Le Grand restaurant offered romantic, refined dining in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Doorman at the hotel wearing Kben, a traditional Khmer costume

Doorman at the hotel wearing traditional Khmer costume

One of our team members was recently in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Among the places she visited was Le Grand restaurant, the gourmet restaurant of the Raffles Hotel in that city. The quiet restaurant in the lobby of the historic hotel was known locally for its wine collection, Royal Khmer cuisine, and romantic setting.  Visit Simonandbaker.com for more about Siem Reap and Restaurant Le Grand.

A day trip visit to a Cambodian lake, bird sanctuary and floating village

Article and photos by Elena del Valle

The floating village

A young boy in a tiny boat floats through the village

During a recent trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia I had an opportunity to spend time in a conservation area and bird reserve near the city. Although the conservation area we visited was only 90 minutes by car and boat from the central urban area where my hotel was it was vastly different from the hustle and bustle of the city. Spending time in an area visited by only 150 bird and conservation enthusiasts a year was special. As the word spreads about the eight conservation areas that it is possible to visit in Cambodia and tourism to the region continues to grow the number of visitors to the reserve will likely grow as well. For now, it is still a pleasure of serene lake and birding panoramas.

Most of the village floated on the water

Most of the village floated on the water

Nick Butler, the coordinator of the Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation, and Sophoan Sanh, a senior tour guide with five years of experience with the Center, escorted me on a day long Bird Reserve and Floating Village Day Trip on Tonle Sap Lake. To take advantage of the weather and avoid rain as much as possible we set out at 6 a.m. on a weekday morning. We drove from my hotel in central Siem Reap through the countryside to the shores of Tonle Sap Lake, the home of, and an important source of livelihood for, many Cambodians; where we boarded a 10 meter wood motorboat with a 110 horsepower engine, curtains (in case of rain) and an upper deck (we were quite thankful for the curtains and cover when it rained) to traverse the lake in a west southwest direction to our destination, the Prek Toal Bird Sancuary and the nearby village of Prek Toal.

Map of Cambodia

Map of Cambodia

Along the way Nick, a native of the United Kingdom, and Sophoan, a Cambodian, shared information about the lake and its importance for the local communities, the birds in the area and the environment while we munched on the goodies from the breakfast boxes they had brought along. Although there was plenty of space in the shady comfort of the boat we climbed onto the upper deck to better view the lake and the birds. On our way through the conservation area to one of the main floating villages we stopped at an observation point, a tree where Center staff spent time to monitor and protect the bird nesting areas (sometimes the fishermen were drawn to them because of the excellent fishing they offered). From the canopy of the tree we could see for miles around the lake, including approaching rain clouds. It was a beautiful sight. Although there was a seemingly infinite variety of insects that rained on us when we brushed the trees as we motored around the reserve I saw not a single mosquito and for that I was thankful.

Boats of every shape and description

Boats of many descriptions were the core of local transport

At the Prek Toal floating village we picked up a representative of the Cambodian parks and made a restroom stop (although there was a toilet on the boat it was tiny and without toilet paper) before heading to a local house for lunch. The village was a lively place with residents going about their everyday lives in their floating homes and businesses or making their way from one location to another by boat. Lunch, prepared by a village family who had received special training, was delicious.

A temple was the only building not floating in the village

A non floating temple in the floating village

After lunch, a teenage member of the family showed us around the village in a small rowboat. I particularly enjoyed the water level view we had on the boat that allowed us to see the inhabitants, their homes and businesses close up. Some came to their door to look at us with curiosity; at times children waived shyly and adults smiled when we waved back. After that we crossed the lake to reach our car for the short drive back to Siem Reap, arriving at my hotel in the late afternoon. The day trip remains one of my favorite memories of Cambodia.

Visit Simonandbaker.com for additional information about Siem Reap and my tour with the Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation.

A message from our award partners

As Media Partners of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2011 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards we share this message from the 2011 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards organizers that we think may interest you:

Apply today!

Only one week to go until the 10 December deadline for applications for the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2011 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

WTTC invites tourism businesses and destinations worldwide to enter in one of the four categories: Global Tourism Business, Conservation, Community Benefit and Destination Stewardship, showcasing best practice in sustainable tourism. Applications may be submitted online on www.tourismfortomorrow.com/Apply/.

The Global Tourism Business award is the leadership recognition in best practices in sustainable tourism at a large company level with at least 500 full-time employees and operating in more than one country

WTTC’s foremost awards, which include an international panel of expert judges and a rigorous on-site evaluation process, recognise and celebrate these advances in sustainable best practices. Finalists and winners will receive worldwide exposure, setting the standard for sustainable practices and projects.

Due to a three-step stringent judging process, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards have achieved growing levels of respect among key audiences – the industry, governments and the international media. Winners and Finalists will be publicly recognised during a special ceremony at the 11th Global Travel & Tourism Summit held from 17-19 May 2011 in Las Vegas, USA, in the presence of government and industry leaders. For additional information visit www.globaltraveltourism.com