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Kampot - Cambodia

Kampot, the old provincial capital is a town of quiet lanes, colonial architecture and old shop houses along the river front. Though only 150 km from bustling Phnom Penh, it’s a world completely removed from the national capital. It’s an excellent base for exploring and touring the surrounding countryside.

Sightseeing:
Bokor – a hill station from French colonial times. It was set up in the early 1920s as a getaway for officials and foreign visitors from the grueling heat. One can find ruined historic buildings. a magnificent casino and church, and a large waterfall.

Kampot pepper, with its delicate yet distinctive aroma, is renowned for being among the best in the world.

Limestone landscapes between Kampot and Kep include caves with exotic rock formations, almost all containing Buddhist shines such as Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Kbal Romeas. Rock climbing in amazing Phnom Kbal Romeas offers breathtaking views inside the cave and from the top of the hill.

Do Not Miss:
Sunset Firefly Cruise on the river for only $5. Sip a drink while watching the sun set behind Bokor Mountain and see the mangrove forests along the Kampong Bay River. 


GETTING THERE

By Air – Daily flights from Vientiane to Phnom Penh.
By Bus – Daily from Southern Bus Station (Vientiane to Phnom Penh).

 
DINING

Veronica’s Kitchen - Exclusively Khmer cuisine at the end of the Old Market overlooking the river.

 
SLEEPING

Champa Lodge. Spectacular riverside location surrounded by farming and fishing communities. Champa Lodge is one of Cambodia’s most unique, laid-back and enticing hotels offering guests a truly Cambodian experience. It consists of a collection of three beautiful traditional Khmer houses on stilts with fantastic views of the river and rice paddies. Guests can enjoy activities such as kayaking, cycling and boating. From $38. www.champalodge.com

Xieng Khouang - Laos

Through a project of the MICT and the New Zealand government, tourist sites and different activities are being developed in Paek, Kham and Khoun districts with a strong focus on heritage interpretation.

Sightseeing:

Plain of Jars Site 1: In February 2016, excavations were conducted at Plain of Jars Site 1, and archaeologists unearthed three different types of burials: bones placed in pits with a large limestone block on top, bones buried in ceramic vessels, and a single body in a grave.

Muang Khoun: the ancient capital of the Phuan kingdom capital lies about 30 km from Phonsavanh. A giant Buddha at Vat Piavat, That Foun Stupa and That Chomphet are three of the most important places to visit in the district. Other temples and decrepit French colonial buildings are also worth exploring.

Ban Xang: A visit to Xiengkhouang is incomplete without a side trip or a sleepover at Xang Village in Kham district, famous for its hot springs, ecolodge, massage sala, sauna rooms and restaurant.

DON’T MISS:

Tham Piu. This historic cave in Kham district has become famous for more tragic reasons. During the war in Indochina, it took a direct hit from an American warplane killing the hundreds of villagers taking shelter during a bombing raid. Below the cave sits a large Buddha statue, a mute witness to the madness of war.

 
GETTING THERE

By Air: Daily flights from Vientiane.
By Road: Daily from Northern Bus Station Vientiane.

 
DINING

Bamboozle Restaurant & Bar - The interior is decorated with bamboos giving its diners a relaxing dining experience. Aside from their delectable burgers and mulberry smoothies, the place serves a range of international and Asian dishes and a good selection of spirits and beverages.

 
SLEEPING

Ban Xang Ecolodge - With the green covered-mountain in front, this community- maintained eco lodge in Xang Village, Kham district is a good place to stay after a day exploring the province.
T +856-(0)20-2234-0333

BoliKhamxai - Laos

Located in central Laos, Bolikhamxay is considered the center for ecotourism activities. It has towering limestone karsts, massive wetlands, relaxing scenery and is home to two national protected areas. A new project by the MICT and NZ govt, to improve visitor experience through better infrastructure and heritage awareness in collaboration with local people is taking shape.


Sightseeing:


Ban Tha Bak “Bomb Boat” River Cruise:
This is best done at sunset or during the cool weather to really enjoy the scenery along the riverbanks. What makes this cruise extra special is that the boats are made from the fuel tanks of old U.S warplanes.

Vang Nam Yen: Located in Ban Napavan, 10-15 km away from Nam Theun Bridge at the end of a red dusty road is a cool and inviting blue water lagoon with towering karst limestone as its backdrop.

Ban Phontan & Ban Pakha: With more than 60 weavers, Ban Phontan in Kamkeud District is a place to shop for the traditional skirt known as sinh, woven from either silk or hemp. The village is one of the biggest in Laos in terms of the number of women weavers incorporating both traditional and modern techniques of weaving.

DON’T MISS:

Dragon Cave

Tham Mankhon “Dragon Cave”. Located along Route 8A in Poung Village, the interior of this magnificent cave resembles a dragon with its gigantic stalagmite and stalactite formations. One impressive attraction in the middle of the cave is an elephant foot-like stalactite formation.

 


GETTING THERE

By Bus - Daily from Southern Bus Station, Vientiane, to Lakxao.

DINING

Saynamsan Restaurant - With delicious Lao food and friendly staff this riverside restaurant is a good stopover in Paksan town.

 
SLEEPING

Thangkheng Guesthouse - Located at the center of Laksao on Route 8 facing the towering limestone, Thangkheng is managed/ owned by a family of Hmong.
T: +856-(0)30-906 0456


Suan Mai Ketsana Guesthouse - An ideally located guesthouse that gives its visitors a serene relaxing view of the Nam San River in Paksan.
T+856-(0)20-2233-8747

 

 

 

Oh Dear! Dog or Deer?

In the coffee shop where I got my morning caffeine fix, I met a Vietnamese man with a wooden left foot. He had just returned from a hunting trip and, when he caught me staring at his foot, invited me for a hunter’s luncheon at the restaurant he’d improvised behind the coffee shop.
At lunch time, I went to his place where he proudly presented a freshly-made ragoût, “Barking deer ragoût,” he said, “very delicious.” I wasn’t sure what barking deer was, but it definitely looked and smelled delicious; sautéed pieces of meat, bright yellow potatoes and sliced carrots, all floating in a velvety brown sauce sprinkled with fresh coriander.
As we ate, the atmosphere was friendly and the hunter very talkative - his seemingly bottomless beer glass may have helped. After a couple of beers, I dared to ask him about his wooden foot.
“Ho Chi Minh Trail,” he said and then gave an account of how, as a young soldier during the war, he had stepped on a piece of unexploded ordnance. His story, temporarily darkened the mood around the table, but as soon as he returned to telling hunting tales, the atmosphere brightened again.

When I recounted the stories to the backpackers gathered at my hotel later that night, they grimaced. “You ate what?” they exclaimed.
Then it dawned on me: barking deer. They thought I’d been eating dog! Had I? It hadn’t tasted like any venison I’d ever had before, but what was barking deer? Feeling flushed, I went to an Internet café to check it out. “Barking Deer”, officially known as muntjacs, is a deer species native to South Asia. This was Southeast Asia. I guess I’ll never know!


- Marko van Gaans -

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