Cambodia Tours

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cambodia Tours

Everybody knows Angkor. It's legendary, and for good reason. But Cambodia doesn't end there. A broad range of activities, on and off the beaten path, enable visitors to pull back the curtain and discover the depth of the country's true beauty. Venture into the wilds of the northeast on a nature trek, where friendly hill tribes welcome you into their world.

Head south for inexplicably uncrowded beaches; their beauty complimented by the distinct lack of people. Take to the Mekong River as it snakes through the heart of the country, its banks becoming a showcase for Cambodian life. And there's always the fabled temples of Angkor Wat. Cycle tours let you outpace the crowds without sacrificing a thing.

Packages start from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap - both served by regular international flights. Our tours feature small groups, knowledgeable guides, and the best destinations - there's no better way to experience Cambodia.

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Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia
Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia
Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia The Bayon - Cambodia
Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia The Bayon - Cambodia
Tonle Sap - Cambodia Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia
Tonle Sap - Cambodia Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom - Cambodia
Banteay Srei - Cambodia Banteay Srei - Cambodia
Banteay Srei - Cambodia Banteay Srei - Cambodia
Angkor Thom - bayon Apsaras - Angkor Wat
The Bayon - Angkor Thom Apsara Carvings - Angkor Wat
Gate Angkor Thom Cambodia Girl
The South gate to Angkor Thom Cambodia Girl at Tonle Sap


Friday, October 30, 2009

"Thailand is a diverse Southeast Asian country bounded to the west by Myanmar and the Indian Ocean, also by Malaysia, the Gulf of Siam, Cambodia, and Laos. This prime location coupled with sun, sea and excitement makes it a great starting point for your Southeast Asian tour."

If any nation could be considered the archetypal Southeast Asian country, it would be the Kingdom of Thailand (Rat-Cha-Ana-Jak-Thai). This jewel of a country was formerly known as Siam, a Sanskrit word meaning "gold" or "green" and both colors apply. There are a few gold mines in the south, but traditionalists say the beautiful green color that covers the mountains and fields and lies along the rivers must have inspired the name. It is the only Southeast Asian country not colonized by Europeans (Neither British or French although it did fall under Japanese occupation during World War II and was, nominally, a part of the Axis Powers).

Thailand information map

The ruins throughout the north are the remnants of kingdoms whose royal lineage's extend all the way to the current king, a very popular and respected monarch. Thai influence today is one of the strongest and most progressive in the region.

The central part consists of flat plains no more than a few feet above sea level, watered by the Chao Phya River and a number of smaller rivers and canals. There are mountains in the north stretching southward along the border with Myanmar, high plains in the east, and mountains and jungle covering the peninsula. More than 5 million people visit this country each year. It is one of the most topographically and culturally rich countries in Asia. The kingdom's national park system is vast, with more than 50 parks. Restored ancient ruins and magnificent temples dot the lush, tropical landscape.

In the south, on the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, one finds several miles of very beautiful white sand beaches, remote islands and crystalline water. It is also known for the honesty, generosity and hospitality of its people. Thais seem to have an extraordinary capacity of giving, and it is a wonderful place to for a short visit or a long unintended stay.



China Tours

China Tours

The new trend in tourism here is to provide more extensive China tours. Everyday another tour operator springs forward into life, many of them offering similar services and competitive prices. As always, investigation on the internet is the best way to determine what exactly you want and should expect from any guided tour.

The most common China tours are found in the major cities and tourist attractions across the country. The most popular city for a guided tour is Beijing, where there are hundreds of historical sights to seek out - though transportation throughout the city is fairly convenient, the small hassles of travel send many visitors into the arms of guided and package tours, who usually solve transportation issues, manage schedules and often offer discount prices into a number of major tourist attractions. Cheap China tours are still a thing of the future, however. Despite the competition, there seems to be an unwritten agreement that tour operators do not stray to far into discounted territory, so don"t get too upset if the cost is higher than you"d expect.

The best you can do, as far as cheap China tours, are often located far away from the main tourist areas. The breadth of Central China, which has to struggle (comparatively) to match the draw of southern and eastern China and Tibet, is a good place to start when looking for discount tours.

