Sunday, May 31, 2009

World's top fixers

UK's Sunday Times Online today revealed their list of the travel world's top fixers and first on the list was Hanuman, the company I work for. Great publicity for us and recognition for the great job we do here in Cambodia and the Mekong Region.

The travel world's top fixers. It's not where you go, it's who you know when you get there. Our team reveal their top fixers guaranteed to give your trip wings.

When exploring the more exotic reaches of the planet, there is nothing like having an insider to guide you, to shepherd you away from the crowds. That’s where your local connections come in. We’re talking about those expert Mr Fix-Its who know their patch like the hairy side of their hand, and can whisk you off to camp in a “lost” jungle temple, party in an off-limits favela, or simply cook with Granny in her native village, somewhere deep in the bush. We’ve asked Travel’s team of writers to pick out their favourite grass-roots tour companies worldwide. All locally run outfits, they are well established, reputable and masters of their region. Some also work for UK tour operators, it’s true — and if you prefer a packaged option, we’ve given their details. But if you have decent insurance and are willing to book direct, it should save you money and offer more flexibility. For most of the destinations covered, direct flights operate from London only. For regional and Irish connections, ask the tour operator or travel company about routes via European or Gulf hubs. It may be cheaper and more cost efficient than flying via Heathrow


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; 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, If you’d prefer a package option, Audley (01993 838000, uses Hanuman as its ground operator. Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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