Category Archives: Travel

BaliSpirit Festival: A Review of My Favorite Workshops

Earlier this year, I participated in the BaliSpirit Festival (BSF) as a member of the Bali Spirit Team. Founded 10 years ago, BSF is a celebration of yoga, dance, and music which takes place in Bali, Indonesia. As the Spirit Team’s “Goddess of Joy,” I worked with other volunteers behind the scene to make the event a successful one. During the weeklong festival, I had the opportunity to attend a number of workshops, classes, and performances. Below is a synopsis of my five favorite workshops.

Spirit Team 2017!

1. Daniel “Sonic” Rojas: Embodied Dance
Singapore-based Daniel “Sonic” Rojas shared “Embodied Dance,” his own style of movement with festival attendees. Embodied Dance combines elements of yoga, capoeira, popping, breakdance, parkour, and contemporary dance to give individuals a unique way of expressing themselves. Daniel guided us through a series of exercises to attune us to various muscle groups and musical frequencies, enabling us to connect to our physical and emotional selves. His class was energetic and empowering; it provided us with tools to communicate our feelings through the flow of our bodies and our breath.


2. Bex Tyrer & Carlos Romero: Flying High into Bali Skies – AcroYoga for All
As an acroyoga teacher, I am aware of how challenging it can be to teach moves that are challenging and achievable to students with diverse backgrounds and skill levels, more so when those students are from all over the world! Given that, I think that Bali-based teachers Bex Tyrer and Carlos Romero did an excellent job. Instead of focusing on standard L-basing moves (when the base is on the ground and the flyer is balanced on the base’s feet and hands) which are the ABCs of acroyoga, they skipped straight to mid-alphabet by introducing standing acrobatics to more than 50 participants. They made standing acro accessible to the group by presenting poses in a fun and participatory way. We stood and fell on top of each other, but we did so with smiles on our faces!


3. Vincent Bolleta: Hansa Yoga
Vincent Bolleta, a yoga teacher from New Zealand, combines humor with extensive knowledge of biomechanics, yoga therapy, movement therapy, and postural analysis. His workshop initially appealed to me because of his inventive flow. His imaginative sequencing of asana forced me and the other students to exercise our limbs and brains in a manner dissimilar to what we are accustomed to experiencing in traditional yoga classes. Vincent explained that by exercising the muscles in this unusual way, Hansa Yoga practitioners are able to heal and strengthen their bodies. In addition to a physical practice, Vincent’s workshops consisted of talks about how to bring awareness of the breath and bandhas into our daily lives, techniques which I have since absorbed into my personal yoga practice.

4. Nicole Barrote: Yoga Dance Soulful Striptease
When I heard that there was a yoga dance class called “Soulful Striptease,” I was skeptical at first. American instructor Nicole Barrote encouraged us to bring a playful attitude and open mind, however, so I showed up ready to learn and to dance! Nicole showed us JAMA Yoga, also known as Journey Around Movement, a combination of yoga and dance aimed at eliciting students’ confident and energetic sides. Sure enough, the moment the bhangra warm-ups started, I was throwing my hands up in the air and having a ball! Sadly I couldn’t stay for the striptease portion of the class as I had to return to volunteer duty, but I have no doubt that it was a blast.


5. Eoin Finn: Slow Flow
Canadian Eoin Finn is the founder of Blissology Yoga, a name which made perfect sense the moment I stepped on my mat and felt the bliss and joy emanating from him and his wife, Insiya. Eoin taught a slow Vinyasa flow, encouraging us not to drive our heart rates up but to quiet our minds and enjoy each sensation of the practice. We ended the class by collectively singing the song “Let It Be” by The Beatles, a sincere performance which would melt even the most cynical heart.


I hope you enjoyed the review and look forward to seeing you at BaliSpirit Festival 2018!

Images courtesy of BaliSpirit Festival and Axel Hebenstreit.




Captivated by Cambodia: A Travel Guide

Thailand is known for its spicy curries, the Philippines for its white sand beaches, and Vietnam for its lush landscapes, but there is something about Cambodia that draws one in and compels one to stay. What is it about Cambodia that I find so appealing?


