The most luxurious (and unique) resort I’ve ever stayed in

Knai Bang Chatt. Try saying that three times fast. You should because it is worth getting to know. Knai Bang Chatt means a rainbow encircling the sun in Khmer. I wasn’t lucky enough to see any rainbows while staying at this resort in Kep, Cambodia, but I was consistently in awe of its beauty and minimalist look. 

Kep-Sur-Mer was at one time the go-to destination for the rich French and Cambodians. Known as the Riviera of Cambodia or The St. Tropez of Southeast Asia, the well-heeled traveled to the area for sun and surf, building ostenacious villas with brightly colored bathroom tiles, multiple floors and private entrances. War and the genocidal Khmer Rouge left the area deserted. The villas were abandoned, stripped of everything inside. Converted from a handful of those villas, Knai Bang Chatt takes vistors back to what it might have felt like in the 1960s during the glory days. 

Look at this and tell me it doesn’t look like a scene straight out of an old movie:

The details in the room were both noticeble (an open-air bathtub and a separate shower and toilet, which is not always a guarantee in Cambodia) and less obvious (water bottles were discreetly hidden throughout the room). The style is based on the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which focuses on simplicity and modesty. 


  

   

One of my favorite surprises about the room was finding two traditional kramas on the bed. The kramas, which were apparently made by local villagers, are used in a variety of ways in Cambodia: as a towel, scarf or for decoration. You can see them on the bottom right corner of the bed in this picture.

 

Like most stays at beautiful resorts, I felt my time there was too short and found myself daydreaming about what it would be like to stay just one more day. But that’s why it’s called vacation, right? 

Highs and lows of Cambodian living: Month 2

I’ve been bad about blogging. I knew I’d probably fall behind at some point, but I was hopeful the words would just flow from my fingertips every evening. Wrong. They just want to go to sleep along with the rest of my body. Still, I’m determined to document as much as possible without making it feel like a chore. 

I’ve been pretty busy with work (more on that below) and trying to keep up with my social life here – all while keeping sane and trying to relax and enjoy my time here as much as possible.  

First, let’s start with the bad in February, shall we?

1. I got sick from food. Twice. Both times I found myself trying to lay as still as possible as sweat beads dripped down my face. The latest and strongest bout had me getting up periodically to vomit. It was not fun, but at least each bout only lasted about 24 hours. Also, one of my flatmates – I speak British English now – is a doctor and very sweet, so when I told her about the vomiting, she brought me rolls, jelly and Sprite. She also regularly listens and offers advice when it comes to boys. She’s great. 

2. The heat. Dude, the heat. And the intense sun. It can be stifling. It’s getting intense as we get closer to the hottest month, April. I find myself sweating all the time and putting a fan in my face any chance I get. I also lay down and rest as often as possible because the heat just zaps all energy from me.    

The good:

1. I saw the Angkor temples with students from the Cambodian Women’s Development Agency! Talk about the ultimate roadtrip (with a #selfie stick.) 



2. I wrote a story for The Associated Press about nude tourists at the Angkor temples. Read that here. I also wrote a story for NBC News from Cambodia. My Angkor story and a recent travel piece from my trip last fall to Puerto Rico were picked up by the New York Times. I’m kind of loving journalism right now. 

3. I went for a fun and relaxed hike with my above flatmate and a bunch of other expats on Koh Dach, a small island upstream from Phnom Penh. It was a short hike, only about 3 miles, but it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday. 





4. Making random dinner dates with people. In the U.S., it’s considered weird to randomly email someone out of  the blue and ask to hang out. But it’s not when you’re new to a foreign country! I made my fair share of emails to people during the first month, but I’m now mainly fielding emails from people who have heard about me or found me through this blog or friends of friends. It’s great!

Lessons learned:

1. Water. Water. Water. MUST drink plenty of water. 

2. I need to keep working on being OK with saying no if I have to. I can’t do it all, and I need to be more confident in my decision to say no.