Posts Tagged With: Beach

Scenery of Phuket 

Living on a tropical island is pretty beautiful. Most of my blog posts are centered around a specific event or location, but I’ve been accumulating so many random photos of daily life that it’s time I post them all at once. I hope you enjoy!

This is one of the banana trees growing in our yard. We snapped this picture right as sun set; you can see the small bananas growing each with an individual flower. You can actually cut off the large red blossom and make really delicious banana flower salad, but I think we’ll keep it on the branch for aesthetic appeal.
The view out of bedroom window, looking across one of the many valleys of Kathu. I used to think I wanted to live near the beach, but now I prefer the cool temperatures of the clouds as they build up around the hills!

We had some friends over for lunch today, so I ran to the market to pick up lettuce and tomatos. Of course there are hundreds of grocery stores where I can get Kraft macaroni and cheese and Reese’s peanut butter cups, but I prefer the atmosphere of the local market for my fresh produce. Not to mention you can buy cloves of garlic that have already been peeled!

Seemingly part of an elegant and vibrant market, this is actually a deserted tourist destination near my house. It’s called the floating market and has little shops selling trinkets and t-shirts. 

Oh boy, this was a surprise. We went to Patong beach on Wednesday hoping for a quiet patch of sand to watch the sun go down. Little did we know that November marks the beginning of high season. Our once sparse beach was totally packed, and it’s not even Christmas.

…and we saw our first cruise ship. 

The road I drive to school every morning. (Yes, it took a while to get used to left-hand driving. I still hit the windshield wipers when I’m trying to signal…)

And finally, one of my favorite photos from this month. Sean and Summit (our dog) on Laem Ka beach. Even though tab been a long rainy season we’ve still found our afternoons of sunshine! 

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Categories: Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Koh Rong, Cambodia’s Survivor Island

Cambodia’s islands are a place of mystery. In comparison to the Thai islands, they’re pretty much distant specks on the map. As I’ve said before, Cambodia is most famous for Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields. But once you’ve visited the Cambodian islands, it’s tough to stay away.

The most popular port for getting to most of the islands is the city of Sihanoukville, or “Kampong Som” in Khmer. If you look at the map below, you’ll see that Cambodia has two tiny peninsulas that jut out along the coast.  The left peninsula consists of Koh Kong and Botum Sakor National Park. The right peninsula has Sihanoukville and Ream National Park. This past January, we took a long weekend and headed down to the coast for a dip in the Gulf of Thailand.

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The town of Sihanoukville isn’t much in itself; the layout is rather disjointed and scattered across a series of hills. The beauty of the area reveals itself when you step onto the sprawling white sand beaches.

We arrived at the port in the morning, and were planning on catching a boat out to Koh Rong at around noon.

In the meantime, I snapped a photo of the ephemeral graffiti scene that seems to be making its way across Cambodia…

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Our destination was the island of Koh Rong. Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 6.44.28 PM

The journey to Koh Rong used to take a minimum of two hours. As you’d imagine, this greatly dissuaded us from visiting; there’s nothing worse than spending two hours leap-frogging over waves with an outboard motor under the penetrating sunshine.

Luckily, Koh Rong has a speedboat business now that cuts the trip down to forty-five minutes.

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Packed full of Khmer and foreigners alike, we held onto our lifejackets and started our journey.

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Now, a bit about the title of this post. To those who read local news, I like to think that Koh Rong is known as “Cambodia’s Survivor Island”. In 2013, the French version of Survivor, titled “Koh Lanta”, was filmed on Koh Rong. (Koh Lanta is actually an island in Thailand, but it wasn’t filmed there. Perhaps the producers thought that Koh Lanta sounded more romantic than Koh Rong?)

Here’s where it gets eerie. First, one of the contestants died from a heart attack during the filming of the show. Then, the television show’s resident doctor was found dead ten days later, having committed suicide in his bungalow. He left a note expressing his guilt over the heart attack of the contestant days prior. (To read more, click here.)

As if that’s not enough, the American television show Survivor is currently being filmed on the island as we speak. No joke. As stated in The Cambodia Daily, filming began this spring and is expected to conclude in July.

But to be clear, Koh Rong is not as remote as primetime television may lead you to believe.