Cambodia is a country of contrasts: a country of ancient civilization and adolescent citizens, local markets and foreign boutiques, of homegrown circus performers and international film stars, of old line politicians and avant-garde artists. Read on to discover the experiences that await you in Cambodia!

Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the most touristy and my least favorite city in Cambodia, but is worth a visit because it is home to the Angkor ruins, an ancient complex dating back nearly a thousand years. From 900 to 1200 A.D., Khmer kings ordered the construction of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples.


If you have one day, make sure you see sunrise over Angkor Wat, the smiling faces of Bayon, the sandstone carvings of Preah Khan, and The Tomb Raider tree at Ta Prohm. If you have three or more days, you can admire the intricate carvings at Banteay Srei or reenact scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark at Beng Melea. After a long day at the Angkor temples, unwind at ABBA Café’s rooftop lounge, eat a tasty vegetarian meal at Banllé Vegetarian Restaurant or Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant, or sample the homemade ice cream at The Blue Pumpkin. For more information on the Angkor temples, suggested sightseeing itineraries, and accommodation and restaurant recommendations, read my guide to Siem Reap.


Phnom Penh
Many travelers will tell you to skip Phnom Penh, but I had a lovely time wandering around town, going on self-guided tours of the city, exercising along the riverside, and unwinding at the cinema.

Royal Palace (3)

Travelers interested in Cambodia’s history can browse the ancient Khmer artefacts at the National Museum of Cambodia or listen to guides’ stories about life under the Khmer Rouge at Choueng Ek (the Killing Fields) and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (formerly the S-21 Prison). Architecture buffs and the spiritually-minded should check out the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, Wat Botum Vatey, and Wat Ounalom. For those interested in people watching, take a stroll down the historic riverside of Sisowath Quay at dusk or participate in a group exercise class in Royal Palace Park or Wat Bottom Park at night. Travelers looking for more relaxing activities can attend a movie marathon at one of The Flicks Community Movie Houses or experience a 4D movie at Aeon Mall. For more details on the sights, entertainment choices, and international dining options Cambodia’s capital city has to offer, read my guide to Phnom Penh.

While the bulk of international tourists’ exposure to Cambodia is limited to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, the country has much more to offer. In my mind, no visit to Cambodia is complete without a visit to Battambang. Cambodia’s second largest city, it feels much more like a small, sleepy town and, as such, is easy to explore on foot. Due to its burgeoning art scene, Battambang is gaining recognition as the creative capital of Cambodia. Attend a performance of Phare the Cambodian Circus or take a self-guided tour of Battambang’s art galleries.


The attractions around the city can easily be seen by way of a one-day tuk-tuk tour. Don’t worry about booking transportation in advance, as a horde of tuk-tuk drivers offering tours will mob you the moment you step off the bus from Siem Reap. You will start your tour with a fun ride aboard the Bamboo Train before climbing the 360 stairs to the top of Wat Banan Temple. After lunch, your driver will take you the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau, one of the sites of the Khmer Rouge’s mass executions. You will end the day by witnessing the breathtaking phenomenon of thousands of bats flying out of the Bat Cave at sunset. Look at my guide to Battambang to hear about the city’s emerging art scene, read restaurant recommendations, and learn which celebrity was directing a movie during my visit!

If you’re looking for rest and relaxation, Kampot is the place for you! Kampot, a charming town famous for its pepper and riverside setting, was my favorite place to visit in Cambodia. My friends and I spent four wonderful days eating terrific food, dining at cute cafés, watching movies at the cinema, chilling by the river, and exploring the 19th century French colonial architecture.


