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From the Ground: Phnom Penh’s New Night Market

Photo Courtesy of Jet’s Container Night Market

By Jay Austin

Jet’s Container Night Market opened in March 2017, showcasing an array of restaurants, shops and bars all housed in shipping containers. The market kicks off, 7 nights a week, at 4pm and goes until midnight.  Although crowded, this is one of Phnom Penh’s newest evening hot spots. We recommend guests to try at least one drink at one of the rooftop container bars which offer a great view of the surroundings.  You can see a short video of market here.

Photo Courtesy of Jet’s Container Night Market

From the Ground: The New Siem Reap Boutique Shopping Tour

By Jay Austin

We always provide our guests with ‘Cheat Sheets’ that list our favorite shopping and restaurant suggestions.  However, we’re taking it to the next level!  Our new Siem Reap Shopping Tour is a great way for guests to experience the boutique side of Siem Reap.  This tour provides the perfect ‘girls’ day out’ which begins with cocktails before stepping out for some serious shopping, and is led by either Jay or Naida – Siem Reap’s shopping experts!

Here’s what the new Shopping Tour looks like:

Your driver will collect you from your hotel at 2pm to begin your boutique shopping experience.  This afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit some of Siem Reap’s finest boutique stores and experience creativity inspired from across the globe. You will begin your afternoon with a visit to the trendy Kandal Village, a street lined with boutique stores of all types and tastes from clothing to homewares. From here you will move on to visit the Eric Raisina Couture House where you will find some of Asia’s finest textiles.  Eric Raisina is a world renowned textile designer born in Madagascar whose career has included highlights such as producing textiles for Yves Saint- Laurent and Christian Lacroix. From here you will return to the center of Siem Reap city to visit the well populated Alley West, a small laneway in the center of town offering a diverse range of boutique stores from fashion, to ceramics, to swimwear. Your final stop on this boutique exploration is the Kings Road complex, a newly developed shopping area housing photography galleries, vintage stores and in the center of it all lies the Made in Cambodia Market offering a range of individually styled souvenirs to suit all tastes. The Kings Road complex is home to some of the restaurants on our cheat sheet if you would like to stay for dinner or you can have your driver take you back to the hotel with all of your purchases.

From the Ground: New Hoi An Foodie Tour

By Jay Austin

We are very excited to announce our new Hoi An Foodie Tour!  This half day cycling tour is really all about the people you meet along the way! Our guides are trained to interact on this tour with as many local people as possible to give our guests an authentic experience.   This tour is great for guests of all ages who wish to experience a truly special part of Hoi An.

What the itinerary for the Hoi An Foodie Tour looks like:

Your foodie tour guide will meet you at your hotel at 8am. Test and adjust your trail bike so you feel comfortable. When ready hop on your bicycle and set off.  As you cycle and walk the Hoi An neighborhood together, you will enjoy a variety of local Vietnamese snacks along the way to surprise and delight your taste buds, learn of the significance of each dish in the local culture, appreciate the ingredients, and spend time with the people and families who have a passion for creating the delicious food to be found here.

Sunset Cruise on the Mekong

Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

By Courtney Ridgel

Laos is the most overlooked destination that we work with and while it may not make the news and travel magazines as often as neighboring Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam do, our guests routinely tell us that Laos is the highlight of their trips.  I was there myself last November and I can certainly see why.  Laos certainly has an alluring peaceful atmosphere all its own.

Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

One of the best examples of this spirit may be found in the beautiful and sleepy town of Luang Prabang, nestled on the banks of the Mighty Mekong River, carving its way through the steep hillsides covered in dense green jungle.  Our Laos Country Director, Onkeo or ‘Keo’ for short, offered me a spur of the moment invitation to join him, and his young sons, Anan and James, on a sunset boat ride with his friend Pet (who also goes by ‘Johnny’).  I am always up for an adventure and I love boats, so I was naturally thrilled.

Keo and his sons, Anan and James – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Pet, the Ferryman – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

I don’t speak Laotian, but I could tell that as we made our way down one of the many steep staircases to the water’s edge, Keo did his best to discourage his energetic boys from sprinting full tilt down the steep stairs at the river’s edge.  Here on the other side of the world, it was a strangely familiar scene that reminded me of my own childhood (the boys had also apparently rebelled earlier that afternoon, refusing to wear shoes, and were merrily skipping along barefoot).  As sunset approaches, and the water began to glow with the golden light of evening, and I could see other travelers gathering at the water’s edge to snap photos.

Travelers gathering along the riverbanks to photograph the sunset – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Anan and James watching the Mekong flow past – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

We were fortunate enough to have Pet cruise smoothly up to the dock and welcome us aboard, and his wife offered us cold beers and chips.  (James and Anan quickly attacked the bowl of chips.)  As we set off upriver, taking in the stunning views of the setting sun, Pet recounted me with the story of his life.  He is from a remote village far upriver and became severely ill as a child.  His parents, fearing for his life, brought him to Luang Prabang to receive medical care.  He pulled through his illness and his parents enrolled him in one of the many monasteries in Luang Prabang, to both give thanks for his life and to ensure that he would get an education as they feared that he may not have the constitution for the hard labor that accompanies farm life in rural Laos.  He learned English during his time as a monk and later went on to work at some of the high end hotel properties around Luang Prabang.  He saved up enough money to purchase the boat we were sitting on and went into business for himself, ferrying travelers and locals on the river, and living on his boat with his wife.

Keo pointing out the sights to his sons – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

As we cruised along, Keo and Pet regaled me with tales about life on the river, local legends and interesting facts about nearby villages and temples.  This was James’s first river cruise and both boys were quite excited, pointing out interesting sights as we cruised along, in between munching handfuls of chips.  As the sun went down, Pet steered us to where the local boatmen spend the night, tied to the bank, and his wife hopped on to the next boat over to say hello to a friend. The boats are tied side by side, creating a strange temporary floating neighborhood each evening.

Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

As twilight set in, we bid farewell to Pet, and headed up the riverbank to a local BBQ place.  Laotian BBQ, much like Khmer BBQ, involves sizzling a variety of ingredients selected from a buffet in hot oil in a strange pot & grill combination set into the center of the table over hot coals.  I was amused to notice that although Anan and James selected lots of shrimp and mushrooms which they kindly spooned onto my plate, they also favored something that looked suspiciously like French fries and mini hot dogs.  As we all grew sleepy and full (after a minor mishap where James stepped on an anthill with his bare feet and was soothed with desert), we bid each other goodnight and headed home for the evening.  All in all, it was a stunningly beautiful evening spent with new friends and delicious food, and I would highly recommend this experience to any traveler heading to Laos, especially those looking for personal connections that are meaningful, memorable and unique.

Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Luang Prabang from the river – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel
Onkeo turning over the meat and vegetables on the BBQ – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel