hindu divinities Shiva and Vishnu
Several small mountains emerge
from this pastoral landscape. Volker
Grabher, our pilot, steers towards
one. A sandstone and laterite temple
stands alongside a modern pagoda
on its summit: the 11th Century
mountain temple of Phnom Chisor.
“Flying was my childhood dream,”
Volker says through the headset. His
iPod is connected to the intercom,
bringing Elton John, Guns N’ Roses
and the greatest hits of the 1980s
to our ears.
“Do you know what it feels like
to fall in love?” Volker asks, before
dipping the helicopter so it feels like
our hearts are in our mouths.
Massive limestone karst formations
loom over the rice paddies of
Kampong Trach, and we’re soon in
Kep – a stunning peninsula where
boutique hotels and decayed villas
92 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
stand on the edges of a small junglecloaked mountain jutting into a
turquoise sea.
Volker hugs the coast. Skiffs ply the
water and fishermen toss nets into the
surf. We pass the town of Kampot,
then begin climbing the forested slopes
of Bokor Mountain: a former colonial
hill station transformed into a casino
resort for Cambodia’s wealthy elite.
Back on the coast, we cruise over
mangrove forests, pass a small oil
exploration platform, then reach
Sihanoukville, where beaches stretch
the entire length of the shore.
“We often fly developers out here,”
Volker says. “This coast is really going
to change.”
Volker gains elevation, and coral
reefs can be seen as dark blotches in
the clear sea. Over the open ocean,
a multitude of islands are like
emerald jewels set in deep blue. Most
appear uninhabited, save for the odd
fishing hamlet.
“People charter helicopters to get to
Sihanoukville, Kep and island resorts
such as Song Saa,” Volker says. “We
can fly people anywhere there’s a patch
of ground to land on.” Travelling at a
smooth 240kmh, Helistar Cambodia’s
sleek new Eurocopter fleet provides the
fastest way to get around the country.
We land on a white sand beach on
Koh Rong Samloen just over an hour
after leaving Phnom Penh. A flock of
children greet us on the near-empty
beach, where we have a picnic of
chocolates and Champagne.
The chopper’s blades begin to whir.
Within minutes, Volker and his crimson
dragonfly are out of sight, leaving us to
listen as the surf continues its perpetual
fizz into nothingness.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 93
Going glamping
Setting sail
Kite kicks
Go up, up, but hopefully not
away after making a beeline for
Kampot’s Villa Vedici to try out
a spot of kite surfing. Situated
directly on the riverfront a few
kilometres outside of town,
Villa Vedici features stunning
views of nearby Bokor Mountain
and offers kite boarding sessions
with Cambodia’s only IKO
(International Kiteboarding
Organisation) instructor. As well
as providing all-important safety
lessons, a two-hour taster course
offers training in launching,
landing, body dragging and
power kite training, while the
two-day beginner course prepares
boarders for solo sea cruising.
Wind conditions in the area are
generally good year-round, with
the best breezes blowing from
May through to November.
Soggy sleeping bags be
damned! Travellers jumping
on the glamping bandwagon
should check out Heritage
Adventures’ luxury camping
tours in Siem Reap. Inspired
by the Kingdom’s unique
historical stories and diverse
cultural landscape, the
luxury camping trail takes
in some of the lesser known
archaeological sites of the
area, including Beng Mealea
and Poeung Komnou, before
heading to the camping
site at Sambor Prei Kuk.
Situated in a quaint spot
alongside a small river,
campers can freshen up in
one of the camp’s luxury
tents before enjoying an
authentic candlelit Khmer
meal prepared by a chef from
the Heritage Suites hotel.
Following a restful night
in an opulent kingsize bed,
visitors enjoy another few
hours of exploration before
making their way back to
Siem Reap.
Tel: +855 (0)17 291 782
Tel: +855 (0)63 969 100
Get some air: Flight of the Gibbon gives visitors the opportunity to have their Tarzan moment in Siem Reap
Getting dirty
treetop travels
Quadruple the fun
Play like a primate by flying through
the air with ease at Siem Reap’s Flight
of the Gibbon rainforest adventure
centre. Before the real excitement
ensues, visitors are transported to
the site in environmentally friendly
carts, with guides providing an
informative introduction to the local
eco-system, where wild gibbons
have recently been reintroduced.
Spread across six hectares of the
Angkor Archaeological Park, the
course allows intrepid adventurers
to explore the jungle’s exotic flora
and fauna via ziplines, sky bridges
and observation platforms before
rounding the circuit off with a
15-metre abseil.
Visitors keen to explore the greener
pastures outside of Phnom Penh,
but who want to swerve the
tried and tested tuk tuk ride, can
opt to explore the surrounding
countryside by quad bike. On the
back of a robust ATV quad that is
built to tackle all terrains, visitors
can marvel at the Kingdom’s rice
paddies, forests and rural villages
on one of the packages offered by
Blazing Trails. There are trips to
suit all wallets, with bikers able
to tailor their tours to take in the
infamous Killing Fields, Angkorian
era temples and Phnom Tamao
Wildlife Sanctuary.
Sailing enthusiasts needn’t find
themselves all at sea while visiting
the Kingdom. Simply head to
Sihanoukville’s Otres Beach to
rent a catamaran and explore
Cambodia’s varied coastline.
The Gulf of Thailand’s balmy
climate makes the area an ideal
sailing destination as it is home to
consistent trade winds of ten to 15
knots all year round. Sailors can
cruise between tiny islands dotted
off the coast and take in the rustic
fishing villages peppered along
the Kingdom’s shoreline. Nautica
Sailing Club rents out a range of
sea-going vessels at reasonable
prices, including catamarans,
lasers, sailing boats and sea
kayaks. The club also offers lessons
for beginners who fancy trying
their hand at sailing Cambodia’s
placid waters.
Tel: +855 (0)12 676 381
Tel: +855 (0)92 230 065
Cambodia offers plenty of off-the-track
experiences for the adventurous traveller
94 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 95
Feathery find
Keep an eagle-eye out for
a new species of bird that
was recently discovered in
the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Named the Cambodian
tailorbird, it’s small in stature,
with white cheeks and a
cinnamon cap.
Hidden habitat
journey into the flooded forests
and floating villages of Prek Toal
ithin the sanctuary,
water shifts from muddy
brown into something clear
and dark like obsidian.
The calm water reflects towering
cumulonimbus clouds, and everywhere,
the green tops of submerged Diospyros
and Barringtonia trees are like islands
swarming with life.
Buntha Chheang, a local
conservationist and guide, points out
a dazzling orange and blue StorkBilled Kingfisher just before it darts
into the camouflage of another tree.
“When it comes to large aquatic birds,
this is the most important breeding
ground in all of Southeast Asia,”
he says.
We’re in the depths of the Prek Toal
Bird Sanctuary, a watery 213-squarekilometre refuge to more than 200
bird and reptile species, and one of
Cambodia’s best-preserved tracts of
wilderness. The sanctuary sits at the
northwestern edge of the Tonle Sap, a
lake whose surface area dramatically
Bird on a wire:
many rare and
beautiful species
of bird inhabit the
Prek Toal refuge
96 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
expands from about 2,500-squarekilometres to more than three times that
size between the dry and rainy seasons.
The lake, which yields more than half
of all the fish caught in Cambodia, is
Southeast Asia’s largest and a Unesco
Biosphere Reserve.
