World's top fixers
CAMBODIA - HANUMAN
Kulikar Sotho’s first job in travel was organising passage for 7,500 UN peacekeepers. Then the Khmer Rouge collapsed, ancient Angkor was rediscovered by the west, and Kulikar’s company, Hanuman, was on hand to act as midwife to Cambodian tourism. A decade or so later, more than a million visitors pitch up each year — including Korean coach parties wielding megaphones. Not to worry: Hanuman’s impeccable guides know how to dodge the crowds. For example, they spirited me to Angkor Wat’s eastern gate, the “back door”, for an exclusive, all-to-myself view of Asia’s most humdinging archeological site.
Hanuman also fixed it for me to spend a few days in the remote, red-earthed Ratanakiri region, where I penetrated sacrificial rituals, shook hands with pipe-smoking toddlers, and found out exactly why you should never sup rice wine with the villagers. Best of all was my “temple safari” in the steaming, spidery Cambodian jungle — the brainchild of Kulikar’s husband, Nick Ray, who is also Lonely Planet’s writer in Cambodia and a self-styled temple-hunter. As the location scout for Tomb Raider, Ray unearthed virgin Angkorian citadels such as Ko Ker, where I scrambled up a rickety ladder to the top of a 120ft pyramid and found myself sole overlord of a 10th-century city, scores of its monuments still smothered in the undergrowth.
The plan: a 12-day trip with Hanuman, including three days at Angkor, a three-day temple safari and time in Phnom Penh and Ratanakiri, starts from £1,500pp, including transfers and accommodation in three-star hotels. Contact 00 85 523 218396; www.hanumantourism.com. There are no direct flights to Cambodia from the UK or Ireland, but there are nonstop flights from Heathrow to Bangkok and good connections from there. Fares to Siem Reep or Phnom Penh, via Bangkok, start at £565 with Thai Airways (0870 606 0911, www.thaiair.com). If you’d prefer a package option, Audley (01993 838000, www.audleytravel.com) uses Hanuman as its ground operator. Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.