For great views of the river and terrific food, stay at Samon’s Village. Stop by Wonderland for Belgian ice cream and homemade popsicles or spend a lazy afternoon brunching, snacking, and reading at Epic Arts Café. Enjoy Mediterranean tapas with local, nutritious, and vegetarian ingredients at Deva Café or grab bread and croissants on the go at L’Epi D’or Bakery & Café. If you’re missing watching movies at home, you and your friends can rent a private movie room at Ecran Movie House or buy a day pass to watch the three movies it screens daily. Hungry? You can order hand-pulled noodles and homemade vegetable dumplings from Ecran’s restaurant. For more detailed travel recommendations, read my guide to Kampot.


Chi Pat
Travelers looking to experience the “real Cambodia,” should arrange a stay with the Community Based Ecotourism (CBET) project in Chi Pat village, located amidst the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong Provice. CBET aims to protect the Cardamom rainforest and provide inhabitants income-generating opportunities by transforming former loggers and wildlife poachers into tour guides, guest house owners, and taxi drivers. CBET offers travelers trekking, mountain-biking, kayaking, and camping expeditions through the jungle, as well as opportunities to stay at homestays in Chi Pat village. For detailed information about how to get to Chi Pat, what to do there, and what to expect, read my guide to Chi Pat.


As Cambodia’s top beach destination, Sihanoukville is much more expensive than the rest of Cambodia. While I do not find its beaches as beautiful as those in Thailand or the Philippines, they have white sand, warm water, and calm waves which make them ideal for sunbathing and swimming. Plus, with fewer crowds the only sounds you’ll hear are the breeze blowing, waves lapping against the shore, and the occasional snack seller hawking her wares.


Travelers wanting to get away from it all can stay on one of the islands off of Cambodia’s coast, such as Koh Rong Samloem (not to be confused with the party island of Koh Rong) and Koh Ta Kiev, but beware as the islands have limited hours of electricity, bucket baths and Asian-style toilets, and no wifi. Personally, my top choice in Sihanoukville for fun in the sun is Otres Beach because of its many shade-providing trees, laid-back environment, beachside restaurants, and Cambodian vacationers. You don’t have to leave the sand to enjoy a brunch of Eggs Florentine or Baked Eggs at Sea Garden or appreciate the homemade pizza, pasta, and cheesecake at Pappa Pippo. Other nice beaches include Sokha Beach and Independence Beach. You can use Holiday Palace Resort’s day beds if you buy a drink from Palais Coffee; Palais makes a yummy Ferrero Rocher Frappe.


Last but not least, travelers interested in developing or deepening a yoga practice can attend a yoga and meditation retreat at Vagabond Temple. Retreats are open to beginners and advanced practitioners alike. The Temple also offers detoxification programs, Reiki courses, and healing sessions.


More Guides to Cambodia:
Guide to Siem Reap
Guide to Phnom Penh
Guide to Battambang
Guide to Kampot
Guide to Chi Pat
Vegetarian Guide to Cambodian Cuisine



Bats, Boutiques, and Billionaires: A Guide to Battambang

Battambang is Cambodia’s second-largest city, but it feels much more like a small, sleepy town. Upon your arrival, the view of the Sangker River flowing lazily by the city greets you.

What to See
Start by seeing the sights on foot through a self-guided walking tour. Khmer Architecture Tours has free downloadable maps on its website. While the tour stops are not particularly memorable, the maps provide a nice introduction to quaint Battambang. That the numbered streets and roads (Roads 1.5 and 2.5 among them) neither run precisely east to west nor north to south only adds to the locality’s charm.

Due to its burgeoning art scene, Battambang is gaining recognition as the creative capital of Cambodia. Leading the cultural revival is Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), a nonprofit organization formed in 1994 by nine students and their art teacher when they returned home from a refugee camp after the end of the Khmer Rouge’s rule. PPS provides over 1,700 students with arts education through its public, art, music, and theater schools. Many of its graduates perform in Battambang and Siem Reap through Phare the Cambodian Circus, a Cirque-du-Soleil-esque show combining Cambodian stories, theater, dance, music, and circus arts.


Beyond PPS’s students, there are a number of artists-in-residence in Battambang including the unforgettable Marine Ky. Raised in France after her family fled the Khmer Rouge, Marine returned to Cambodia in 2000. Her textiles combine Western and Khmer printmaking techniques and explore the journey from genocide to inner peace, happiness, and harmony. Marine welcomed us into her gallery and her home with a presentation of her artwork, a pot of tea, and tales of her life, and sent us away with embraces and mandalas for protection. To embark on a self-guided tour of Battambang’s art galleries, check out the following guides by Granturismo, Move to Cambodia, and Bric-a-Brac.

Battambang is not only home to local artists, but also to international performers. Movie star Angelina Jolie owns a house in northwestern Battambang which she purchased after the adoption of her oldest son, Maddox, from Cambodia. During my visit to Battambang, the town was abuzz with preparations for the shooting of First They Killed My Father, a motion picture directed by Angelina based on the memoir written by a childhood survivor of the Pol Pot regime. Even though I was more than a little disappointed when my submission to the movie’s open casting call and my dreams of stardom went unanswered, a few friends and I managed to sneak onto the movie set and witness Angelina in action.

Spend a few days wandering around Battambang and soaking in the art and culture scene, and then hire a tuk-tuk to see the attractions outside the city, namely the Bamboo Train, the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau, the Bat Cave, and Wat Banan Temple. The Bamboo Train is a touristy but entertaining excursion where bamboo rafts powered by gas engines transport passengers seven kilometers through the countryside along metal rails.

The Killing Caves – one of the sites of Khmer Rouge mass executions – provide a sobering look into a human tragedy, while the Bat Cave exhibits one of nature’s wonders. At sunset every day, thousands upon thousands of bats fly out of the Bat Cave to feed, a breathtaking phenomenon to behold. If you drive down the road, you can watch the bats soar over the rice fields and disappear over the horizon. During my visit to the Bat Cave, we were equally astounded by the spectacle of two of Angelina’s children, Shiloh and Pax, standing before us.

I expected to be tired of Khmer temples after three days of touring the Angkor ruins, but Wat Banan was worth the visit. The temple dates back to 1050 AD, even before Angkor Wat, although it was rebuilt in 1210 AD. Like many of the Angkor temples, it was originally dedicated to Hindu gods before its conversion to a Buddhist temple. That its four towers are still standing is a miracle as they look ready to collapse at any moment. Luckily they remain erect, giving visitors the opportunity to examine the captivating carvings adorning their exteriors. Climbing the 360 stairs up to the temple can pose a challenge, but results in a rewarding view of the surrounding countryside.

Where to Stay
Hostel BTB Cambodia is so new that it was still being built during my visit to Battambang. Don’t let that deter you, however. Despite construction, the dorms and bathrooms were clean and the showers were hot. The owner is very knowledgeable about the area and can share with you a number of things to see beyond the main tourist attractions. He helped us book bus tickets to our next destination and offered us a resting place when our bus decided to show up not one, not two, but three hours late. At $3 a night, Hostel BTB Cambodia is a steal!

Where to Eat
The Kitchen’s Coconut Strawberry Freeze and Fish Taco Salad are the perfect antidotes to a long day of traveling. You can sit and eat in the downstairs café or browse the exhibits in the upstairs art gallery. Apart from the Mexican food at The Kitchen, you can get decent Spanish tapas at The Lonely Tree Café and tasty Indian food at Flavors of India. Pay a visit to White Rose for fruit shakes, my favorite of which is the creamy pineapple, banana, and soursop shake. For prime people watching, get a drink at Bric-a-Brac, a boutique which specializes in Asian cookbooks and hand-made tassels, textiles, and scarfs (perfect gifts for your family and friends after your trip to Cambodia!). Every evening, the shop transforms its storefront into an al-fresco wine bar. Lest I forget, no visit to Battambang would be complete without tasting the divine chocolate hazelnut cake at Choco L’Art Café.

Seeing the Angkor Ruins: A Guide to Siem Reap

Siem Reap is my least favorite city in Cambodia, but is worth a visit because it is home to Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former capital city of the Khmer Empire (802 AD to 1351 AD). Read on for recommended accommodation, restaurants, and sightseeing itineraries.


