Traveling Malaysia / PANGKOR

I’m about to tell you a story about a small troop of coconut stealing monkeys, and why the place they call home is worth visiting. 

I was on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and craving some beach time, so I consulted my trusty friend google to find that there was an island by the name of Pangkor just a 2 hour bus/ferry ride away. I did little to no research before departing on my bus from the KL Sentral Station, but figured that if there was a beach then the rest would be ok. What I failed to realize is that Malaysia was in the midst of a National Holiday. When I arrived to Pangkor, the island gave off a sleepy vibe, as the majority of the island was away celebrating. While many of the human residents were gone, the animals of the island had stayed behind to stake their claim. With no desire to pick a fight with a monkey, I averted my eyes as I walked to where I would rest my head for the next couple nights. After dropping my bag,  I left the clean, simple room behind and walked along the road until my toes collided with the sand at the beach. I strolled along the beach for a long time, until it ran into a cliff with interesting figurines and statues along the top. Curiosity drew me up the cliff, until I realized the figurines were part of a restaurant that was closed for the holiday. I slowly made my way back down and headed towards some shops further back from the beach. I passed a group of monkeys lazily hanging from trees, and a couple who was attempting to take a picture with one (nah, thanks). I found a small convenience store where I picked up some pineapple cookies to munch on as the clerk told me in broken english what I should do over the next couple of days. I followed her words as she traced out what was open despite the holiday. I headed back to my hotel, and figured if anything I would be able to make a lot of progress in my kindle over the next few days. Turns out by the end of the trip I would still only be at 10% in to the book I was reading and here is why…

I woke up the next morning with the convenience store as my final destination. Mixed with my protein bars, the store ended up supplementing my breakfast every morning. I glared begrudgingly at the pancake stand that was closed for the holiday but still tempted me with pictures of fine breakfast foods I could not have. I rounded the corner to the sight of two people frantically flapping their arms as if they were wings . I saw one monkey with a coconut and another monkey staring intently at the coconut in the other girls hands. As I got closer the girl with the coconut in her hands set it down like an offering and backed away. They turned to me in their British accents and explained how yesterday they had also had their coconuts taken, but they were trying a new route today to avoid losing their precious goods. We busted up laughing at the fact these island monkeys were all ruling our lives in one capacity or another. I never found myself with a coconut during my time on Pangkor, instead deciding to indulge in items the monkeys couldn’t take away. That included taking a loaf of bread to snorkel with my new friends and a ton of tropical fish. It also included waking up the next day to kayak in the ocean by myself, feeling overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of the water I  drifted through without a soul in sight. Each night I headed to one of the only establishments that was open, Daddy’s Cafe, to indulge in western style food at reasonable prices. Daddy’s was nice for three reasons, (1) It was the only real meal I indulged in each day, and the food never disappointed. I particularly loved their cocktails while watching the sunset (2)  It was right on the beach. It was the type of seating that oozes romance (3) It attracted all the other foreigners each night for dinner (as it was one of a few places open that wasn’t a street stall) so it was like a watering hole for making friends. One night I played bananagrams with a French family who were also living as expats in Cambodia. The next night I met American missionaries from India who were doing a visa run. For two nights in a row I met up with them to play card games and listen to John Mayer as the sun twinkled out over the ocean. Pangkor was equally memorable for what I experienced on the island, and the people I encountered.

I think the monkeys on Pangkor have a pretty cool home, and not just because they can steal food from unsuspecting tourists. The island was sleepy when I got there, and sleepy when I left, but I felt it only added to my adventure (except still bummed about that pancake stand). It was interesting to walk around on what felt like an almost deserted island, hearing the jungle pulsate and the waves clap hands with the sandy shore. Zooming around on a moped with empty streets and the taste of salt on my lips. What I enjoyed most about Pangkor is that it felt untouched, and a different way of life that I had seen in other parts of Malaysia. If you find yourself near Lumut, I would definitely recommend taking a quick ferry ride to see the island with amazing snorkeling and beachside dining. Just remember, avoid any coconuts and look out for the monkeys.

daddys

Dessert at Daddy’s Cafe on the beach

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The tiny island near Pangkor that we snorkeled off of

Happy Travels! 

Chyanne

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TRANSPORTATION // Bus and Ferry

I went to KL Sentral Bus Station (Jalan Stesen Sentral 50470  Kuala Lumpur) the day before leaving to grab a ticket, just to ensure they wouldn’t be sold out. You could easily go on the day of to grab a ticket, as there are multiple companies to choose from. I recommend going to the actual counters inside and not purchasing tickets from the people that are hawking tickets outside. It was about $10 each way, and the bus ride was very comfortable. For the bus ride back I purchased my ticket right before the bus left. The ferry was cheap and nice. From the bus stop in Lumut you walk over to the ferry station (you can just follow all the people who are doing the same), and wait for the next ferry to come. They run fairly regularly throughout the day. Depending on where you are staying in Pangkor will decide if you need to rent a moto while on the island. I stayed by the beach and was able to walk to a lot, but did take a moto for a day just to whip around the island. Moto rental was around $5/day and you could also get around by taxi. I also realize the number of times I mention “monkey” makes the island sound like planet of the apes, but they really just hung out in certain areas near the beach. The monkeys wouldn’t bother you if you were just walking (coconut-less of course).

