July 11, 2013

WHY ANGKOR WAT IN CAMBODIA IS SUCH A MAGICAL PLACE.

BY NISA

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

IMPORTANT HISTORICAL DETAILS ABOUT ANGKOR WAT.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

ONE OF THE FACES AT BAYON TEMPLE.

THE JUNGLE IS TAKING OVER.

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

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

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

July 09, 2013

MOTORBIKE TRAVELLING IN MOUNTAINOUS AREAS IN VIETNAM

When coming to Vietnam, beside big cities’ well-known tourism destinations, many foreign travellers love spending their time chasing the wind on the road of the wildly mountainous areas by motorbike. We tell you How and Why!
Motorbiking at the moutain in the North Vietnam

Reasons for choosing motorbike

Motorbike is considered the best means of transportation for travelling mountainous areas due to its convenience and initiative. With a motorbike, one is free to go wherever he loves, despite all kinds of road’s condition. He can stop whenever he feels like to take photographs or relaxing, instead of depending on the driver or tour guide. Motorbike helps integrating people with nature and fresh air, and one will never be afraid of motion sickness. If choosing a car, people are likely to waste hours sleeping in passenger’s seat with air condition, not to mention the car sick caused by consecutive slopes and mountain passes. Riding on the motorbike means living on every single kilometer of your itinerary! Moreover, one can ride a motorbike in any kind of terrains, and it is much easier to repair in case of breaking down.


Which kind of motorbike and when?

Kind of motorbike

100 cc-or-more semi-automatic motorbikes are all suitable for roads in Northern Vietnam’s mountainous area. The main criteria for choosing motorbike are strong engine, gasoline-saving and flexible packing space.
Weather is one of the most essential issues regarding planning for motorbike trip. The best time for exploring those mighty areas is from late September to the beginning of December or after Tet Nguyen Dan, when there is almost no rain and the temperature is cool. The spring’s rain and summer’s heat in high region somehow are hazardous for health as well as damaging to the road’s quality.

Be well-prepared!

There are indispensable things that one has to bring whenever travelling to remote areas such as specialized clothes and shoes, personal stuff, map, contact information and medical bags. However, a motorbike trip requires more than that. One will have to be well-prepared with a protective helmet and a motorcycle repair tool kit, and of course, certain skills of mending engine. An extra spark-plug and motorbike’s key are always in need. Remember to maintain the whole motorbike before setting off, change the oil and check its tyres, brakes, mirrors, horn and light. Fill up your motorbike with gasoline and know the location of gasoline station!

On the way

If possible, travelling in groups of two or three motorbikes with one experienced leader is advisable. All members of the group are required to have detailed itinerary to get rid the risk of getting lost. People should not ride parallel to each other and talk while controlling the motorbike, thus, stop the bike if feeling a need for a conversation.

Pay attention to the bend and ones driving contrariwise and do not drive into other lane. Sometimes, there may be animals like buffaloes, cows, dogs or even pigs crossing the road, so one should decrease the speed and avoid making them panic. At night or in rain weather, when the vision is limited, travellers had better pause the journey for resting and safety reasons.

Other things to remember
• Do not ride when you feel tired or sleepy.
• Do not ride after drinking alcohol.
• Avoid riding too fast or stop without noticing.
• Observe carefully and pay attention to road signs.
• Bring your identity paper and driving license because there will be police checking along the road ( however, they will not be very strict to foreigners)
• Be extremely careful when crossing the stream; be sure about the depth of the water to have the best arrangement.
• Respect the ethnic minority people and their distinctive culture.
• Protect the environment and always remember: Safe is of primary important.

July 04, 2013

Motorbiking Adventure Cambodia_A real exploration of Cambodia

We’ve made a real exploration Cambodia by Motorbiking – through deep sand, thick jungle and past multiple temples.

Motorbiking adventure Cambodia


Leaving Siem Reap we hit the dirt straight away as we hopped onto Cambodia’s route 66. An easy ride to start off with along some wide red dirt tracks passing through local villages and some stunning scenery full of palm trees and ride paddies.


The riding then got harder as the day went on. First, we left the wide tracks for some quite uneven ox-cart trails through the jungle – this is when the trails started to claim their first victims as our riders started to fall off in the knee deep ruts. Then we popped out of the jungle onto some wider red dirt (and very dusty!) tracks again. These had some fun little ‘woopy’ bits and we were hitting these flat out! The dust clouds suddenly got thicker and then SMASH!!



Adam got taken by surprise by a very deep ‘woopy’ bit which he hit very fast and got flung over the handlebars and tumbled along the dirt. Amazingly though he escaped this with a couple of grazed knees and bent handlebars.

Bung Mealea, Cambodia
We stopped for lunch at Bung Mealea which is the site of an ancient temple. After this, it was back on the bikes to step it up a notch once more. More tight jungle riding, and now, some deep sand. So the tumbles kept on coming. We arrived in a small village near Preah Khan temple where we be staying the night in a homestay. The guys were battered, bruised and broken, so after a few beers and chickens that had been killed and cooked for us, everyone settled for an early night.

