Angkor and Google

14 04 2014

AngkorAngkor is considered the ‘must see’ destination of Cambodia. The silhouette of Angkor Wat itself is breath-taking at sunrise and sunset and the natural beauty of Ta Prohm makes it one of the best temples to explore in the area. The Khmer temples combine ancient architecture with nature as jungle has reclaimed stone over the centuries.

The Google giants have tried a bit of their hi-tech magic out on ancient Angkor, donned their camera backpacks and have created a magnificent Google Streetview version some of the sights. Pretty impressive 360 degree stuff.

AngkorStreet view

Here’s how they did it.

If you think that the temples are pretty impressive to look at here, imagine what they are like when you are there! – Amazing!

 

 





Cambodia Travels

8 04 2014

The Vietnam and Cambodia Uncovered tour took place back at the end of 2013. The trip takes in the two beautiful countries of…well…Vietnam and Cambodia. Along with the highlight sights, the invaluable cultural isnight and knowledge from our Tour Leaders and amazing food, these small group tours stick to the “get beneath the surface” values of InsideVietnam and  allow travellers to get a real taste of this special part of the world.   Tyler put this little video of the Cambodian leg of the trip which tries to encompass the atmosphere of this region. Take a look for yourself at how we like to travel in Cambodia. Enjoy!





Happy New Year from Laos and Cambodia!

4 04 2014

Happy… 2558!

You thought it was 2014, but no, it is 2558 according to the Khmer people.

Khmer new year is just around the corner. This three day holiday begins on the 13th of April 2014, and is a celebration of a new year (Chaul Chnam Thmy) in the Cambodian Lunar Calendar.

Families head back to their home towns but many people also head to Angkor as the spiritual centre of the ancient Khmer culture to celebrate the new year

Smells of candles and incense fill the air on the first day with offerings made to the poor during the second day otherwise known as ‘Wanabat’. Day three, or, ‘Tanai Lieang Saka’ is the main celebration of the new year. Life giving water plays a huge part in the ceremonies and celebrations and is used to cleanse Buddha statues, priests and each other.

Buddha

Buckets of water are thrown around temples and pagodas. Traditional Khmer games, dances, songs and lots of food are enjoyed by all around the country! Ever wondered what traditional Khmer songs, games and dances are like? – Wonder no more. Take a look at this little video.

The festival marks a great time of year to be in Cambodia with a literal outpouring of happiness embracing the Khmer culture.

Sohkdee pbee mai – Happy New Year from Laos!

Phone Phao Temple Luang Prabang

As the same Buddhist calendar is also used over the border in neighbouring Laos, unsurprisingly it’s about to be new year there too!

The Laos new year, or ‘Songkran’, is the most widely celebrated festival in the whole of the country. Like the Khmer new year, the festival begins on the 13th, the last day of the old year, and ends on the 15th, the first day of the new….The day in the middle is neither new or old, just somewhere in-between!

During this holiday, houses and villages are cleaned in preparation for the start of a new year. Similarly to the Cambodian tradition, Images of Buddah are also cleansed with water, however in Laos they don’t stop there.  Water cleansing stretches to drenching friends, family and passers by with buckets and pistols filled with coloured perfumed water! On these three days each year, cities around the country essentially transform into gigantic water fights, with music blasting out of vans on all corners as everyone joins in and gets soaked!

Luang PrabangThe new year can be celebrated all over the country, but for the most spectacular in terms of ceremony, Luang Prabang is the place to be. Thousands of sand stupas are created along the banks of the Mekong to prevent evil spirits travelling into the new year, there is a procession of Buddha through the streets and no event would be complete without a beauty contest…?! Miss New Year is paraded through the streets. Anyway, prepare to get very wet in Pimai Laos.

If you are up for the cultural event of the year in Cambodia or Laos and don’t mind getting wet, then make plans to head over in April for a bit of cultural soaking.





Hoi An moon festival

31 03 2014

Bright lights of Hoi An

Hoi An is one of the must see places for travellers to Vietnam. It is a very special place oozing history and culture as we have said before. I have no doubt that you will enjoy the place whatever time of year you travel, but one of the special times for this town is the full moon festival.

Lantern town
The 14th day of every lunar month, Hoi An switches of its lights and flickers in the glow of candles and paper lanterns. The first festival of the lunar new year (February) is the most important with people looking to the future and wondering what the year has in store for them. Traditionally, the locals light candles to celebrate their ancestors and make offerings of fruit and (fake) money to bring them a bit of  luck and prosperity.

Local couples, families and travellers flock to the town throughout the year though, buying themselves a lantern, setting it free down the river in return for happiness, luck and love. The atmosphere picks up with traditional music and games adding to the cultural experience.

If you miss the festival during your time in Hoi An and still want a bit of luck, you will of course be able to buy yourself a candle lit lantern for the equivalent of about 30pence. Here is our man Tyler….

It’s a great time to be in Hoi An.

A bit confused about the Lunar calendar? – Dates of the festival for the rest of 2014 are as follows  -

13 April 2014
12 May 2014
11 June 2014
10 July 2014
09 August 2014
07 September 2014
07 October 2014
06 November 2014
05 December 2014

Light a candle for us!