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It is one of the more touristy islands of Cambodia. From the snorkeling and dive companies to new restaurants that pop up daily with fried rice and banana pancakes, some say that Koh Rong is a backpacker’s paradise.

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We did expect it to be full of tourists, but I didn’t quite anticipate how crowded the little stretch of beach would be. Since there’s no roads on Koh Rong, all the shops and bungalows open right onto the beach. This leads for a continual stream of bikini-clad tourists and pounding bass long into the night.

They’ve even got a pharmacy for tourists right at the pier once you get off the boat. Need some stitches? They’ve got you covered. What about typhoid? Ear cleaning? Or how about just some basic “cleaning stuff”? And while you’re at it, why not a blood test?

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We didn’t want to stay on this part of the island. Luckily, we didn’t have to.

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I booked our time at Pura Vita resort, a tiny series of bungalows on a secluded stretch of the island. Pura Vita means “pure life” in Italian, and is well-reviewed for being a clean and comfortable place far away from the hustle and decadence of the main part of the island. We were picked up by our hotel and jetted off across the bay and around the corner, to a truly quiet stretch of the island.

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And it was perfect.

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There was no one here except for some morning joggers, the other guests at our hotel, and our lovely host, Vanny. In her mid fifties, Vanny is a Cambodian woman who fled the country during the Khmer Rouge and grew up in Canada with her family. She ran a restaurant for most of her life, but had a dream to return to where she was born. So, with her kids enrolled in college, she bought a patch of land on the island, and started pursuing her dream. If you ever visit Koh Rong, definitely stay at Pura Vita and have a cup of coffee with Vanny. She’s great.

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We spent our days watching the waves, swimming, and walking along the gorgeous 7 kilometer long beach.

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And, sometimes, I did feel like we were on the set of Survivor. 13

As idyllic as it was, we were curious about that rag-tag stretch of restaurants by the pier. So, we spent one afternoon walking from our stretch of beach across the island over to the main area.

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Even though it got a bit more touristy, it was still equally as beautiful.

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As we settled into lunch, we ordered our meals and some smoothies to quench our thirst. Little did we know that you got “One free beer with every meal.” (You can actually see the chalkboard advertisement behind my sister in the above photo.) It was definitely one of those “Only in Southeast Asia…” moments.

And of course, a trip to an island isn’t complete without some swimming.

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The water was perfect. The sand was soft. The sun was warm. The air was clean. The palms were swaying. And we were in love.

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Will I go back to Koh Rong? Absolutely. But not to stay at the main port, nor as a contestant on a reality television show. I think I like the “pura vita” just fine. 

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elephant Trekking & Time Travel In Thailand

 

Koh Chang is an island for all people. If you want to lose yourself in weeks of lying on the sand, book in hand, soaking up the beauty of pure relaxation, you’ve come to the right island. If you want to clamber up waterfalls, explore the rugged mountainsides, or, even, trek with elephants, you’ve DEFINITELY come to the right island.

There is so much to do on Koh Chang! After the snorkling, the waterfall, and the plentiful beaches, we decided it was time to get up close and personal with the “other” locals of Koh Chang: The elephants.

IMG_2043There are many elephant trekking groups on Koh Chang. You see elephant “pastures” all over the island. You can book a variety of trips; we spent a half-day with these spectacular mammals.

 

IMG_2010We set out from the paradise of our hotel early in the morning. We had an ocean to swim in and Thai food to eat before we visited the elephants.

 

IMG_0164I tried the Thai version of my favorite Cambodian dishes, bok lahong. Believe it or not, everything in the above picture goes into this salad dish. In Khmer, bok lahong means “pounded papaya”, as it is a salad of unripe papaya sliced with the veggies above, and tossed with the most delectable, savory peanut-lime dressing. In Thai it is som tam, which literally translates to “sour pounded”. Whatever you call it, it is DELICIOUS!  (Check out that woman’s upper-body strength; you can tell she is a “pounded papaya” professional!)

After lunch, we stumbled upon something I’d never seen through all my travels…

IMG_0166…a business for time travel information. (Now you should be asking yourself, “Where is Kim writing this from?” But that’s a story for another blog…)

 

And then it was time to visit the elephants.
IMG_0172Sean was on one, my sister and I on another, and my dad walked halfway and rode the way back.

 

IMG_0187He had fun being at leg-level with the elephants as much as he did riding them. Together we headed into the forest of Koh Chang.