“In January and February, Prek Toal
is like the Serengeti,” says Nick Butler,
the British co-founder of outdoor tour
company Indochine Exploration.
“It’s astounding. More than 50,000
birds come to roost in the flooded forest,
including the extremely rare Greater
Adjutant and the Black-Headed Ibis.
It’s like something out of Hitchcock!”
We take in the tranquil beauty of the
flooded forest from the Amanbala,
a traditional Cambodian passenger
boat retrofitted by Siem Reap’s
luxurious Amansara resort with plush
day beds and a canopied rooftop
divan. Binoculars and field guides are
placed throughout the vessel to help
passengers catch glimpses of species
such as the swift Grey-Headed Fish
Eagle and the elusive Masked Finfoot.
Amansara’s charming staff serves
meals, drinks and snacks.
The Amanbala pulls near a tree house:
the only man-made object visible in all
directions. The two-tiered structure is
a simple affair, constructed from wood
and bamboo, with a small kitchencum-landing at the bottom, and
another tarpaulin-covered platform at
its top. This second platform, reached
by a steep ladder, is equipped with a
telescope, a solar panel and a radio.
At any given time, two forest rangers
reside here, guarding the sanctuary in g
All photos: Sam Jam for Discover
By Daniel Otis
Paddle pop:
guests can spy
and tiny fish
as they paddle
through the
The Essence of Cambodia Discover
All aboard: the Amanbala
has been fitted out to the
high-end standards of the
Amansara resort
where hundreds of jet-black Indian
ten-day shifts. Several such tree houses
Cormorants and slender Oriental Darters
dot the sprawling reserve.
nest side by side. The birds cling to the
“The sanctuary is probably the most
trees’ bare branches, clucking, swaying
successful conservation project in
and tending to their young.
Cambodia,” Butler says.
“It’s so peaceful living here,”
“By stopping people
Savuth says. “I love working
from stealing eggs, the
rangers have caused bird
By stopping to protect this place.”
Back on the boat, we
numbers to explode.
people from chug past patches of water
Since the area became
protected in 1992, the
stealing eggs, hyacinth and lianas decorated
delicate yellow
population of Oriental
the rangers with
blossoms. Once we’ve left
Darters, for example,
have caused the sanctuary’s strictly
has grown from 2,000
individuals to 20,000.”
bird numbers protected core, we launch
kayaks into this watery
Veteran ranger
to explode
wilderness: a world silent
Chum Savuth points
save for rustling leaves and
the telescope at a
occasional bird cries. cluster of nearby trees
Pack it in: hyacinth stems
are woven into souvenirs,
such as the lunch boxes
provided on the Amanbala
As we paddle, the forest slowly
gives way to Prek Toal village, where
1,200 families live in wood, thatch
and corrugated iron houses that float
on bamboo pontoons and oil drums.
The village is one of 170 such floating
settlements on the lake.
The houses here are moored to trees
and loosely arranged around a Buddhist
temple and research centre, both raised
high on cement pillars. The waterborne
village has all the amenities of a small
town: mobile phone shops, karaoke
parlours and even a petrol station. Fruit
and drink vendors paddle from house
to house, while teenagers in long-tailed
speedboats zip past swimming children.
There’s a boat builder too, as well as a
workshop where dried water hyacinth
stems are woven into souvenirs. Several
households also raise fish and crocodiles
in cages tethered to their homes, but sadly
the latter are nearly extinct in the wild.
After touring the village, we return
to the Amanbala and enter the open
waters of the Tonle Sap. A delicious
light lunch is served in hand-woven
baskets on the vessel’s roof, where we
gaze at the shimmering brown expanse
of a lake that stretches to the edges of
the horizon.
Accessible between September and mid-March,
the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary makes for an easy
day trip from Siem Reap. For more information
on visiting the site, contact Indochine
Exploration or the Amansara resort.
98 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Please visit
Tel: +855 (0)23 214 359-61 ext 102-106
or your preferred travel agent
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 99
getting there
Your hotel or any riverfront travel agent in Phnom Penh should be able to arrange a car
and driver to each of these destinations. Shop around for prices. For easy riders, reliable
250cc motorcycles can be rented from Two Wheels Only or Lucky Lucky Motorcycles. On a
budget? With the exception of Kirirom, buses run to all of these spots.
the town features several delightful
colonial buildings set in leafy gardens,
as well as a lively port along the Tonle
Sap river. Two nearby floating villages,
bustling Phoum Kandal and Chong
Kos, are Kampong Chhnang’s primary
attractions. Here, houses, shops and
temples float atop canoes and oil
drums, and the villages’ predominantly
Vietnamese-speaking inhabitants get
around in dug-out canoes. Look out
for paddling vendors, and don’t be shy
if a friendly local invites you into their
buoyant home. Motor and row boats
can be hired at the city’s main dock
at low prices – be sure to negotiate.
Outside of town, see pottery being
made in the village of Ondong
experience some of cambodia's
lesser-known destinations, each
just a short hop from the capital
set of wheels
and a night or two to
spare, three off-the-beatentrack gems are waiting to
be discovered, each within two to three
hours’ drive of Phnom Penh.
ith your own
Cambodia’s ‘third city’ stretches along
the west bank of the Mekong River,
120km northeast of Phnom Penh.
Crumbling colonial buildings stand
alongside gaudy karaoke parlours,
street stalls, old Chinese shophouses and
glittering new banks, giving this relaxed
provincial capital a compelling oldmeets-new feel.
Kampong Cham’s central market is
a great place to buy traditional handwoven textiles, and the Muslim fishing
villages near the old French lighthouse
are worth checking out. Vendors along
the way serve up fresh grilled fish and
crispy shrimp pancakes. If you’re here
in the dry season, be sure to inspect the
elaborate hand-constructed bamboo
bridge that links the city with the
farming island of Koh Paen. Just outside
of town, Wat Nokor – a brightly painted
modern pagoda fused into a sprawling
11th-Century stone temple – is probably
the area’s most interesting site. End your
day with a glass of sugarcane juice or
beer at one of the stalls along the city’s
riverfront promenade. With rooms
overlooking the Mekong, Monorom 2
VIP Hotel is probably Kampong Cham’s
smartest accommodation option. If you
have an adventurous palate, be sure to
stop in Skuon on the way for deep-fried
tarantulas. Yummy.
Despite its modest size, Kampong
Chhnang is well worth a visit. Located
91km northwest of Phnom Penh,
River watch:
the old French
lighthouse in
Kampong Cham
offers fantastic
Mekong views
Rossey, then continue on to the
rocky hill behind Wat Santuk for
views of Kampong Chhnang’s lush
countryside and the massive Tonle Sap.
Sovannphum Hotel is the town’s best
sleeping option. On your way back to
Phnom Penh, catch the sunset from the
hilltop stupas of Oudong, Cambodia’s
capital from the 17th to 19th centuries.
on doing business in
a region of opportunities
About halfway between Phnom
Penh and Sihanoukville, the rolling
hills and forests of Kirirom National
Park provide convenient satisfaction
for those craving a taste of nature.
Peppered with waterfalls, lakes,
the ruins of old villas and a royal
palace, Kirirom is reminiscent of Kep,
albeit at 675 metres above sea level.
Temperatures are decidedly cooler
here than on the plains below, and the
park is popular with local picnickers
at weekends. During the week, you
can have much of the park to yourself.