Traveling Malaysia / PENANG

fog phsun phnight ph

Penang Hill // Right after rain / As the sun came out / As the sun said bye bye 

Ellie Goulding hummed through the speakers of the airplane as I landed in Penang, a Malaysian island off the northwest coast of the country. Excitement built inside of me as I hopped off the plane, grabbed my sim card and ordered my uber. Every time I visit a place i’ve never been I can hardly wait to start exploring. Ariel sings in The Little Mermaid, “look at this trove, treasures untold, how many wonders can one cavern hold?” Although I don’t have a beautiful, lilting voice (and am also not a mermaid…surprise!), Ariel’s words adequately describe the way I see the world. So many treasures, just waiting to be explored!

My first treasure was my uber driver, who was able to tell me a huge amount of information in 40 short minutes. He told me about Penang’s crime rates (it is pretty dang safe), his favorite food (Indian, as he was raised on it), and his road trip through the East Coast of America (he really enjoyed the cheesesteaks in Philly). Connecting with locals is what makes traveling really rewarding because when you get their point of view, everything you see is put into a unique perspective!
He dropped me off at the Four Points by Sheraton (http://www.fourpointspenang.com), where I decided to stay for half my trip. Right away the staff were warm and accommodating. The room was modern and simplistic, and had a large window that opened up to a view of the ocean. The beds were incredibly comfortable (especially coming from Cambodia, where mattresses are made to feel like wood), and I found it easy to wake up to the ocean every morning. It was also easy to wake up knowing that a delicious breakfast buffet waited for me downstairs. I’m a sucker for breakfast buffets, and this one was full of diverse and delicious food- whether you wanted frosted flakes, donuts, or naan (or all of the above). As I ate I loved staring at the ocean, but nothing more as the staff warned me of the large jellyfish population that took residence in the serene waters. The calm waves tempted me to enter, but looking at another guest who had gotten stung was enough to help me overcome the temptation. For snorkeling/swimming without unfriendly sea creatures, the hotel informed me that it was possible to go to another island to do just that, but it required a whole day so I decided to pass.

4 points

Beachside at the Sheraton

One night I decided to take the free shuttle to the night market area. On board with me were two elderly couples, one from Germany, the other from Denmark. Both had decided to stay at the Sheraton 3 months out of the year…not a bad life, eh? I walked around, but found that the night market was nothing special. Even though it was night, humidity was at 80% and I began searching for something that would keep my sweat at bay. I stumbled upon a delicious Indian restaurant (Little India) nearby the market that had really cheesy cheese naan. And this girl loves her cheese naan extra cheesy. I washed it down with a equally unhealthy, but unequally delicious Milo McFlurry from McDonald’s (mostly because Mcy-D’s had the strongest air conditioning on the road). Cambodia has made me an expert at seeking out establishments with air conditioning.
After a few days at the Sheraton (mostly spent relaxing and avoiding jellyfish), I left for my next destination, which was an Airbnb closer to an area called Georgetown. The Airbnb I stayed at was adorable, really well located, and had a incredibly helpful and attentive host. I would recommend you check it out if you are headed to Penang (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15448072).  I tend to prefer the Airbnb style of traveling over hotels for a few reasons: 1) It is easier to connect with the local population 2) I love seeing the style and taste of someone different 3) I enjoy staying in an apartment/house rather than a hotel- there is just a completely different feeling. Over the next few days I tasted and explored my way through Penang. Here are the treasures I discovered in the Georgetown area:

To Explore

  • Penang City Hall / I started my exploration here, because I was drawn to the massive and colonial inspired city hall. Once you enter into city hall you can walk through a Penang/Georgetown historical exhibit. I love to know the history of an area before I begin exploring, and this exhibit was really helpful.
  • Fort Cornwallis / You can enter the Fort for a small fee, or just walk around its perimeter and imagine its past brilliance. You can also explore the area around the Fort. There is a clock tower of historical importance, a beautiful park, and the water all in walking distance.
  • Penang Street Art  / The street art is world famous, and it would not be a trip to Penang if you don’t catch a glimpse. You can easily pick up a map of all the street art and decide which murals you most want to see. I spent the day walking around to catch almost all of them (especially any that had to do with cats), peeking into coffee shops, and stopping by the stands of artisans. There is a lot to see and experience in this lively area. You can also see the convergence of the three cultures of Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, and Indian. I walked through an intricately decorated Chinese temple, passed a 200 year old Mosque as the call to prayer rang out, and smelled fragrant spices as I sauntered by Indian shops.
    mosque

    Beautiful Mosque I stumbled upon while exploring (not the 200 year old one)

    street art

    One of my favorite pieces of street art

  • Gurney Plaza Mall / While a mall might not be your first choice, I often stop into a nice mall because I don’t get to experience that in Cambodia. Gurney Plaza was bright, modern, and luxurious. They had stores of all price ranges covering all sorts of needs, but would also be a good place to stop if you just want air conditioning and to look at pretty things.
  • Penang Hill / If you have the chance head to Penang Hill to catch some spectacular 360 views of Penang. You can choose to hike to the top (would take along time) or my preferred method- take the train. There is a small cost for the train ticket, but it is worth it as you sit and take in the breathtaking view all the way up the mountain. I went right before sunset and missed the busy crowd (as I had read reviews that there is a long cue for the tickets) and got my ticket right away. It probably helped that it had just finished raining, so people didn’t think to come to the hill. I recommend grabbing a drink or a bite to eat at one of the restaurants after you are done walking around, and soak in the beauty of Penang.

    d r

    You could look this happy too if you go to Penang Hill!