What to See
Angkor, encompasses thousands of temples, notably Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. Having declared themselves devarajas (Hindu god kings), Khmer rulers built the temples as monuments to Mount Meru, the divine residence of the gods. With the adoption of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion, the majority of shrines were converted from Hindu to Buddhist. Construction of the renowned Angkor Wat began in the 12th century under King Suryavarman II and continued under King Jayavarman VII.


If you have one day, make sure you see Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, and Preah Khan. The main attraction, Angkor Wat, presents a gorgeous sight at sunrise. Arrive early in order to purchase your tickets and avoid the crowds. After taking photos of the sun climbing above the front temple’s towers, walk across the bridge and enter the temple complex where you can capture the classic photograph of sunrise over the reflecting pool.


From Angkor Wat, visit Angkor Thom, a city within a city featuring numerous places of interest including the South Gate, Terrace of the Elephants, and Terrace of the Leper King. At the center of Angkor Thom sits Bayon, recognizable for the 216 smiling faces sculpted into the temple’s towers which may represent Jayavarman VII or the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Next head to Ta Prohm, the temple made famous because of its appearance in the movie Tomb Raider, a Hollywood film starring Angelina Jolie which significantly boosted tourism to Cambodia and Angkor in particular. Then move to Preah Khan, my favorite temple because of how time has transmuted the sandstone carvings into pink and green reliefs. I felt like an adventurer exploring uncharted territory as I darted over fallen stones, ducked under low doorways, and sprinted through the House of Fire and the Hall of Dancers.


With three or more days, you have time to visit the more distant temples like Banteay Srei, which is celebrated for its intricate carvings, and Beng Mealea, which is often referred to as “the Indiana Jones temple.” Beng Mealea is what Ta Prohm would look like if archaeologists had not completed any restorations. Nature has made its presence felt through vines and trees growing in the temple courtyard and the piles of rubble surrounding the temple’s perimeter. As seeing temples day after day can become repetitive, I suggest selecting different transportation modes to vary your sightseeing experiences. My friends and I biked to the closer temples on the first day, hired a guide and rode in tuk tuks to the main temples the second day, and drove scooters to the far-off temples on the third day.


Know Before You Go
You can purchase a one-, three-, or seven-day pass for Angkor for $20, $40, or $60, respectively. For multiple day passes, you do not have to visit the temples on consecutive days, only within the same week. Beng Mealea requires a separate entrance fee of $5. Bring lots of water and sunscreen as temperatures can reach 104° F/40° C during summer and there is little shade within the complex.


If you are visiting Angkor after having stopped at other shrines in the region, know that unlike the wats in Thailand and mandirs in India, the Angkor temples are not functioning religious sites. As I was expecting a more spiritual atmosphere, I was disappointed by the overwhelmingly touristy environment. I was equally disheartened by the poor condition of the buildings. Notwithstanding its recognition as a shining exemplar of Khmer architecture, conservation of Angkor edifices has been lacking. Where restoration work has occurred, it has largely been paid for by foreign governments, which is a shameful indictment of the Cambodian government.


Where to Stay
Backpackers and budget travelers should stay at Onderz Hostel. Both times I visited Siem Reap I stayed at Onderz because of its cozy beds, powerful air conditioning, cheap breakfasts, and rooftop pool. During my first visit, I had one complaint about the cleanliness of the bathrooms but management quickly remedied the problem.


Where to Eat
After a hot day touring Angkor Wat, enjoy dinner or a drink while relishing the cool rooftop breeze at ABBA Café. ABBA’s menu comprises a small number of dishes from Cambodia, Korea, Japan, and Italy, which the kitchen is more than willing to modify to accommodate various dietary restrictions. Vegans and vegetarians should stop by Banllé Vegetarian Restaurant or Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant. While Banllé’s verdant scenery, comfortable couches, and nutritious, delicious food make it a tranquil spot for lunch, you can’t go wrong with Chamkar’s Wedding Dip and the Pumpkin Curry for dinner. For a romantic setting, good food, and great service, make a reservation at Haven, a vocational training restaurant for disadvantaged Cambodian youth. Vegetarians should try the Zuri Gschnetzlets with Swiss Rosti. For cheap local food ($3-5 for a meal), check out the small restaurants surrounding the Old Market and on 2 Thnou Street (near Pub Street). Last but not least, pop into The Blue Pumpkin for dessert and sample its homemade fruit ice creams and fresh fruit sorbets with refreshing flavors like strawberry, passion fruit, mango, and Khmer fruits.