Relax in a hammock or eat barbecued
chicken and fish at one of the area’s
many riverside picnic sites. If you’re
keen on something more active, take
the four-hour round-trip hike through
the park’s pine forests to the top of
Phnom Dat Chivit. Here, a sheer cliff
results in uninterrupted views of the
dense jungle below. Hornbills, deer
and even bears have been spotted
along this trail.
Perched atop a hill within the park,
Kirirom Guesthouse has impressive
views but mouldy rooms. It is best to
grab a sunset beer here, then sleep at
the family-friendly Kirirom Hillside
Resort near the entrance to the park.
The resort has a pool and offers tents
and a range of different rooms and
private bungalows.
Ship ahoy: the RV Angkor Pandaw arrives in Phnom Penh at sundown, close to the Royal Palace
Just cruising
Explore remote villages and take in the tapestry of life
on the mystical Mekong
By Dene Mullen
102 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
to one
another as they sling thick, brown
ropes about with consummate ease.
Smiling locals line the shore. They’ve
seen plenty of boats in their time – they
live on the mighty Mekong River, after
all – but few of them would have looked
quite like this.
The RV Angkor Pandaw has arrived in
the small port town of Chhlong and it
is drawing a crowd. Lovingly modelled
to resemble a 1920s colonial steamer,
the vessel brings a dash of the debonair
to Cambodia’s waterways, a floating
sanctuary from which to explore some
of the fascinating towns and villages that
so many visitors pass by.
orters bark instructions
The brilliant lights of Phnom Penh’s
riverside fade into the distance as braised
Mekong river prawn with palm sugar is
served in the ship’s small dining room.
Guests chat excitedly about the day’s
excursion to the capital’s Royal Palace and
with slightly less fervour when discussing
the harrowing killing fields. After dinner,
most passengers retire ahead of an early
start. Cabins are cosy, finished in teak and
brass, exuding discreet comfort. All rooms
lack televisions, minibars and WiFi in order
to discourage unnecessary distractions.
After a bounteous buffet breakfast,
the group disembarks to explore tiny
Prek Bang Kong, where silk weaving is a
well-preserved tradition. A girl sits inside
her home, working bright pink silk on
a traditional loom. The cyclical clank of
wood almost drowns out her soft voice as
she explains how she will connect 4,000
individual threads to weave a single scarf.
Her ten hours of labour should result in
a product worth about $10.
Later that afternoon, after further
drifting up the Mekong, we visit the
rural village of Angkor Ban, where
gigantic white brahma bulls eye visitors
suspiciously and dense tamarind trees line
the narrow dirt tracks as we pick our way
through this once-wealthy community.
Before the time of the Khmer Rouge, g
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 103
All aboard: Distractions
are kept to a minumum
on the RV Angkor
Pandaw, where rooms
have no televisions,
minibars or WiFi that
might steer you away
from the charms of the
Mekong River
Angkor Ban was renowned for its teak
and mahogany, but following the purges
of that regime its main product is a
cheaper timber known locally as p’chuk.
A visit to a local school soon lifts the
spirits, with guests encouraged to sit with
the children at their aged wooden desks
and help them practice their reading.
Today’s lesson is about animals, with
interpretations of rabbits, cows and
crocodiles scrawled on the whiteboard.
After an Australian guest’s drawing of
a kangaroo results in puzzled little faces,
a raucous rendition of “Heads, shoulders,
knees and toes” soon rings happily in our
ears all the way back to the ship.
Our wooden sampans brush past
jumbles of submerged cassava in the
early morning light. Carrying about six
passengers each, the tiny vessels chug
upstream on the calm, muddy expanse of
104 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Water world: Discover joined days four through eight
of Pandaw’s ten-night Mekong Unexplored itinerary.
For more details of Pandaw’s river expeditions,
the Mekong just outside of Kratie, home
to the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin.
Suddenly, our craggy captain, all rippling
forearms and knowing laughs, kills the
motor and seizes a bulky paddle. Silence
descends as we drift, all eyes scanning the
water for signs of life.
A whoosh. People spin in their seats. Too
late. Another whoosh. And then another.
All fears of a fruitless search are allayed
in spectacular fashion as the river comes
alive with these slate-grey mammals that
are clinging to existence. Glistening in the
sun, they rise and fall, bulging foreheads
appearing first, sometimes in pods of
four or five. More than 40 sightings leave
hungry eyes satiated as we are paddled
back to the bank in our distressed yellow
vessel, the gurgling motor fired up once at
a safe distance.
On the way back to the ship, our threevan convoy pulls over in the tiny village
of Thmor Kreik to buy sticky rice with
red beans from a thrilled vendor who has
shifted almost her entire stock in one go.
Upon our return to the Angkor Pandaw,
moist towels and freshly squeezed juices
await, as always – a small touch that
cannot be overestimated after hours
spent in the sun.
Back on the water a mesmerising sunset
casts a warm golden glow over the upper
deck, which is dotted with passengers
reclining on loungers and taking in all
that the Mekong has to offer. Kampong
Cham lies 120km downstream, with
the current ensuring that the distance is
tackled rapidly.
With another hearty buffet breakfast
devoured, two of Kampong Cham’s more
popular attractions are ticked off the list.
The surprisingly fascinating Chup rubber
factory and plantation allows visitors to
witness every stage of production, from
the milky drizzles inching their way down
rubber trees to the pneumatic hiss of the
machines that turn out a saleable product.
Moving quickly from the industrial to
Back on
the water
a mesmerising
sunset casts
a warm golden glow
over the upper deck,
which is dotted
with passengers
reclining on loungers
and taking in
all that the Mekong
has to offer
the divine, a whistlestop tour of Wat
Nokor ensues, with visitors admiring
the besieged outer walls of this 11th
Century Mahayana Buddhist shrine while
squeezing between black lava stone gates,
constructed from materials first spewed
out by a volcano in Ratanakiri province
some 700,000 years ago.
En route back to Phnom Penh, where
the vessel will leave the Mekong behind
and begin its path up the Tonle Sap river,
an intimate cooking class takes place in
the dining room. Some guests are thrilled
by the challenge of constructing passable
fresh spring rolls. Others prefer to sip
the daily cocktail, taking in the beautiful
simplicity of life for most of the Mekong’s
inhabitants as it slowly passes by. As night
falls, the sky turns a deep sapphire, which
is mirrored by the Mekong, generating
a palpable sense of calm. It seems that,
unencumbered by buildings and exhaust
fumes, nature works from a more vivid
palette out here on the river.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 105
Now for something
completely different
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Cambodia offers
unique experiences for all tastes and dispositions
Silky skills
One of the most hermetic nations
on Earth has finally opened its
doors. Kind of. With branches
in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap,
Pyongyang Restaurant provides
the closest thing most travellers
will ever get to a North Korean
experience. Diners are treated
to an all-singing, all-dancing
celebration of the supposedly
fertile soils of the ‘beautiful
Fatherland’ from waitresses
who double as entertainers. The
food is nothing to write home
about but nobody comes here
expecting a culinary masterclass.
Instead, sit back and enjoy one
of the most bizarre restaurant
experiences of your life.
106 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Shining bright
For a wonderfully
local experience,
head to Phnom
Penh's Diamond
Island, or Koh
Pich as it is
known in Khmer,
to observe
youths at play.