To Play

  • Escape Adventure Play / This is not in Georgetown, and is actually closer to the Sheraton, but I decided to go while staying at the Airbnb so I included it in this portion. Whether you are alone, or have a family, this adventure play park (http://www.escape.my) is great for you! I tried most of the rides and games, and would recommend you do the same! My favorites were Atan’s Leap (you literally take a leap of faith…I may have closed my eyes the whole time, and as a result did not land on my feet…so keep your eyes open people), the zip lines, the rope course, and the tubby tubes. Just make sure you wear athletic (lightweight cause you will sweat sweat sweat) clothes, sneakers, and protective gloves if you have them (for the ropes course). They have lockers, so if you want to stock up on water to avoid buying it in the park you can. I didn’t find the food too pricey, but it was a little more expensive compared to the same type of food you would buy elsewhere on the island.

To Eat
Penang has so much to offer in the form of food! Although I could only get to the places listed below, I look forward to the day when I can return to indulge in more fusion foods and tasty treats. If you are staying longer peruse the internet for more of what Penang has to offer, or just ask the locals and trust they will send you on a culinary adventure!

  • Hokkien Noodles / One of Malaysia’s most popular dishes. You can get Hokkien noodles on a number of street stalls (especially walking around Georgetown) and also at restaurants. I enjoyed mine at ‘BARN’ located in the outside food area of Gurney Plaza.
  • David Brown’s at Penang Hill / If you get the chance to venture up Penang Hill, I recommend catching the sunset with a bite to eat or a cocktail at David Brown’s. They tout it as the “highest restaurant in Penang” and the views are stunning.
  • Kebaya / Nyonya is what malaysian-chinese fusion is called. It is uniquely Malaysian, and there are quite a few places that make this fusion food, including Kebaya. Kebaya serves creative and tasty Nyonya food in a nice setting.
  • Sri Ananda Bahwan / This local chain of Indian food was recommended to us and did not disappoint. You know a place is good when you walk in and you see 90% local people. I sampled quite a few dishes, including the chicken tikka masala, and butter chicken. The pineapple mint lassi was the perfect company to make it a wonderful meal!
  • Nandos / A South African chicken joint with Portuguese flavors, Nandos can satisfy the pickiest eater with its flavorful and tasty chicken dishes. We don’t have Nandos in America or Cambodia, so when I see one I make sure to stop in. This trip I may or may not have stopped in three times.
  • Sweet treats and tasty snacks can be found at the very bottom level of Gurney Plaza. Over two days, I sampled everything from Uncle Tetsu Cheesecake to 100% natural coconut ice cream, and churros. There were so many more small shops I wanted to explore, but didn’t have enough days or a large enough sweet tooth.

    cheese

    I failed to capture in picture most of what I ate, but don’t worry…I got a picture of the whole cheesecake I ate.

Penang definitely has plenty of treasures to discover, and is such a fun mix of culture, food, and play that I would definitely recommend it if you are going to be in or around Malaysia. If you give yourself 4-6 days you will be able to leisurely experience the best of Penang, but could do a condensed trip in 2-3 days if you just want to see the UNESCO World Heritage area. To get to Penang, check out Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com/us/en/home.page?cid=1) where you can find cheap flights to Penang from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia (about $15 each way). Once you are on the island, use uber or one of the other car services as they are super cost efficient. When I was there they even had a deal that if your ride was less than $1 they would cover it. Can’t beat that!

If you’ve been to Penang before let me know what you loved about it, or if you are about to head there – happy travels!!

Chyanne

Expat Tips: Eating your way through Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia is snuggled between Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Gulf of Thailand and is also known as the Kingdom of Wonder. Truth be told, having lived in the Kingdom for three years, a lot of things do make me wonder (why is the traffic like this? is this supposed to make my tastebuds happy?). On that list of wonderment is me wondering why many people skip over Cambodia in their travels. Beyond the world famous UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat complex, there is much more to explore and experience! My hope is that providing you with these expat-approved tips not only encourages you to travel to Cambodia, but makes your experience more enjoyable! The best trips I have gone on are when I had a friend in the country that gave me all the best recommendations. So consider us friends, and enjoy these tips 🙂 !

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This is entry #2 in Expat Tips: Cambodia Edition. Be sure to check out all the other entries to help prep and plan for your trip. Read below to see what tasty treats you can enjoy in Phnom Penh!

Phnom Penh may not be known as a culinary destination, but there are actually quite a few restaurants that can keep your tastebuds jumping for joy! I’ve broken down the section into alphebatized restaurants based on a type of food you may be craving. Keep in mind that when you visit Phnom Penh, there are many more options than what is listed below. These are just some of my favorites! When you do come make sure to check out what is near your hotel, because your tastebuds may find their own gem!

$
indicates restaurants that are more expensive (in relation to regular Cambodian restaurant prices)

Restaurants

American
JomaLook online to see your closest location / http://www.joma.biz/phnom-penh-cambodia
If you are from America, this is most similar to Panera. It has sandwiches, salads, soups, and bagels. It isn’ t a culinary delight, but is good for a wholesome meal that you will enjoy. I recommend the chicken pesto sandwich with a mixed fruit shake. If you are a lover of coffee, avoid this cup of joe as it tends to be mediocre. Multiple locations around town.

Brazilian

$ Samba Brazilian Steakhouse / Villa No 64, Preah Sihanouk Blvd
A super delicious Brazilian buffet. Come hungry, as there are a lot of items to indulge in.