Puttering around Phnom Penh: A Guide to Cambodia’s Capital City

Many travelers will tell you to skip Phnom Penh, but it was one of my favorite places to stay while in Cambodia and a place I can easily imagine living for a few years. While backpackers decry the city as dirty and hectic, I found the city to be much less chaotic than other Asian metropolises. With a population of 2.2 million people, Phnom Penh is a small and manageable city; it has far fewer residents than Bangkok (14.6 million), Ho Chi Minh (9 million), and even Washington D.C. (6 million). I enjoyed wandering around town, going on self-guided food tours of the city, exercising along the riverside, and unwinding at the cinema.


What to See
Travelers interested in the history of Cambodia can pay a visit to the National Museum of Cambodia which houses the country’s largest collection of Khmer art and artifacts, including countless statues of Hindu and Buddhist divinities which survived the ransacking of temples by tomb raiders. You can learn about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge and bear witness to victims’ sufferings by seeing Choueng Ek (the Killing Fields) and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (formerly the S-21 Prison) and hiring a guide or an audio guide.

Disturbing images from the Killing Fields 

Architecture buffs and the spiritually-minded should check out Phnom Penh’s many wats, or temples, in addition to the Royal Palace. While Wat Phnom is the most famous pagoda, I was taken with the vast temple complex of Wat Botum Vatey and the sun setting over Wat Ounalom.

Images of Wat Botum Vatey and Wat Ounalom

The Royal Palace, the residence of King Norodom Sihamoni, resembles the Grand Palace in Bangkok but with a tenth of the tourists.

Images of the Royal Palace

For prime people watching, take a stroll down the historic riverside of Sisowath Quay at dusk or stop by Royal Palace Park or Wat Bottom Park at night. Cambodian families, monks, and tourists alike often gather in parks during the weekends and evenings to converse and picnic, while vendors sell food, toys, and balloons, resulting in a carnival-like atmosphere wonderful to observe. Active travelers can utilize the free outdoor exercise equipment, join a game of soccer or doeurt sai, or participate in an aerobics class.

Monks chatting and a vendor selling food in Royal Palace Park

Lest I forget, make sure to take advantage of the green spaces (a rarity in Southeast Asia!) surrounding the Independence Monument and Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Images of the Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, Golden Bird Statue, and Independence Monument

Where to Stay
I almost chose to stay at the party hostel behemoth, Mad Monkey, but I opted to stay at the much more peaceful Envoy Hostel instead. Although the hostel was on the quieter side, I found it easy to meet other travelers. The dorm beds were comfortable, the air conditioning was a godsend, and the communal kitchen was an unexpected treat in Southeast Asia.

Where to Eat
St 63 Restaurant & Hostel has an extensive selection of appetizing Cambodian and Western dishes, as well as cocktails and mocktails. I liked the vegetarian pumpkin curry and vegetarian spring rolls so much that I ate at St 63 two nights in a row! Brunch enthusiasts can dine at Java Café while gazing at the current exhibition by Marine Ky. I happily devoured the monthly special, an Avocado and Smoked Salmon Stack, along with a Café Freddo there one Sunday morning. Offering a choice of burritos, quesadillas, bowls, and soft tacos with a selection of toppings, and sides of chips and guacamole and rice and beans, Cocina Cartel is, for all intents and purposes, a Cambodian version of Chipotle. Its glass noodle salad with tofu, sesame sauce, and lettuce and spicy watermelon smoothie make Sesame Noodle Bar a great lunch option for vegetarians. Lined with rows of fresh vegetables, freshly caught fish flopping on blocks, and dried foodstuffs, Kandal Market is my go-to spot for fresh fruit and fruit shakes. Lastly, ice cream lovers should check out Toto Ice Cream & Dessert Café. Try the soursop and mango-passion fruit flavors.