The island's
fun fair is the
backdrop, where
the most popular
carnival game –
throwing darts at
balloons – offers
quirky prizes that
range from teddy
bears to bottles of
soy sauce.
It’s a knockout
If dinner, drinks and dancing don’t cut it on a Friday
night – or a Sunday afternoon – travellers in the mood
for a little less conversation, a little more action, can
head to the CTN television studios in Phnom Penh to
observe a spot of Cambodian kickboxing. Crack open
a beer and soak up an atmosphere thick with sweat,
blood and the booming cries of enthusiastic fans who
have money riding on the battles. Fighters smothered
in oil and tiger balm begin by engaging in the ancient
ritual of kun kru before launching into a storm of knees,
kicks and punches.
Skater boy
The last thing one might expect
to find nestled in the wild
vegetation of Kep National Park
is a skate bowl, but there it is.
Opened in 2011 and run by the
people behind Jasmine Valley
eco-resort, the bowl has its
own full-time skater on staff to
provide instruction and support
to newbies and seasoned skaters
alike. Visitors who don’t enjoy
the risk of breaking a few bones
while on holiday can settle for
scoping out the tricks of the
budding local skate community
– as well as occasional overseas
board junkies – who flock to
the bowl to add a little rumble
to Kep’s jungle.
Picture perfect
Photo: Sam Jam (1)
Dining with Dear Leader
A trip to Artisans Angkor’s
silk farm, located just
outside Siem Reap, provides
a unique opportunity to
observe traditional Khmer
workmanship in action.
Established to assist
Cambodia’s rural population
in finding employment,
Artisans Angkor employs over
900 skilled craftspeople. A
trip to the silk farm allows
visitors an opportunity
to learn more about the
cultivation of mulberry trees,
silkworm farming, weaving
and all the other steps that
go into making one piece of
the finest Khmer silk. After a
free tour of the farm, visit the
showroom to marvel at the
luxurious fabrics woven in
the workshops.
Channel your inner Kate Moss while embracing Cambodia’s
royal heritage by getting dressed up for a private photoshoot
– Khmer style. Ladies are buffed to within an inch of their
lives with layers of make-up, while men can experiment
with epic swordfight poses in front of backdrops ranging
from the Cambodian jungle to crumbling temples – all
added in post-production by the resident Photoshop wizard.
Many photo developing shops in the Kingdom’s cities
double as studios, and prices are staggeringly cheap for an
afternoon that is guaranteed to provide plenty of laughter,
as well as the best holiday snaps you have ever seen.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 107
Sail Cambodia
offers day trips and custom
overnight adventures from
November through May.
Captain Rony’s three sailboats
sleep four, six and eight
passengers respectively.
Bareboat charters are also
For more information,
or call Captain Rony on
+855 (0)16 450 964.
Beauty and a
burly sea captain
await passengers
Koh Rong
wind takes the sails and we’re cutting through cobalt blue seas,
with the Koh Rong archipelago’s green summits looming above the cloudspeckled horizon. In the distance, wooden fishing boats ply the placid
waters, and closer by, a school of needlefish frantically jumps away from
the yacht.
We’re cruising 20km off the coast of Sihanoukville aboard the Cygnet,
or ‘Little Swan’, a vintage 14-metre cutter with wooden decks, teak
cabins and classic white, blue and black lines. “Sailing is the only
freedom left on the planet,” Captain Rony Hill says from the helm. “And
Cambodia is one of the best sailing grounds in the world.”
Captain Rony should know. In his 50 years at sea, the veteran
American skipper has seen much of the world’s waters. Both Rony and
his partner Jenny were amazed when they first sailed into Cambodia
seven years ago.
“We instantly fell in love with the place,” Rony says. “The friendly
people, undeveloped islands, calm waters, steady easterly winds and
little to no rain for more than half the year make Cambodia a maritime
playground. When we arrived there were no accurate sailing guides to
the islands. I had to share this place with other people, so we decided to
start offering charters.”
We approach the wide, heart-shaped Saracen Bay on the island of Koh
Rong Samloen. A fishing village stands at the bay’s far end, and its long
108 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
beach is dotted with a handful of rustic bungalow resorts.
The sailboat is put to anchor and we head ashore in an inflatable
dinghy. A short hike through the island’s lush forests leads us to a
multi-tiered waterfall where cool, sweet water plummets over a series of
cascades before pouring into the sea.
Back at the boat, Jenny has prepared sandwiches, potato salad, fresh
spring rolls and fruit. Jenny, who hails from northeastern Thailand and
has sailed with Rony for the past 16 years, expertly concocts both
Western and Thai dishes from the Cygnet’s small galley. “Cooking is my
passion,” Jenny says with an infectious laugh. “I love making people
happy with food.”
We pull anchor and head northwest to neighbouring Koh Rong. On the
island’s southeastern shore, turquoise waters lap against the pristine
white sands of Long Set Beach. Across from the beach is a tiny tree-clad
outcrop Captain Rony has dubbed ‘Pagoda Island’. The islet itself is
crowned by a small Buddhist shrine, and from its summit, one is given
sweeping views of Koh Rong’s lush jungles and the great blue expanse of
ocean beyond.
As the sun begins to set, Jenny surprises everyone with a freshly baked
apple pie. Over drinks, Captain Rony regales us with tales from his life at
sea, and we watch the sun burn into the ocean before the gentle waves
rock us to sleep.
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover
By Daniel Otis
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 109
the great outdoors
If after your adventure in Ratanakiri you're still after a little
more nature, head to neighbouring Mondulkiri province
where elephant riding and overnight and multi-day treks are
becoming increasingly popular with visitors.
Jump right in
Volcanic lakes, crashing waterfalls and ethnic communities
await travellers that venture to the wilds of Ratanakiri
By Rebecca Foster Photography by Anne Holmes
Dipping at dusk: a
local family takes a
swim in the Yeak Lom
volcanic lake, located
five kilometres from
Ban Lung town
110 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
he cool night air of Ban Lung,
Ratanakiri’s provincial capital,
provides a pleasant reprieve
from Cambodia’s balmier
climes. Sandwiched between borders
with Vietnam and Laos, the Kingdom’s
northeastern frontier is home to some
of its most untamed countryside, and
its sparsely populated villages are a far
cry from the crowded streets of Phnom
Penh and Siem Reap.
At dawn, the landscape’s ethereal
natural beauty unfolds with the rising
sun at one of the province’s most
popular tourist attractions, Yeak Lom.
Situated five kilometres from
Ban Lung, a swift motodop
ride is all it takes to reach
the 700,000-year-old
volcanic lake. Yeak
Lom’s glass-like
surface casts a
sublime mirror
image of the
trees lining the
shore, and a ghostly
reflection of the rainclouds that loom
above. The sound of crickets echoes
across the deserted lake, which will
soon be crowded with picnicking local
families; the icy stillness of the water
broken by playful local children. An
early morning swim in the chilled green
water is the perfect wake-up, while a
bracing 30-minute walk around the
lake’s perimeter is another surefire way
to get the blood pumping.
Many travellers use Terres
Rouge Lodge – Ban Lung’s best
accommodation option – as a base to
explore Ratanakiri’s treasures, with the
majority of attractions a short run out
of town. Cha Ong waterfall is one of
the first stops on Ratanakiri’s tourist
trail, and five minutes after leaving
town we are following a winding dirt
track towards the forest, criss-crossing
the path to avoid a collision with one
of the baby piglets trotting in and out
of the yards that line the road. Upon
arrival at the edge of the forest, visitors
pay a small entrance fee to descend
the 81 steps to Cha Ong – the largest
fall in the area. Its 25-metre drop
is fiercest during the rainy season,
when water from Phnom Sei Patamak
mountain feeds the torrent with a burst
of rust-coloured water that takes its
red tinge from the iron-rich soil of the
province. The coppery rush crashes
onto a plateau of jagged onyx-coloured
rocks below, making it possible to hear
the waterfall before sight of it emerges
from between the trees. Bold explorers
can shimmy across the platform of
boulders behind the fall and absorb
the atmosphere from a private cocoon
of water and rock.
In addition to Ratanakiri’s
plethora of natural attractions,
many of Cambodia’s ethnic minority
communities call the province home.
Known collectively as the Khmer Loeu,
the indigenous people that inhabit the
region’s highlands comprise just over
half of Ratanakiri’s total population.
The small roads that traverse the
province deteriorate into a thick red
mulch during the rainy season, which
gives visitors an excellent excuse to hire
a four-wheel drive vehicle to continue
their exploration of the highlands.
Upon arrival at an ethnic Kreung
village, 15 minutes outside of Ban
Lung, our guide, Vet, explains that
the 500-strong community sustains
itself using a slash-and-burn farming
cycle, which lasts about 20 years,
before moving to the next site. As such,
rampant deforestation in the province
provides a great threat to communities
whose way of life has changed very
little in hundreds of years.
Excited children charge in and out
of the wooden meeting house that is
positioned on stilts as the village’s
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 111
centrepiece. A short stroll around the
wooden huts unveils a world that is
largely untouched by the technological
innovations of the 21st Century. The
village’s revered spirit woman smiles at us
from the depths of her simple, one-room
home and the nutty aroma of steaming
rice drifts along the breeze, the same way
it has for centuries.
A visit to the Laotian, ethnic Chinese
and Kachork villages on the northern
bank of the Sre San river offers the
chance to experience a ride in a
motorised canoe, a common method
of transport for locals. As we settle on
the floor of the canoe, the wooden sides
of the boat protruding merely 30cm
from the surface of the water, our ethnic
Chinese driver’s face crinkles into a smile
as he glances at the sky – we are in for
a downpour. Koh Peak, home to the
indigenous Kachork community, is a
90-minute cruise upstream.
The sight of approaching visitors sends
toddlers running to hide in the safety of
their homes, while older brothers and
sisters happily pose for photographs. Vet
leads the way out of the village down
Little lady: an ethnic Kachork woman sits in the
doorway of her wooden home in Koh Peak village
a path crowded with wild vegetation,
passing by several grazing albino buffalo.
According to ancient custom, when
someone in the community passes away
they are buried in the forest that lies some
400m from the main village. “This is the
ghost forest,” says Vet, explaining that
when a Kachork dies, the whole village
throws a celebration in their honour.
As the forest canopy thickens, it is
possible to spot a number of fenced off
grave areas erected just off the overgrown
track, flanked by rudimentary wooden
statues carved to represent the forms
of man and woman. Over the years,
mourners have decorated the gravesites
with tools that represent the lives of
the deceased, as well as objects they
hope will be possessed in their future
lives. A pair of fake Ray-Ban sunglasses
and a model helicopter provide further
evidence of the modernity that is seeping
into the everyday lives of Ratanakiri’s
minority communities.
On the drive back to Ban Lung, the sun
illuminates the rolling hills and forests
that line the roadside – greenery that is
punctuated at regular intervals by flat
expanses of rubber plantation. A sense
of poignancy hangs over the jeep as it
passes by whole families ambling along
the roadside, leaving behind work in
the paddy fields until tomorrow. It is
clear that visitors have little time left to
appreciate the slow pace of Ratanakiri’s
agrarian society before it is swallowed by
the demands of the 21st Century.
Waves of nature:
Cha Ong is the
largest waterfall
in Ratanakiri and
is a popular place
for visitors to
experience some
of the province's
natural beauty
As the forest canopy
thickens, it is possible
to spot a number of
grave areas just off
the overgrown track,
flanked by statues
representing the forms
of man and woman
Place of rest: a
spirit house and
tombstone in the
jungle, not far from
Koh Peak where
the ethnic Kachork
people bury
their dead
112 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 113
page -turner
For more on Angkor’s secrets, pick up Eleanor Mannikka’s
fascinating book, Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship (1996), or
Peter Harris’ new translation of Zhou Daguan, entitled
A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People (2007).
Escape the crowds: the forested grounds surrounding present-day Angkor Wat are home to secrets and mysteries still being unearthed by archaeologists today
Heaven on Earth: Angkor Wat is a symbolic representation of Mount Meru, considered the centre of the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes by Hindus and Buddhists
All about Angkor
French explorer
Henri Mouhot stumbled
upon Angkor in 1860, he
believed that it was the
2,000-year-old work of a forgotten tribe
of Israelites. Mouhot asked the people
living in and around the ruins about
the city’s origins. Answers varied. They
told him that it had been built by gods,
giants, or a legendary leper king. Some
even said that it made itself.
Angkor’s architects, however, were
Cambodian kings. Between the 9th and
13th centuries, these monarchs built a
city that may have supported more than
one million people at its height, making
114 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
it the largest preindustrial settlement in
the world. The secret to its success
was its massive reservoirs and intricate
network of canals, the remnants of
which can still be seen today. Angkor’s
last stone temple was built in 1285, and
less than 200 years later, the city would
be largely abandoned.
Commissioned by King Suryavarman II,
who reigned from 1112 until 1152,
Angkor Wat, the city’s centrepiece, was
more than a Hindu temple in its day – it
was also a tomb, an observatory, a city
unto itself, a work of art, a religious
text and a microcosm of the universe.
Its spatial dimensions correlate exactly
Photo: David Hutcheon Collection
no trip to cambodia is complete without a visit to the country's
famed temples. Take a closer look at the seat of the Khmer Empire
to the four ages described in Hindu
thought, and a counterclockwise walk
through its galleries to its central
tower is symbolic of a journey to the
origins of the universe. Angkor Wat
remains the world’s largest religious
structure, and within Cambodia, it
is unique for facing west (a direction
associated with death), and being the
only known Angkorian monument to
be dedicated to Vishnu.
At their height, the temples
themselves housed thousands of
attendants. An inscription found at
Ta Prohm Temple (famous for the fig
tree roots engulfing its walls) states
that 12,640 people, including 18
high priests and 615 female dancers,
resided within its grounds.
Most of what we know about
Angkor and the Khmer Empire comes
from such stone inscriptions, as well
as bas-reliefs and Chinese records.
Commissioned by kings, inscriptions
generally present an idealised look
at the empire. One inscription
describes Yasodharapura – the city
we now call Angkor – as containing
“houses ornamented with shining
gold” and “palaces glittering with
precious stones”.
Whereas many of Angkor’s splendid
bas-reliefs depict mythological tales,
those at Bayon Temple are worth
studying for their realistic portrayal
of everyday life. In them, women
haggle in markets and cook, men fish
and hunt, a crowd cheers at a cock
fight and a mother picks lice from
her child’s hair. Such scenes and their
Historical roots: Ta Prohm temple
attendant tools were commonplace in
the Cambodian countryside until the
middle of the 20th Century.