Brunch
Will’s Brunch Cafe / #7 Street 306
If you want to take your tastebuds on a culinary exploration, head over to Will’s. You can sip a cup of delicious Mondulkiri coffee while eating a typical Tunisian (or French, American, etc) breakfast.

Burgers
Lone Pine Cafe / House No 14, Street 282
Classic burgers and chili. I recommend the bacon onion cheese biscuits and Paula’s Husband burger.

Restore One / No 23, Street 123, Russian Market Area
Some of the best burgers in town are found at this charity/cafe by Russian market. They have a variety of flavors and spices to make each burger a unique experience. My favorite is the Rugged Cowboy with a Spicy Mexican patty.

Bassac Lane Burgers / Street 308 @ Street 29, Tonlé Bassac (this is the address for Hangar 44)
I can’t remember the actual name of this place, but it is in bassac lane. All you have to do is walk past the book bar and hangar bar, and its on the left (across from the clothing store). These are the best burgers i’ve had in the city. You can also get them as a salad or a wrap. I recommend the Mexican one if you love spicy!

Cambodian
Romdeng / No 74 Street 174
At this restaurant you can choose to indulge in fried tarantula, or go a simpler route with tasty and traditional Khmer foods (sans creepy crawlies). It is run by Friends, a great organization that also has a tapas restaurant later on in this list.

$ Malis / No 136 Norodom Boulevard
Close to Independence Monument, Malis is a culinary exploration through Khmer foods. It is a higher end restaurant, where you can comfortably experience the best of Cambodian cuisine in a luxury environment.

Just a note- both restaurants above are on the nicer side. You can easily find Khmer food along any street. I have ate at many random Khmer establishments and carts on the side of the road. I would also recommend going to a Khmer BBQ, they are easily found. The BBQ’s are cheap, and it’s a fun experience to choose what you want to bbq with friends. Ultimately, it is up to you how adventurous you want to be, and what you feel comfortable with.

Chicken
Bonchon / Look online for closest / location http://bonchon.com.kh
With a few locations in the city, if you are craving chicken this is the place for you! The chain originally hails from Korea, which you can see reflected in the menu with options like bibimbap. My absolute favorite is a mix up of their boneless chicken breasts, drenched in soy garlic sauces and spicy sauces.

Diverse Menu  
Daughters / #321 Sisowath Quay
Run by a charity, daughters has a diverse and tasty menu. I recommend the mango chicken sandwich, and the chocolate chip cookie dough egg rolls (yup, they are as good as they sound). If you are there in the fall, they also serve holiday themed beverages!

$ Fox Wine Bistro / #132 Samdech Sothearos
Looking for a romantic date spot, or a good glass of wine? Fox has got you covered. The menu is diverse, and every single item i’ve tried has been incredibly tasty.

Jars of Clay#39B Street 155
Run entirely by women, this is the place to come if you want a hearty meal for cheap. I have a fondness in my heart for their damper loaf and chocolate frap. You can’t really go wrong with anything you order. There are two locations, but the one by Russian Market is my favorite.

Java / No 56 Sihanouk Boulevard
An expat favorite, this is an arts cafe with consistently good food. There are two locations, but the one by Independence Monument is my favorite. You can take a good book, sit upstairs on the balcony (if the weather is nice) and stare out at the passing motos.

Friends Tapas / House No 215 Street 13
Close to the riverside, this joint never disappoints. They have a lot of fusion options. I recommend the corn fritter- my tastebuds are jumping just thinking about it!

FCC / No 363 Sisowath Quay
Foreign Correspondents Club has a variety of good food, and you can gaze out over the river while tasting it.

Experiences
$ Dining in the Dark / #126 Street 19
If you have never dined in the dark before, give it a chance! You are submerged into complete darkness and fed a three course meal that tantalizes the taste buds. The restaurant benefits those who are vision impaired, and also leads to a fun night of trying to guess what is on your plate!

Eclipse Sky Bar / Phnom Penh Tower, 23rd Floor, Monivong Boulevard 
Take in Phnom Penh from a birds eye view at Eclipse. The food is decent, but what makes it spectacular is the view (which is particularly breathtaking at sunset)!

Healthy
Artillery / Street 240 1/2, Phnom Penh 
Down a alleyway, this place is hard to find, but worth it when you do! The food is tasty, and they have plenty of options.

Backyard Cafe / House 11B, Street 246
This is my favorite place to come when I am showing my body that I actually care for it. The power bowls here are amazing, as well ad everything else on this menu. You can also pick up natural cashew butter here, as well as other goodies!

Indian
Phnom Penh India / 335 Sisowath Quay
Massive naan, delicious chicken tikka rolls, and buttery butter chicken. What more could a girl ask for?

Irish
Paddy Rice / Sisowath Quay Corner, 213/217 
Along the riverside, this place has a killer bangers and mash!

Italian
Brooklyn / No 20, Street 123
For when you are craving Italian food made by New Yorkers. This is a favorite of expats for their delicious pizza, chicken wings, and pastas.

Il Fornio/ No.11, Street 302 
Once upon a time they only had a location in Siem Reap, and it made my heart sing when they brought it to Phnom Penh. The one in Phnom Penh is nearby Independence Monument, and will serve you some of the best pizzas, tiramisu, and burgers that the city has to offer!

