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Must see in Cambodia14/4-16 (11:30)
I got up early in the morning to see the Sun Rise at Angkor Wat. Got the Entry ticket for 20$ for a day. This is also available for 2 or 3 days for 30 or 40 USD. I got a Tuk Tuk booked for the whole day trip for 20$.
When i reached at the main entry point of the Angkor Wat, I found myself among a huge crowd of tourists from all over the world.

During the whole day trip I found 1 day is less to deeply explore all the temples and sites. Though you get a fair idea abou the place in 1 day.

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Cambodia’s $24m museum26/3-16 (10:06)
fully funded by North Korea
North Korean government has spent $24m to build the new Angkor Panorama Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Museum authorities say it is a goodwill gesture from North Korea to strengthen ties between the two countries.

But experts assert it is a new way for Pyongyang to circumvent international sanctions and bring in much-needed funds.

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A museum in Cambodia21/3-16 (12:09)
North Korea launches a new over-seas project : A museum in Cambodia
Siem Reap Province, Cambodia: Trailing towards one of Asia’s most iconic tourist destinations, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple complex, one will now come across another surprise lying in wait for them.
And it is the newly inaugurated The Angkor Panorama Museum, which is funded and produced by Mansudae Art studio, undoubtedly the most prestigious in all of North Korea. The rooms are unfolded in a 360 degrees angle which will show the eyes an all-round display of seamlessly glowing 3D structures crafted in a style of 2D paintings. The scenery depicts the historical era from the Khmer Civilizations, one that Cambodia hold as its golden period.

As astonishing as it may sound the artist, the plans and the whole design was laid out and borne by the nation of North Korea. Mansudae Art Studio declares it as their one of the largest over-seas project and had already invested more about 26 million into the Museum. After the cost has been recouped by the studio, the rest of the revenue will eventually pass entirely back to the Government of Cambodia.
Mansudae has established over a thousand art including statues all over North Korea like the one of its supreme Communist leader Kim Jong Il and also abroad like the construction of Namibia’s New State house. Though not everyone is happy with the decision like Koryo Studios’s Nicholas Bonner, who mostly deals with the East-Asian galleries, is of the opinion that the deals of such kind are more about commerce and propaganda.

While some from the Human Rights groups feel that the museum is acting itself as an exponent of one of the world’s most depressive regimes.
On the other hand, the museum authorities are hopeful that such comments will not deter the masses from visiting and appreciating the art that the museum offers.

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Ready for Makeover21/3-16 (12:07)
Over the centuries, looting, theft and mismanagement have plagued the 12th century Banteay Chhmar temple complex in Banteay Meanchey province. But the sprawling Angkorian monument is about to get a second life as an international training ground for future archaeologists and monument restoration specialists.

After an initial agreement was signed in December, the Ministry of Culture and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are now hammering out details to set up a field school for post-graduate students—many of them from Southeast Asia—and young Cambodian professionals.
“The overarching aims are to work with established Cambodian experts in the field to train the next generation of heritage managers with the necessary practical and critical skills to lead heritage work in the Southeast Asian region,” Ashley Thompson, head of SOAS’ Center of South East Asian Studies, said in an email interview.

While funding still is being sorted out, the plan is to launch the program toward the end of the year. The project will also include the restoration of Ta Nem, one of the monument’s satellite temples adjacent to the main complex.

“Thanks to the decades of international collaboration at Angkor in particular, Cambodian expertise is now region-leading, and in some areas, world-leading,” Ms. Thompson said, referring to the numerous projects in Angkor Archeological Park, where Cambodians have worked alongside international experts for more than two decades.

“We recognize this and have designed a project which avoids placing an international expert at the head of conservation but rather supports Cambodian national expertise in assuming responsibility,” she said.

Near the end of the 12th century, the modest Banteay Chhmar site had been transformed into one of the largest monastery complexes in the country, spreading over 12 km and including eight secondary temples.

Its remote location in idyllic countryside about 20 kilometers from the Thai border, however, has exposed it to theft in recent years. In 1998, it was victim of a spectacular looting operation when 30 meters of wall adorned with sculpted features was chopped off and smuggled into Thailand. A portion of the wall was later seized by the Thai authorities and returned to Cambodia while another section disappeared—according to several sources, it is at the home of a prominent Thai businessman near Bangkok.

Also due to its remote location, the monument had never been restored. Though Banteay Chhmar was known and documented by the French as far back as the late 19th century, archeologists and architects who had embarked on the restoration of Angkor a century ago focused on monuments in Siem Reap province. And when international and Cambodian teams began new restorations in the 1990s and early 2000s, that was where the attention remained.
The new plan to restore Banteay Chhmar follows a restoration project that fell apart itself, necessitating the intervention of the Ministry of Culture. In 2008, the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) began an eagerly anticipated restoration effort at Banteay Chhmar, only to see the repeated absence of the man in charge, British architect John Sanday, according to several people close to the project.

It was only due to the direct intervention of the Culture Ministry, which sent Kim Sothin—a restoration expert and director of the Department for Safeguarding and Preservation of Ancient Buildings—that some of the planned work was accomplished.

In the end, emergency measures were taken to consolidate some structures that were close to collapsing. A wall with elaborate sculpted scenes of historical importance was rebuilt with support from the organization Friends of Khmer Culture, which provided funding to help study and reconstruct the scenes.

Mr. Sanday did not reply to emailed requests for comment. Cathy Giangrande, director of GHF United Kingdom, said that the project had been a success.

Mr. Sothin said the project had allowed the ministry to detail what further restoration was needed. Approximately 80 features need intervention; 29 of them urgently, he said.

