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 –


Hué, Vietnam

Author: Kali

The hot, muggy air fell on us like steaming blankets as soon as we stepped out of the cool train that we had been cooped up in for the last twenty hours. Because of the heavy flooding, the journey took nearly double the scheduled time. It was so good to stretch my legs further than just to the filthy train toilet.

The loud calls of the taxis and cyclos welcomed us to Hue, a city we would come to love in the four days we spent there. It was early evening and as we walked down the busy main road. We stopped several times to look at the lit up monuments and artworks that added decoration to the riverside greenery. Small plastic chair pavement restaurants dotted the strip beside the big brown river and it looked like everyone was enjoying themselves. We definitely were!

A few kilometres later, the grand four star Century hotel caught our attention with it’s broad stairs, large columns and welcoming lights. Ruzow exclaimed excitedly: “It looks much better than on the website!” We oohed and aahed as we walked up the shiny polished steps  and into the richly decorated lobby. We were received with cool lemon tea as a “welcome drink”. Our two rooms were absolutely wonderful with beautiful river views. After we unpacked our few belongings, our next step was towards the street just opposite our hotel, for dinner.

We ventured down the bustling and festive lane that was filled with restaurants and bars, all spilling over into the street. After searching for what felt like a lifetime, we found the perfect place. At Mr. Tao’s we sat on small wooden chairs among a sea of Asian faces, all having a fabulous time watching the crowd flow by. The six of us sat tightly around a small, low wooden table that barely had enough space for our six tiny bowls. Amazingly, the plates of delicious clam and cheese, dry noodle beef and of course two of Hue’s Huda beers could also fit. We had front row seats to the show, sitting basically IN the street. It was so interesting seeing all kinds of people embrace the Friday festivities with friends or family. I could have sat there for hours. The streets were absolutely FILLED! Our first night in Hue, having dinner on the sidewalk of the “walking street” with the locals, has a special place in my heart.

The next day, we went to visit the famous Hue Citadel. It is a huge complex of colourful gates, decorated walls, lakes and canals and traditional buildings. This used to be the emperor’s palace. We spent four hours lost in the maze that we could not get enough of. It touched me that above every gate, on every wall, in every building, somewhere, you could find some form of a poem. Of course, we could not read it, but the thought and sight of the detailed characters amazed me.

We were convinced that we found the best Vietnamese food in the country. So good that we went there for dinner twice during our stay. We met a young lady, Nhu y, who was our waitress both times. She was very friendly and outgoing and told us many things about herself and her city. The second time was nothing short of amazing! A dragon carved from carrots, guarded the food on our table. We were served complementary homemade drinks and a traditional dessert. It was super special. We asked Nhu y about a toy we have seen many children play with in Vietnam. She gave us a brief description and told us that it is called a “cau”. We were thrilled when she offered to buy us each one and deliver it to us at our hotel.

Amazing Vietnamese Food at Elegant

Nhu y arrived at our hotel as we were heading down for breakfast the next morning. Not only did she bring four caus, but a whole bag of gifts and goodies. We each received a beautiful notebook and pen, a pack of UNO cards and cool hair bands. It was wonderful and such a pleasant surprise. This is why we travel the world, to seek such connections with the local people and to make new friends. Thank you so much Nhu y for your friendliness and kindness towards us. It was such a pleasure to meet you and become such good friends. Looking forward to your visit in Australia! 😉

Hue was a wonderfully colourful and vibrant city. It was great to be part of its pulse, even if it was only for four days.

Until next time,


Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Author: Jarik

The last stop we planned for our second visit to Croatia was the Plitvice Lakes – one of the main tourist destinations in the country. Unfortunately it seemed that the day we choose to go, was also the day that every other tourist in the country visited the lakes. After waiting in line for over an hour, we had entry tickets in our hands. (We were at the “second” gate, that is apparently much more quiet that the main entrance!) Trying to avoid the crowds, we decided to do the longest walk (18km), weaving around all twelve lakes.

Walking in cool shade along the shores of the incredibly blue and clear water was refreshing for body and soul. Little streams flowing over moss covered boulders and through plant filled gullies form waterfall lacework as they tumble from one lake into the next.


We had the trail mostly to ourselves.  For the first few hour at least, until we reached timber walkways groaning under the weight of endless streams of feet. The slow moving mass of people treackled from waterfall to waterfall, oozing over the sights and taking photographs.

At the end of the day, we waited in line for another hour to board a ferry that took us to our point of entry to the National Park. It is a beautiful place, but I would recommend visiting it in the off season!

– Jarik –

Most na Soči

Author: Kali

Yesterday we were intending to get to Stanjel, but our trusty navigator (Ruzow), this time, led us through windy mountain passes and little back roads. The journey took much longer than expected and by the time we got to a stunning blue lake with hamlets dotted all along the shore, we were all terribly motion sick and desperate to find a place to sleep.

Even though it is high tourist season in Slovenia, specifically Istria, we have not booked a single night’s accommodation. We just arrive in a place with our car and ask around for space for six for the night. If available, we stay the night. If not, we simply move on.

As we drove down to the lake, we saw a little stand inviting customers to a restaurant and apartments. It was right on the bank of the stunning blue-green lake! Mum went ahead to enquire from the lady at the restaurant if they had any space. (She was also the owner of the apartments.) By the time Eulain, Esto and I got to the apartment, Mum said excitedly: ‘We are staying here, in this stunning place, tonight! The lady was so friendly. Children, you choose your beds first, and your Dad and I will take what’s left.’

It was Esto and my turn to choose beds first. I am very proud of my little brother, and how he is growing up to be a lovely boy. As we inspected the beds, he said something I had heard several times from Dad before, but would never have expected to hear from his mouth.

Kali, let’s be mature.’  He said this very solemnly, his big, bright blue eyes looking into mine.

‘Yes! That is right, so what is your plan?’ I asked.

You know how it is our turn to choose our bed? Well I thought maybe we should be mature like Dad always says and choose the little bed so the others can have the big one.’ His eyes were blazing with excitement. Esto has always had a soft, loving heart, always willing to help and do things for others, but now I could really see this bright light shining through.

There was a tiny single bed and a double bed in the one room, and then a double sleeper couch in the tiny living room. We chose the tiny single bed, Ruzow and Eulain chose the double sleeper couch, and we left the double bed for Mum and Dad. I didn’t mind if I needed to squish in the tiniest single bed in the world. I am so proud of Esto. He is learning so much during this adventure and I get to share it with him. This is just one of those many special moments I will never forget.

We couldn’t wait to wash away the long, hot and uncomfortable journey by plunging into the cool lake water. We played for a little while, but nearly froze to death. Mum and Dad were sitting at the little restaurant, enjoying an ice cold beer, and drinking in the stunning surroundings.

Not long after our swim, we sat down to a lovely picnic dinner at a table next to the water. It was so pleasant to sit down and have a meal together in such an amazing place. A fitting end to an eventful day.

The next morning, very early, the others were running in the area around the lake. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as time alone has been rare during this trip) I didn’t go. I had badly hurt my toe and lifted the nail the day before on a bike. I stayed home, having a quieter start to the morning.

A little while later, I met the others swimming in the lake. Dad and Ruzow dragged two of the kayaks from our apartment into the water. We had loads of fun paddling, surrounded by the alps glowing in the beautiful morning sunshine.

The time came to leave the wonderful place we found and continue our journey towards Istria, Slovenia. I will treasure the golden hours we spent here forever.

Until next time,




Waking Up In A Postcard

Author: Mariza
1 August 2017

Waking up to a view like this sets you up for an unforgettable day. A lake so green and beautiful, it takes your breath away. And in the background layer upon layer of Alpine mountains.

It took three cups of coffee to sufficiently motivate me into action. I could have spent the entire day simply sitting there, looking. Again a photograph cannot do it any justice.

Our early morning run was spectacular. All along the emerald river, right on the water’s edge. Fields and meadows and stone cottages along the way only add to the magic. One can run a thousand miles in places like this. Sooooooooooo beautiful!!

We ended our run with a refreshing swim. Some of us couldn’t even take the time to change and just dived in, clothes and all. I did take my shoes and socks off, though. We spent the next two hours in and out of that glorious river. On a stone wall we sat and had our birchers muesli. And a few cups of coffee. It is literally five steps from our front door. Oh the luxury!!

The owner grew up right there in that very house. Whoawhee!! They run the little restaurant and apartments only in summer. In winter they rest. And yes, they make enough money in summer to sustain them. I am green!! And there goes any possibility of ever acquiring it. Jarik and I have already transformed the place in our minds overnight. Oh well… They would be crazy to let it go, anyway.

We finally managed to tear ourselves away and off we went. Goodbye Julian Alps, hello Istria Hinterland! Green, windy roads brought us to a completely different landscape. Drier and hotter. Beautiful, but very different. Mountains are replaced by hills – many of them! – with vineyards everywhere. The little villages are tiny and only a few kilometres apart. Most villages are a mixture of old rock buildings, abandoned and dilapidated, and newer, more modern homes. Tuscan looking. Only very few of them have a shop or a school or a restaurant. I find it fascinating.


It took a long time to find accommodation, but in the end, at 7pm, we find the perfect place. Again. Our arrival is somewhat unexpected, so the owners ask us to give them an hour to prepare the place. We drive back to the lovely restaurant where earlier, after telling us all the accommodation in that village is full, a friendly man referred us to the village where we found our spot. He is happy to see us and find out we have a home for the night. We enjoy a delicious dinner (all except Esto, who has a tummy bug) and head back to our village.

No sooner do we get out of the car, or our host informs us that there is a musical performance in the village we just came from. A once off session with musicians who come from all over the world and then teach one another their traditional music. Their grand finale is a concert in the capital city the following night, where they perform all they’ve learnt. Well, we cannot possibly miss an opportunity like this! Sick child and a great desire to get to bed aside. So we bundle everyone back in the car and off we go.

The festivities take place outside, so we park the car nice and close to us and leave Esto on the backseat to sleep. The artists, as well as the audience consist of all sorts of weird and wonderful people. Very interesting indeed! The leader of the band / choir wears nothing but a t-shirt and tight black boxer shorts. Others are dressed up or over the top with everything from shiny shirts to breeches to puffy pants and waistcoats. But the music is impressive!! These artists know their stuff!! Violins, tubas, accordions, mouth organs, mandolins, basses, flutes, drums, guitars, trumpets, percussion instruments and voices. I can hardly believe what we are experiencing.

Meanwhile, back in the car, Esto is lights out. Only until we’re all squeezed back in there with him. With a violent roar he vomits all over Kali (who handles it extremely well and graciously) and the backseat. We end up creating a bigger spectacle than the musicians. My, oh my!

Finally back home, way after our bed time, the chaos continues for another hour or so. We finally flop into our beds, only to be woken up again. The vomiting has now turned into diarrhoea. I shall end here.

It has been a very long, beautiful, memory packed, surprise filled, crazy day. Our hearts are once more full to the brim. How incredibly blessed are we?!

– Mariza –


Beautiful Račišće

Author: Kali

After our bundu-bashing, we were all exhausted and just wanted to throw our bags down and go for a swim. A friendly couple, Martin and Danke, warmly welcomed us with sweet pastries, traditional homemade wine, grappa and a special homemade juice to our accommodation. Having entered Račišće in such a horrible way, I was so thankful the town and our apartment was so wonderful and beautiful.


Finally arriving after over 4 hours of struggles…


Our apartment was on the top level of an old 17th century stone block building. It was literally 10m from the ocean. Račišće is one of the smallest and oldest villages on the island of Korčula, and only has around 30 homes, 2 restaurants/cafés and a lovely old church. It is surrounded by a beautiful little cove and small harbour with clear, calm ocean water. From our balcony, you could even see the rocky harbour bottom.

All the beaches and shores are filled with smooth, round pebbles and rocks. No sand to get into everything. It was heaven on earth! (Hey Kate, you would love these beaches.) The sea water was very salty, but absolutely gorgeous! There is no sand in the water, so it is crystal clear and a delight to swim in. It is so refreshing and inviting, you can’t stop yourself from plunging in.

We spent our time swimming and floating around the three small beaches, or jumping off the harbour wall. Jumping off the harbour wall was so much fun. It is about 3m high and drops down sharply into the clear, cool, blue water, and we would do all kinds of tricks whilst jumping off. The local children would appear every afternoon to swim and jump off the wall, showing the few tourists how its done. It was very funny to watch them.

Every hour the big old church bell would chime. Chiming for the day would start with a full minute of constant and loud ringing (at 6am!), and would end the day the same (10pm). A few times I couldn’t help but chuckle, imagining someone swinging on the bell cord. 😁

There is a small boule court where the old men go to play boule (bocce, pentanque) with a few beers, every evening. Later, they would head to the bar and start singing loudly, with the whole town hearing their traditional clappa singing.

The one morning, we decided to run to a little beach. After about 2km, we came to a desolate little cove that had a rock house with a garden built on its shore. We were only planning a quick swim, but having fallen in love with the pristine water and white pebbly beach, we spent more than 2 hours in the water. We simply couldn’t tear ourselves away. Also, lucky for us, someone had left two pairs of goggles on the beach. Us four children took turns gazing around, amazed at the beauty that were beneath us.

I have lived near some of the best and most beautiful surfing beaches in the world and I’ve snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef, but this little town of Račišće with its glorious water, has stolen my heart. It is most definitely my favourite costal place in all the world.

We spent beautiful sunsets on our balcony, looking out over our stunning surroundings, and having precious conversations over a bottle of Martin’s homemade wine and freshly baked bread. I will never forget these special times!


Lovely times with some very dear friends…


I am so grateful for the three days we had here. It would always be too short in this amazing place. What a privilege to have stayed here! ❤️😄

Until next time,
– Kali –





Limericks by the Sea

Author: Eulain

Limericks by the Sea

Little islands dot the sea,

People are swimming happily.

They throw their nets out,

The boats are swaying all about.

The sunset as pink as could be.


A stone house village ever so small,

Clear blue water around it all.

Drinking beers the old men play,

Boules near the end of the day.

I’m jumping off the harbour wall.


Pinecone cricket is loads of fun,

It makes a person really run.

Hit the pinecone with all your might,

Make it fly  out of sight.

Now the pinecone cricket is done.



Bundu Bashing in Korčula

Author: Kali & Jarik

Kali: We were moving from a small town called Omiš, just out of Split, to one of the islands, Korčula. We took a ferry ride from Split to a tiny town on the island. From there we took a public bus. The driver was very unfriendly, and said he didn’t even know of the little town we were heading to, called Račišće. [Ra-chi-che]

Jarik: Thus far on our adventure, we have had a number of truly memorable travel experiences. This turned out to be one of them. We were supposed to get an Uber from our apartment in Omiš to Makarska, a town 20km further south along the coast. From there we were to catch a ferry to the island of Korčula. From Korčula Town, a regular local bus service could take us to our destination. It was all very straight forward. However, Uber dried up in Omiš; we eventually took a bus north to Split;  got a much longer ferry ride to Vela Luka (on the other side of Korčula island) and boarded a bus not really going to where we wanted to go…

Kali: MapsMe showed a walking trail from Pupnat, a town that the bus passes through, to Račišće. It was around 4km, all downhill, and it would take us about 50 minutes to reach our destination. This was absolutely nothing compared to hikes that we have done before, even with all our luggage. So we ended up getting off the bus at Pupnat. (The Afrikaans readers will enjoy the name!)

Jarik: Four kilometres – a breeze, although it was now about 1pm. There was even a sign indicating the walking trail close to the bus stop where we got off.

Kali: I started off walking in my flip flops (thongs) as I imagined this to be a comfortable walk. However, we had to get over massive boulders and rocks, and my flip flops didn’t even last a full hour. They had completely disintegrated and were totally useless. Disheartened, I dug out my runners from deep in my bag, and put them on my black, bleeding feet. Then we came to a really bushy and scrubby part of the trek. Also notice how I said my other shoes didn’t even last an hour, that is because by now we have been walking for more than two hours and the GPS showed that we still had 2.3kms to go!


Jarik: About 500m outside the village, the walking track gave way to a very rugged and rocky trail that was heavily overgrown. It was also by now apparent the “downhill walk” was actually quite a steep descent towards the glistening blue ocean that was very far off in the distance!

Kali: Our slow progress was not because we are slow hikers, but because we had wandered through various fingers splitting off from the track, all with our heavy backpacks. MapsMe couldn’t detect our location precise enough to be able to follow the track. Four hours passed and by now we were not only fighting our way over the boulders and rocks, but had a run-in with some aggressive bees as well – I got stung twice! We ended up just making our own trail through thick thorn bushes. Our legs, arms, faces, hands, feet and backs got badly scratched and our shirts and backpacks were also torn. It was horrendous! What made it even worse was that, after the 1st hour and in the middle of the day, all our water had completely run out and there was no house or farm in sight.

Jarik: After the second hour of very slow progress, following what seems to be the overgrown ruins of a winding rock boundary wall of some sorts, Mariza and I both realised that we still had a couple of hours of hard going ahead of us. It would be too difficult to go back the way we came. The only alternative was to continue pushing through the thorny shrubs and vines to slowly find a way to the bottom. We were totally ill prepared and just hoping that we would make it down before dark. Everyone was tired and hungry but we had to make sure that our troop’s attitude remained positive or we would never get there.

Kali: We all celebrated, some even cried, as soon as we stepped onto the dirt road that meant civilisation was within reach. This was definitely one of the most challenging treks that we have ever done. It took us more than five hours! I was feeling very sick at this stage. (We only had oatmeal in the morning and dry bread earlier in the day with very little water through the heat.) We climbed through a fence to fill our water bottles at an abandoned house and continued down the single lane road towards Račišće. Our apartment was delightful. It was such a relief to find a clean, neat and beautiful little apartment close to the cool blue ocean! We had an amazing welcome from our incredible hosts. From the picture to follow, you’ll see why the first thing we did was swim!!!


Jarik: I am so proud of my family! Not a single part of the day’s journey worked out as planned. We had to just adjust and find a way, even if it meant doing one of the toughest “hikes” we had ever done. The rewards were spectacular. Račišće is a forgotten  little piece of paradise in a beautiful corner of the crystal ocean. The conversations during and after the day’s ordeal were absolutely priceless. How fortunate we are to share this with our children.

Until next time,

– Kali –

– Jarik –



Helsinki, Finland

Author: Mariza

3 July

Our eight and a half hour flight from New York to Helsinki was supposed to be mostly for sleeping. Some managed to sleep a little bit, but most of us were up for the entire time. This, on top of two weeks of sleep deprivation, is a sure recipe for throwing your body clock right out.

We rented a lovely apartment with tiny beds for our first two days in Helsinki. Upon arrival we indulged in a long middle of the day nap. Bliss! It took two cups of strong, black coffee to get me moving again. Making the most of the super long daylight hours, we hunted down fresh bread and ventured into the woods. It was 10pm by the time we returned home. Still light outside.

A morning run, followed by a walking tour of the city centre saw us to our second Finnish day nap. Bad habits form way too quickly! And did I mention the kids were all up since 1am? Well, I was NOT having that again. Melatonin, magnesium, antihistamines and a small fortune later, I was set for a good night’s sleep for all. Not until after exploring another part of the city on foot and drinking expensive beer overlooking the Baltic Sea. The kids didn’t drink beer. 😊

Our third day in Finland was moving day. On a grey, windy morning, after a run in the woods and a quick cleaning session, we said goodbye to our cosy apartment. A walk, tram and bus ride later, we arrived at our new abode on the island of Helsingfors. A delightful one bedroom apartment bordering the nature reserve and beach made a fine home for our last two days in Finland.

Finland is fascinating. A population of five and a half million driving a very efficient country. Safe, well developed with free primary, secondary and tertiary education for all. Very impressive. And very expensive! The owner of our second apartment is a beautiful, well educated woman with a good job who has to rent out her primary dwelling over weekends and holidays to be able to afford it. The homes we’ve seen are small, but efficient. No wasted space anywhere.

Scattered throughout the nature reserve on our island are little cabins. A setting so surreal, it could have been a fairy tale. Between trees and bushes, each little cabin looks as if it was simply dropped there from the sky. No water and no bathrooms. Only a little cube for sleeping. During our last morning run we met a lovely elderly couple who’ve lived there forever. They told us that Fins can apply to have these cabins for summer vacation homes. In winter they are covered under a blanket of snow and would not be able to keep anyone alive. Strange and captivating.

Our last day was cold and cloudy again. We took a ferry to Suomenlinna where we put on a brave act to walk the length and breath of the island in the icy weather. And here we were thinking it’s mid summer. We learnt all we could about the history of Finland and the military manoeuvres over the years. And then we could take no more. Our warm apartment the only thing on our minds.

Early to bed and early to rise… Our airport transfer van departed at 3:30am. Our Finland adventure was over. Onto Croatia we go.

– Mariza –

Swimming in the Amazon!

Author: Ruzow

11 June

Everything we did and experienced in the Amazon Rainforest was special and amazing in its own unique way. But my highlight was definitely plunging off the canoe into the large lake. The tropical water was black, warm and very deep. Just thinking of what was swimming below made me shiver, there could be anything ranging from an anaconda, to a caiman!!!!! I ignored the thought and just enjoyed it. Swimming in the Amazon! To me, this was the thing I looked forward to everyday, a nice swim in the lake. It was magnificent.

See a video of my highlight 🙂

– Ruzow –


Blog at

Up ↑