As I mentioned in an earlier post I got back to the UK in the nick of time in March, before all of the coronavirus restrictions kicked off in earnest.
I had been to Australia and was lucky enough to fit in a 13 day trip to Cambodia on the way back, before returning to the UK.
We don’t usually spend that much time in the destinations we choose as stopovers when we return on these trips. But as we were going to be celebrating a significant birthday for my partner this year, we thought we would take an extended break of just over a month.
Luckily my workplace is pretty relaxed about time off, however, despite this, I always feel a bit anxious when asking for extended periods of leave. Thankfully they have never been refused (so far!!) and I am so grateful for this flexibility.
We had settled on returning to what has to be our favourite country of the region that we have visited so far, after not getting very far with other itineraries. When deciding on what/where we should go, I do tend to rely a lot on gut instinct, if something feels right and if something doesn’t. And when we had finally put together our itinerary it felt very right.
I had been trying to put together a trip to the Philippines, it is somewhere I have wanted to visit for ages. But I just couldn’t get it to work out, there was too much moving around and as we had left it quite late (as usual!) some of the accommodation I had my eye on was full. I will get there eventually, but this year was not the year!
After quite a bit of deliberation we also decided that we didn’t actually feel like too much activity on this trip. Trying to get the balance right between activity and relaxation is always tricky, but this year we decided that relaxation was the priority.
And because this was a bit of a special trip, we also looked at upgrading some of our accommodation requirements from budget to mid-range…even to luxury at some points! And oh what fun that was!!
So, with the theme of the trip being ‘relaxation and not rushing’ (this would become our mantra!) I put together a little itinerary that I hoped would give us just that, along with a few activities thrown in for good measure!
I have to say it was a refreshing change. Our stopovers are always great fun but can be quite tiring sometimes – take last year for example, another trip to Cambodia took us temple hopping around Siem Reap for the week!
So what did we end up doing? Here you go…
Day 1-2: Phnom Penh
After spending a night in the transit hotel at Changi airport in Singapore, we took a flight to Phnom Penh at a decent hour (see, no early start for us!). Arriving in the early afternoon, we were met by our pick up and escorted to the hotel in a vintage Jag! This was a birthday surprise for my partner and I thought it would be a fun way to start our holiday!
I had secretly booked this room at the Pavilion Hotel, not telling my partner where we were going. The twist in this tale being that the room had a private pool…how could I pass that up!
Again, another surprise for my partner!
What a fabulous place! We spent a lazy afternoon at the hotel, relaxing by our own pool and then headed out to street 240, which is very close by, for dinner in the evening.
Cost: US$ 166 per night (via booking.com)
Day 2 – 5: Koh Andet Island, Koh Kong Province
The next morning we were being picked up by taxi to be taken to the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge in Koh Kong Province. It was to be a long 4-5 hour journey. I had originally asked to be picked up at 12pm, which I thought would allow us to have a leisurely start to the day and to catch their 5pm boat to the resort. But in order to get there in good time, they amended the time to 10am. Oh well, not too bad I suppose!!
We spent an amazing 3 nights at 4 Rivers. I cannot say enough good things about this place!
The whole ethos of the lodge is about sustainability and they are dedicated to the conservation of the surrounding area.
Perched on the Tatai river are luxurious safari tents, which were sourced from South Africa, from which you can observe the life of the river and watch the sunrise.
They also now have 2 bedroom on-land tents, which is where we ended up staying as all of their floating tents were full .
The on-land tents came about because of tragic circumstances in 2018.
They were originally based on the opposite bank of the river and all of the tents were floating then. However, after particularly heavy rains, a surge of water was released from a dam upriver with disastrous consequences for the lodge. Their tents were washed down river and a lot were damaged or destroyed. Thankfully and miraculously no-one was injured in the event and they started rebuilding on the opposite bank of the river.
The upshot is that they have both floating and on-land tents now, which opens them up to families, as well as couples now.
Attentive, informative and interesting staff providing 5 star service, along with 5 star food (think 4 course dinners as you would find in a fancy restaurant!), make this an extremely special and magical place to visit.
Throw in some great excursions, for example a trip upstream to swim in the waterfall, or trekking through the jungle and learning about the local wildlife, or just kayaking up and down the river and you have the perfect package.
Being so close to nature was a special experience, it was so peaceful and we couldn’t have asked for more. It completely exceeded expectations and I would highly recommend a trip here if you are looking to escape the freneticism of modern life.
You do however pay for the privilege. It is not cheap, but I felt that you really did get excellent value for money.
Cost: US$299 per night (direct booking)
Day 5-10: Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem
Aaaah, Lazy Beach! What a tonic you were!!
I think this picture sums it up!