Tours of China are often a section on a far more broad Asian tour. Combining its attractions with those of Korea or Japan or Mongolia is an easy way for many tour operators to bring in more revenue. Tours incorporating both South Korea and the Chinese mainland are the most popular of these China Tours.

Seeing the southern regions of the country, primarily Hong Kong and Macau along with scenic Guangdong and Guangxi is one of the best China tours, especially for those who feel seeing all of China in one fell swoop is too imposing a task. This way you get some of the most majestic natural scenery along with the packed bars and swollen casinos located in Hong Kong and Macau.

The giant pandas are truly one of China"s most valuable treasures, making Panda tours in China a popular, if often misguided, tour option. Since the three best places to see these gentle creatures are well spread out, most of the operators offering Panda tours in China concentrate on only one location - if witnessing the giant panda in its natural habitat is a must, a self-guided tour is usually your best bet. The Chengdu Zoo has a handful of pandas, but it is clearly overshadowed by the nearby Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. For animal lovers, this is the pinnacle of any of the possible Panda tours in China. By far the most humane and respected of where pandas live in captivity, there are usually about a dozen bears (depending on the previous summer"s birth rate) allowed to roam freely throughout the base"s enclosure. China tours revolving around the sight of pandas can also be found in the Wolong Nature Reserve, about 90 miles away - though, unlike the Research base in Chengdu, the pandas are not the sole focus here. Pretty much any zoo throughout the country will have a couple of panda bears on display, with the Beijing Zoo being the most visited.

Banteay Srei, Angkor

Banteay Srei
False door (for spirits) on the south tower of the beautiful Banteay Srei.

Carved pillars at Banteay Srei
Carved pillars at Banteay Srei.

Carved relief, Banteay Srei

Aerial view of Banteay Srei
Aerial view of Banteay Srei.

Imagery ©2009 DigitalGlobe, Cnes/Spot Image, GeoEye, Map data ©2009 Tele Atlas - Terms of Use

Although it's out of the way, true temple buffs won't want to miss Banteay Srei, a beautiful 10th-century Hindu temple complex about 23 miles north of Angkor Wat.

The temple consists of low walls surrounding peaked structures of deep red sandstone. Banteay Srei means "Citadel of Women," and it is said that the reliefs on this temple are so delicate that they could only have been carved by the hand of a woman. The well-preserved relief carvings on the central buildings depict scenes from ancient Hindu tales.

Try to visit with a tour group or guide who can explain the finer details of the temple art inscriptions and handle travel logistics. Check with your hotel or any tourist agency, or reserve a tour through us.


Completed in 967, Banteay Srei was the only major temple at Angkor not built for the king; instead it was constructed by one of king Rajendravarman's counsellors, Yajnyavahara. The temple was primarily dedicated to Shiva (the southern buildings and the central tower were devoted to him, but the northern ones to Vishnu). It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei 25 km (15 miles) northeast of the main group of temples, where the capital of the time (Yashodharapura) was located.

The temple was subject to further expansion and rebuilding work in the 11th century. At some point it came under the control of the king and had its original dedication changed; an inscription of the early 12th century records the temple being given to the priest Divarakapandita and being rededicated to Shiva. It remained in use at least until the 14th century.

The temple's original name was Tribhuvanamahesvara — "great lord of the threefold world" — named as usual after the central image (in this case a Shaivite linga). The town of Isvarapura was centred on the temple. The modern name, Banteay Srei — "citadel of the women" or "citadel of beauty" — is generally taken to refer to the intricacy of the carving and the tiny dimensions of the architecture.

The temple was rediscovered only in 1914, and was the subject of a celebrated case of art theft when André Malraux stole four devatas in 1923 (he was soon arrested and the figures returned).

The incident stimulated interest in the site, which was cleared the following year, and in the 1930s Banteay Srei was restored in the first important use of anastylosis at Angkor. Until the discovery of the foundation stela in 1936, it had been assumed that the extreme decoration indicated a later date than was in fact the case.

To prevent the site from water damage, the joint Cambodian-Swiss Banteay Srei Conservation Project installed a drainage system between 2000 and 2003. Measures were also taken to prevent damage to the temples walls being caused by nearby trees.

What to See

Banteay Srei's style is a mix of the archaic and the innovative. It is built largely of red sandstone, with brick and laterite used only for the enclosure walls and some structural elements. Although Banteay Srei's coloration is unique, sandstone of other shades was later to become the norm.

Pediments are large in comparison to entrances, in a sweeping gabled shape. For the first time whole scenes appear on the pediments, while the lintels with central figures and kalas on looped garlands look backwards. The guardian dvarapalas and the colonettes are also old-fashioned. Decoration covering almost every available surface is deeply sculpted and figures rounded. The style is also seen in parts of Preah Vihear.

Like most Khmer temples, Banteay Srei is orientated towards the east. The fourth eastern gopura is all that remains of Isvarapura's outer wall, approximately 500 m square, which may have been made of wood.

The gopura's eastern pediment shows Indra, who was associated with that direction. A 67 m causeway with the remains of corridors on either side connects the gopura with the third enclosure. North and south of this causeway are galleries orientated north-south (one to the north and three to the south halfway along, with a further one on each side in front of the third gopura).

The third enclosure is 95 by 110 m, with gopuras in the laterite wall to the east and west. Neither pediment of the eastern gopura is in situ: one is on the ground nearby, while the other is in Paris's Guimet Museum. Most of the area within the third enclosure is occupied by a moat (now dry) divided into two parts by causeways to the east and west. The succeeding second enclosure has a laterite wall of 38 by 42 m.

The brick inner enclosure wall, a 24 m square, has collapsed, leaving the first gopura isolated, while the laterite galleries which filled the second enclosure (one each to north and south, two each to east and west) have largely collapsed. The eastern pediment of the east gopura shows Shiva Nataraja. The central part of the west gopura was enclosed to form a sanctuary, with access being to either side.

Between the gopuras are the buildings of the inner enclosure: a library in each of the southeast and northeast corners, and in the centre the sanctuary set on a T-shaped platform 0.9 m high.

Besides being the most extravagantly decorated parts of the temple, these have also been the most successfully restored (helped by the durability of their sandstone and their small scale). As of 2005, the entire first enclosure was off-limits to visitors, as was the southern half of the second enclosure.

The libraries are of brick, laterite and sandstone. The south library's pediments both feature Shiva: to the east Ravana shakes Mount Kailash, with Shiva on the summit; the west pediment has the god of love, Kama, shooting an arrow at him.

On the north library's east pediment, Indra creates rain to put out a forest fire started by Agni to kill a naga living in the woods; Krishna and his brother aid Agni by firing arrows to stop the rain. On the west pediment is Krishna killing his uncle Kamsa.

Glaize wrote that the four library pediments, "representing the first appearance of tympanums with scenes, are works of the highest order. Superior in composition to any which followed, they show true craftsmanship in their modelling in a skilful blend of stylisation and realism."

The sanctuary is entered from the east by a doorway only 1.08 m in height: inside is an entrance chamber (or mandapa) with a corbelled brick roof, then a short corridor leading to three towers to the west: the central tower is the tallest, at 9.8 m. Glaize notes the impression of delicacy given the towers by the antefixes on each of their tiers. The six stairways leading up to the platform were each guarded by two kneeling statues of human figures with animal heads; most of those now in place are replicas, the originals having been stolen or removed to museums.

Quick Facts

Site Information
Names: Banteay Srei; Citadel of Women
Location:Angkor, Cambodia
Category: Hindu Temples; World Heritage Sites
Architecture: Khmer
Features:Medieval Sculpture
Visitor Information
Coordinates: 13.598924° N, 103.962845° E (view on Google Maps)
Address:Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hours:Daily dawn to dusk
Cost:Archaeological Park: US$20 for one day, US$40 for three days, US$60 for one week
Accessibility:Not handicapped accessible.

Note: This information was accurate when published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.