 

IMG_0215Then they told us, “You can give the elephants a bath.” We didn’t know that meant actually swimming with the elephants.

 

IMG_0229But it did. Lots and lots of swimming and snout-spraying.

 

IMG_0245As I make a complete fool of myself in the above picture, my sister has the shot of the lifetime. We were just floundering around in the water with these things; sometimes the elephants would completely submerge themselves underwater. You just had to guess where they would come up.


IMG_2049The view of an elephant from the driver’s seat.

Then we headed out of the forest, the sun drying our swimsuits as we plodded to and fro on the giant beasts.

And what does one do after a full day of riding and swimming with elephants?

IMG_2015Why, get a back massage, of course.

IMG_0170We polished off our final day in Koh Chang with a final dip in the ocean. What a day it was.

 

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Cambodia’s Hidden Secret

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying your holidays wherever you are. Here in Cambodia, it’s been freezing. There has been a record-breaking cold spell for the past week, and it has become sweatshirt weather. Normally we only wear a t-shirt and shorts, but this past week has been in the 60’s, when normally it’s the 80’s. It’s not quite below zero, but a big enough change for us!

We stuck around Cambodia this holiday season; we have two sets of visitors here. (First our friends Abby and Kyle from Kuwait, then my Dad and sister from America. My mom will come later—again with my dad—at spring break.) As a consequence, I am able to type this blog post with a cup of coffee and a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, in the comfort of my own apartment. It’s mega tourist season right now in Cambodia. While the weather is perfect for travel, everywhere you go in Cambodia is now full with tourists. However, I discovered one of Cambodia’s hidden places a few weeks back. This is one of those quiet, secret, beautiful places, that you hope never changes. It’s a little town called Kep, located on the Gulf of Thailand just three hours south of Phnom Penh.

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Where Kampot has “Bokor Mountain National Park”, Kep has “Kep National Park” which contains Kep mountain. We had heard stories that you could hike around the mountain, but I wasn’t expecting this type of signage….
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We felt like we were in a National Park in the United States! There were at least ten different hiking routes you could take around the mountain. Each was sign posted with elevation, distance, and sights along the way.

 

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As we began to climb up the side of Kep mountain, I immediately fell in love. Kep not only has rolling hills that slide right up to the coast, it has a beautiful shoreline that stretches on for miles, with small islands dotting the horizon. It felt like Hawaii!

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We found a few creatures on our hike… This was the husk of a bug, just stuck on a tree.

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This guy did a whole photo shoot for us; we were snapping photos for at least ten minutes, and he didn’t move a muscle!

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We were determined to find the summit of Kep Mountain. We think we did…?

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After the summit, we had decided to make a loop to get back to the trailhead. We took the “jungle hike” trail on the way down. Without a doubt, it was the toughest hike we’ve done so far in Cambodia. The trail began to drop off over large boulders, sticks, fallen logs, and streams of water. We had to use the ropes that were tied onto the side of the trail to lower ourselves down. I think going up that side would have been fine, but trying to maneuver backwards down a slippery jungle mountain is no fun!

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But we weren’t without our rewards.

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We emerged on the other side, with sweeping views of Kep’s countryside.

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It reminded me of both Maui and Sri Lanka.

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Then we found this massive guy on the trail! Luckily, I have never seen this type of bug before, and hope I don’t have to again. He was as long (or longer than) my forearm.

After our hike, we met up with our friends who also went to Kep for the long weekend. They told us about their favorite seafood place, as Kep is famous for seafood, caught right off the shore.
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I got the crab with Kampot pepper. I am getting hungry just looking back at this picture!

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We had crab, shrimp, octopus, and squid. It was a feast fit for a king. (Or a Chihuahua?)

After lunch, we were all feeling a bit adventurous. So, we decided to look for a small beach we saw on the map, supposedly hidden from the main area in Kep.

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After much driving, the only thing we had found was a lot of red dirt on our cars, and suntans on our faces. We asked a few people, who eventually pointed us in the right direction. However, this was exactly the type of trip where the journey was just as beautiful as the destination. I loved the Kep countryside!
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We found the beach at dusk. Just enough time to walk along the shore, hunt for shells, and watch the sun sink lower in the sky.

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We were happy we endured the off-roading and mis-directions; we found an incredible sunset!

