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Travel Guide: Where To Go in Cambodia

Philip Lapinid does a temple run through Siem Reap, and discovers why after all these years, people are still falling in love with its majestic beauty.

There was a story of a king some centuries ago. Around him, the soil was red and sandy, and when mixed with liquid, made strong bricks. The king had his men construct the largest religious monument in the world using only these sandstone blocks and the muscle strength of man and elephant. The monument, which spanned an area of 162 hectares, was designed to represent the mythical Mount Meru, said to be the legendary home of the gods. He dedicated this monument to the Hindu god Vishnu. The king’s name was Suryavarman II and his legacy was Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Intricate carvings at the temple complex.

Regarded as a marvel of Indochina, Cambodia runs on tourism and it does not disappoint. Hidden in the middle of the country just above the Tonle Sap Lake is the city of Siem Reap, a magnet for tourists and the former seat of the Khmer Kingdom. King Suryavarman II didn’t know the magnificence of the architectural treasure he had left here—though much of the glorious Angkor is in ruins.

Tourists at Angkor Archeological Park.

Start exploring the city with a temple tour around the Angkor Archeological Park. Most hotels offer this as part of their tourist packages, or set an appointment with a tuk-tuk driver. A personalized tuk-tuk tour runs from US$10-35, depending on how far the site you choose is. Before sightseeing, you’ll have to buy passes for either 1 day (US$20), 3 days (US$40) or 7 days (US$60). Make sure to hold on to the passes as they’re needed to access every temple site you visit.

The Gaurdians of the gates at Angkor Thom.

The Angkor area is vast so it’s best to plan which route to take. There’s the Little Circuit, the Grand Circuit, the Angkor Wat-Angkor Thom Complex, and the Roluos Group of temples. Both circuit tour routes fill up a whole day and are enough fun. But a tour of the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is the experience.

A woman paddles through the flooded forest.

An hour’s drive away by tuk-tuk is an essential yet less-visited spot in Siem Reap—the fishing village of Kampong Phluk. A US$25 boat ride takes you out to where this whole village with houses built on stilts sits high above the water. See how the villagers go about their lives and watch them harvest shrimps. The boat tour ends at the mouth of the Tonle Sap lake and where the mangroves are quite a sight against the color of the river and the green landscape.

The rust-like color of the East Mebon Temple.

The Little Circuit Tour begins at the majestic Angkor Wat and takes in many minor and major temples like the Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, known best as the location of Angelina Jolie’s film, Tomb Raider. The Grand Circuit Tour is an extension of the little circuit. Notable temples dotting its 26-kilometer route are Pre Rup, Neak Pean, East Mebon and Preah Khan. Pre Rup is a five-tower temple and is best viewed when the sun is low and the temple stones show various reddish hues. Neak Pean sits on an artificial island whose waters were considered to heal sickness back in the day. The Roluos Group, situated some 13 kilometers away from the city, is composed of 3 temples—Preah Ko, Bakong, and Lolei. Though drawing in less tourists, they too are important since they were some of the earliest structures built by the Khmers. Angkor Thom is a separate temple city beside Angkor Wat; and one of its most visited temples is Bayon, whose towers have a giant face carved on each side. Inarguably, the best time to visit the temples is after sunrise to catch the splendor of Angkor Wat with the first rays of sunlight hovering over the towers. This is a picture-perfect. 

Fresh Spring Rolls, Amok and Stuffed Tomatoes.

Hungry wanderers will find Siem Reap a sanctum of gastronomical goodness. Amok is the most well-known Cambodian dish and is widely offered in most restaurants. It’s a creamy fish (sometimes meat or seafood) curry with coconut milk and egg, wrapped in banana leaves then gently steamed. An order of spring rolls made of fresh vegetables rolled with rice paper make a perfect side dish, and comes with a sweet dipping sauce with crushed nuts. To beat Cambodia’s sweltering heat, go for an iced Khmer coffee, a strong brew that’s balanced with sweetened condensed milk.

Friend Ice Cream

Food in Siem Reap is actually cheaper near the Old Market with dishes in the price range of US$2 to $6. For your sweet fix, a serving of fried ice cream is a must-try. Try it by mixing flavors like banana and chocolate or kiwi and vanilla. At night, most visitors flock to Pub Street, the city’s “cap off.” Cocktails are sold in the streets for US$1.50. Or check out the dance clubs and resto-bars like Temple or Angkor What? Bar, where a bucket of your favorite cocktail is served complete with glow-in-the-dark straws.

FAST FACTS

  • A number of airlines now fly from the Philippines to Cambodia, including Cebu Pacific, which flies from Manila to Siem Reap four times a week.
  • Many travelers recommend hiring a tuktuk driver for the duration of your stay, if only to do away with the hassle of finding a tuktuk between destinations. Building a rapport with your driver will also be a good way to get some insight from locals.

