Escape to Paradise

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Almost the moment school was out, I was on my way to Koh Thmey/Thmei, an almost uninhabited island on the South coast. Emily and I boarded the Giant Ibis sleeping bus to at 11pm and made our way down the bumpy but otherwise uneventful road to Phnom Penh. It wasn’t a terrible journey but I didn’t sleep much. We arrived a little before 6am, too early for most cafes to be open for breakfast. So armed with too much chocolate we grabbed our connecting bus South to Sihanoukville. We weren’t entirely sure that the driver understood our request to get off at Ou Chamnar, in the middle of nowhere, but we’d underestimated Emily’s Khmer and were duly deposited on the side of the highway.

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Sala Bai Restaurant, Siem Reap

Sala Bai is a vocational training school for young, disadvantaged Cambodians (mainly female) to learn all areas of the hotel and restaurant trade.

When Barry was still in Cambodia, I dragged him along to sample the restaurant part. Three course meals in the middle of the day are the best.

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Click here to read the full story of our visit to the restaurant, published on traveleater.net, the travel blog of my friend and fellow food lover, Johanna.

Artisans d’Angkor – Angkor Silk Farm, Siem Reap

I usually choose silk yarn when I crochet hats, scarves and gloves but I never though much about how the yarn itself is made. So I spent an hour one morning riding my bike out to the Angkor Silk Farm, part of an initiative to revive Cambodian skills and art following the Khmer Rouge civil war.

It was International Children’s Day so the farm was really quiet with many staff having taken the day off but there was still someone on hand to show me the process of growing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing and weaving silk.

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Chillin’ in Ban Lung

Ban Lung is a gateway to Vietnam, Laos and to the forests and jungle of Virachey National Park which is fast becoming a trekking destination (what I think about that here). But the capital of Ratanakiri Province is also a great place to chill out and relax for a couple of days.

After my long bus trip from Siem Reap, I headed straight for Treetop Eco Lodge, probably the most chilled out accommodation option in town. It’s a lodge made almost entirely of wood, with bungalows built between the trees and views across the valley and towards mountains. There were not many travellers around so it was incredibly peaceful and quiet.

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Virachey National Park Eco-Trek

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Trekking is a big draw in Ratanakiri and the main thing that brought me there. It was also a lot more expensive because I was travelling solo. It seemed that every person I met in Ban Lung was just coming back from a trek or heading to Laos.

So headed to the government office of Virachey National Park Eco-Tourism Information Centre. The national park guides employed by this office are the only ones allowed to run treks into the national park, although there is more forest and jungle outside the official boundaries. The Centre’s two day trek was the cheapest was to go solo at the ‘bargain’ price of $123. Still, it was why I was in Ratanakiri in the first place. My guide and I also agreed that we would walk the three day distances (the first day of the three day trek involves no walking whatsoever on Day One so I figured I could handle it), spending the first night by the river in the jungle (rather than a homestay) and walking to a waterfall the next day before returning to the village.

Oh, how disappointed I was going to be.

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