For a visitor, walking inside Banteay Chhmar is magical. Surrounded by gray stones and green foliage, one feels something like a 19th century explorer discovering a kingdom in the middle of the jungle.

The monument is an example of what French archeologists of a century ago faced when they embarked on Angkor’s restoration—that is, the gigantic task of clearing moss and foliage to see what needed to be done, said French researcher Olivier Cunin. This clearing work must be done painstakingly so as not to weaken stone structures now supported by roots and trees, explaining why restoring a monument takes more years than it took to build, he said.

One reason for investing time and energy into Banteay Chhmar is because of its historical importance, said Mr. Cunin, who has been studying the monument for years.

Toward the end of the 13th century, images of the Buddha in Jayavarman VII’s monuments were replaced by images of Shiva.

“At Banteay Chhmar, this iconoclast reaction did not take place,” he said. “Therefore, you have the original Buddhist iconography,” which makes the monument the more interesting for historical research, he added.

This is one of the reasons why those walls with sculpted scenes are to be included in the SOAS conservation project, said Joanna Wolfartht, the school’s Banteay Chhmar Project Coordinator. GHF also plans to contribute to the project, she said.

One other characteristic makes this monument unique, Mr. Cunin said. One princely figure standing near the king in a scene sculpted on the wall of Banteay Chhmar does not appear in a similar scene at the Bayon, the monument built at the center of Jayavarman VII’s capital during the same period, he said.

“There must have been political events in the meantime for this personage shown [at Banteay Chhmar]…not to appear in the same scene at the Bayon.”

This discrepancy makes him believe “that the scenes sculpted on the walls of Banteay Chhmar were prototypes for those that would later be done at the Bayon temple.”

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Temple dedicated27/2-16 (14:13)
to Cambodian cuisine opens in Siem Reap. Fri, 26 February 2016
“Living Cambodian cuisine” made its formal debut in Siem Reap last Friday evening with a stunning reception for 400 guests to celebrate the grand opening of Malis, the iconic restaurant that has been wowing Phnom Penh diners for 10 years.

The opening marks the end of any lingering questions about Siem Reap’s capacity to attract middle to upper middle-income travellers, as the market continues to evolve into a more complex and sophisticated destination.

Congratulating the team that made it happen, especially Arnaud Darc and chef Luu Meng, the Minister for Tourism, Dr Thong Khon, called on the hospitality industry to continue their work in making Siem Reap one of the best destinations in the world.
It’s wonderful that visitors to Siem Reap, after visiting our amazing temples at Angkor Wat and learning about our unique culture, can now experience a culinary journey at Malis and taste delicious food that has been adapted from our ancestors,” he said.

The minister also acknowledged Siem Reap’s fresh global recognition as a destination worth taking note of.

“We’ve just seen Siem Reap voted Number 1 and Shinta Mani Number 2 hotel in the world on Trip Advisor. Cambodia is becoming known for its quality and sophistication,” he said.

Arnaud Darc and Luu Meng are the men whose vision led to the creation of “living Cambodian cuisine”, an idea that goes beyond the boundaries of simple geography and deeper than traditions.

Cambodian cuisine is an amalgamation of flavours, influences and techniques that is unique in the world. It is virtually a living history book, written with ingredients that cannot be found elsewhere.
But their greatest problem at the outset was the lack of any clear reference. The only answer was to get out there and find out.

“I had recipes from my mother,” said Meng, addressing the crowd that included Secretary of State Kong Vibol, His Excellency Cham Prasidh, the Minister of Industry and Handicrafts, His Excellency Sum Map, Director General of the APSARA Authority, and several other dignitaries and luminaries from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

“But it also took a lot of talking to people,” said Meng.

“I travelled to the provinces, to markets and into family kitchens, learning about different ingredients and traditional ways of cooking.”

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Volunteers for children18/2-16 (01:22)
Girl’s Day volunteers for children in Cambodia
South Korean girl group Girl’s Day has volunteered at a school in Cambodia to empower impoverished children, its agency said Wednesday.

The four-member act recently visited a school in Siem Reap of northwestern Cambodia as an honorary ambassador of Plan Korea, the South Korean branch of the international children’s NGO, Plan International, DreamT Entertainment said.

Girl’s Day held art and music workshops, encouraging children to visualize their dreams by drawing on eco bags, the agency said, adding the children had never been taught art or music at school.

The group also provided an English dictionary, a notebook and a bicycle to a girl who said her dream was to become an English teacher.

Girl’s Day was appointed an honorary ambassador for the campaign called “Because I Am a Girl” organized by Plan Korea in 2013. The campaign aims to empower girls in developing countries where they are often discriminated against and lack access to education and legal protection.

“Children without dreams are without futures,” Girl’s Day was quoted as saying by DreamT Entertainment. “We hope we provided an opportunity for children to think about their dreams and learn how to work towards them during our brief time together.”

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Giant Puppet Parade5/2-16 (10:17)
Returns To Siem Reap for 10th Year
About 1,000 children and adults will march through Siem Reap City on Saturday night, many of them holding aloft the glowing rattan-and-paper puppets for which the annual Giant Pup­pet Pa­rade is named.

Thousands of spectators are ex­pected to gather along the pa­rade route from the Old Market to the Royal Indepen­dence Gar­dens for the event’s 10th iteration. Last year, about 15,000 people turned out to watch the event, said British architect and project director Stu­art Cochlin.
“If it carries on the way its carrying, we expect about 20,000 people this year,” he said on Wednesday. “When we first started in 2007, we probably had about 100 people.”

Each year, the event is used as a platform to make young people and spectators aware of Cam­bo­dias endangered and indigenous species. This year, Mr. Cochlin said, five of the seven puppets have been made to resemble a monitor lizard, a white-winged duck, a water buffalo, a caterpillar and a red ant. The other two will be modeled after a monkey to hon­or the upcoming Year of the Monkey, and a lion from the coun­try’s royal coat of arms.

The puppets will also be illuminated from the inside. The bamboo-and-rattan armature and lighting systems were made with the assistance of British outdoor-exhibit designer Martin Math­ews and British lighting designer Lucy Gaskell. They worked with the organizers and 12 Cambo­dian artists trained at Phare Pon­leu Selpak’s art school in Bat­tam­bang City who conceived the puppets.
“We discussed their ideas and then we discussed how we could make it better,” Ms. Gaskell said.

Making the puppets realistic was no small task, said artist Tes Vannorng. “We had to think about how to design the whole body to make it all work,” she said.

The parade is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a 45-minute show at the Royal Inde­pendence Gardens with performances by musicians and Phares circus artists, she said.

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Malaysian wins26/1-16 (14:00)
first Angkor Wat ultramarathon.
The Kingdom of Wonder entered the adventurous world of ultramarathons last week with the first ever 128km trail through UNESCO recognised Angkor Wat archaeological complex, putting human emotions through the toughest of endurance tests the likes of which had never been tried before in the country.

At the end of two gruelling days of competition, Hiam Lim Soh of Malaysia took the top honours in 18 hours 34 minutes and 56 seconds ahead of Porter Andrew (18:38.31) of South Africa and Clement Julian (19:28.07) of France.

But from the Cambodian perspective, the greatest achievement was recorded by a Japanese business magnate and well-known sports benefactor Mitsuji Konoshita, who is also a Cambodian citizen. The chairman of the country’s leading hire purchase and motor finance company, GLF, proudly competed as a Cambodian and finished fourth (20 hours 39.55 minutes) in the elite men’s group but was the undisputed winner of the event in his own senior category, giving him the honour of being not only the first from the Kingdom to take part but also pick up a piece of historical glory.

“I was indeed very proud to be a Cambodian. I took up the citizenship two years ago, and it has always been my burning desire to represent Cambodia in an ultramarathon I so passionately involve myself in,” said Mitsuji Konoshita, who had taken part in as many as 11 over-100-mile events last year and has already run two of the kind this year and is heading to two more in the next few months..

Among the first to congratulate Mitsuji Konoshita was the minister for tourism and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, who described this achievement as a “historical event and one that should inspire every Cambodian. We are so proud of you,” he said.

Later in his address during the medal ceremony, the minister said the introduction of this ultramarathon, which is fast gaining global popularity, was to boost sports tourism and attract more and more adventure-loving foreigners to the Kingdom.

“We are pleased that 250 participants from 26 countries took part this year. It is a great number to begin with. For us the learning curve is long. There may have been some organisational shortfalls in our first attempt but we hope to make this event better when we host it again in January next year,” the NOCC president declared.

In the Women’s 128km event, Thailand’s Boonthant Suksodkeaw outstayed the rest with a timing of 21 hours 27.57 minutes keeping at a fair distances the French pair of Dufour Isabelle and Veyre Auroleia

In the women’s 64km challenge, Ireland’s Haimill Jill, who is no stranger to Cambodian distance events like the half marathons and the fuller version, proved her enormous staying potential by winning the event in six hours and 29 minutes. Australia’s Voseh Kathyrin finished second ahead of Chen Cheng of Singapore.

Interestingly, Jill and Cambodia’s Rio Olympics probable Nary Ly have competed against each other in many local long-distance events with Jill enjoying a better winning record.

Among the men competing the 64km event, R Gregorie of Switzerland proved the one with greater reserves of stamina by winning the event in six hours and 42 minutes, pushing Defond Yann of France to second place and Zwierlein Rob of Australia to the third position.

One young Cambodian girl who showed a lot of courage in finishing the course was given a special award as a promising talent.

The event organised by the Sports Performance Development Organisation (SPDO) was fully supported by the government, the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, the Apsara Authority and the Siem Reap Provincial Authority.

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Ultra Marathon at Cambodias Angkor23/1-16 (11:53)
Some 250 runners from 26 countries and regions have registered for the Angkor Ultra Trail 2016, to be held on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 at the famed Angkor archaeological complex in northwest Cambodias Siem Reap province, a senior sports official said Wednesday.

"This will be the first-ever Ultra Marathon in Cambodia," Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of the National Olympic Committee, said in a press conference here. "It aims to attract more international tourists to the famous Angkor archaeological park."

Initiated by French specialist Jean-Claude Le Cornec, four races are scheduled according to the levels of difficulty, the 128-km Ultra Trail, the 32-km Trail, 64-km trail and 32-km Nordic Walking.

Vath Chamroeun said foreign runners are required to pay 160 U.S. dollars for a 128-km race, 90 U.S. dollars for a 64-km run, and 60 U.S. dollars for a 32-km trek.

Angkor archaeological park, the kingdoms most popular tourist destination, received 2.1 million foreign visitors last year, generating a gross revenue of 60 million U.S. dollars from ticket sales, according to the government figures.

New flight to Siem Reap20/1-16 (09:30)
“[Thai Smile] had to build its market under the codeshare with the Thai Airways, but now the airline can be independent and have its own flight movements,” he said.

The new route gives parent company Thai Airways – which operates 17 flights a week from Bangkok to Phnom Penh – its first crack at Siem Reap’s busy international airport, which reported 3.2 million passenger arrivals and departures last year.

The Bangkok-Siem Reap route is currently dominated by Bangkok Airways, a full-service regional airline, and Thai AirAsia, a low-cost carrier (LCC). Cambodia Angkor Air, the Kingdom’s flagship carrier, also operates one daily flight.

Smile Air aims to position itself in the gap between full-service and budget carriers, with one-way flights on the route starting at $77 including taxes – comparable with AirAsia’s best fares.

“Thai Smile operates like an LCC because its business model aims at competing [with other LCCs] and domestic carriers,” said Vutha.

Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia Travel Agent Association, said Thai Smile's new route will help bring more tourists to Siem Reap and serve as a feeder to the Kingdom’s other tourist destinations.

“It is a good sign for Cambodia when there are more new airlines, and it reflects the ability of Angkor Wat temple to build the Kingdom’s reputation and attract more tourists,” he said.

Thai Smile Airways currently operates a fleet of 15 Airbus A-320s, with another five aircraft temporarily operating under Thai Airways’ air operator’s certificate (AOC).

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New Cambodian Circus Location9/1-16 (14:40)
Work was underway on Friday to erect the big top of Phare, The Cambodian Circus, at its new location on the outskirts of Siem Reap City.

The 11-meter-high circus tent, which weighs several tons, was se­cured on the ground with 40 1-meter-long pegs, said Nicolas Charpal, a circus-tent technician who had come from France to oversee the installation.
“The ground had been prepared, compacted, refilled. So it was perfect to set up the big top,” he said.

The circus company is a social enterprise created by the NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak to provide em­ployment to circus artists trained at its art and circus school in Battambang City, and help support the free school.

The big top was previously located on rented land in downtown Siem Reap. But with the land value going up, Phare faced an imminent rent increase it could not afford, which made it de­cide to buy a plot of its own, said Huot Dara, the circus company’s chief executive.

“Without the pressure, we would probably have taken a lot more time to have our own place,” he said.

“Now we’re really happy about it.” The new land was acquired through a “social impact loan” provided by the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, he added.

Phare’s new home is on Ring Road about 2 km from the city center.

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Slight increase in Angkor visits11/12-15 (12:11)
SIEM REAP, 11 December 2015: The Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) reports 1.87 million international tourists visited Angkor temples, January to November, a 2.2% increase compared to the same period last year.
Khmer Times reported ticket sales to foreign tourists at the Angkor Wat Temple complex reached USD53.5 million in the first 11 months of this year, up 1.15% year-on-year.
Apsara Authority spokeswoman, Chau Sun Kerya, was quoted saying the slight increase in revenue was mainly the result of visitors switching from three-day or weeklong tickets to single-day tickets, which cost less.
It might suggest also that visitors are prepared to spend less time exploring the historical park despite the high cost of getting to Siem Reap in the first place.
The cost of the entrance ticket is the least expensive item on the itinerary when compared to air fares, hotels and land travel costs factored in by tour operators.
Or the demographics of the visitors has change?. There are fewer Europeans interested in soaking up the culture and art of the historical park over two to three days and more Asian visitors on short break holidays with just a day to spare for the ancient temples.
Foreign visitors pay USD20 for a one-day pass to the temples, USD40 for three days and USD60 for a weeklong pass. There are no entrance fees for Cambodian nationals.
Siem Reap tourism department deputy director, Chheuy Chhorn, said the majority of foreign tourists this year are from other Asian countries, mainly Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand.
Cambodia terminated the contract for ticket sales at Angkor temples with Sokimex Group, 6 November. The group received a concession to manage the temple complex in April 1999.
The change in fee management will come into effect early next year. An inter-ministerial commission has been set up to manage revenue from ticket sales to the iconic temples to benefit the economy and develop infrastructure within the park.
The commission comprises officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Apsara Authority, General Department of National Treasury, Ministry of Culture, General Department of State Property and Non Tax Revenue and Council Ministers.
It was officially formed earlier this month and is transferring management of ticket sales from Sokimex Group to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which is the secretariat of the newly formed commission, the report said.
The Angkor Archeological Park is the main tourist attraction in Cambodia, well ahead of coastal areas and the ecotourism sites in the northeastern part of the country.
The park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 located in Siem Reap province, which lies 315 km northwest of capital Phnom Penh.

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Locals Sweep Water Festival28/11-15 (19:01)
Boat Races in Rainy Siem Reap
SIEM REAP CITY – Thousands lined the Siem Reap River on Wedneday evening as fireworks exploded overhead and the sun set on the final day of Water Festival boat races here.

The day began with friendly competition between the previous day’s losers, with anticipation building toward the 5 p.m. finals.

In the men’s division, the crew of local boat Hanuman Meanrith took home the $1,000 prize, overcoming stiff competition from Neakach Senchey Teuk Dey Angkor in the final race. Angkor Chum Senchey made it a Siem Reap full house as the team from the province’s Angkor Chum district took the women’s crown.

Crowds were at least as large as the previous day as sweltering temperatures gave way to gray skies and intermittent rain, with a particularly severe downpour sending spectators and vendors scrambling for cover as children splashed in the swollen river, dammed upstream on occasion of the races.

Despite the sizeable crowds, vendors parked along the riverside bemoaned poor sales compared to year past.

“Business is as not as good as last year because of the weather,” said Chhum Srey Oun, 34, who was selling water and soft drinks near the finish line.

“It’s been raining, and when it’s cold, people don’t want to buy water. Last year I made $150, but yesterday I made $25, and today I made only $10,” she said.

On Tuesday, Skun Sath, 33, who sells skewers of processed meat, also reported disappointing takings, but placed the blame on event’s organizers, who gave the prime spots to Thai sellers.

“Vendors from Thailand got the spots near the starting line this year,” she said. “Last year, there were no Thai vendors, and now they are bringing new brands that people have never seen before.”

This year’s Water Festival celebrations in Siem Reap are the biggest in the country, authorities having canceled the races in Phnom Penh for the fourth time in five years, citing low water levels and the need to allocate resources to drought mitigation.

Watching the races on Wedneday, Seun San, a 55-year-old farmer from Kandal province, who attended his first Water Festival there in 1965, said he usually decided to make the trip to Siem Reap after the races were called off in the capital.

“I came here to see the boats. This is our tradition and this is my favorite sport,” he said.

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Siem Reap mulls tourism attractions12/10-15 (13:19)
SIEM REAP, 12 October 2015: Siem Reap is planning to expand the province’s tourism attractions by adding a tour of a a plantation following a visit to Angkor Wat.
It is hoped it will help to increase length of stay and give the town wider appeal beyond the World Heritage site.
Khmer Times quoted Apsara Authority spokesperson, Kérya Chau Sun, who confirmed plans had been presented to Siem Reap Provincial Tourism Department director Ngov Sengkak.
The plantation is located at Phumi] Khun Ream on National Road 67, on the way to Anlong Veng, the spokesperson said.
“It would create a venue where travellers could visit ancient temples, and then enjoy a natural environment,” the spokesperson added.
Promoting new sites and destinations could keep tourists in the country longer than the present average of two to three days, before they go to Thailand and Vietnam.
According to Apsara Authority, the Angkor Archaeological Park attracted 1.52 million international visitors in the first nine months of this year, up 1.8% from the same period last year.
Aspara Authority enjoys substantial earnings off gate fees to enter the historical park, but very little goes back to the local community to improve living standards.
Located in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, Angkor Wat Historical Park, was inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1992, and is the country’s most popular tourist destination.

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Nara institute fixes ancient Cambodian temple28/9-15 (06:17)
SIEM REAP, Cambodia--An ancient structure in Angkor Thom has been restored by the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the first time it has completed a project overseas.

The institute's involvement was essential in restoring the historical architecture as long periods of civil war have depleted Cambodia of masons with the required skills to conduct such work.

A ceremony was held here Sept. 23 after the Nara-based organization completed the reconstruction of the Southern Sanctuary as part of its project to research and restore the Western Prasat Top ruins of Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom, which is located in Siem Reap, is registered under the UNESCO World Heritage list together with Angkor Wat. The Western Prasat Top ruins, which date to the ninth through 15th centuries, comprise of the Southern, Central and Northern sanctuaries, all made of stone.

The institute has been investigating the ruins since 2002 and discovered that some of the structures of the Southern Sanctuary were falling apart due to tree roots penetrating the stonework. With some parts of the foundation collapsed, the institute decided to give it a full makeover and began restoration work from 2012. The 14th-century stone structure is more than 4 meters high.

Previously, the Nara institute worked on the stone chamber in the Takamatsuzuka burial mound in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, which is known for the “Asuka Bijin” (Asuka beauties) mural.

"We believe we were able to be of use to Cambodia as it recovers from the chaos of civil war through means of cultural aid, something the Japanese specializes in," said Hiroshi Sugiyama, director of the institute's planning and coordination department.

The organization plans to restore the two remaining sanctuaries by fiscal 2020. The restoration project has been funded by The Asahi Shimbun Foundation since fiscal 2012.

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Cambodia’s Angkor Wat a must-see22/8-15 (02:19)
SIEM REAP, Cambodia — The biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia is Angkor Wat. Historians know it well. Non-historians will read that it’s a “forest of temples.” This is an accurate depiction, which means you could pretty much spend a week there if you want to see everything…everything being more than 200 temples.

You don’t have to be an archaeologist, historian or geologist to enjoy Angkor Wat. We are none of the above, and we enjoyed it. Is it a must-see in Cambodia? Absolutely, because it is so cool and finding “cool” places in the heat of Southeast Asia is always a great idea, even if that is a mixed metaphor.

About 12 kilometres (seven miles) north of the city, the “flagship” temple is usually the first stop. Where you go from Angkor Wat is up to you. Your level of interest will dictate that, unless you simply take a tour. If you do, the guides probably decide where you go because there is an agenda. If you want to set your own agenda, go by tuk-tuk.

Tuk-tuks are open-air carts pulled by motorbikes. If you want the air-conditioned comfort of a van, don’t hire a tuk-tuk and — despite what they may say — don’t expect tuk-tuk drivers to be professional guides who speak impeccable or sometimes even passable English.
We hired a tuk-tuk. Mr. Nary was our guy, for the day, and his English was good. For us, it was the right choice, the first of many you make when you visit Angkor Wat.

Here are some others:

• Tickets: Admission to Angkor Wat is $20 per person. A three-day pass costs $40, which gives you the option of going for short visits over three days, instead of marathon trips.

• Budget: Taking a tour in a van may cost $150 for two, which would include one-day admission. Our tuk-tuk cost $15 for the day and walking tour guides at each temple run about $10.

At the main temple, 47 steps is a test for most visitors
At the main temple, 47 steps is a test for most visitors
• Time: Your interest will dictate this. We visited five temples between 6:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., stopping for as long as two hours at one (Angkor Wat) and as little as 10 minutes at another (Chau Say Thevada).

• Sunrise: Unless it’s raining (it was), almost every visitor wants to capture the sun rising behind the main temple, a photo so in demand that there’s a marked off and well-worn section for tripods to be set up. Sunrise, by the way, is just after 5:30.

• Angkor Wat Temple: It’s on three levels. This is not for the faint of heart, nor faint of step. The walk from where the tuk-tuks wait is close to half a mile and there’s climbing to every level, each with four towers, the third level with “the top of the mountain in the middle.” Entry to the third level means taking a steep staircase of 47 steps and there is always a line-up (note: the 47 steps are just as steep coming down). Because they’re “ruins”, these temples are not totally wheelchair accessible and you need to be able to climb those stairs, and children under 12 don’t qualify. The climb is worth the wait and the vertical walk, and there are many horizontal walks reaching into the forest from the temple that lead to more buildings you would otherwise never see.
• Other temples: Aside from the main one, three others were recommended to us and a fourth was Mr. Nary’s choice. At Bayon, we found the architecture fascinating from the outside — our uneducated view was it almost looked Mayan — and the inside suffocating with small rooms and hundreds of people trying to get through them. At Elephant Terrace, it was peaceful, unpopulated and spread out…and there were elephant rides on the adjacent street. At Chau Say, it was the tuk-tuk driver’s photo-op and we didn’t stay more than 10 minutes — that means we were getting weary. At Ta Prohm, there was a pleasant walk under a heavily-treed path to another must-see temple, because this is where the 15-year-old movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed, with trees that grow out of the ruins in what is described as “the dynamic interaction between nature and man-made art.”

Thousands visit Angkor Wat — that’s “city” and “temple” in Cambodian — every day. At one of the smaller temples, a security guard told us it was between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors for only “my temple.” It’s unlike any place on earth — however, India is building a quasi-replica that has the Cambodian government upset, even though India’s will never match it as “ruins.”

Because it’s so unique, if you’re on an AmaWaterways river cruise as we were, don’t miss it.

All for now. Phil Reimer

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Rats Are Being Trained2/8-15 (11:34)
To Sniff Out Land Mines And Save Lives

It's 5:45 in the morning, and in a training field outside Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, Cambodia's demining rats are already hard at work. Their noses are close to the wet grass, darting from side to side, as they try to detect explosives buried just beneath the ground.

Each rat is responsible for clearing a 200-square-meter (239-square-yard) patch of land. Their Cambodian supervisor, Hulsok Heng, says they're good at it.

"They are very good," he says. "You see this 200 square meters? They clear in only 30 minutes or 35 minutes. If you compare that to a deminer, maybe two days or three days. The deminer will pick up all the fragmentation, the metal in the ground, but the rat picks up only the smell of TNT. Not fragmentation or metal or a nail or a piece of crap in the ground."

That's right: Someone using a metal-detecting machine will take a lot longer to detect a land mine than a rat using its nose.

There's plenty of work for the rats here in Cambodia. The government estimates there are 4 million to 6 million land mines or other pieces of unexploded ordnance — including bombs, shells and grenades — littering the countryside, remnants of decades of conflict.

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Single visa for two kingdoms13/6-15 (11:17)
Cambodia and Thailand have joined hands to increase foreign and inter-ASEAN tourism under the “Two Kingdoms, One Destination” tourism pact.

Tith Chantha, secretary of state at Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism, said Cambodia and Thailand have already created a single-visa option for tourists looking to explore both countries in one trip.

“Now, we’re joining with Thailand to promote Two Kingdoms, One Destination. It will make it much easier for tourists who don’t want to visit only one country during their trip,” he said.

“Thailand has a lot of airlines operating long-haul to Europe or the United States – we don’t have many of those long flights, so we will benefit from this once the campaign kicks in.”

Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports, Kobkran Wattanakvrangkul, told the Bangkok Post that the campaign would run from 2015 to 2017.

“The collaboration looks forward to exchanging foreign travellers and facilitating travel across both countries. The plan also promotes intra-ASEAN tourism,” Kobkarn was quoted as saying.

The campaign will promote two major tourist routes. One will run along the Gulf of Thailand’s coastline, going through Bangkok, Rayong, and Trat in Thailand to Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Phnom Penh.

The other will also originate in Bangkok and end in Phnom Penh, but will go through further inland from Aranyaprathet in Thailand to Poipet, Battambang, and Siem Reap.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, welcomed the initiative. He said that Cambodia had been cooperating with Thailand’s tourism association since 2008.

“Now that this is being done on a governmental level, it will be a big boost because it will share benefits with both countries,” he said.

“We have observed that we got more than 30 per cent of [Cambodia’s] tourists from Thailand since the promotion began.”

Tourist arrivals to Cambodia from Thailand were up 37 per cent to 71,572 visitors during the first quarter of 2015, ranking fifth, while Vietnamese tourists still ranked first followed by China, South Korea, and Laos, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

The data showed that Cambodia welcomed some 1.3 million foreign tourists in the year’s first quarter, a 3.1 per cent increase from the 1.267 million tourists in the same period last year.

Last year, Cambodia received some 4.5 million foreign tourists, a 7 per cent increase from the year before. The arrivals generated about $3 billion worth of Cambodia’s $15 billion GDP. The Ministry of Tourism projected that Cambodia would receive about 5 million foreign tourist arrivals this year.

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Cambodia’s Angkor Wat the Winner4/6-15 (08:08)
TripAdvisor revealed the winners of the Travelers' Choice Landmarks. Cambodia's Angkor Wat, the best preserved temple in Angkor, is the monument of choice for travellers.

Travelers have shown a preference for historical monuments that have stood the test of time. Proof lies in the temple of Angkor Wat clinching the first spot in the Travelers' Choice Landmarks listing, followed by the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu in second and the Taj Mahal in third.

This ranking shows the popularity of spots in Asia as well as in Europe and the Americas. The Middle East is represented in position 4 by the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and Barcelona's Sagrada Familia rounds out the top 5. Religious sites feature highly in the ranking: Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is sixth, the Milan Cathedral (also known as the Duomo) is seventh, and the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro is ninth.

The two top spots in the US were both in the San Francisco area: Alcatraz coming in at number 8 outranked the Golden Gate Bridge at number 10.

The winners were determined with the help of an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of the comments on these monuments over a period of 12 months.

Tourists' top 10 favourite monuments around the world

1. Angkor Wat ― Siem Reap, Cambodia
2. Machu Picchu ― Machu Picchu, Peru
3. Taj Mahal ― Agra, India
4. Sheikh Zayed Mosque ― Abou Dhabi, UAE
5. Basilica of the Sagrada Familia ― Barcelona, Spain
6. Saint Peter's Basilica ― Vatican City, Italy
7. Milan Cathedral (Duomo) ― Milan, Italy

8. Alcatraz ― San Francisco, California, USA

9. Corcovado ― Christ the Redeemer ― Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

10. The Golden Gate Bridge ― San Francisco, California, USA ― AFP-Relaxnews

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New Year party in Siem Reap12/4-15 (14:57)
Celebrations are set to feature traditional games and dancing along with a giant rice cake, Khmer hat, palm pipe and chess game

More than 500,000 people are expected to descend on Siem Reap for this coming week’s Khmer New Year celebrations, which will feature traditional dances, games and a giant rice cake.

Unlike in neighbouring Thailand, which becomes one long wet T-shirt competition at this time of year, in Siem Reap traditions still take priority, with Cambodians taking over the temples and Pub Street for a change.

The pagodas around town and in the villages are the main focus of fairly solemn events for three days, with different rituals taking place at different times of the day for local communities and families. Visitors are welcome and early mornings are the best time to see the most activity.

More festive activities will take place as part of the Angkor Sangkranta events at Angkor Archaeological Park from April 14-16, starting in the morning around 8:30am and continuing until 9:30pm.
This is the time of year when Cambodians from across the country descend upon the temples, and Angkor Wat is filled with Khmer families and friends.

Activities that traditionally occur in villages will take place throughout the day over all three days, on the grassy areas around the Angkor Wat moat and in Angkor Thom, near the Royal Palace and Bayon as well as in town.

“We expect to welcome 500,000 people to join the event, because this year we have a lot of great things to see and do,” said Angkor Sangkranta spokesman Som Ratana.

He said Angkor Sangkranta had about 180,000 visitors in 2013, while in 2014, there were more than 380,000 visitors who injected $30 million into the local economy. “The visitors will have a chance to see a giant Khmer sticky rice cake that weighs 3.2 tonnes, a giant Khmer hat, a giant palm pipe and a giant chess game.”
Angkora Sangkranta is organised by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia which is headed by Hun Many, son of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Last month, Hun Sen said judges from Guinness World Records would be invited to judge the cake for a world record. Last year, a 2.8 tonne cake was cooked for the festival.

Apart from the giant things, expect to also see traditional ball games and tug of war, and ox cart and buffalo racing. The highlights for many, however, are the bokator and dancing, including traditional round-dancing and the Cambodian Madison. The non-stop bokator demonstrations take place throughout the day, with hundreds of practitioners of the medieval martial art participating in bouts and also encouraging the public to try their hand at the sport.

The dancing also takes place in a number of areas, peaking in the late afternoon, especially on the final day.

A Cambodian event wouldn’t be complete without street food, and stalls will be set up right around the park, most in the area across from Angkor Wat, along with more commercial displays, as numerous businesses use Khmer New Year as a hook to attract new customers.

Concerts are planned for the evenings with several stages being set up in Angkor Archaeological Park, the biggest near the Bayon. However, Cambodians, as well as expats and tourists, will fill the streets of the Old Market area, particularly Pub Street, which should see its biggest crowds on the final night, with a massive street party punctuated by fireworks.

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Siem Reap water festival8/4-15 (16:53)
Siem Reap aims for half-million tourists for water festival.
Siem Reap hopes to attract 500,000 local and foreign tourists for the Khmer New Year celebration. Chheuy Chhorn, deputy director of Siem Reap's Tourism Department, projected half a million visitors including foreign tourists, to the town, which is home to the famed Angkor Wat. "The festival last year attracted close to 400,000 visitors. Of that number, more than 20,000 were foreign tourists. This year, we expect the number of foreign tourists to reach close to 30,000 people," the Phnom Penh Post on Tuesday quoted him as saying.
The Khmer New Year holidays runs April 14-16. It is called Sangkran in Cambodia, or Songkran in Thai.
Last month, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promised that the festival in Siem Reap this year would be special as he planned to make the world's largest sticky-rice cake to earn recognition in the GuinnessWorld Records.

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4 temples you shouldn’t miss3/4-15 (15:23)
Siem Reap is an ancient town and the cultural capital of Cambodia. The city, which is located in the north-west of the country, is considered such a mainstay of their heritage that its Angkor Wat temple is the central theme on the national flag. The city has an international airport that serves tourists who visit Cambodia to explore its traditional legacy rather than see the remnants of the dark past of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh.

Angkor Wat
is probably the most well-known of the famous temples of Cambodia and holds a special place in the hearts of Hindus around the world as it is also the largest Hindu temple on the planet. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is designed like Indra Lok and its five dramatic towers represent Mount Meru.
The temple, which was built by the great king Suryavarman II, has beautiful scenes from Hindu mythology depicted on most of its walls and pillars, but the outer area with excerpts from Ramayana are particularly impressive.
There are eight water tanks within the main temple building which used to serve as bathing ghats for the royal family in earlier years.
Tourists particularly flock to witness the spectacular sunrises and sunsets which can be viewed from the temple in all their glory.

Angkor Thom/ Bayon Temple
The Bayon temple of the Angkor Thom complex was built much after Angkor Wat in the regime of Cambodian king Jayavarman VII. The temple is more closely associated with Buddhism and has a network of corridors and small courtyards that can be reached by climbing up and down the maze of its steep staircase.
The most imposing are the huge faces on some of its 54 towers. While the faces are believed to have spiritual significance, these nevertheless resembled the king Jayavarman VII who got the temple constructed in the first place.

Ta Prohm
One of my favourites, the temple of Ta Prohm exudes peace and ensconces the serenity of deep woods. Built also by King Jayavarman VII, the temple is distinctly Buddhist and was meant for use by the King’s mother.
The impact of age and time passing by is most visible in this temple, as most of its buildings can be seen in the grip of the tentacles of enormous trees that have grown in the area and overtaken it. The roots and branches may have claimed the temple for their own but the effect of the overgrowth is most dramatique and shows the power of nature over human endeavour.

Banteay Srei
Considered a gem of Khmer art, Banteay Srei, which is located on the outskirts of Siem Reap, is a temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Though small, the shrine has intricate carvings on its walls which have been built out of stone of a pinkish hue. The compound contains remnants of several Shiv lingas, which may have been removed later when Hinduism waned in the country.
Banteay Srei is one of the rare temples in the Angkor series which was not commissioned by the king but a tutor priest.

Besides these temples, which have been given UNESCO world heritage status, tourists can visit the night markets, the Cambodian Cultural Village, Angkor National Museum and the War Museum, take a boat ride in Tonle Sap Lake and see the charming Apsara Dances while in Siem Reap.

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Hotel for Michelle Obama1/4-15 (09:30)
Hotel for Michelle Obama’s Cambodia visit cost $242,500
Hotel accommodations for First Lady Michelle Obama’s two-day trip to Cambodia required 85 rooms and cost taxpayers $242,500, according to a government contract released Friday.

Mrs. Obama traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia on March 21 to promote a girls education initiative. A contract was awarded on March 3, citing the “unusual and compelling urgency” of the First Lady’s trip.

Mrs. Obama and a delegation of senior high-level U.S. government officials stayed at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, according to a justification and approval document for the visit.

The trip required 85 single rooms, five office suites, five sleeping suites, and one conference room for 14 nights. Mrs. Obama herself only stayed in Cambodia for two days, leaving on March 22.

The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra is listed as a luxury five-star hotel.

“The Siem Reap hotel, which elegantly combines Khmer and French architectural design, features landscaped gardens, [five] restaurants and bars, meeting facilities, a luxury spa and the largest free form swimming pool in Cambodia,” according to Accor, the French hotel operator that manages the hotel. “The leading luxury resort in Siem Reap also boosts a world-class 18-hole golf course at the Phokeethra Country Club, which is only a 25 [minute] drive from the hotel.”

Suites at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra come with personal butler service.

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Khmer-Inspired Shopping by Angkor Wat20/2-15 (09:05)
Siem Reap, the gateway city to Angkor, is renowned for a lot of things — more than 100 ancient temple ruins dot the surrounding jungles — but shopping isn’t one of them. It’s often an afterthought, with visitors snagging the prerequisite temple souvenir. But the heart of the city on the west side of the Siem Reap River is brimming with a clutch of stylish, recently opened boutiques carrying contemporary wares that often reference traditional Khmer culture. The shops are found along narrow lanes and well-trodden streets in a roughly 10-block radius, many owned by well-traveled expatriates breathing new energy into this tourist-oriented city. (Note: U.S. dollars are widely accepted.)

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Sisters in nude photo scandal9/2-15 (10:41)
TWO American sisters have been deported from Cambodia after they were convicted of taking naked photos inside the country’s famed Angkor temple complex, officials said on Sunday.
Lindsey Adams, 22, and her 20-year-old sister Leslie were discovered taking nude shots of each other inside the Preah Khan temple at the world heritage site on Friday.
The sisters were both given a suspended six-month prison sentence on Saturday evening on public exposure and making pornography charges and will be banned from re-entering Cambodia for four years, Koeut Sovannareth, prosecutor at north-western Siem Reap provincial court told AFP.
“The court decided to expel them from Cambodia,” he said, adding that the women had confessed to making a mistake and were fined $250.
Sam Reaksmey, a senior tourism police official in Siem Reap, said the sisters were deported late Saturday night.
It is the second time in the last fortnight that tourists visiting the sprawling temple complex have been caught without their clothes.
Three French tourists were deported last weekend after they pleaded guilty to taking nude pictures of each other inside another temple within the complex.
Cambodian officials say the women’s actions are offensive because Angkor is considered sacred ground.
“They lowered their pants to their knees and took pictures of their buttocks,” Keat Bunthan, a senior heritage police official in Siem Reap, told AFP on Saturday.
The three deported French men received the same suspended sentence as the American women.
The trio were caught just days after a series of photos of Asian women posing nude at ancient Cambodian temples went viral online and outraged officials who vowed to step up efforts to prevent similar stunts.
The Angkor Archaeological Park, a world heritage site, contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries, and is Cambodia’s most popular tourist destination.

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Bakåt Fler

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