Lazy Beach had been somewhere we wanted to return to since visiting it on our first trip to Koh Rong Samleom in 2017. We stayed on Saracen Bay then, on the opposite side of the island, which itself is gorgeous with Caribbean-esque sand and seas.
We had ventured over to Lazy Beach though to watch the sun set and we were bowled over with the serenity on this side of the island. It was somewhere that had stayed in our minds and I know my partner had been very keen to return to stay there.
So this is what we did!
Lazy Beach is special, it has a very laidback vibe, with its rustic wooden bungalows all with sea views. The staff are incredible and we spent most evenings chatting with them about life on the island and all manner of other random things around the bar.
The days passed in a relaxed routine of eating (the pad thai was amazing!!), drinking, swimming and lazing, with some snorkelling and a few walks to other parts of the island thrown in, just so we felt we’d had some exercise!
This was THE perfect place to unwind on this trip. Relaxation at its best! It was just what we were looking for and it was a wrench to leave.
Cost: US$75 per night (direct booking)
Day 10 – 13: Phnom Penh
We had 3 nights to play with after we left Lazy Beach. Of course, my head had mulled over how we could fill that time as I never want to feel like I am wasting time on trips. So, whilst we deliberately didn’t fill the days until we got to Cambodia so we could see what we felt like doing, I was already thinking of where we might be able to go after Lazy Beach. My immediate thought was Kampot, as it was somewhere we hadn’t yet managed to visit and was only about 3hrs from Sihanoukville.
But as we sat in the back of the taxi from the 4 Rivers Lodge making our way to Sihanoukville to catch the boat to Lazy Beach, we decided that we didn’t want to add extra travelling time into our agenda. We would have only had one full day in Kampot if we went there, before we would have to make our way back up to Phnom Penh.
So, sitting in the back of the taxi I got onto the internet and hastily booked ourselves back into the Pavilion Hotel for 3 nights!
To hell with it, I know I for one was looking forward to some more pampering!
Leaving Lazy Beach, we undertook the long 5hr drive back to Phnom Penh, and arrived back at the Pavilion Hotel and checked into our next private pool room…talk about indulgence!!
But oh it felt so good! I didn’t even leave the hotel one day, this is unheard of! But I gave myself permission to just switch off.
Of course it did help that I have been to Phnom Penh numerous times, so I didn’t have that overwhelming desire to explore like I do usually when I visit somewhere new.
We spent a day in total relaxation at the hotel (and I had a glorious 2 hour full body massage!) and also an afternoon out exploring a few of the markets in the city, before having an evening walk along the riverfront (oh wow, how that has changed since the last time we were there!).
The Pavilion Hotel was fabulous and I felt relaxed and very well looked after there.
Again, it was more than we would normally spend, but worth every single penny! Particularly because I left my camera in the safe in our room on check out, only being alerted to the fact by an email from the hotel as I was just about to board the plane to Singapore! The hotel were brilliant and arranged for it to be couriered back to me as soon as possible – I was so relieved!!
Cost: US$162 per night (direct booking)
Day 13: Back to Singapore
Our flight from Phnom Penh to Singapore was thankfully the only flight affected by the coronavirus crisis during our travels, we were so lucky in that respect.
We had booked a mid afternoon flight (another ploy to try to make sure we didn’t have an early start and could end our holiday having a leisurely breakfast before starting the trek home), however, this was cancelled and we were put on the early 9am flight.
Urrggh, I thought, when I got the message. We’ll have to leave soooo early!!
But the positive of this was we got to spend longer at Singapore’s Changi airport (we were staying overnight there again before our flight back to the UK) and at the Crown Plaza hotel, which is located land side at the airport.
The hotel is such a comfortable and convenient option if you have a stopover in Singapore and want to be located at the airport. The rooms are lovely, the pool is amazing and their breakfasts are delicious! It is on the pricey side though, but I always feel that it is worth the money for the convenience.
It would also mean that I could visit the new Jewel terminal which recently opened at the airport. Silver linings and all that!
We spent a lovely afternoon exploring the Jewel, I was quite bowled over with what they had done there! We even popped back later in the day and managed to catch a bit of the light show they have in the evening, which lights the waterfall up in all colours of the rainbow.
I managed to squeezed in a few hours at the pool at the hotel in the afternoon! If there’s a pool, then I am there!
Even though we were basically hanging out an airport, it was a fun and very comfortable experience indeed!
Cost: $369.11 SGD per night (direct booking)
We headed back the UK the next day on a half full plane, which meant a whole row of seats to myself – bonus!
The whole trip turned out to better than I could have hoped for.
I feel so very thankful that we were able to complete it without any problems and before the world went into lockdown.