The Customs of Cambodia by 13th
Century Chinese emissary Zhou
Daguan contains the most vivid
accounts of the city. Zhou Daguan
describes everything from women
bathing to a royal audience. He
also tells us that Bayon’s majestic
smiling towers were once covered in
gold, and that the city was mostly
comprised of wood, bamboo and
thatch houses.
The stone temples we see at Angkor
today are thus but skeletal remains
of what was once a massive, thriving
metropolis. Even royal palaces were
made of perishable materials, as only
the gods were permitted to reside
within houses of stone. With the help
of aerial laser imaging technology,
researchers have just begun locating
the remains of such buildings. Many
have been found within the walls of
Angkor Wat itself.
Few tourists stroll within Angkor’s
forested surrounds. Doing so not only
provides welcome respite from the
crowds, but it may also
lead you to archaeologists conducting
excavations. Don’t be shy if you see
them; researchers are usually happy
to explain what they’ve been working
towards unearthing.
To build Angkor’s impressive
monuments, the Khmer Empire’s
kings must have either inspired
divine adulation or been fearsome
tyrants whose kingdoms rested
on the backs of slavery. The truth
likely lies between the two extremes
– something worth contemplating
while exploring Angkor’s magnificent
buildings today.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 115
finding sanctuary
Pramouy is the central point for exploring this area and can be reached by taxi along an unpaved
road from Pursat. Facilities in Pramouy are still basic and, as yet, there are no organised trekking
facilities: Visitors must make their own arrangements with forest guides and porters from any of the
surrounding villages.
Meat eats: Nepenthes
holdenii – named after our
author – is a spectacular
carnivorous plant found only
in Phnom Samkos Sanctuary
In bloom: the Sapria
poilanei is a parasitic
flower living only
in the western part
of Cambodia and
adjacent Thailand
Eye of the viper:
Phnom Samkos is
home to many species
of reptile, including the
venomous pit viper,
Vividovipera vogeli
Natural selection
A world of enchanting flora and fauna awaits
at Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary
Words and photography by Jeremy Holden
the turn of the millennium,
venturing into the Cardamom
Mountains was a dangerous
occupation. Access was difficult, the
roadsides were littered with landmines
and the rural communities were riddled
116 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
with drug-resistant malaria. There was
also the possibility of running into
a tiger or an elephant. More than a
decade later the situation has changed,
and tourists are now finding their way
into Cambodia’s remotest corner.
Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary
was established to protect what
was, at the time, an almost pristine
wilderness. Controlled by the Khmer
Rouge since the 1970s, this area had
seen no development. Villages had
Hanging out:
pileated gibbons
can be heard
dueting in the
forests around
Sanctuary probably have the highest
Getting into the mountains proper
fallen into disuse and the jungle, on
biodiversity in Cambodia. Scientific
is not for the faint-hearted. Tough
the mountains at least, was spared the
trekking, an acceptance of leeches and research here is still in its infancy,
degradation that has befallen much
and every year species new to
of Southeast Asia’s rainforests.
science are discovered. The mighty
But once Pol Pot was out of the
gaur (the largest cow to have ever
picture, the area came back under
existed) still roams these forests,
government control and the
The forests of Phnom Samkos gibbons sing at dawn, and there is a
process of taming it began.
Today, a passable road links
Wildlife Sanctuary probably host of endemic species that can be
nowhere else on Earth.
Pursat with Koh Kong, traversing
have the highest biodiversity seen
Spotting animals in the rainforest
the Cardamom Mountain range
in Cambodia
is always difficult and subject to
via the growing crossroad
luck, but the forests themselves
settlement of Pramouy. The
are reward enough for a visit,
mines are all but cleared, and
especially in the early morning
the malaria is under control. The
mist swirls through the trees
the willingness to camp rough are all
tigers are gone and the elephants have
and the canopy’s inhabitants provide
essential. But the effort is worth it.
retreated to the deeper forests, but
The forests of Phnom Samkos Wildlife a rousing wake-up call.
there is still a wild feel to the place.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 117
art in the city
Phnom Penh's Romeet gallery is a contemporary art space
founded by Phare Ponleu Selpak as a platform to showcase
alumni of the NGO's visual arts school in Battambang. Check
out its intriguing exhibitions, workshops, talks and more.
leading gallerists choose a trio of exciting
cambodian artists worth seeking out
By Jemma Galvin
“I want to be able to communicate with my audience completely honestly and
emotionally. Sometimes the government and the people themselves cannot see
things, but art and artists have an obligation to read and learn and make social
changes by presenting information that’s not subjected to any kind of classifications.
Initially my art was only for myself, but now my performances in particular have
become so successful that people around the world see them and are surprised that
Cambodia is capable of this and want to know more. I want to share my ideas and
knowledge with the younger generations of Khmer artists so that our country can
continue to develop as it has for the past ten years or so. When culture is finished,
the nation is also finished. Without art, there is no Cambodia.”
118 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover; Hom Kosal
Kvay Samnang
Nico Mesterharm, the director of
German-Cambodian Cultural Centre
Meta House in Phnom Penh, says Kvay
Samnang, 31, has a message that is
worth listening to.
“Svay Samnang is one of the few artists
in Cambodia with a message. His work
is interesting, funky and funny. He
focuses on the new Cambodia, social
issues, and puts that into context, such
as the series he did on the Boeung Kak
Lake eviction site. So he has a
socio-political approach, and that’s
what I like. It’s what artists here need
to do to get international exposure.
Because if they continue to paint
traditional temples or houses, then
it becomes this kind of ethnographic
thing, and that’s not what the modern
art world is all about.”
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 119
Dana Langlois is the
founding director of
Java Café and Gallery
in Phnom Penh and
says 29-year-old Oeur
Sokuntevy’s work is
breaking new ground.
Photos: Sam Jam for Discover(2)
“Oeur Sokuntevy has had quite
a strong voice over the past few
years. Her work is mainly in a
surrealist style and deals with a
lot of very significant issues such
as modern and contemporary
expectations of women. Therefore
she’s also considered one of the
leading feminist voices of the
country, even though she didn’t
intend to be that. But that’s what
she’s become, because of her
ability to open up these important
topics through her art. She really
has found her own voice, which is
very exciting.”
“I use my creativity to make
new and original work. I often
take a common tale from
Cambodian culture, such as the
traditional role of women; how
they don’t have many rights,
and after marriage they must
stay home and take care of the
family. I can use this to try and
tell my audience about this
issue using original imagery,
adding layers of meaning and
encouraging people to think
about long-held norms in a
different way. At first, I was
shocked by people’s positive
reaction to my work, but now
I’m getting used to it. It pushes
me to be more creative and
find something new for the
audience. Art in all its forms
– painting, carving – is so
important for Cambodia’s
development and progression.
Talking about art is making
people happy, creative and
more critically aware of society.”
Lim Muy Theam
120 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
“First and foremost, I create in order
to express myself, my perception or
vision of a world that is mysterious
for me, in which thousands of
questions – material, spiritual,
human – are hidden in sight. But
overall, my mission is a huge one:
helping to revive Khmer arts and
build a future for a new younger
generation. In time, I believe that
art will become a powerful medium
for Cambodia to show its dynamism
and original expression of its spirit
and thoughts.”