The Rocket – A Film Set in Laos

28 03 2014

 

Last week our Bristol based InsideVietnam and InsideJapan teams finished their day early and headed out to the Watershed cinema to watch the Australian film, “The Rocket” set in Laos.

 

The film follows the story of a young boy, Mali, as he grows up in Northern Laos. The boy is believed to be cursed and is blamed for all that goes wrong in the family. Due to a massive dam being built to generate hydro-electricity the family is forced to relocate, with the promise of a better life in a new village; which turns out to be a squalid shanty town. After a series of calamities the family must move on again, this time with a couple of local misfits and together they set off to look for another new home. The film is beautifully shot, displaying wonderful images across the Laotian mountains and of its people. The film highlights the sensitive issue of relocation in Laos, and because of this the film has been banned from screening in Laos itself.

The film is incredibly moving and shows how the war and the massive number of bombs and landmines which litter the country still affect local communities and the landscapes there. The informative story is both touching and light-hearted and is a film IVT highly recommend.

The Rocket has screened at more than 30 international festivals, winning a batch of awards, and is Australia’s entry for the best foreign language Oscar. It is hoped that the film will eventually be seen in Laos despite the ban.

Laos countryside

Laos countryside

When the film finished somebody asked us ‘does Laos really look like that?’, and yes it does! The whole country is beautiful. Made up mostly of jungle covered mountains, mighty rivers and remote villages, Laos is a place like nowhere else in Asia.

The film is definitely worth a watch, and Laos definitely worth a visit!





Top cafe tips in Hanoi’s old quater

20 03 2014

Hanoi’s 36 streets, or the  Old Quarter as it is known, are bustling with people, cyclos, scooters, bikes, vendors and a whole load of places to eat and drink. Our guys on the ground have their favourites in terms of where to eat and where to drink to get the best in Hanoian foodie treats.

Streetfood in the Old Quarter

Streetfood in the Old Quarter

Tour leader Tyler has a few favourite spots as does our local food guide and blogger, TU. Many of our travellers end up on a culinary cruise around the city getting lost in bowls of Pho, plates of spring rolls, cups of coffee and glasses of Bia Hoi – A great way to spend a day.

Tu with Tyler

Hanoi street food aficianado, Tu with Tyler

Julia Williams recently travelled with us and hooked up for streetfood tour of the city. Here are her top five highlights  from the day and tips from the masters on places to eat and drink in Hanoi.

Cafe Nang

Cafe Nang for coffee

Get your coffee
Café Nang. We don’t want to divulge too many secrets, but this tiny coffee shop tucked away in the middle of the Old Quarter is friendly and the coffee is perfect every time. Café Nang is at 6 Hang Bac Street and is one of the oldest coffee shops in town. There are plenty of places to choose from though…you might remember Tylers top 5.

Pho Tiu

Get your noodles
Pho of the day is Pho Tiu  served at a tiny place called Pheong Beo. The classic Pho noodles, slices of pork, plenty of fresh herbs, some crushed nuts – all pretty standard, but the sauce is the secret. Very good. The cost is about 7000 Dong, which is about…oooh, well now…20 pence.

alt

Bahn Tom

Get your snack
Pick up a tasty deep fried shrimp fritter called Banh Tom in the “bottom end” of Ngo Dong Xuan. Dip these naughty little numbers into a fresh bowl of salad, some delicious sauce and some fresh hot chilli – A very nice mid-afternoon treat for about 30pence.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake – lovely view when enjoying Egg Coffee

Get your….Egg coffee
Yep. Egg Coffee. Nescafe doesn’t bottle that one up! This is an unusual one and the signature drink offered by Café Pho Co in Hangai Street. Not to everyones taste, but surprising for most people tasting good Vietnamese coffee whisked together with egg, milk and sugar. If you don’t enjoy the coffee, the view will satisfy you, looking over Hoan Kiem Lake.

This is only a fraction of what’s on offer in the old quarter and there are so many more tastes to Hanoi.





Beautiful Burma! (a photo blog by Tyler Palma)

6 03 2014

I love the itinerary of our Beautiful Burma tour. It encompasses so much of what I love about Myanmar/Burma. Whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that a visit to this country leaves one changed. Yes, it is full of breathtaking nature, architectural treasures and ancient tradition but it’s the people that will stick with you.

The following are some shots of mine from around the country.

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See the temples of Bagan at sunrise is an indescribable experience.
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On the Beautiful Burma, we travel often on the great Irrawaddy River, taking in local life along the way.
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Staying with the locals is a great way to get a better sense of Burmese hospitality.
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The temples of Bagan aren’t just an important archaeological site, they are also important places of worship for modern day Burmese.
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The Shwedagon Pagoda is Burma’s most important place of worship.
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This temple caretaker had an enlightened look in her eye. As friendly as they come!
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Although not quite as tasteful (arguably) as the country’s older sites, the new ones are equally impressive in their own right!
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As the sun sets on another day of travel, I sit along the river and write in my journal about all that has come to pass.

These photos hopefully give some impression of the sites that you can experience on our Beautiful Burma tour but they really only scratch the surface. Plenty more to come in the coming months!








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