Honeymoon Inspiration: Cambodia Part 2
Our private transfer from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh took around four hours and cost just $40. Rather coincidentally we continued the rose theme and stayed at the La Rose Boutique Hotel & Spa located on the Norodom Blvd, it was good value and well-placed for our 48-hour visit. Once again we received a lovely warm Cambodian welcome and were treated like VIPs. As a boutique spa hotel the rooms have a lovely calming vibe, you are totally unaware of the bustling city just outside. We were offered a complimentary spa treatment to congratulate us on our wedding and both opted for what would be our first traditional Khmer massage, which was absolute bliss.
Whilst in Phnom Penh we wanted to visit both the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison, both are a must for anyone visiting Cambodia, and wanting to understand more about the Cambodian people and their history. And this is recent history, which is probably what we found hardest to digest. It feels rather strange saying that you should visit what are such poignant emotional places, like they are just mere tourist attractions, which they most certainly aren’t. No amount of researching or studying of the Khmer Rouge regime will prepare you for what you will see here, both locations are hard hitting and will not only leave you thinking for days, they will have an ever-lasting affect on you. Just like Pol Pot had on Cambodia and it’s people.
We had planned our trip so that we would be in the capital for the new year, traditionally New Year’s Eve isn’t celebrated on the 31st December, however the Western event has been adopted over the last few years especially in this multi-cultural capital. The riverfront was just a short 10-minute walk from La Rose Boutique Hotel & Spa so we had planned to take a wonder down and watch the fireworks to bring in the new year. It’s fair to say we had absolutely no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, the roads were at complete stand still, with thousands upon thousands of scooters, cars, tuk tuks, no one was going anywhere fast! Once again we grabbed hold of each other and weaved ourselves through the vehicles and people and stalls, heading towards the river, the atmosphere was electric! If you decide to take on Phnom Penh for New Year’s, don’t wear open toed shoes and a long floaty dress, it plays havoc when walking between exhausts and climbing over piles of rubbish!
Once we were sat with a glass of champagne in our hand with a great view of the river from the roof terrace of the Foreign Correspondents Club, we were pleased with our decision and excited to toast to 2017 as newlyweds. If you fancy taking in the atmosphere but don’t want to be quite so in the thick of it, opt for one of the many river cruises available, worth splashing out on if you want to celebrate in style.
Following Phnom Penh, the next part of our trip took us to the Cardamom Mountains area, where we were staying at the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge on the Tatai river. We would recommend each and every part of our trip, however this was probably our favourite. The special laid back nature of the 4 Rivers was no doubt amplified by the busy city life we had experienced over the past week but for a true sense of being cut off from technology-driven life, this is the place.
We had arranged collection from Phnom Penh with the 4 Rivers before we left the UK, a little more expensive than the private taxis we had used so far but worth spending, this was after all a 5-star resort. Despite the star rating, I was apprehensive, I had suspicions that we may have seen the best of the resort on the website and was sceptical as to whether the reality would live up to our expectations...as it happened, it far exceeded them!
We were greeted on arrival at the ‘port’, essentially a thatched hut down a dusty track at the side of the river, and boarded the traditional wooden boat. Then we were off, and the river was just breathtaking, flanked either side by the mountains and lush green jungle with just the sound of the engine pootling along behind us. Both us and the one other family travelling on the boat with us were in silent awe. After about 10 minutes cruising, the floating lodges came into view and they took our breath away. Welcomed by Resort Manager Adonis, we were given a short introduction to 4 Rivers, told that the kayaks were at our disposal, how we could select our three-course dinner daily and were told to make sure we didn’t miss the beautiful sunsets and nightly firefly cruise along the river! This is when I started to wish we had more than just the two nights here but it was the perfect amount of time to switch off and recharge.
The 4 Rivers offers many excursions from the leisurely to the more extreme so if isolation isn’t quite your thing, then I promise you still won’t be disappointed. Our floating river days passed by in a blur and before we knew it, it was time to head to our final Cambodian destination, Sihanoukville. We arranged our transfer with the 4 Rivers and bid farewell to the Tatai river, next stop - the beach!
So this is where our highly recommended Cambodia itinerary has a flaw, our Sihanoukville accommodation. Ending our trip with a beach destination was perfect, and just what we needed. We could relax and do absolutely nothing, guilt free, happy in the knowledge that we had well and truly explored all things weird and wonderful that Cambodia had to offer. I would however, suggest you approach your accommodation a little differently. We stayed at the Moha Mohori, part of the Sokha Beach resort, a huge resort offering lots of facilities, a private beach, and multiple restaurants - you know the type. Not our usual style, but tempted by the honeymoon suite on stilts over a lagoon, with giant jacuzzi bath…we were sucked in and I wish we had stuck to our guns. It really wasn’t worth the money and we had received far greater hospitality and quality of accommodation with our great value Airbnb bookings.
You can stay in Sihanoukville for much less and spend your days island hopping to the many beautiful secluded beaches on the surrounding islands, or stay on your favourite island, many of which feel like you may as well have the place to yourself - true bliss. We still had a fabulous end to what was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, rounded off by some of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen, and so for that reason I still wouldn’t change a thing!
When it comes to planning your honeymoon, my advice would be to do exactly that, plan YOUR honeymoon. Whether that takes you to a cosy little cottage in Devon, flash packing across South East Asia or exploring those European cities that you’ve always wanted to see, do something for the two of you. Both Steve and I have busy jobs and more often than not we’re like passing ships home, we joked before we left for our honeymoon that with such a long time in each other’s company we might realise we don’t actually like each other! But as cheesy as it sounds, we grew ever closer and I truly felt safe in the knowledge I had married my best friend.