Joining The Party In Phnom Penh

Author: Jarik

We join a throng of hundreds of thousands of feet slowly moving along the river promenade and adjacent streets in Phnom Penh. It is the annual Boat Race Water Festival, the most celebrated public holiday in Cambodia, marking the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap river. We are fortunate enough to be in the centre of the action on the final of three nights. The city is alive. Spectators stand shoulder to shoulder lining the banks of the river to get a glimpse of the human powered long boats cutting through the water.

The VIP stand opposite the finish line and across the square from the Royal Palace is elaborately decorated, bathed in light and there are bodyguards everywhere. Every square inch of any horizontal space is occupied by people with a friendly festive disposition. Food and drink sellers and their carts are constantly being urged along by police who are keen to keep the crowd moving. Other curious tourists sit safely on the third and fourth floor terraces peering out over the churning mass. The festival culminates with fireworks and a river parade with massive flotillas decorated with thousands of colourful lights moving from bank to bank down the river, finally stopping in front of the Royal Palace. We relish in the unexpected and unique cultural immersion experience.


To our delightful surprise, Phnom Penh is a culturally rich and tourist friendly city but, it is not overrun by tourists. Although there are clear foreign tourist areas with pubs, hostels and hotels, these are confined to a narrow strip along the river. A short walk deeper into the city will take you through authentic markets, along busy commercial streets and, if you, like us, walk from place to place, residential areas with hundreds of small home businesses. We fall in love with Khmer cuisine – a scrumptious combination of fresh Thai flavours and the full richness of Indian dishes – and the family have enough opportunities to identify their favourite as we sample the local fare everywhere we go.

Ornamental buildings and religious sites on every second corner reflect a proud heritage and make for a visually interesting street experience. We spend a few hours admiring the architecture and artistry of the Royal Palace and by chance wander through a Buddhist enclave filled with decorated temples and golden shrines. Later, a parents-only visit to the S21 Genocide Museum is a sobering reminder of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge four decades ago. It is however good to see that the city is moving forward. There is a lot of new construction going on and after the huge festive event that we witnessed, the streets were swept, litter removed and pavements washed the very next morning.

(Media reports cited a number of four million people that attended the boat races in Phnom Penh this year. In 2010 a tragic stampede occurred at the very same promenade that we were, costing the lives of 350 people hence the police presence to control the movement of the crowds.)

– Jarik –


The Water Festival

Author: Eulain

I pulled on dad’s arm, “I want to see the fireworks.” Dad stood up, “Alright, let’s go.” We walked down the crowded streets towards the river. Soon after we arrived the fireworks stopped. A parade of big boats full of little lights came past and then pulled closer to the bank of the river. Dad lifted me up onto his shoulders, high above the crowd.

Everywhere I looked I could see boats full of lights, trees with fairy lights, little stalls with food and desert and loads of people.  Dad and I could barely move! From my perch up high I could see how streams of people were moving slowly.  It was an amazing scene. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

– Eulain –


Relaxing By The Kampot River

Author: Ruzow

Our tuk-tuk turned off the road and onto a gravel driveway. A few moments later we came to a halt. We had just arrived at Ramo Resort, a beautiful little riverside retreat. We were taken to two tiny bungalows on stilts, right next to each other. This was to be our home for the next three days.

There was a lovely little restaurant and relaxation area, where we spent most of our time. We enjoyed many meals and shared many great moments. If we weren’t lying in a hammock we could be found jumping off the platform into the warm waters of the Kampot River.


Us children spent many hours in the water, either swimming or floating on tubes.

We went for a run to Kampot Town, two kilometres down the river. There wasn’t much to see and we preferred our riverside haven.

All too soon it was time to board the bus to Phnom Penh.

– Ruzow –


Adventures In Kep

Author: Mariza

As I’m writing this I am lying in a hammock under a palm leave construction on the bank of the Kampot river. Peaceful and amazing. We just had the most incredible Cambodian meal, after arriving from Kep a few hours ago. Life is sooooooooo good!!!

Back to Kep.

We arrive in Kep from Phnom Penh by bus on a hot afternoon. The hotel – less than impressive – has no power. To its defence, the entire speck of a town is affected. A great reason to go to the beach.