Images clockwise from left to right: Sesame Noodle Bar and Cocina Cartel

Where to Relax
Due to lenient copyright restrictions, Phnom Penh and other Cambodian cities have small movie houses which screen the newest films, host daily movie marathons, and rent private movie rooms for a much cheaper price than official movie theaters. You can even download movies to your phone or hard drive! I visited The Flicks Community Movie Houses multiple times while in Phnom Penh to catch the 2016 Oscar-nominated films. If you’re looking for the big box movie experience combined with the thrill of a theme-park ride, check out the 4D movies (3D movie + wind + water + movement) playing at Aeon Mall.

Supreme Court (1)

Image of Cambodia Supreme Court


Weekly Wedding: Cambodian Celebrations

I am by no means an expert on Cambodian weddings, but during my time living and traveling in Cambodia I saw many a multicolored tent rigged on a street in anticipation of a marriage. Cambodian Buddhist weddings, like Indian Hindu weddings, are multi-day affairs with numerous ceremonies and parties. They often begin early in the morning with religious rites and end late at night with dinner, dancing, and sometimes even karaoke! While in Sihanoukville, I often woke to the sound of monks chanting blessings at 5 AM after having stayed up until 2 AM the previous night because of the music blaring from the wedding down the street.

As a foreigner, it’s not unusual to get invited to Cambodian celebrations. Turning down an invitation to a wedding can be tricky, especially when a guest grabs your hand and drags you into the fray!

I filmed the videos below of a Cambodian wedding outside my house after dancing through the celebrations to reach the door of my house. I’m not sure how to dance to Khmer music, but I quickly learned that dancing in a circle is the key.

Cambodian uncles get down at the wedding occurring right outside the gate of my house

While Cambodian uncles dance to traditional songs, the youngsters go crazy listening to the latest electronic beats!

I hope you get to experience a Khmer wedding during your next trip to Cambodia!



Relaxing by the River: A Guide to Kampot

After a multi-day trek through the Cambodian jungle, my friends and I spent four wonderful days resting and relaxing in Kampot. Kampot, the capital of Kampot Province in southern Cambodia, has a reputation as a sleepy, laid-back town. I planned to stay for only two days, imagining that I would quickly grow bored with the lack of activity. Instead, I doubled the length of my stay and spent several days eating terrific food, dining at cute cafes, watching movies at the cinema, chilling by the river, and exploring the 19th century French colonial architecture. Below are my accommodation, dining, and entertainment recommendations for Kampot.

Kampot (4).JPG
Colonial Kampot

The River (10)
Park overlooking the river

Samon’s Village
Samon’s Village may be the best place I’ve stayed so far on my travels through Southeast Asia. The ‘Village’ features adorable bungalows and a restaurant dock overlooking the river. We reclined in hammocks and did yoga on the dock, swam and kayaked in the river, and enjoyed a smorgasbord of foods from the restaurant. The kayak which we rented from the Village was old with wooden oars which were too short to render them truly useful, but which nonetheless led to an adventurous river excursion. The restaurant consistently served some of the best food I’ve eaten in Cambodia, although the service was terribly slow – 80 minutes for a salad, stir fry, and fried shrimp seems excessive, even in Asia! Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and highly recommend Samon’s Village.

Photos of Samon’s Village restaurant and bungalows

Stopping by Wonderland for a nightly treat became a tradition for my friends and I while we were in Kampot. Wonderland, operated by French expats, serves Belgian ice cream and homemade popsicles made with fresh fruit and sugar (perfect for vegans!). My friend adored the coconut popsicle with a hint of lime, while I relished the passion fruit popsicle and yogurt with Khmer fruits popsicle. I’m usually not a big popsicle fan, but Wonderland’s homemade popsicles are simply irresistible!