Motorbiking Cambodia cross rivers
The next day was much the same kind of chaotic riding across varied terrain. On this day we had a fully submerged bike whilst crossing one of the many rivers, and another nasty fall which resulted in Chris having to pull out of the jungle and nurse his swollen wrists to Koh Ker on the highway with one of our guides. The rest of us battled through the jungle until we popped out on the red dirt tracks that ride into Koh Ker past multiple lost temples hidden away in the forest. We arrived at our guesthouse to find Theara and Chris applying first aid to Chris’s wounds in the form of a crate of beers (alongside the pet Meerkat which we have now named Timone).

The morning of the final day was one of changing decisions. Reno (who might I add, was previously predicted by his mates to be the slow one of the group that was supposed to fall off all the time) was keen as mustard to get back out into the jungle and fight on through back to Siem Reap, whilst the others were feeling the strain – battered, aching, and swollen wrists and ankles, they were thinking smooth tarmac might be the more sensible option. But, as me, Reno and Lar were saddling up and about to say farewell, they said ‘fuck it’, and in true Aussie style they jumped onto the bikes and came with for one final day of ‘who know’s what the fuck is going to happen to us’.

Off road

More sand meant there were more innevitable falls and our supply of clutch levers was running desperately low by this point. But sure enough, we all made it out in one piece and cruised back into Siem Reap on the tarmac – so surely if we could get through all of that crazy jungle stuff we’d be safe on the black top right? Nope, not today… as we were passing by Angkor Wat, finish line in sight, Adam managed to crash into the side of a truck, which he says cut across his path. I’m sorry to write this mate – but you were kind of on his side of the road! But again, amazingly, he escaped with no further damage to himself or the bike – one lucky son of a bitch.

To sum it up – it was a crazy days with some highs and lows – but the riding was awesome, great bunch of guys and they loved it! Well done to all you for manning up and pushing through! Bring it on!

If you’d like more info on the kind of trips we can tailor make for you then Click Here to view some example rides.


Phnom Penh - Kompong Thom - Kor Ker - Preah Vihear - Banteay Chmar - Siem Reap - Kratie - Mondulkiri - Phnom Penh
14-day trip with 11-day motorcycling
Motorcycling grade: Challenge


Travel Reveal: Tips from a local Vietnam

March 2013, I plan to Vietnam and Cambodia with my friends, Ann and Robert, and had an real adventure time there.

Fortunately, Liv had a family friend in Australia who had adventure holiday with a local tourist operator, Active Travel Asia, that is Trust adventure company in Vietnam.

We checked out their tours in the website and decided to go with this tour operator. And let's face it - we were impressed.

For the price: $285 pp for a three-day, two-night tour, covering about half the meals, activities and two nights accommodation, it was a very good deal.

This tour was from Hanoi to Mai Chau, Vietnam. On the way, we also saw the Hoa Binh lake look like small Halong Bay - World's Heritage site in Vietnam.

We also used this tour operator to go on two day tour to kayaking Halong bay.

Now compared to booking a tourist through a Australia travel agency, there are definitely some pros and cons. It's really up to you what matters more.

Pros:

We saved some money.

We got to meet more Vietnamese people. On our tour bus we could stop over and take a photos where an amazing spots as well as we have been recommended less tourist and beautiful route along rural ethnic village.

We got a direct recommendation.

Cons:

Peace of mind. I suppose it's nice have someone in front of you booking these things who's done it all before.


July 03, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Cycle Cambodia

by World Biking 

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

Reason #1  Location, Location, Location

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

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

Cambodia
Reason #2. Land of Extremes

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

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

Reason # 3  Friendly People

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

Reason #4 Culture and History

Siem Reap with the ancient temples (wats) is Cambodia at its best. Plan to spend time in the city to see all the temples of Angkor. You can cycle or hire a tuk-tuk to take you around to see the sites. Besides the temples, it’s fun to see the monks in Cambodia known to carry umbrellas.
Phnom Penh with the history of the Vietnam war, Khmer rouge and the killing fields is at its worst. Though grim, the killing fields is a must see to understand the country you are traveling through.

Amazing Ruins

Reason #5  Food

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

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

Recommend a bike itinerary: 3- days cycling tour brings you to explore Siem Reap in Cambodia, not only its highlighted Angkor Complex, but also small local villages, markets, pagodas, to have an opportunity to interact with local passers-by and immerse in Cambodian cultures of one travel company: Activetravel Asia_one of the Indochina's leading adventure travel companies, offering Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling and family travel packages. 

Read more their Biking Angkor Wat itinerary at: http://www.activetravelcambodia.com/tour.php?op=detail&tourId=67

July 02, 2013

Sapa, Vietnam in my tour

Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa is considered the second destination of Vietnam after Halong Bay. This town is located in the Northern mountainous area with the endless terraced field and interesting experience to visit the ethnic villages. You can easily catch up with the heavy rain and storm. However, with me – Jeremy Jones, this is not an obstacles but an exciting challenge though I have to prepare a lot more when the rain falls.

