Posts Tagged With: bungalows

Koh Ta Kiev: Our first Cambodian Island

I confess: It took us a long time to make it to the Cambodian islands. It’s not that we didn’t want to go, it was simply that there has been so much to do. We traveled to Laos, Koh Kong, the hills, the rivers, oodles of places, but not a single island. Once we knew we had friends coming, we reserved our first island trip for them.

Our friend had recommended we go to Koh Ta Kiev (pronounced Koh Tah “Q” in Khmer). She loved the bungalows there, and said it was really quiet and underdeveloped. Since our friends were coming from the dusty desert metropolis that is Kuwait, we thought it sounded perfect.

We left Phnom Penh in the early morning, and got to Sihanoukville by around 10:30am.

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The circle outlines the port town of Sihanoukville as well as the sprinkling of islands that one can visit with ease. (The big one, Phu Quoc, is actually Vietnamese. You have to enter Vietnam—with a $65 visa for Americans—and backtrack across the water to get to Phu Quoc. It’s probably easier to fly from Ho Chi Minh City. But I  digress.)
IMG_9699On the beach at Sihanoukville. Otres Beach, to be exact. Abby and Sean enjoyed brunch on the white sand, while we waited for our boat to whisk us away to the island of Koh Tah Kiev (and away from underclad men in Speedos).
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The boat was the size of three canoes and as noisy as three hundred lawn mowers. As the shoreline faded into the distance, we peered into the horizon in search of the island.

IMG_9716We stayed at Ten 103 Treehouse, a series of bungalows spread throughout the jungle. Each bungalow overlooks the ocean, and is open air. I shot this photo right before sunset. Can you spot Sean reading in the hammock?

IMG_9703The view the next morning from inside the bungalow.

Koh Ta Kiev was incredibly quiet and undeveloped. You could walk along the desert beaches, and only stumbled upon a handful of other people—and we were there during the high season! It’s a small island, so you can cross the jungle on small footpaths for a view out the other side.

The swimming was good, too.

IMG_9717…for the most part. You couldn’t really swim directly off the bungalows due to the sea urchins. Abby took this photo, which I unfortunately did not get to witness myself. I still cannot work out how this guy handles those things…

IMG_9719The jungle was thick, and hung over the white sand foot path.

IMG_9820 copy Sean and had a blast exploring the island. We were there for three nights, which was the perfect amount of time to lose yourself in the rhythm of the waves and the glow of the stars.

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But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Cambodia, it is this: You are never alone. Ever. Even when you think you’re on a desert island, you spot a man carrying bananas. Or monks playing volleyball. Or cows. The first two didn’t surprise us too much, but the cows cruising the coast, that was surprising.

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We had heard that one side of the island had a nice cove and a rocky shoreline. After about an hour of exploration, we stumbled upon it. Like I said, you are never alone, even in paradise. The husband and wife sorted their fish and sipped their tea, taking a break from the day’s work. As much as I like to have nature as my private playground, I love the moments when I remember that I am a visitor in someone else’s seemingly normal life. A life to me that seems so exotic. How exotic must I seem to them?

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On our way back from the cove, we found a swing with a view…

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And at night we feasted by candlelight.

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I did find my own private paradise, if only for an hour. One evening around sunset, I walked to “Naked Beach” by myself. Sean, Abby, and Kyle were reading, and I was feeling antsy. Naked Beach didn’t have a single development on it—maybe that’s why it’s called Naked Beach? Balancing my camera on a rock, I took a timed photo of myself. The water was so warm, and so clear and blue! I had my snorkle gear, so bobbed around in the waves until the sun sunk below the trees…

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Sean took this great panorama of the bungalows. The water had great snorkeling, and the beaches were perfect. We’ve got to go back. IMG_9988 copy

But with so many other Cambodian islands to discover, it may be a while before we can say Sua S’dye to Koh Ta Kiev again.

I’ll leave you with a quotation that has guided me in my travels, and will hopefully continue to lead us to more islands like Koh Ta Kiev…

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Bokor Mountain, Kampot

We love Cambodia. We find more and more to love every day. A few weeks ago, we found Bokor Mountain.

As you drive South from Phnom Penh, you begin to enter rolling hills. Pretty soon you come across taller hills, oddly shaped hills, hills with temples on top, hills begging you to explore them. It’s all part of the Elephant Mountains, a small mountain range in Southeastern Cambodia. The tallest mountain of them all is 3,547 feet.

