Khiri Travel Information for Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos
Khiri Travel is an independent Destination Management Company, with its own offices in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. We specialize in out-of-the-ordinary itineraries for individual travelers.
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Ryan van Velzer salutes an association that is working against the odds with young people to keep a dignified Khmer art form alive
--- The history of the Khmer people is written across the walls of Angkor Wat. There, etched into the sandstone are images of dancers immortalized in the poses of ancient art of Apasara, the traditional dance of the Khmer people.
The dance, passed down through generations, was nearly lost in wake of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge and has since struggled to regain its former popularity. Today a small dance school in Phnom Penh is working to preserve the traditional dance of the Khmer.
Discipline: a skill that lasts for life
The Apsara Arts Association started 14 years ago in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Though the city has developed and the neighborhood has prospered the goal remains the same: to teach impoverished and underprivileged children Apsara and preserve their cultural legacy.
Offering free classes six days a week, children are taught about the different dances, music, costumes and makeup integral to the art form. Though the dances can take as long as 20 years to master, children are taught many different skills. Besides patience and dedication, students learn how to style hair and do make up, both valuable as skill sets for future professions.
In addition, many children learning the traditional dance form are avoiding the responsibilities of their home lives where they often have to leave school to work alongside their parents in the restaurants, markets and rice fields around Phnom Penh.
Mrs Vong Metry, Vice Director of the Apsara Arts Association and head teacher, now 59, has been dancing since she was five years old. Taught by the head teacher of Queen Sisowath Kossamak (who preserved and rejuvenated Apsara), Vong became a dance teacher after the downfall of the Khmer Rouge.
Her goal is simple, to transfer her knowledge to the next generation and in doing so, teach them about the history of their people. However, Vong fears that younger generations will forget their cultural heritage, extinguished by the genocide of the Khmer Rouge and trivialized by the speed and growth of contemporary culture.
Teacher Vong: keeping the flame alive
“I’m afraid it will one day be lost,” says Vong.
In the past few years, the Apsara Arts Association has lost many of the donors that have paid to keep the school running. The remaining sponsors have dwindled to two: Khiri Travel Cambodia and Monkeyking Travel Agency, which pay for the salaries of one full-time and two part-time teachers working at the school. Khiri Travel now features the school as part of any signature tour of Phnom Penh.
For Jack Bartholomew, Khiri general manager for Cambodia, preserving the culture while teaching underprivileged children is reason in itself to support the association.
"What really makes the Apsara foundation so special is, unlike other associations, which may offer tourists a dinner and a show, these kids really need this support. The teachers are genuine. The benefits to the children are real and long-term. So much culture was lost during the Khmer Rouge era that Apsara is performing a vital role which now contributes to a revived national identity."
Travel in style by private jet and helicopter to experience classic and remote attractions, while supporting local communities and children along the way....
Khiri Travel Cambodia has created a flexible 10-day luxury trip for millionaire travellers seeking immersion in Khmer culture. Highlights include helicopter visits to spectacular 11th century mountain temples away from the crowds, a personal dinner with a view of Angkor, and a private jet to an exclusive island retreat on the Cambodian Riviera.
The majestic Bayon temple in Angkor
Khiri Travel’s “Cambodia Immersion for Millionaires” trip mixes engagements at luxury hotels and restaurants with dining at privately-run local restaurants that Khiri knows produce nuanced high quality dining in evocative Khmer settings. Along the way, guests also eat and talk with teachers and children at a foundation and a local school.
In Phnom Penh, guests visit the Apsara Arts Association which aims to help disadvantaged children and preserve Khmer culture by teaching young people traditional Khmer dance.
Khiri Travel CEO and co-founder, Willem Niemeijer, said that the creation of the luxury trip may surprise some travellers and travel agents who are not aware of the “sophistication and variety” of what Cambodia offers today.
“Guests should prepare for glorious Khmer temple complexes, innovative dining, but also to see the journey this country has made since the murderous years under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. Conversations with teachers and kids as well as small-business owners, all proud Cambodians, are highly inspirational,” he said. “For example, the commitment made by the foreign owners of Song Saa Private Island is indicative of the new spirit in the country.”
The Khiri CEO said guests to Song Sa would be able to enjoy “quality ecotourism” in a nature reserve, or “complete relaxation” on an immaculate tropical island retreat.
Beach excursion on Cambodian Riviera
He added: “Khiri’s philosophy is to be flexible and present the most rewarding elements of a wonderful country that deserves to be treated as a standalone destination.”
Apart from off-peak insights at Angkor Wat, two additional, and perhaps more rewarding, temple engagements are by helicopter to Banteay Chhmar in northwest Cambodia and to Preah Vihear on a 525-metre cliff in the Dangrek Mountains.
The trip includes an excursion to the ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk, the capital of the Chenla Kingdom which predates Angkor by up to two centuries. Khiri Reach runs a community project there.
Transport throughout the 10-day trip includes a Cessna Citation or Gulfstream private jet, a Eurocopter AS35OB3 helicopter, a 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser, a speedboat, and even a public “cyclo” in Phnom Penh.
Jack Bartholomew, Khiri Cambodia General Manager, said: “For all the beauty and attractions of Cambodia that guests will see on this trip, I believe it is the character and warmth of the Khmer people that will create the greatest impression.”
For an indicative itinerary of the “Khiri Travel Cambodia Immersion for Millionaires” trip, click here.
For further information email: email@example.com.