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Back at our lodge the next morning, Sean found two critters near the bathroom.

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This spider was hanging out on the wall of the bathroom! It was larger than my palm!

 

Sadly, we had to head back to the city of Phnom Penh the next morning. It was a four-day weekend, and we had school the next day.

I left the coast knowing that I will return to Kep— or in my eyes—Cambodia’s secret. It is a small town, with unbelievable shore line, mountains, sweeping views, seafood, and endless trails to get lost between the palm trees and fragrant flowers.

We will be taking our family back to Kep when they come visit, and I can’t wait to share it with them. We just finished a trip to Siem Reap to see the temples of Angkor Wat, which I will blog about soon. I am really behind with the blogging; there is so much in Cambodia to see and do, I can’t keep it with it all. What a great problem to have, huh?

Enjoy your holiday season, and your new year, and I will write again as soon as I can.

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

As Sifah Beach: Oman’s Paradise

All right, here it is! My final post on our trip to Oman over Eid. This post will be short, as it spans the course of the final day of our vacation, and all took place on one beach. And oh my, what a beach it was! A girlfriend of mine had recommended we go to As Sifah beach, which is only an hour’s drive outside of Muscat. We planned on driving out to the beach on our second-to-last day, spending the night, and than having a leisurely last day in the sparkling blue water before flying home. Everything worked out perfectly. As promised, As Sifah beach turned out to be absolutely beautiful. It is only accessible by a one-lane road that winds through the mountains that surround Muscat. You climb incredibly steep, narrow, and winding roads for forty-five minutes. There were moments that the turns were tighter than the length of the car! You literally had to slow down, crank the steering wheel, and make a hard turn while you accelerated on the gas pedal to continue up the steep hills. It was really hidden and tucked away in the mountains. Once you had climbed uphill for what seemed like forever, the road dropped steeply downhill, to return to you sea-level, where the beach was.

On our way to the beach, we passed beautiful lagoons. The Arabic word for these places is “khawr”, and a khawr is kind of like a marine-life sanctuary. Another appropriate term for them would be an estuary, as they are shallow bodies of water connected to the ocean. They are popular with the fisherman and are a highly protected area.

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The khawrs on our way to Yiti and As Sifah beach. The above picture is a panorama, so click on it for a real treat. (Click on it again, once it opens, to see it full size. You can zoom in and move around, exploring the whole area on your screen!)

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Once we got reached the ocean we came to Yiti beach. It was beautiful, pristine, but quite crowded. We decided to continue down the road to As Sifah beach.

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Once in As Sifah, we fell in love with the remote stretches of white sand and crystal clear waters. We spent the evening swimming, playing frisbee, and watching the sunset.

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For dinner, we decided to splurge and treat ourselves to the one restaurant in As Sifah. It was a seafood restaurant on the beach, and it was divine!

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They really could charge anything, with a location like that.

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That night, we relaxed with a game of cribbage while waiting for our feast.

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I tried to take the above picture in poor lighting and on the wrong setting. Anyways, on the far right is hamoor, the local fish that I ordered, and on the left side is Sean’s platter of fish and shrimp. Not to mention the plethora of Middle Eastern dips and spreads that blanketed our table. It sure made the canned hummus we choked down every other day while living out of a tent worth it!

AsSifahIn the morning we watched the sunrise. (Click on the panorama above, clicking again on the photo to open it up all the way.) That’s the nice thing about camping; you wake up early enough to see the beauty of the world unfold…


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We spent our last day playing on the beach in As Sifah. The water was the cleanest and purest I have ever seen. The beach was also spotless. It was a day to remember!IMG_2856

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Sean was very proud of his sandcastle!

IMG_2881Before we got on the plane we drove around Muscat for a little while. You can see the Royal Opera House in this photo. Isn’t Oman just amazing? The Sultan loves opera and the arts, respects and protects their natural resources, and the people are the nicest I’ve met in this corner of the world.

I wish I could say, “We plan on going back”, but that’s precisely what we did. Two weeks after this trip. No joke. But this time, instead of flying into Muscat, we flew into Dubai. We drove to a place called Musandam, which is technically part of Oman, and has some of the most stunning scenery and wildlife I’ve seen so far this year. I know, how can I say that after a trip like this? Check in with me next week to find out…

Categories: Oman | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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