Thai Smile launches cheap direct flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap

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Siem Reap 20-1

Fed up of the daily city grind and fancy some culture at a low cost?

Then you’re in luck, because next month Thai Smile Airways launches direct flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

The budget carrier, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, also flies to Phnom Penh but recently got a permit to operate the route to the home of Angkor Wat.

Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia also run the same route, but Thai Smile Airways hopes to offer competitively priced fares, with a one-way flight starting at THB2,480 including fees and taxes.

Book a flight now on the new service, which offers 10 flights each week and will start on Feb. 1.

Source: Coconuts

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Rare Cambodian elephant footage raises survival hopes

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PHNOM PENH – Rare footage of an elephant herd roaming through Cambodia’s biggest forest sanctuary signals the success of a 14-year conservation programme and raises hopes for the endangered species’ survival, an environment group said Friday.

The camera trap footage, taken in the spectacular and remote Cardamom Mountains, shows 12 elephants, including young, grazing and lumbering through the forest.

Conservation International released the footage on Friday as it launched a trust fund that aims to secure long-term funding for the programme in the Cardamoms, one of Southeast Asia’s most biodiverse areas.

“That several young are here indicates that the elephants are reproducing, which we think is a good sign that their environment is stable and they are not under stress,” David Emmett, CI senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific, told AFP.

Emmett said the footage, taken a few months ago, was the first time so many elephants had been captured on film in the Cardamoms, which is home to about one third of Cambodia’s endangered and rare species.

“For there to be so many in the area is therefore a great sign that the protected forest program-me is working at scale,” he said.

The Cambodian government established the Central Cardamom Protected Forest with the support of CI in 2002, covering roughly 400,000 hectares (one million acres) of pristine land in the remote southwest of the country.

While vast areas of forest have since been illegally logged in Cambodia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia since then, the conservation efforts in the Cardamoms have been regarded as a success.

Forests in the protected area declined by two percent between 2006 and 2012, compared with 15 percent in areas immediately outside it, according to CI, citing an independent study.

Although there were no more recent specific surveys, Emmett said satellite images showed the area was still not experiencing the widespread destruction seen elsewhere.

Asked if illegal logging could be taking place without CI’s knowledge, Emmett emphasised the evidence of the satellite imagery as well the fact 90 percent of the area has no road access.

“Illegal logging at any significant scale requires road access into the forest for logs to be taken out,” Emmett said.

There are believed to only be about 200-250 elephants in the Cardamoms, with another population of similar size in eastern Cambodia, according to CI.

However these are still some of the largest remaining wild populations for the endangered Asian elephant, which once roamed from the Middle East across to China and into Southeast Asia.

The new trust fund for the protected to be launched in Phnom Penh by CI has initial funding of $2.5 million from CI’s Global Conservation Fund and Japanese air conditioning firm Daikin Corporation.

CI is aiming to secure another $7.5 million for the fund from developed nations and the corporate sector.

It says this would guarantee funding for the protection work — such as paying for rangers and community engagement — in perpetuity.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Thailand-Cambodia rail link completed by December

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TC Rail Link

After a slew of delays, it has been announced that the long awaited rail link between Cambodia and Thailand should be in business by the end of this year.

The Phnom Penh Post reports that the development comes about due to the imminent realisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and the need for Asean member states to be better connected.

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen visited Thailand in December 2015 – his first visit in a decade, according to The Diplomat – and both countries signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the completion of the rail line between the two capital cities.

The State Railway of Thailand will begin work on rehabilitating the six kilometres of track between Aranyaprathet station in Sa Kaeo to the border at Ban Khlong Luek, near Poipet, according to the Bangkok Post.

In the meantime, Cambodian railway officials will be connecting the missing tracks on their side, from Sisophon to Poipet, to reach the Thai border. Completion for this exercise is slated for mid-2016.

TC Rail Link 2 A nine-decade-old Thai-Cambodian railway bridge linking Aranyaprathet and Poipet was dismantled earlier this year to make way for a new link set for completion by the end of 2016. (Bangkok Post file photo)

“After the connection is ready, we will discuss the procedures to have a train run across countries, but currently it is important to connect the tracks first,” explained Ly Borin, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Transportation

As well as the necessary resettlement of Cambodians living in the space designated for the railway, the local immigration office and three casinos will need to be relocated in order to make way for the tracks.

Although rail travel is an integral part of Thailand’s infrastructure, it will be a relatively new concept for the Cambodian masses and there will be measures taken to emphasise the benefits of trains – namely the fact that they’re lower cost, safer and able to move goods better than other transport – to the population.

TC Rail Link 3

There had long been a rail connection between the border towns of Aranyaprathet (Thailand) and Sisophon (Cambodia), but the internalist policies of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s inevitably saw to the end of this.

A project to link the two capitals by rail was funded by the Asian Development Bank all the way back in 2010.

However, various delays – including the fact that the proposed plans did not meet the necessary safeguards as regards resettling affected Cambodian citizens – had ensured the project was kicked into the long grass. Until now.

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Op de Fiets van Phnom Penh #Cambodia naar Woerden #Netherlands

Toen we uit Phnom Penh vertrokken fietste een hele vriendengroep de eerst 40 kilometer met ons mee.

Woerden - PPPrecies 226 dagen geleden vertrokken twee Woerdenaren op de fiets vanuit Cambodja. Gisteren passeerden ze na 12.300 kilometer de gemeentegrens van Woerden, een schat aan ervaringen rijker.

Als Jolanda Zwetsloot (36) en haar man Brecht van der Laan (35) hun avontuur in één zin moeten vatten, dan is het: de wereld is veel mooier dan ons wordt wijsgemaakt door de media.

Jolanda Zwetsloot: ,,Op een van de laatste dagen in Duitsland kwamen we aan de praat met een aardige, oprecht bezorgde Duitse. ‘Cambodja? Je had wel dood kunnen wezen! Lezen jullie geen krant dan? Kijken jullie geen tv?’ Nee, wij kijken geen tv. Daar word je alleen maar bang gemaakt. De wereld is echt veel mooier. Wij hebben werkelijk alleen maar aardige mensen meegemaakt. Die keren dat we bang waren, was voor een storm of zwaar onweer.”

Vier jaar geleden was het Woerdense stel naar Cambodja geëmigreerd om te helpen het land weer op te bouwen. Zij in de hulpverlening, hij in de duurzame energie. Mountainbiken was hun hobby en in hun vrije tijd maakten ze lange tochten.

Toen met kerst vorig jaar hun contracten afliepen en ze besloten hadden terug naar Nederland te gaan, zeiden ze ‘met een gekke bek’ tegen hun vrienden: ‘We gaan fietsen’. Twee weken later vertrokken ze op nieuwe bikes met tassen achterop.

,,Een tent hadden we niet bij ons. In Azië kan je overal goedkoop overnachten in guesthouses. Maar in het onmetelijk China lagen die zo ver uit elkaar dat we toch een tentje moesten kopen. We hebben veel wild gekampeerd,” meent Zwetsloot.

,,Toen we uit Phnom Penh vertrokken fietste een hele vriendengroep de eerst 40 kilometer met ons mee. Elke dag maakten we iets mee, dat nieuw was, dat we nog niet wisten of kenden. In Cambodja spraken we de taal nog, maar dat hield op aan de grens,” vervolgt ze. ,,Van lang niet alle landen bestaan goede kaarten. In Laos reden we op een mooi, brede geasfalteerde weg, die alsmaar smaller en slechter werd. Totdat die in de bush ophield. Het kostte ons een dag om terug te fietsen.”

,,Toen we in Vietnam aankwamen,” gaat ze verder op de wereldreis, ,,was het daar Vietnamees nieuwjaar: drie weken groot feest. Overal werden we uitgenodigd om het mee te vieren. En overal kregen we voedsel voor onderweg. Soms wel een paar kilo.”

,,In de richting van China werden de toiletten steeds smeriger. En in China zelf waren het vijf gaten naast elkaar. Je zit gewoon naast elkaar, maar ook dat went. We hebben in de uitlopers van de Himalaya een pas beklommen van 4700 meter. Het dak van de wereld. Dat was een soort van expeditie.”

,,Het viel met lekke banden erg mee. Wel hadden we pech dat in Servië het achterwiel van Brecht bezweek onder het gewicht de bagage. Een vriendelijke voorbijganger heeft de fietsen ingeladen en ons 45 kilometer verderop bij een fietsenmakertje afgezet. Dat was heel erg aardig van hem,” meent ze.

Voetbal en oorlog
,,In bijna elk dorp op de route kwamen mensen hun huizen uit om ons te verwelkomen. Op de fiets door de wereld trekken, dat kennen ze niet. Ze wilden alles van ons weten. En ja, iedereen denkt dat wij heel goed kunnen voetballen. Arjan Robben, hé. In veel landen zagen we sporen van oorlog, vernielde huizen, granaatinslagen. Laos, Cambodja, Servië, waar niet eigenlijk. Dat zet je wel aan het denken. In Europa merk je dat je met elke kilometer weer langzaam went aan het leven in Nederland. Dat is heel anders dan dat je in het vliegtuig stapt. Dan heb je ineens een cultuurschok.”

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