“When first introduced to Theam's work,
I was immediately and hugely impressed
by his strong use of colour and his
perfect technique in applying beautiful
lacquer to his pieces. He is one of the
few returnee Cambodians currently
involved in reviving the Cambodian craft
sector, and has been enthusiastically
doing so since 1995. His gallery is not
only a spectacular space to visit, but
also a place of education, where Theam
is openly passing on the techniques
he has learned to a new generation of
young Khmer artisans.”
Bina Hanley,
curator at the
McDermott Gallery
in Siem Reap,
Lim Muy Theam.
Oeur Sokuntevy
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 121
to ponder
where to buy
All of these titles are
available from
Monument Books,
widely regarded
as Cambodia’s best
From lighter beach reads, through striking memoirs,
to take-home coffee-table specials, enrich your visit to
Cambodia with our pick of books about the Kingdom
Phnom Penh Noir
Edited by Christopher G. Moore
Published by Heaven Lake Press
A collection of noir tales by writers and
artists, both established and up-andcoming, that takes the reader inside the
lives of characters found in Cambodia’s
capital as they navigate a world of powerful
figures, criminals and corrupt officials, each
haunted by the lingering legacy of the Pol Pot regime.
Destination Cambodia
By Walter Mason
Published by Allen and Unwin
Angkor: Splendors of
the Khmer Civilization
By Marilia Albanese
Published by White Star Publishers
“To bring the divine down to
Earth, that was the dream
of the rulers who built the
large temples in Angkor.” In
this beautifully illustrated and
informative book, academic
Marilia Albanese explores the
various facets that made up
the Khmer empire, from the rice
paddies to the splendours of the
royal court.
Cambodian Recipes
By Sorey Long with Kanika Linden
Published by Marshall Cavendish
The Elimination
By Rithy Panh with Christophe Bataille
Published by The Clerkenwell Press
Thirty years after the Khmer Rouge decimated his family, award-winning
Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh confronts Comrade Duch, one of the
men eventually convicted for crimes against humanity due to his actions
under the regime. Widely considered an essential work that documents
the most tragic period in Cambodia’s history.
122 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Not just an award-winning collection of more than 100
tempting recipes, this is also an evocation of memories
from a mother and daughter,
prompted by the tastes, smells
and textures that make up the
little-known, yet increasingly
popular, Cambodian cuisine.
The glossy photos alone
will leave you desperate
to concoct some of the
dishes for yourself.
Ever upbeat, the author presents a bewitching
and joyful travelogue that delves into the heart
of a re-emerging country. Focusing on the
fascinating people he meets along the way,
Mason paints an affectionate, intimate
and deeply personal picture of a nation
negotiating change.
In the Shadow of the Banyan
By Vaddey Ratner
Published by Simon and Schuster
For a seven-year-old girl, the end
of childhood commences with the
footsteps of her father returning home
at dawn, bringing details of the civil
war that has overwhelmed the streets of
Phnom Penh. Soon the family’s world of
carefully guarded royal privilege is swept
up in the chaos of revolution and forced
exodus in this deeply touching novel.
Carrying Cambodia
By Conor Wall and Hans Kemp
Published by Visionary World
A family of four on a motorbike, tuk tuks
crammed to the roof with bathroom
fixtures, taxis transporting pigs bigger
than humans – these are the kinds of
sights that overwhelm visitors when
navigating the Kingdom’s roads.
Carrying Cambodia is a delightful
photo book that lands you smack-bang among the
traffic and the cavalcade of Cambodia’s motorised mayhem.
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 123
Perfect timing
Rich Culture, wide grins and unusual adventures are
on offer in the land known as the Kingdom of Wonder.
Make a date with our line-up of the best events
DO the hoPS
Region in view
Oompah music, lederhosen and
gargantuan glasses of lager – no, it’s
not Bavaria; we’re in the Cambodian
capital for a bit of Munich by the
Mekong. Hearty food, an up-for-it band
and the all-important ice-cold beer
make for a festive atmosphere at the
annual Oktoberfest.
The first of its kind in Southeast Asia,
the Angkor Photo Festival has become a
staple for photographers and photography
enthusiasts from around the region.
Running since 2005, the festival brings
emerging regional photographers into
focus – alongside more established
international names – providing a
platform for their work to be exhibited
and appreciated by a global audience.
Pick up a puppet
Days at the races
Family and fun are the focus at this time
of year, with many businesses closing
while people prepare to celebrate Khmer
New Year. Most of the action is to be
found in the provinces, as Cambodians
get back to their rural roots for some
raucous get-togethers. Dive in and you
will be welcomed with a smile – and
perhaps the occasional water bomb.
Siem Reap’s giant puppet parade is
the city’s most colourful and vibrant
annual procession. A community
arts project, it gives underprivileged
children the opportunity to design
and create huge brightly coloured
effigies of animals and faces before
parading them through the streets of
Temple Town.
The waters are still high but the rains
have abated, which means only one
thing for Cambodians – boat racing.
Mingle with the crowds along Phnom
Penh’s scenic riverfront as they egg on
boat crews furiously paddling for glory
during the annual Water Festival, but
be sure to get above ground level
if you want a good view of the river
action at this three-day event.
Make a date
Be sure to check
when public
holidays are
scheduled as
agencies, banks
and some other
businesses will
be closed.
Tackle the torrent
Bovine bumps
The Mekong’s brown waters brim with
local and international swimmers at
the annual Mekong River Swim, which
takes place just outside downtown
Phnom Penh. A challenging 600 metres
of Asia’s seventh longest river are
waiting to be traversed by an everincreasing number of hardy competitors
of all abilities.
Unwieldy, temperamental and sporting
some alarming horns, buffalo are
perhaps not one’s first choice of steed –
but try telling that to the locals in Vihear
Sour village in Kandal province. Found
just a short drive from Phnom Penh,
these annual races attract hundreds
of spectators drawn to the colourful
displays of daredevilry that mark the
end of the holy Pchum Ben festival.
Photos: Antoine Raab/Angkor Photo Festival (1); Mak Remissa (2); Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP (1)
happy new year
Plough down
May is rice planting time and early in
the month the annual Royal Ploughing
Ceremony is held. Oxen are used to
plough a field and are then presented
with various foodstuffs. Their choice
of nosh is used as a bellwether of the
forthcoming harvest in a ritual rooted in
ancient Hindu tradition.
Safety first
It’s easy to be
lulled into a false
sense of security
by the carnival
atmosphere of
the capital’s
Water Festival.
Enjoy yourself,
but do be
especially aware
of pickpockets
during this time.
Running the ruins
You’ve tackled modern Tokyo, limped
around historic London – but how
about adding an ancient city to your list
of running venues? The annual Angkor
International Half Marathon offers the
chance to sweat it out while surrounded
by Cambodia’s majestic, jungle-clad
temples. Be sure to book early, as this
one is getting popular.