Luigis (Piccola Italia Da Luigi) / Street 308 
I go back and forth on whether I like the pizza more at Luigis and Il Fornio, and I haven’t been able to make up my mind. If you find yourself near Bassac Lane then stop into Luigis for some authentic, delicious Italian pizza.

Japanese
Pepper LunchAeon Mall, #132, Samdech Sothearos
If you happen to find yourself at Aeon mall, stop by Pepper Lunch to “sizzle it your way” by choosing from a variety of meats and flavors that you cook yourself!

Korean
J8 / #36A, Street 313, Toul Kork
Located in Toul Kork (the north part of the city), this place always delivers good food. The bulgogi served here is my favorite!

Silla / #34, Street 337, Toul Kork 
Also in toul kork, this restaurant makes you feel like you have traveled to Korea. It’s huge walls encompass a vast amount of seating, as well as a fountain. You can hear k-pop hits churned out over the speakers as you enjoy kimchi jiggae. The flavors taste similar to J8, but everything costs about $1 more because of how nice the establishment is.

Toto Ramen  / Look online for closest location / https://www.facebook.com/Toto-Cambodia-230888607012986/?rf=251710178306647
With various locations around the city, hit up Toto if you want some bibimbap but aren’t sure where to get it. Not as authentic as the first two on this list, but still delicious! They also have some good ice cream if you feel the need to wash it down with something sweet.

Mexican
Mexicano / #29, Street 288
Craving a taco that tastes like it came straight from Tijuana? Hit up Mexicano. Just be aware there is limited seating, so call ahead if you can, or go on a weeknight.

Taqueria Corona / 14E, Pasteur (St. 51)
Perfect if you are craving tex-mex. The nachos and mission burritos are delicious! The passionfruit margaritas aren’t too bad either.

Noodles
Chinese Noodle / #551 Monivong Blvd.
The fact that it is hard to get a seat in this place is a testament to how good the food is. You can get a whole meal for less than $5 and feel completely satisfied. My favorites are the fried dumplings and noodles with chicken. The noodles are super thick, and you can see them being made right in front of you!

Sesame Noodle Bar / #9, Street 460
By Russian Market, this is the place to go if you are craving delicious cold noodles. They have a variety of flavors that don’t disappoint.

Sushi
$ Rokku  / #507, Sisowath Quay
Founded by an American-Cambodian pop star, Rokku is in a fun location (right by Independence Monument) and has floors based on whatever mood you are feeling. Want to sing karaoke? Eat on floor 2. Want to listen to a smooth cover band and sit outside? Head to the top floor. The menu is good, and the “choose what you want” experience is a bonus!

Thai
Chiang Mai / #227, Sisowath Quay
On the riverside, this place has got you covered if you are craving pad thai and traditional Thai curries.

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 So now that i’ve finished writing this, I am feeling really hungry. Anybody else? There are just so many good places on this list! I hope this list helps you in your quest to eat your way through Phnom Penh! 🙂

Happy Eating!

Chyanne 

 

 

 

 

Hostels, Hotels, and Resorts, OH MY! Expat Tips on where to stay on your visit to Cambodia.

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Cambodia is snuggled between Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Gulf of Thailand and is also known as the Kingdom of Wonder. Truth be told, having lived in the Kingdom for three years, a lot of things do make me wonder (why is the traffic like this? is this supposed to make my tastebuds happy?). On that list of wonderment is me wondering why many people skip over Cambodia in their travels. Beyond the world famous UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat complex, there is much more to explore and experience! My hope is that providing you with these expat-approved tips not only encourages you to travel to Cambodia, but makes your experience more enjoyable! The best trips I have gone on are when I have a friend in the country that can give me all the best recommendations. So, now consider us friends, and enjoy these tips 🙂 !

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This is entry #1 in Expat Tips: Cambodia Edition. Be sure to check out all the other entries to help prep and plan for your trip. Read below to see which hotel is the one for you, whether you are ballin’ on a budget, bound to get bougie, or somewhere in-between. While Cambodia is full of awesome properties, the ones listed below have impressed myself (or my fellow expats) time and time again. 🙂

$= 5-30
$$=30-70
$$$=70-150
$$$$=150+

Phnom Penh // Capital of Cambodia. Small (in comparison to big cities like Bangkok), but big enough to keep you entertained. Full of culture, charm, and unique smells.IMG_7039

$: Phnom Penh has a host of hostels which can be easily found by asking any tuk tuk (open cab taxi) driver. Many of the hostels are conveniently located at the riverside. We like to go to the Mad Monkey Hostel and 11 Happy Backpackers Hostel because each of those hostels has a nice roof area with games, and is close to the riverside.

$$: The Blue Lime / https://maads.asia/bluelime
Committed to responsible tourism, this urban accommodation is comfortable and well located close to the riverside. With the pool, the property has the feeling of an oasis, which is nice after a hot day of exploring the city. Standard rooms start around $55/night.

$$$: The Plantation / https://www.theplantation.asia
Standard rooms start around $115/night. This hotel is a perfect oasis for the weary traveler or expat needing a break. You could decide to drink mai tai’s by the pool all day, or head over to the riverside, which is conveniently nearby. This hotel is also committed to responsible tourism.

$$$$: Raffles / http://www.raffles.com/phnom-penh/
Starting around $177 dollars/night, the 5 star Raffles is a wonderful mix of comfort, glamour and culture. Jackie Kennedy even stayed here, and you can get a drink named in her honor at the Elephant Bar. Raffles also has a wonderful afternoon tea that you can enjoy while viewing their elegant grounds.

$$$$: Sofitel / http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-6526-sofitel-phnom-penh-phokeethra/index.shtml
The fanciest stay in Phnom Penh can be found at the Sofitel, with rooms around $200/night. This french colonial inspired hotel is on a beautiful grounds, not too far from anything in the city, and is well deserving of its 5 stars.