And its name is Bokor Mountain.

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Sean did an amazing job shooting all these panoramas; click on them to open in a new tab. It’s better to see them on a bigger screen to get all the amazing detail.

These are all shot from the top of Bokor Mountain. You can see the ocean, and islands off in the distance. This part of the ocean is known as the Gulf of Thailand.

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Bokor, in Khmer, means cow hump. (Pronounced: Bo-Ko.) You know what I mean; those cows you see in the countryside of certain countries with the massive hump on their back. It is apparently incredibly delicious. Sean has been dying to try it ever since he saw his first cow with that massive chunk of meat rolling between its shoulders…

I’m pretty sure the type of cow see in Cambodia is a zebu, check it out here. They live primarly in this region, and are known for their massive hump between their shoulders, or in Khmer, their bokor.

While doing my research, I stumbled on a fascinating article about the Kouprey, Cambodia’s national animal. It is a species of cattle found only in Cambodia. I had no idea! They are a “wild, forest-dwelling bovine species” in the jungles of northern Cambodia. They are seldom seen anymore due to deforestation and hunting. They weren’t even discovered until 1937! Learn more about the kouprey here.

Anyways, back to our trip to Bokor Mountain…

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You can drive to the top of the mountain and hike around from there. If you look at the left side of the above picture, you can see all sorts of cars and people on picnics. We were there during a holiday, so it was a bit crowded. But that didn’t make it any less beautiful.

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This is the statue of Lok Yeay Mao, also at the top of the mountain. Lok is the most formal version of Mr. or Mrs. You use Lok when speaking to someone of extreme status (like royalty, or someone in a government role). Yeay Mao is an ancient hero and divinity for the Buddhists in Cambodia. She is seen as the protector of travelers. One legend says that she used to be married to Ta Krohom-Koh, literally “Grandpa Red Neck“. (I’m not kidding.) They used to live in the forests, and her husband left her alone once and a tiger devoured her. Another legend has it that she was married to a powerful warrior, and when he died, she took control of his armies and became very powerful. I choose to believe the second story.

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Never miss an opportunity to have someone take your picture! We never have enough photos of us together.

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Near the statue of Lok Yeay Mao there is an abandoned building with some awesome graffiti. I later found out these abandoned buildings were part of the old King Sihanouk’s residence.  So much history on this one mountain!

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If you driver further along the mountain road, you come across an old French church. The French built it during the twenties when they wanted to have a French community at the top of the mountain.

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It’s abandoned now, but makes for an amazing place to explore…


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Inside the church.
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Speaking of abandoned things, the most popular artifact is the abandoned hotel. It was also built by the French in the twenties, but was never finished. It is in excellent condition, and you can explore every hallways and rooftop. There are no railings, security guards, or caution signs, so explore at your own risk!

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Explore we did. This is the view from the top of the abandoned hotel.

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The architecture was really neat, as was how well it is preserved. It was almost eerie…

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Then we found Popokvil Waterfall. IMG_8534

These guys live life on the wild side. They must have amazing balancing skills, because I would have fallen over the edge minutes ago.

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One of the steps of the falls. It was tough to get it all in a picture; they rolled on for quite a ways!


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A Cambodian phenomenon: The amount of people you can fit on one moto.

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Another view from Bokor. That is the town of Kampot off to the left. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Then we checked in to our guesthouse… or ‘nature lodge’ I suppose. It was thatched huts on stilts in the middle of rice paddies.

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The view from the balcony of our hut. That’s Bokor Mountain. How massive! You could spend a week explore every inch of its plateau.

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Then we headed into the town of Kampot for dinner. I loved the colonial-looking architecture…

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Sunset over the river in Kampot.

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When I woke up in the morning, I saw a woman heading to work…

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I wanted to get a shot the next morning of where we parked our car. We were skeptical when we saw that we had to park here and walk through the woods to get the bungalows. It was the first time I’ve seen a mosque since outside Kuwait!

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Sean in trusty Champee. The sign pointing towards Ganesha, where we stayed.

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The road was absolutely terrible. There were times that it felt more like a swamp than a dirt path!

Genesha4The rice paddies in front of Bokor Mountain.

Kampot is a beautiful place.

…but then we found Kep.

Check back soon for the rest of our weekend adventure!

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

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