The Directory
Phnom Penh
+855 (0)78 985530
+855 (0)77 555 447
BBQ Party
+855 (0)12 835 224
Bistro Lorenzo
+855 (0)23 997 300
Blazing Trails
+855 (0)12 676 381
Bloom Cakes
Blue Chili
+855 (0)12 566 353
The Boat House
+855 (0)92 553 743
Bodia Spa
+855 (0)92 671 937
Bophana Audiovisual
Resource Centre
+855 (0)23 992 174
+855 (0)77 881 103
Cambodian Handicrafts
Association (CHA)
+855 (0)23 881 720
Cambodian Living Arts
Cambodia Pride Week
The Chocolate Shop
The Common Tiger
+855 (0)23 212 917
CTN Television Studios
+855 (0)23 986 114
The Duck
+855 (0)89 823 704
Eclipse Sky Bar
and Restaurant
+855 (0)23 964 171
The Elephant Bar
Emergency Room
+855 (0)16 620 907
126 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
Emperors of China
+855 (0)23 637 6663
The Empire
+855 (0)77 851 230
+855 (0)23 676 7593
The Exchange
+855 (0)23 992 865
The Fox Wine Bistro
+855 (0)90 625 656
The Groove
+855 (0)77 692 886
Helistar Cambodia
+855 (0)88 888 0016
Jasmine Boutique
+855 (0)23 223 103
Java Café and Gallery
+855 (0)23 987 420
+855 (0)23 220 622
+855 (0)97 888 7442
Kids City
+855 (0)93 665 225
Lucky Lucky Motorcycles
+855 (0)23 212 788
+855 (0)23 221 022
Manor House
+855 (0)23 992 566
Mekong River Swim
Meta House
+855 (0)23 224 140
Monument Books
+855 (0)23 217 617
+855 (0)16 620 908
NagaWorld Hotel and Casino
+855 (0)23 228 822
National Museum
of Cambodia
+855 (0)23 211 753
+855 (0)23 987 151
Oktoberfest Cambodia
+855 (0)10 811 190
+855 (0)16620908
Phnom Tamao Zoological
Park and Wildlife
Rescue Centre
+855 (0)32 555 5233
The Plantation
Urban Resort and Spa
+855 (0)23 215 151
Promesses Boutique
+855 (0)23 993 527
Public House
+855 (0)17 770 754
Pyongyang Restaurant
+855 (0)12 277 452
Raffles Hotel Le Royal
+855 (0)23 981 888
Rambutan Resort
+855 (0)17 992 240
Rock Entertainment Centre
+855 (0)12 701 888
+855 (0)92 219 565
Romeet Gallery
+855 (0)92 953 567
Sofitel Phnom Penh
+855 (0)23 999 200
Sovanna BBQ
+855 (0)16 840 055
Sovanna Phum
Art Association
+855 (0)23 991 514
+855 (0)23 221 622
+855 (0)12 812 476
Two Wheels Only
+855 (0)12 200 513
+855 (0)23 722 067
Vintage Shop
+855 (0)17 795 159
+855 (0)12 812 469
White Mansion
Boutique Hotel
+855 (0)23 555 0955
Siem Reap
+855 (0)12 644 286
+855 (0)63 760 333
Angkor Balloon
+855 (0)69 558 888
Angkor Golf Resort
+855 (0)63 761 139
Angkor Photo Festival
Angkor Wat International
Half Marathon
+855 (0)23 213 525
Angkor Wat Putt
+855 (0)12 302 330
Artisans Angkor
+855 (0)63 963 330
+855 (0)92 987 801
Beyond Unique Escapes
+855 (0)77 562 565
Cuisine Wat Damnak
+855 (0)63 965 491
Flight of the Gibbon
Frangipani Spa
+855 (0)63 694 391
Giant Ibis
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Golden Banana
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The Hashi
+855 (0)63 969 007
Heritage Adventures
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Heritage Suites
+855 (0)63 969 101
Indochine Exploration
+855 (0)92 650 096
La Residence d’Angkor
+855 (0)63 963 390
Linga Bar
+855 (0)12 246 912
McDermott Gallery
+855 (0)12 615 695
Miss Wong
+855 (0)92 428 332
Navutu Dreams
+855 (0)63 688 0607
+855 (0)63 966 381
Park Hyatt
+855 (0)63 211 234
Phare Circus
+855 (0)15 499 480
Phokeethra Country Club
+855 (0)63 964 600
Raffles Grand
Hotel d’Angkor
+855 (0)63 963 888
Rehab Craft
+855 (0)68 366 366
Senteurs d’Angkor
+855 (0)63 964 801
Siem Reap Booyoung
Country Club
+855 (0)92 635 765
+855 (0)23 999 200
The Station Wine Bar
+855 (0)97 850 4043
The Sugar Palm
+855 (0)63 964 838
Victoria Angkor Hotel
+855 (0)63 760 428
The Yellow Sub
+855 (0)88 665 5335
The South
Breezes (Kep)
+855 (0)16 251 454
The Deck at Sokha Beach
Resort (Sihanoukville)
+855 (0)34 935 999
The Dive Shop Cambodia
+855 (0)34 933 664
The Fisherman’s Den
+855 (0)12 702 478
Jasmine Valley (Kep)
+855 (0)77 599 248
Kep National Park
Knai Bang Chatt (Kep)
+855 (0)78 888 556
Ku Kai (Sihanoukville)
+855 (0)97 697 1327
Mea Culpa (Kampot)
+855 (0)12 504 769
Nautica Sailing Club
+855 (0)92 230 065
Ream National Park
(near Sihanoukville)
+855 (0)12 215 759
Sail Cambodia
+855 (0)16 450 964
The Sailing Club at
Kani Bang Chatt (Kep)
+855 (0)78 888 556
Sokha Beach Resort
+855 (0)34 935 999
Song Saa Private Island
+855 (0)23 686 0360
Veranda (Kep)
+855 (0)36 638 8588
Villa Romonea (Kep)
+855 (0)12 879 486
Villa Vedici (Kampot)
+855 (0)17 291 782
Balcony Bar (Battambang)
+855 (0)12 437 421
Kirirom Hillside Resort
(Kampong Speu)
+855 (0)23 216 471
Koh Kong Bay Hotel
(Koh Kong)
+855 (0)77 555 590
The Lonely Tree Café
+855 (0)53 953 123
Mlup Baitong
+855 (0)23 214 409
Monorom 2 VIP Hotel
(Kampong Cham)
+855 (0)77 774 545
Phare Ponleu Selpak
+855 (0)53 952 424
Phnom Samkos Wildlife
Sanctuary (Koh Kong)
Rajabori Villas (Kratie)
+855 (0)23 215 651
Sanctuary Villa
+855 (0)97 216 7168
Sovannphum Hotel
(Kampong Chhnang)
+855 (0)11 886 572
Terres Rouges (Ratanakiri)
+855 (0)12 845 857
4 Rivers Floating Lodge
(Koh Kong)
+855 (0)23 217 374
Angkor - Cambodia
The intimate sanctuary of well-being,
your ideal boutique property for discoveries.
he r it age su it e shot e l. c om
Contact us for Special Offers !
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 127
Song Saa
Private Island
Photo: Sam Jam for Discover
The calm waters of the Gulf of
Thailand twinkle as cool ocean
breezes fill the over-water villas
of Song Saa Private Island. Song
Saa, meaning ‘the sweethearts’
in Khmer, is a twin-island
resort featuring villas built with
harmony, sustainability and
unadulterated luxury in mind.
Driftwood, full of character
and collected from local
beaches, is used throughout the
lemongrass-scented rooms, and
kitchen doors are crafted from
fishing boats no longer fit for
the high seas. As night closes
in, an aromatic bath in the
sunken stone tub, built for two,
is the perfect prelude to a night
snuggled up in bed.
128 Discover 2014 The Essence of Cambodia
The Essence of Cambodia Discover 2014 129

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