Kep // Quiet charming beach town, perfect if you are in need of some rest and relaxation. A 2 hour ride from Phnom Penh.

$: Khmer Hands / https://www.facebook.com/khmerhandskep
An affordable resort with a purpose, it will only cost you around $10 to stay here. Staff is very friendly, and they also offer informal cooking classes!

$$: Saravoan Hotel / http://saravoanhotel-kep.com
Right across from a stretch of beach, this hotel is conveniently located by different shops and moto rentals. It is clean, comfortable, and the staff is really helpful! Rooms start around $30/night.

$$$: Veranda Resort / http://veranda-resort.asia
One of the best places to stay in Kep, this eco-friendly resort is snuggled on a tree covered hillside. It overlooks the ocean, and has a killer breakfast buffet. If you can swing it, this is my definite recommendation. Just look at there gallery and you will know what I mean! Rooms start around $80/night.

$$$$: Knai Bang Chatt / http://www.knaibangchatt.com/the-property/sleep/single-rooms/
The most luxurious place to rest your head in Kep, Knai Bang Chatt, is right by the water. With an infinity pool and yoga and meditation classes, this property has it all! Rooms start around $188/night. Make sure to catch sunset at the Sailing Club for an unforgettable end to your day.

Sihanoukville // A 4 hour ride from Phnom Penh will take you to the best beaches in Cambodia. Known for being a party town (which is nice if you are into partying), you can also find family friendly locations, resorts, and quieter areas.

$: There are a lot of hostels in Siahnoukville, and depending on the experience you want you can choose the beach accordingly. If you are looking for more of a party atmosphere then look at hostels by Serendipity beach and Occheuteal beach. If you are looking for more of a laid back time then look at properties on Otres I and Otres II.

$$: Papa Pippo Bungalows / http://www.papapippo.com/#home
Otres beach is one of the calmer, family friendly beaches in Sihanoukville. These bungalows are comfortable and right along the beach (so this is good if you don’t mind being sandy all the time)! A bungalow is around $30/night, and when you stay here make sure to bring your appetite. They have an amazing Italian restaurant that is always churning out wood fired pizzas.

$$$: Independence Hotel, Resort, and Spa / http://independencehotel.net
Rooms start around $100/night and if you have one hundred dollars to spare then staying here is totally worth it! The resort has a private beach with a lovely walkway that goes from the hotel to the beach. The staff are wonderful, and the breakfast buffet may be one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

$$$: Sokha Beach Sihanoukville / https://www.sokhahotels.com/sihanoukville/
This is a beautiful resort nestled between garden landscapes and sparkling blue waters. Rooms start around $100/night, with an extra cost for breakfast. All the resorts amenities and the beautiful beach will keep you entertained in a relaxing atmosphere!

Siem Reap // Place of the famous Angkor Wat Temples. Besides exploring the ancient temples, Siem Reap has a lot more to offer- from traditional Cambodian dancing shows (called Apsara) to circus acts and good cafes! A 7 hour car ride, or 30 min flight from Phnom Penh.

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$$: The Villa Siem Reap / http://www.thevillasiemreap.com/home.html
Starting at $35/night this quaint villa is walking distance from pub street and other Siem Reap attractions. You get fresh juice on arrival, a nice bed to sleep in, a pool out back, and a smiling staff member to help you with any needs!

$$: Lotus Blanc Resort / http://lotusblancresort.com
Starting around $55, the Lotus Blanc Resort is an awesome fusion of Khmer culture and French elegance. Comfortable, relaxing, and modern- everything about this resort is done right. Peek at their online gallery and you will agree!

$$$: Sokha Siem Reap / https://www.sokhahotels.com/siemreap/
Sokha also has locations in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, but the Siem Reap location is my favorite. Set amongst lush tropical gardens at $115/night, the Sokha gives you tranquility, luxury, and easy access to all the town has to offer!

Mondulkiri // 6 hour ride from Phnom Penh. A low-key place with cooler temperatures and nice scenery. Venture here if you want to relax in a hammock while staring at lush green hills, hike with an elephant, hang out at a waterfall, or visit a coffee plantation.

$: The Nature Lodge / http://naturelodgecambodia.com/#rooms
Around $10/night for a bungalow, you can’t beat The Nature Lodge! It is an eco-friendly budget accommodation that is surrounded by the highlands of lush and green Mondulkiri. The bungalows are comfortable, the staff are accommodating, and if you stay here you may just wake up to a horse nibbling at the grass near your bungalow stairs!

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I’ve only listed the top 5 most common travel destinations, but if you are planning on staying in Cambodian longer you can also check out Battambang (quiet town, bamboo train and culture), Rattanakiri (cooler weather and strawberry fields), and Koh Kong (an island near Sihanoukville). If you have any questions, please let me know. Happy Travels! 

Lee-uh Howie (Informal way of saying goodbye in Khmer…since we are friends and everything 😉 ),

Chyanne

A Hug

 

I stand to reason we all could use a big hug*.