Rain, rain, rain – it always rains

If you are a unlucky guy coming to Sapa in the middle of storm rain or after a rainy week, then you are in the major. The muddy paths made everyone fell down at least once, and our luggage were sent quite a lot of souvenir from mud.

The extraordinary Sapa landscape

Seems like being aware of this, the stalls in the villages offered most of the things to prevent slipping in every kind of terrain. The sellers are quite smart ladies, and especially when you are buying in the tough weather, the price would be indefinable. A raincoat and a pair of rain boot would be the salvation even in just two days.

Do not leave out homestays

Every visitors to Sapa should spend a night or two at homestay, for not only experience the local life experience but also come into the rural life and visit the beautiful places of the land. The further the land is, the more beautiful the landscape. And the homestay will let you see those landscape.

H'mong People in Sapa

Most of the homestay is a spacious house with sleeping rooms being built next to the main house. People say only those who stayed for two nights could experience the traditional house in the second one. However, after six hours of experiencing, the most expectation for the pervasive numbness is a fare hot shower with common conveniences.
Sapa Town, Vietnam

A homestay in Sapa

In the whole or part of the journey, all of the travelers are followed by the sellers in the village in the hope of selling something. These local ladies became the sufficient supporters when they showed us which way to go, holding our hand to “saving” us from falling down.

In general, Sapa is a perfect destination for coming after a hard rain with every conditions of muddy marshy land that you could ever imagine. However for me, I wish I had known how the trip was to prepare myself more carefully and save some cloths for becoming clouts because of mud. I will definitely not prevent anyone from traveling to Sapa in the rain weather, but I would love to suggest them to prepare well. You will not regret.

Recommended Sapa Trekking & Homestay by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA

Hanoi - Lao Cai - Sapa - Hanoi 
4-day tour with 2-day trek and 2-night homestay
Trekking grade: Moderate

This trip includes a trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. You will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Giay and Tay ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as we walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture.

Highlights 

  • Awesome scenery
  • Rice terraces
  • Colorful minority groups 
  • Homestays in minority villages


Motorcycling Northwestern Trails_ The real exploration of tribal cultures

Hanoi - Mai Chau - Son La - Dien Bien Phu - Sapa - Hanoi  

Explore Vietnam's remote northwest - the historic battlefields of  Dien Bien Phu, the thriving hilltribe markets of Sapa and the stunning mountain scenery of Son La and Lai Chau.

Road map Northwestern Trail

The remote northwest of Vietnam appeals to those wanting to get off the beaten track in one of Vietnam's most beautiful, unaffected and untouristed areas.

Mai Chau, Northwestern Trails
The travellers who do venture to Mai Chau, Son La and Dien Bien Phu often do so by way of a hired jeep and driver or do it by motorbike, while those striking straight north to Vietnam's hilltribe capital of Sapa avail themselves of the comfortable and efficient overnight train to Sapa. Whichever way you're headed, prepare yourself for stunning scenery as you pass through spectacular ravines and over breathtaking passes.

Sapa, Vietnam
Best known for the burgeoning trekking centre of Sapa, there is a lot more worth investigating in this part of the country. The remote French firebase of Dien Bien Phu remains a drawcard, but it's as much the attraction of the trip there as the town itself that is worth visiting. A trip to Dien Bien Phu is easily combined with an approach to Sapa via "the back way" over the Fansipan pass (Vietnam's highest), allowing for more stunning scenery and the opportunity to see some of the less touristed parts of the country.

Tram Ton Pass

Another popular destinations is Mai Chau whose day-trekking and stunning scenery have helped it develop into a small tourist centre en-route to Dien Bien Phu -- many trips from Hanoi run out to Mai Chau -- and with good reason. It also forms a comfortable spot to rest those weary limbs before continuing onwards and up into the hills.
Road to Son La, Vietnam

More and more travellers are now heading up into this part of the country, in part due to the long-awaited opening of the border crossing into Laos near Dien Bien Phu -- yes, it's true, you really can cross here now!
This is a time consuming part of Vietnam to visit, but if you have the time, the northwest is well worth adding into your trip plans.

Ethnic minorities in Sapa

Now if you’ve seen that episode then you’ll know just how amazing that experience looked. After seeing the episode for the first time, the initial awe of the entertainment, and speculation as to the reality of personally carry out something like this soon passed, after realization of the fact that this was a incredibly well funded show and each trip has a small army for back up and support.

Discover Vietnam’s rugged and scenic northwest and its people first hand with ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA. By taking to the roads and riding from the capital Hanoi to the remote area of the northwest we can see life as it truly is for the Vietnamese. The perfect itinerary and the support crew ensure you get the most out of the trip in terms of comfort, enjoyment and adventure. Along the way we encounter dramatic landscapes and sweeping panoramas as the rural population goes about its business. 

Highlights 
  • Stunning scenery
  • Challenging roads
  • Stunning Pha Din Pass and Tram Ton Pass
  • Terraced valley of Sapa
  • Colorful ethnic minorities