Archive for April, 2012


Consider Cambodia by Bicycle

Say ‘Cambodia‘ and most people nowadays instinctively think of Angkor Wat, an awe-inspiring collection of ancient temples in Siem Reap that draws millions of tourists every year.

Phan Sophea

Phan Sophea

But there’s more to this tranquil country than its famous ruins of a lost civilization, says Phan Sophea – a Cambodia-based travel specialist.

“Angkor Wat is amazing, but if you want to experience the real Cambodia, there’s no better way than to cycle from Phnom Penh to Udong, which is also steeped in history,” he says. “In fact, it was home to a succession of kings for more than 200 years, starting in the early 1600s.

“The trip to Udong offers a great look into the culture and local way of life. And along the way, you can try fishing at beautiful Ta Mok Lake.”

If anyone would know it’s Sophea, who’s passion for biking is rivaled only by his love for Cambodia. In fact, he still rates cycling around Koh Trong Island, in northeast Cambodia, as his all-time favorite adventure.

“Planting a tree at the local wat was an unforgettable experience for me,” he recalls.

As for why Sophea enjoys travel so much, the answer might surprise you.

“All credit goes to rugby,” he says. “The sport has allowed me to travel and meet people from all over the world. In turn, it created a desire in me to experience the ‘real world.’ I work in the travel industry now because I want to make the world a less foreign place and help people experience the beautiful country of Cambodia.”

But of course, exposing globetrotters to one of Southeast Asia’s most historic and bucolic destinations is not the road warrior’s only goal in life.

“My dream is to do the triathlon event in Kampot, on Cambodia’s coast,” Sophea says. “My mission is to be an ‘iron man’ one day.”

Tour to exploring Cambodia by bike, including Angkor Wat.

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought to yourself at one point or another: You can’t look anywhere on the Internet these days without stumbling upon a ‘Top 10’ list of this, or a ‘Top 5’ rundown of that. Rankings are all the rage, no matter the topic.

To wit: Just a couple weeks ago, Reuters called out Cheapflights.com’s Top 10 Sunrise Destinations. Also this month, Conde Nast Traveler posted a story on 8 Great Family Vacations.

Tropical paradise beach of Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan

Tropical paradise beach of Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan

I’m not opposed to this trend. After all, most lists are easy to digest and fun to read. And so, at the risk of sounding like followers, I’ve come up with 5 Must-Visit Beach Destinations in Southeast Asia …

1. Con Dao. It’s not the most well-known beach destination in Vietnam. But it soon could be — especially now that Brangelina has vacationed here. I like the power couple’s taste. Not only is the island pristine, it’s gateway to a marine sanctuary of the highest order.

2. Koh Kood. The easternmost island in Thailand, this remote retreat has been described by The Guardian as “a fine place to do nothing.” I somewhat disagree. The speedboat ride to get there has to count for something, doesn’t it?

3. Song Saa. This secluded island, just off the coast of mainland Cambodia in Sihanoukville, translates to “The Sweethearts.” Given the romantic allure of its unspoiled white-sand beach and ultra-chic eco-resort, the name is fitting.

4. Koh Panak. Travel 20 kilometres by speedboat from Phuket and behold: a tiny island in Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay with a beach I think makes for the perfect campsite.

5. Ishigaki. As this photo (pictured) makes clear, you won’t find many coastlines as stunning — or as well-suited for honeymooners — as the one that surrounds this reef-ringed island in southern Japan.