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This is How the M.I.C.E. Alliance Initiative will Lift Boracay to New Heights

Leveling up Boracay in more ways than one

by Ryan Daniel R. Dablo

Saying the name “Boracay” instantly casts a spell, taking the listener to a daydream of immaculate, pale beaches, swaying palm trees, the music of breaking waves, and the vacation of a lifetime. The tropical island Eden is storied and renowned – a difficult enchantment to lift from any wayward tourist’s mind. But what if we were to tell you that Boracay is so much more? Can you build upon perfection? Yes, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how. 

One is never too far away from the beach! BNCC is only a stone’s throw away from the Boracay Newcoast Beach front.

Boracay Newcoast Convention Center (BNCC), located at the heart of Boracay Newcoast will soon host the biggest conventions, exhibitions and other large-scale events in the island starting second quarter of 2022.

After the difficulties of the past few years, the stage is finally set for a massive Boracay reboot. The creative gears turn once more, and this time they will catapult our favorite beach capital to new heights. The cornerstone of this renaissance is the M.I.C.E. Alliance initiative, short for meetings, incentives, conferences and conventions, and events and exhibitions. The establishment of the Boracay M.I.C.E. Alliance will allow focused efforts in creating sustainable and eco-sensitive tourism development projects while synergizing with stakeholders to create long-term solutions and opportunities for all partners. The alliance is set to drive awareness, readiness, and expansion of product offerings that will be crucial in making the island competitive with other M.I.C.E. destinations. Working closely with the Department of Tourism Region VI and the Tourism Promotions Board, the alliance is primed to provide support to the areas that are involved in this major undertaking.

Cleofe Albiso, Boracay M.I.C.E Alliance Chairperson

BNCC enjoys state-of-the-art facilities and can accommodate about a thousand guests depending on set-up and conduct multiple events at a time.

No one is more emphatic than M.I.C.E. Alliance chairperson Cleofe Albiso in describing how the different sectors of Boracay are pivoting from tourism to tourism plus. In brief, Boracay is challenging its own boundaries to become not just the pre-eminent tourist destination but also a corporate and business mecca. Turns out, if a venue is grand enough to host a wedding, wouldn’t it be just as grand to host a white-collar conference? Sky’s the limit for possibilities like this. At this moment, the island is abuzz with networking and making connections, training and empowering the hospitality services, polishing the infrastructure, revving up the transportation facilities, and all-around gearing up to go toe-to-toe with other M.I.C.E. hubs and be worthy of the tagline, “the best place for M.I.C.E. in a tropical paradise.” All hands are on deck and – after the extended global hiatus thanks to the pandemic – everyone is ready, nay, eager to meet and greet the guests. And, of course, we would be remiss not to point out that Boracay is more than halfway through completing such a tall order. The island is as well-oiled a machine as it could be, boasting 294 DOT-accredited hotels and resort, a staggering 4,500 seating capacity for meetings and conventions, and 12,400 room keys available in the island. Talk about volume! Plus, Boracay is already postcard-perfect, the very stuff that vacation dreams are made of. Why not turn the dial up to eleven and let it become a compass point for more than a summer getaway? This is the logical next step in realizing its vision of being not just a place to be, but the place to be.

Savoy Hotel Boracay like Belmont Hotel, and the soon to open Chancellor Hotel is also walking distance away from BNCC making it an ideal spot for both business and leisure trips.

So, yes, by all means think of the idyllic strolls on the beach, the luxurious caress of the ocean as you free-dive, the sheer delight of sand and surf while island-hopping, the adrenaline rush of aquasports, parasailing, cycling, or driving an ATV up Boracay’s foothills, the psychedelic glow of fire-dancing and party lights at night, the breathtaking sunsets, the larger-than-life adventures, or the hundred other ways it can lavish or reinvigorate your soul. Think of all of that, and then some. Because Boracay has its eyes on something greater: it is poised to become the premier starting point and last stop for tourism, entertainment, corporate gatherings, exhibits, and any other event the imagination can dream of. 

Paradise Garden’s Mabuhay Convention Center can fit 850 guests at a time.

For corporate set-ups, a 60 person function room is also available at the Isla Function Room of Paradise Garden.

Think of your company meeting. Now, think of your company meeting and the fun that’ll ensue right after. Picture that in the most scenic of vacation spots. Tempted already? Who wouldn’t be? You’re already in paradise. With business here and leisure literally just a stone’s throw away – heaven on earth, wouldn’t you say? 

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For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand

Impressive views of the Gulf of Thailand welcome you at the Arrival Sala

Silent Sanctuaries

Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…

What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.

The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.

Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.

Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection. 

Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!

Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.

For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)

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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise

LOST IN PARADISE

Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.

 


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com

 

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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