The type of hug that makes you feel loved, protected, and warm in your tummy. Those are my favorite hugs that leave me twirling and singing…although to be fair it doesn’t take much to get me to dance or bust out a song off tune. I would imagine Jesus gives really good hugs. I also think the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Man would give great hugs based on their playability.

Sometimes people get so caught up in everything that life consists of they forget to give those hugs, and shut off the part of themselves that receives those hugs. They forget to be compassionate, and leave their empathy somewhere hidden. Maybe this part of them never developed fully. Maybe it never had a chance.

I remember a small group devotion I had awhile back, and as it was finishing the door opened and a little girl ran straight into my arms and gave me the best little hug ever. I didn’t really know this girl, and it reminded me how special that type of interaction is- whether a stranger or a loved one. There is such unassuming joy, and innocence in children- at what point do we lose the ability to reach out to everyone? Making friends and caring about people used to be simpler when we were little. We weren’t so inundated with thoughts from the rest of the world. We saw life as it was, and took situations at face value. As life goes on we put up walls. Surely some walls are in place for good reason, but on some level we should all be able to connect, to break down walls- we are all human after all. We have all endured pain, sadness, joy, and confusion…some much more than others, I have seen that since moving here. Regardless, there is love and potential inside each one of us. We have to understand that some people have the love buried further down, but it is there. It is up to those who have more light in their life to help carry the load for a friend until they can heal from it. It is up to us who identify as followers of Christ to not just take his name, but to emulate him. That means giving out love (and maybe some hugs) limitlessly.

*Could be something as simple as a hug, an encouragement, or a deeper emotional connection.

From Cambo With Love, 

Chy

 

How a bar of soap changed my life.

Who knew a bar of soap could change a life?

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I didn’t. Maybe that is why God used it to completely turn mine upside down.

If I really trace it back, this journey began when I was eleven and unloading Scotty (a family horse) from our trailer, and he backed out so suddenly it led to a  burn on my hand down to my tissue and a broken pinky (Note to self: Don’t wrap a rope connected to a skittish horse around your hand). Of all the fingers, I suppose the pinky is the one to break, because you look classy as you write and as you drink from a cup with a stiff pinky up. After that incident I decided I didn’t want to follow my mom’s passion of horse back riding competitively. Not long after my hand had begun to heal a family friend recommended we get involved in the local 4-h club that had a goat project. I started off with a meat goat who I christened with the name Willy. I soon found out that I didn’t have it in me to sell Willy for meat, or have an actual meat goat project. Willy lived a good life, getting fat and becoming best friends with my horse Buddy. They would eat together, and when it rained Willy would stand beneath him.

After I found out I had a strong affection for goats, and was much better at collecting them than selling them, I looked at the dairy goat project. I did some research to find what kind of breed I would want (there are 7 different kinds) and from there I started my herd. As the herd grew we had extra milk, and my brilliant mom decided to utilize it. She started making goats milk soap, and other bath and body items. She taught me her trade, and I went around and taught lotion making classes in elementary schools and community centers from time to time.

When filling out my application for a short term trip to Cambodia in 2013 I put down lotion making as one of my skills, although I didn’t give it much thought. The one skill I hadn’t put much thought into is the one they ended up choosing. Over a three week period I went around and taught lotion making in the villages to interested women and men. It was amazing the way their eyes lit up as they scribbled down ingredients and the steps of lotion making. I saw through those moments that God could use anything, even lotion, to show people his love! There are many stories that provide greater context for those three weeks, however I prefer to sum it up in a sentence or two. Those three weeks changed my life, because God planted seeds that would bloom into something I never could’ve imagined. Those seeds are still being watered, and as those seeds have grown, I have grown with them.

I moved to Cambodia in the summer of 2014, fresh out of college and filled with expectations and ideas. I had an idea of what I thought Cambodia was like, in all that I had managed to gather in a three week timespan from my short term trip (aka fairly clueless). I’ve been here almost two years, and looking back at 2014 me, I just laugh. It is amazing the things that have become normal now, it is amazing all the ways that I am changing. This time has been hard and sometimes i’ve crumbled underneath it all. This time has been amazing, and i’ve realized there is not another life I would want to lead, another place I would rather be than where God has me.

For possibly selfish reasons, I prefer to live in a third world country. I prefer to work here (I of course wish poverty and its side effects did not exist- but it does as of now). I cannot say I am exactly the same as the people in the community I work amongst, because things are not the same for us. I can choose to leave and go to a life of comfort. How I wish our birthplace didn’t create such a difference in so many things, that divide which motivates me to demolish it.  We were raised differently, but at the end of the day we are all human. They have as much to teach me as I do them. I am no better than them, and them no less or better than me, as the only difference between us is we were born in different places. Here I see stories that play out closer to bible stories, I see a different kind of hope and faith. When I’m in America I get preoccupied by things that when i’m here I find irrelevant. There is a kind of adventure and simplicity that I can’t find anywhere else. There is a part of myself that I really like when I’m here. I attribute that to following God wherever he takes you (ha- simple in words, not in deed!). In his heart, there is a peace even amongst the greatest of chaos.

