In one of our previous articles (you can read it here) we talked about the paradisiacal wonder of the island of Koh Rong Samloem. But even if the island isn’t too big, with so many beautiful places to choose, one may gets confuse where to stay. Let’s have a look of the different parts of the island and share some tips for Koh Rong Samloem!
You like to visit Bangkok and experiment the city’s vibrant nightlife but you are starting to get a bit tired of the typical tourist bars in Khao San road? We totally understand you and have the perfect solution for it… here are some ideas of where to go within the many alternative places to go out and experience a different vibe of Bangkok nightlife!
Just a short ride from the coast and an easy-to-get weekend destination for the ones staying in Phnom Penh, Koh Rong Samloem is that beautiful cliché we love so much to see in postcards or enviable instagram accounts. An island where the waters are bluer and more crystal clear, the sands are whiter and the coconuts taste better. And all that with the advantage of getting away from the crowds of Koh Rong or the dodginess of Sihanoukville!
If you are living or traveling through Cambodia you probably already noticed that this week things are a little bit different. Many shops and businesses are closed, the majority of local people traveling to their provinces and a general festival mood with everyone preparing to party. Yes, that’s true, the Khmer New Year is coming so, as in Khmer they say, sousday chnam thmei!
Depending on the Buddhist calendar, which follows the moon instead of the sun like the Western calendar, the new year’s eve falls normally on 13 or 14 of april, being the end of the harvesting season and with the farmers having a bit more money to spend on celebrations. Now we are entering the year 2561 (remember that this calendar is related to Buddha’s birth instead of Christ’s birth) which is also considered the year of the rooster. It consists on three days of celebration where Cambodian people don’t refrain to party hard, eat and drink a lot, and put on their unique smiles even more than they usually do!
And let the feast begin.
On the first day people usually clean their homes and light candles and incense, believing they need to welcome some sort of angels into their homes, in the second day the focus is on giving charity to the poor and exchanging gifts between family members, with the last day being about cleaning Buddha statues with water and using flowers to decorate them, with the children typically washing their parents feet as a sign of respect. The belief is that the water used to clean the statues becomes holy and, similarly to Thai’s Songkran and Burmese’s Thingyan, is used to sprinkle on other people for blessing. More exactly to other people’s faces in the morning, chests at noon and feet in the evening. Nevertheless even if it’s the traditional thing to do is still not the huge event like the Thai or Burmese festivals, where the streets become full of people throwing water in massive “water fights” (although in Pub street in Siem Reap it’s becoming usual to have something similar, but mainly done by tourists and expats). Besides all this, during these days Cambodian people dress nicely and visit pagodas or shrines to pay homage to their ancestors. Other tradition is kralan, a cake made of rice, beans and coconut, roasted inside bamboo sticks and enjoyed as a snack.
So, after giving you some context about this holiday, we wish you a happy new year and hope you enjoy traveling or even the quietness of Phnom Penh during these days (most of the Khmer people go back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families so expect no traffic in town!) If you are staying in town you can walk around the area near Wat Phnom for attending some traditional games, and if you decided to travel have a look on Camboticket website for some last minute deals, so many provinces in this country to explore in these holidays!
Sousday chnam thmei 🙂
Travelling for some time in far away cultures can occasionally be a bit overwhelming and emotionally confusing, with us sometimes forgetting the advantages of travelling as a way to put everything into perspective, see our time on the road more clearly and the impact of the experiences we’ve been having in our own personal growth. Here we give some ideas for self-assessing your journey as a traveler and lifelong learner.
Cambodia is filled with places for contemplation and reflection, what a great time to stop for a while and think about our journey.
Journaling and having a travel diary can be a fertile and creative way to be more conscious of what’s happening in our days on the road. Find a calm place or use one long bus ride to take a while to think and reply to the following questions.
What were the three most interesting observations you had today and yesterday? (a good exercise that can be done every day of your trip, including things you saw, experiences you felt, conversations you had, etc)
Can you think of five things you learned in the country you are currently traveling? What and how can you apply in your life from its culture and way to see the world?
List ten differences of how this society works comparing to your hometown. E.g. family ties, relationships, growing up, aging and death, work, how people communicate, freedom of choice, personal independence, work-life balance, differences between classes, friendships, what makes people laugh, dreams and aspirations, fears and anxieties, notions of what is happiness, what people give more value in life, etc. (and don’t be afraid to ask local people about these topics to learn more about how they think and experience life!)
What do you identify yourself with in this culture and in its way of living? And what are the things you don’t relate at all?
What was more unexpected and surprised you more in this trip? What were the experiences that struck you most or stood out in your overall journey?
What was more intense for you personally? What moments were more challenging or shocking? And what moments were more beautiful and cathartic?
Which changes are you seeing in the country/culture you are traveling in? To which places does it want to go? And what are the obstacles holding it back? What about you, how do you relate these changes to your own personal journey?
After meeting some locals which ideas or things in their life would you like to experiment yourself and maybe try to integrate in your life?
What were the moments you felt more uncomfortable or pissed off? And more comfortable and joyful? What does that says about who you are?
What is the impact of your trip so far in your own self, your life, identity, etc? How did you grow and in what ways travelling is making you develop?
Freedom man, that’s what traveling has the power to give you.
And, regardless of what’s happening in your journey, never dismiss gratitude. We all know that from time to time arises from our travels a bit of tension, negative feelings due to tiredness or cultural barriers, a disquiet born out of the conflict with a different way of doing things that is not our own. Even in simple and innocuous situations as a delay in transportation or a street seller trying to overcharge us. In those moments take a step back, breath in and give a moment to reflect on what you are doing. It’s a privilege only available to a tiny minority, being able to stop working or studying, putting your life into a halt and go wander to other parts of our world, seeing and experiencing new things, enriching our lives with the pleasure of the unknown. How lucky are we for what we are doing? How many moments of serendipity or absolute and unexpected beauty did we already had during our journeys? Don’t commit the luxury to forget those people staying back home trapped in the office or those in a less developed country, such as Cambodia, and the harshness of their everyday lives. Your life is awesome when you can travel, don’t forget to be grateful about it 🙂
Being the second largest city in the country but, at the same time, having an incredible relaxed atmosphere, Battambang is a bit of a unique mix. On one hand, its countryside vibe brought by its status as an agricultural center, on the other hand, the birth place of many of the best Cambodian artists, with an art university and a couple of galleries providing interesting artwork that feeds both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap art scenes. Therefore, the Battambang Art Scene is definitely worth to check out to get some inspiration for your trip!
Local artist Nov Cheanik’s exhibition at Sangker Gallery.
Historically a creative city, Battambang got its population of artists and intellectuals killed or forced to fled during Khmer Rouge times, destroying for many years any attempt of producing something different than the everyday survival. Now, after some decades of slow forgetfulness and reconstruction, the revival is on the process and some interesting projects are happening. One of the reasons is perhaps Phare Ponleu Selpak, the famous circus group, which besides its performances has an art university in town supporting the growth of many local talents. If you want to support their work don’t miss the performances every Monday and Thursday at 7pm, also recommended passing through their gallery for checking out and maybe buy some of its students’ artwork.
On street 2.5, probably the coolest lane in the city, you can find many of its art spaces and trendy cafés. Visit Lotus bar and gallery for some exquisite art and delicious food and coffee, or the Lonely Tree café and Battambang Traveler for interesting crafts and souvenirs. In addition, head to Madison Corner for an evening drink and meet up with the creative minds in town.
Graffities outside Madison Corner.
Just as a side note, this street was also home to Sammaki community gallery and Make Maek art space, both already closed but crucial projects in the promotion and development of Battambang art scene. Nearby you also have Jaan Bai on street 2, an interesting restaurant and coffee shop with unique cocktails and appealing murals designed by local artists in its outside walls, and after that refreshment, you can continue your stroll to the close by street 1.5 for visiting another highlight of Battambang’s art scene: the Sangker gallery. With exhibitions featuring both young and established artists and a studio open to be used by them, it also organizes art tours around the city which include visiting some artists’ studios (contact them through laura.sangker at outlook.com or +88587298086 for reservations).
Murals on Jaan Bai restaurant and coffee shop.
A bit further but still at walking distance there’s Choco L’Art café, bar, tearoom and gallery, with its Khmer and French fusion food and drinks, including homemade bread and cakes. And, of course, beautiful paintings by local artists on its walls. In the other side of the river there’s also Romcheik 5, an artist-runned gallery and studio founded by a group of young local painters, also interesting to visit and with a 2 dollars fee that goes directly to support their work. And on a different note, near Borey Thmei mall you can find the wonderful Petra library café, an interesting reading space perfect for an afternoon with a book and a coffee in your hands.
One of the rooms at Petra library café.
Convinced to come to have a look at the Battambang art scene? Have a look on Camboticket website for options on how to get here from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap!