Underrated Koh Rong Sanloem

Underrated Koh Rong Sanloem

Fair warning: if it’s currently cold or snowy where you are, then this post may make you a bit wistful.  Because really, Cambodian beaches? Vastly underrated. We’ve all seen photos of gorgeous Southeast Asian beaches with their light blue waters and stretches of pale sand with glorious sun overhead. For some reason, Cambodian beaches rarely make their way into my Instagram feed, and I have to be honest, people are missing out. When we were planning our trip to Cambodia, our research showed that these beaches were just as beautiful as their counterparts in neighboring countries, but were less crowded, less expensive, and way more low key. With that, we decided to try to wiggle in some time to spend at the beach during our trip, thinking that it would be a nice way to relax mid-trip. A vacation from our vacation, if you will.

With that, we researched Cambodian islands, and kept stumbling across Koh Rong Sanloem, an island off of the coast of Sihanoukville at the edge of the Gulf of Thailand.  As compared to other islands in the region, Sanloem (Sanloem means “drowsiness”) isn’t a party island, but is hailed as perfect for couples or families.  It boasts white sand beaches, clear blue water, and a low-key atmosphere. Could it sound more perfect?

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Angkor Wat and Siem Reap in Two Days

If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, or you’re even thinking of planning a trip to Cambodia, it’s likely that Angkor Wat is on your radar. Maybe it’s even your primary motivation for visiting this delightful country! The  Angkor complex is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and boasts UNESCO World Heritage status.  While the complex is famous for a few key sites (which I’ll get to below), it spans more than four hundred square kilometers and the remains of different capitals of the Khmer Empire.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or photography, Angkor Wat deserves a place on your itinerary for Cambodia.  We felt that we accomplished what we hoped to in two full days (three nights), but you could absolutely dedicate more time to this historic complex if you have it.  So, how did we do it with just two full days on the ground?

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An Unexpected Adventure: Traveling Cambodia

On one afternoon late in 2016*, I got a text from my husband, Liviu: “PNH April 2017?”  Fortunately, I had that airport code – Liviu’s favorite way to communicate – somewhere in my punchbowl, and I knew that he was referring to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. A few texts exchanged after his initial inquiry would then confirm our plans to travel to Southeast Asia for the first time – a trip that would totally upend our expectations for travel, and would wake up my senses in a totally unfamiliar way.  Thus began our plans to travel to Cambodia.

When we initially booked our trip to Cambodia, I admittedly didn’t know a great deal about the country.  I had heard of Angkor Wat, and had learned about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge era in school. But why would we vacation there?  Angkor Wat was, for me, enough of a draw to say ‘yes’ to the trip, but little did I know that I would encounter great beaches, fun cities, and some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. Cambodia inspired a standard that I now measure all destinations against: does it make me feel alive?

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(Independent) Havana Travel Guide

Almost exactly three years ago, in January 2017, Liviu and I traveled to Cuba* independently to experience Cuban culture and to have the chance to interact with everyday people.  Our trip was exceptional for many reasons, and we still talk about it all the time: the food, the sights, the sounds (music in the streets!), and more.    Travel is not currently permitted for most citizens of the United States (see “Worth Noting” below), but citizens throughout the rest of the world can travel freely to Cuba with no issues.  If you are able to travel to Cuba, you should absolutely add it to your near-future-travel plans, and you should consider doing it independently (without a tour group) – read on to learn why!

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All-Purpose Packing

Does the Internet really need another packing list? If you have searched for “packing list” on Pinterest recently, your answer is probably ‘no.’ You can find a packing list for just about everything: trips to specific countries, road trips, weekends away, conferences, and the list goes on. Companies like Lonely Planet even make notepads out of packing templates, and for some people, that works…. Just not for me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had the good fortune to travel a fair amount in the last few years. Every time we prepared to leave, I would look up some packing list on Pinterest and use it to prepare for my trip, and it was exhausting; I felt like I was reinventing the wheel every single time that I went on vacation, and I was never less stressed out, because I was so worried about forgetting something. Also, those packing lists weren’t always helpful: climates change throughout the year, so often I was looking for a very specific, very seasonal set of recommendations, and couldn’t find exactly what I needed.

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