I’ve felt a lot of chaos, firsthand and secondhand. I’ve realized in comparison to many people I haven’t experienced much chaos. I’ve realized that things aren’t about me, that pride does more harm than good, and that love through word and deed is something that should be given out unequivocally and without ceasing. When I started the soap project I hoped it would change lives. I know God will use it to empower girls, and to spread love. All this time, I never gave much thought about how it has changed me. I understood how I had changed at the surface level. How God had helped me realize fault lines running through my own life (some of which are still causing cracks). When I think about it I have learned so much more than I have taught. I’ve been transformed and humbled by how much the people I’ve worked with have taught me. My western savior complex (which even in my hearts best intentions still exists) thought I would be coming here to teach, but how i’ve been put in my place, how i’ve been shown that it isn’t about me coming to teach at all.  My faith is possible because of the people I work with, I see God in them. They teach me about forgiveness, about grace, about love. God has shown me about his character through them. God has brought me closer through this. I could not have reached where I am now without God bringing me here, and he knew that.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I do know that I have much to learn. I know that life requires grace for oneself and for others. Every human deserves love, and we should all seek to give that out. We all seek love, acceptance, validation, and we can live our lives giving out to others what we all need. Through the ups and downs, and side to sides, I am thankful God is still watering the seeds of my heart.

Here is a quote I love by a Hindu poet and theologian from a long time ago. I find it beautiful, as we all come from the same God. I find it beautiful because we should all seek to live at the empty heart of this paradox.

“Find the real world, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold to all who ask. Live at the empty heart of paradox. I’ll dance there with you- cheek to cheek”
– Rumi

With love and the desire to dance with you- cheek to cheek, 

CC

Poverty’s Grip

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I hate the power money has. Specifically, I hate the power that the absence of money has. Poverty. Poverty looks different in different places, but its effects are debilitating regardless of geographic location.

In America I saw very real poverty. I worked in a community for a summer that is classified as “section 8” housing. This refers to section 8 of a federally funded program that provides housing assistance to lower income families, among other things. I saw so much beauty blossom from that community, but I also saw heartache. I saw families who had one bed for eight people. Children who only had money to buy food from the 99 cent store, which usually consisted of potato chips and other crap food. I saw children who were forced to mature far too fast because their parents had to work all night and day, so they had to fend for themselves. Of course, these children have some great resources that  children in other parts of the world don’t have. They have an awesome community center to spend their time at, and they have help from the government. The government cares for them- in some way.

This care is not nearly all encompassing. It helps them survive, but who is going to help them thrive? Many people blame the people for the situation that they are in, when sometimes people have no control of their situations (of course there are some who do).  Some people on the outside (many who probably haven’t experienced very real poverty) may look at the situation, and either want nothing to do with it or say they pity them with their words. What do words do, though? Words can be powerful, but they aren’t action. People often care about the children, saying they shouldn’t be subjected to what their parents have brought them in to. We forget that their parents were once children too, and probably faced the same hardships. Poverty is a cycle, and it is hard to break. People break out of this cycle, but it is rare, because there is SO MUCH working against them.

My first experience with a third world level of poverty was when I went to Mexico. I saw children who were literally born and raised in landfills and then they had children, who will one day have children. The cycle persists. We danced with them and made them balloons, and then we left. We left those children, those people, to live under tarps and scrounge for a living, covered in soot their entire life. There is no justice in that. I am tired of leaving. I am tired of seeing something and feeling sad, and doing nothing about it.

Now and days I see poverty all around me. People who are so poor that they send their young child and brand new baby on the streets to dust off cars- rain or shine. So poor they work 6 days a week, endless hours, sewing together clothes in horrible conditions. Clothes you and I buy, supporting their desolate working conditions. So poor they have to sell their body to eat, so poor that they will turn to anything that will make them money. I am confronted with many of those things daily. I am surrounded by so much poverty that in some ways I have gotten used to it. The people here don’t have the same help and access to facilities and assistance that people in other parts of the world do.  I guess that is why they call it a third world country. How can so many of us live in the first world and forget that there are so many people just like us who are two worlds behind? Poverty isn’t just not having a nice house, or access to nice things. Poverty is evil, because its side effects destroy lives, they destroy societies. I wrote a little poem that encompasses some of my thoughts.

They call Cambodia the Kingdom of Wonder
From the word wonder and what I see at times it feels wonder has been torn asunder
Around every corner I see poverty 
Here poverty becomes violence
Here poverty becomes lost innocence
Mistrust and corruption on the highest to the lowest levels 
The side effects of poverty rear their heads like horrid little devils
Do you need medicine, do you want to go to school?
Unless you have money those dreams are void and null 
Do you need money?
Just sell your life to a loan shark, honey 
They say there isn’t rest for the wicked
Here the wicked sleep fine, feeling not one bit afflicted 

Being poor isn’t just about not having money. It is what happens as a side affect when there is a lack of money that is the disturbing part. I don’t want to contribute all of Cambodia’s issues to poverty, because there are other issues at play (every country has its issues). However, poverty is interconnected in each of them. I also cannot claim to be an expert of poverty, or have all the answers. I don’t need first hand experience though to see that we need to do more. We can no longer look out at the barren streets, feeling sad. That emotion needs to formulate into action. We can’t just throw money at people that live in societies that are sometimes working against them. We need to empower them, and address the root causes. If that means taking two steps back into a different world, in order to bring them into a better* world, then we should all be willing to walk a million steps for our brothers and sisters. Whether that is in America, Cambodia, Mexico, and beyond.

*By better I don’t mean just advanced road systems/technology, etc. What I really mean is a place where freedom and justice have a chance at existing.

I hope this can encourage and remind you to let your life and your actions change the lives around you. We all have so much potential, and sometimes it takes one person (you) bringing that potential out of many more people!

Blessings,

Chyanne