Kep has one man made beach. The rest of the ocean ends against concrete walls or mudflats. Not quite the pristine beaches we so love in Australia. Gosh are we going to enjoy those when we get home!!

The ocean looks like a dam, no waves, and the water is warm. Very lovely for floating around in for a long time. The locals either swim with all their clothes on, or totally starkers (little kids). We did not see a single local in a swimsuit. They must think us strange. DSC04905

We enjoy a cheap meal at a local eatery. As we stroll back towards our hotel we stumble upon a stunning beach bar. Jarik and I enjoy icy cold, dry rosé (the first decent wine in two months!!), while the kids play on the sand with newly found French friends. Bliss!! Early the next morning we are up and ready for our day on Rabbit Island. We enjoy a scrumptious breakfast at a cute beach cafe, before we board our longboat to the island. The island is charming with its timber and palm frond bungalows and colourful beach chairs and hammocks. Massages of every kind is on offer for next to nothing all over the beach.

The walk around the island is only five kilometres, but takes almost a whole day. The swimming, building a raft out of driftwood and playing on beaches along the way is only a very small part of the reason for this. For the most part, the path goes along the shore. For one significant stretch it goes through who knows where. We couldn’t find it. After a long time of frustrating hit and miss (or all misses, I should say!), dead ends, bleeding legs and many scratches all over, we make our way through mud, bush and scrub and back onto the path. We are all VERY happy and relieved to get back to the beach where we started and in total agreement that Rabbit Island is not going on our list of favourite walks or destinations. We make it just in time for a cold drink and a quick swim before we have to board our boat back to Kep.

After a shower (or dripping session, one drop at a time) we go to the crab market where we have a delicious meal of Amok fish curry. Super yummo!! We have a lovely conversation with the owner of our eatery and hear all about the ups and downs of starting a business in this part of the world.

We walk the few kilometres to our new favourite hangout and enjoy rosé in beautiful wine glasses, dim lights and stunning surroundings. They do serve amazing mocktails for kids too. The two littlies play UNO, while the two older ones engage in long conversations with the parents. Precious. The kids convince us to linger a little longer and indulge in enjoying one another in such a special place. We stroll home hours later, hearts full to capacity.

We’re up early the next morning for our run. We finish at the scooter rentals where we pick up two scooters for the six of us. We ride three-three to our breakfast spot. Very cool.

Our move to a much better hotel, right by the beach and the action, consists of two trips back and forth. Only two people with backpacks can fit onto a scooter. Jarik and I giggle as we wizz up and down the ocean road with a kid each, four backpacks and hair blowing in the breeze. This would NEVER happen back home!


We spend the rest of the day scooting all over the place. We visit a temple, explore caves, get lost between tiny villages among the green rice paddies, find the secret lake after much searching, have the most incredible meal on the side of a dirt road (a traditional curry made from scratch with ingredients picked right before preparation) and tour a pepper farm. We are exhausted and covered in dust from head to toe when we finally get back to our hotel, but very happy about our adventurous day. A nice refreshing swim at dusk, followed by a cheap, simple meal conclude a day we will never forget.


Jarik and I are the only ones up for a morning run. After a leisurely breakfast, with a view across the beach and bay, we spend the rest of our morning between the beach and the pool. Exhausting! So to recover, I squeeze in a traditional Khmer massage between checking out and getting on the bus. Somebody has to do it.

Kep is a great little place tucked in between the ocean and the green hills of a national park. The huge French estates, now a little neglected, will surely be restored to its former glory. There is development happening all over, but especially around the long promenade. It is a popular weekend and holiday destination for locals.

We leave the place with lots of new experiences and fabulous memories. Thank you Kep, it’s been a pleasure.

– Mariza –

Your Next Meal…

Author: Eulain


Everybody knows you can eat,

Vegetables, pastas and meat.

Have you ever stoped to try,

A huge gooey bull’s eye?

How would you like a cat,

Or maybe a big black rat?

Maybe just some dog,

But, not a poisonous frog.

Susu is another story,

Fried with morning-glory.

Maybe snail or slug,

Or some other bug?

A spider or snake,

Really this isn’t fake.

But please, I’d prefer,

Only noodles in my Phó!

– Eulain –

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