Photo of Wonderland courtesy of TripAdvisor

Epic Arts Café
My friend and I spent a lovely lazy afternoon reading, napping, and snacking at Epic Arts Café. The second floor made me feel at home with its variety of comfortable chairs and bright windows overlooking the street. We shared the carrot cake and a bagel with cream cheese and vegetables. The carrot cake was a tad dry, but the cream cheese frosting was nice. The bagel was not the best bagel I’ve ever eaten (I am a native New Yorker after all). Still, it was warm, fresh, and filled with tasty roasted vegetables, and a welcome New York staple in Asia. I did not have a chance to eat breakfast at Epic Arts Café, but the salads and the eggs florentine with spinach looked tasty. Another reason to visit the café is it employs underprivileged and disabled people. In fact, it gives you a sheet on which to mark your order since most of its cooks and servers are deaf.

Eunice at Epic Arts Cafe (3)

Bagel 2Photo of bagel with cream cheese and roasted vegetables by Penny via Captain of the Back Seat

L’Epi D’or Bakery & Café
With fresh bread on sale for $1 and pastries available for only $0.35, L’Epi D’or Bakery & Café is cheap and delicious! I tried the olive bread and a chocolate croissant, and was wowed by the croissant’s flaky crust and chocolate filling which reminded me of French bakeries back home.

Deva Café
Vegans, vegetarians, and raw food lovers, rejoice! Deva Café, the small eatery attached to Banteay Srey Women’s Spa, serves fresh juices, smoothies, lassis (Indian yogurt-based drinks), and Mediterranean tapas with local and nutritious ingredients, such as moringa, kale, jicama, morning glory, mango, and papaya. We tried the Hummus Wrap with Morning Glory Flatbread, the Zucchini Noodles with Raw Pesto, the Smoked Eggplant Crostini, and the Chilled Creamy Avocado Soup among other dishes. Each dish was bursting with flavor. The Sweet Basil Lassi likewise was outstanding. Because the portions are small your meal may land up being on the more expensive side (for Cambodia that is), but you can rest easy knowing that the proceeds from your food purchases go towards the Banteay Srey Project, a social enterprise which provides young Cambodian women with vocational training and a safe space.

Photos of juices and tapas via TripAdvisor (1)

Ecran Noodle and Dumpling House (Hand-Pulled Noodles and Vegetable Dumplings)
My friend and I relished the hand-pulled noodles and homemade vegetable dumplings at Ecran Noodle and Dumpling House. In true Chinese-Cambodian fashion, a vinegar and soy sauce accompanied the dumplings while the noodles had a slightly sweet taste. Hand-pulled noodles and homemade vegetable dumplings for only $2 each? Sounds like a perfect meal!

Photos of hand-pulled noodles and vegetable dumplings via Kampot, Cambodia

Ecran Movie House
For the traveler missing watching movies at home, Ecran also operates a cinema with comfortable wicker chairs, couches, and beds with pillows. For $2.50 you can watch one of the three movies the theater shows daily or for $3 you can buy a day pass to watch all three movies. If you’re interested in learning more about Cambodian history, Ecran screens The Killing Fields at least once a week. When I was in Kampot, the theater was celebrating the Oscars fever by playing all of the Oscar-nominated films. Ecran also has private movie room rentals for $3.50 per person where you can choose a film from a selection more than 1,000 movies and watch it on a large plasma TV with a small group of friends.

Photos of Ecran Cinema & Movie House and Ecran Noodle Shop via Kampot, Cambodia

I hope you have a restful and relaxing stay in Kampot, my favorite place to visit in Cambodia!

The River (5)
Fishing boats returning at the end of the day

The River (26)
Sunset over the river


(1) Photo credit (clockwise): photo of watermelon and carrot juices via TripAdvisor, photo of smoked eggplant crostinis via TripAdvisor, photo of chilled creamy avocado soup via TripAdvisor, photo of raw pesto pasta via TripAdvisor, and photo of baba ghanoush and tzatziki dips via TripAdvisor