Pete Turned 15

Our son, Pete turned 15 on April 4th. For us parents, he is our pride and joy. When he does something adorable, our hearts skip a beat. When he faces difficulty, our muscles tense up. When he accomplishes something new, our eyes gleam with delight.

Pete blew the candles on his 15th birthday cake

Pete’s birthday this year was more fun than in the last two years as we got to celebrate it outside with some of his friends, in 2020 though, it was the time when the government decided to close all schools, and in 2021, it was the time when the government put the whole city on lockdown due to the pandemic.

Pre-birthday dinner at Brasserie Louis Restaurant

On April 3rd, we took Pete to Rosewood’s Brasserie Louis Restaurant for a pre-birthday gourmet dinner. It was a beautiful Sunday as the afternoon sun bathed the buildings in its warm light, allowing tons of tiny specks of dust to dance in the shaft of afternoon sunlight. We had a reservation for three at 6 p.m., and our table was strategically placed near the glass wall in the corner. The restaurant was tastefully decorated, creating a relaxed, welcoming ambience. While there, we enjoyed the clear and quiet atmosphere, the sunset, the night sky aglow with bright city lights, and the stunning views of Phnom Penh’s cityscape, Tonle Sap, and Mekong River from the 35th floor. The service and staff were good. The starters and main courses that we had were good, although the portions were small and the menu selection was limited.

View from Brasserie Louis Restaurant

On the way home, we decided to stop at Samaky Bistro near Wat Langka because we wanted a more chill atmosphere and their delicious crepes with chocolate and lemon while watching people passing by and listening to the live band nearby. This fun side trip made the entire evening much more enjoyable!

birthday breakfast board

The next day, my husband and I surprised Pete with a birthday breakfast board, which he devoured happily! Alan made beef stew for his home lunch, while I packed it and scribbled down a short lunchbox note.

birthday home lunch with a note

In the evening, we prepared a simple and sumptuous seafood birthday dinner at home, complete with a well-planned menu that satisfied all of our cravings! The salmon and saucisson board was fantastic with pickled cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and fresh green olives. It was delicious. After the delectable starter, we took a 15-minute break to empty our stomachs for the main course, which was classic lobster thermidor cooked in rich white wine, gruyere cheese, mustard, and homemade béchamel sauce served with pasta, baked tomatoes with sliced garlic, freshly sliced red radish, and blanched asparagus! It was a five-star rating!

A family photo using a selfie stick

I baked Pete his 15th birthday cake – a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries. I also made chocolate cakes for his friends at school to enjoy.

Pete enjoys music and plays the guitar as his favorite instrument. As he can now play his acoustic guitar well, Alan and I decided to grant his birthday wish – a new electric guitar – as a way of showing him our full support in helping him improve his abilities in music. While we were having a birthday dinner at home, Alan told Pete that we would take him to the instrument shop on the 11th of April so he could choose an electric guitar he liked with a beginner’s set. He was over the moon!

On April 10th, we took Pete and five of his friends to spend the day at the Garden City Waterpark for a fun post-birthday celebration! The teens were buzzing on the way and couldn’t wait to get to the waterpark. They tried all the slides and almost every activity in the park as soon as we got there. After lunch, we enjoyed floating on the slow-moving Mekong River. It was more relaxing and enjoyable! Pete and his friends were exhilarated and had so much fun the whole day. Certainly, it was a joy to see them having a good time together!

On the way home from the waterpark, our friends treated us to a pizza at Brooklyn Pizza. The pizza was good, and we all gobbled it down as soon as it was served. It was a sweet treat before we departed for our homes.

pizza at Brooklyn Pizza

It was definitely a birthday that Pete will remember for the rest of his life. Time slips away quickly, and he inevitably grows older year after year. And each year brings new challenges that help him grow, as well as happy memories like this one that he will cherish for many years to come. Happy 15th, our Pete! Papa and I love you!

My 40th Birthday: A Celebration of Life

I turned 40 on March 2, which was truly a life celebration – a beautiful milestone of wisdom, adventures, and accomplishments! I feel immersed in love, surrounded by peace, grounded in faith, and overwhelmed with overflowing gratitude. Looking back, I’m so grateful to have touched a few lives and to have a strong spirit that keeps me balanced and grounded.

My birthday fell on Ash Wednesday, so I decided to join Pope Francis’ call to fast and pray for the people of Ukraine. So, from 9 p.m. on March 1 to 9 p.m. on March 2, I fasted from food and social media. At 4 p.m. on March 2, my son and I went to church to attend the Ash Wednesday mass. It felt good because it cleansed both my body and my soul.

Though we may not be able to come together as we usually would, when we got home from church, we video-called our families in France and the Philippines to celebrate and chit-chat on my birthday. I was smitten when I heard my parents, siblings, and parents-in-law’s greetings and gifts for me. My parents told me that they cooked pansit, a classic Filipino noodle stir-fry, for me because it symbolizes long life, then shared it with some of our relatives. In the Philippines, a birthday celebration wouldn’t be complete without a pansit dish or spaghetti. Then, like a bolt from the blue, a gigantic bouquet of 40 fresh pink roses arrived on my doorstep from my little sister. These simple and sweet gestures from my families made me feel loved and cherished. 

While waiting for the clock to strike 9 p.m. (the time when my fasting was over and I could eat), I decorated my birthday cake (which I baked early in the morning) with homemade chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries. I also made a simple dinner so that we could all dig in at home. When the clock struck 9, we began our meal with a classic champagne toast. And at exactly 11.35 p.m. (the same time when I was born), I blew the candle on my cake. I was thankful to my husband and my son for patiently waiting for me so that we could eat together. It was a simple celebration, but it was very meaningful.

On March 5, I had the opportunity to celebrate my birthday at the orphanage. I surprised the kids by bringing them sacks of rice, milk, and savory snacks. And the kids surprised me with a delicious homemade cake that they made by themselves while they were singing a Happy Birthday song. One of the kids also handed me a birthday gift she created herself — a lovely bird origami — and another child was making birthday wishes for me and thanking me for thinking about them. My heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude.

The next day, the blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds that drifted lazily in the gentle breeze. My family and I enjoyed a lovely sunset cocktail and dinner cruise aboard the Samsara Boat. We sailed away from the hustle and bustle of the city on the calm waters of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake, with a stunning sunset and later lit buildings in the background, while enjoying a six-course meal and free-flowing drinks. The cruise was marvelous; we felt relaxed and pampered by nature, tranquility, and good food and drinks. 

On Sunday evening, March 14, I got to celebrate with some of my friends at home over a simple, homemade six-course dinner. The meal began with a sparkling white wine toast. Then we enjoyed the food that I prepared myself—charcuterie, bruschetta, grapefruit salad, passion fruit with gin for refreshment (before the main course was served), moules marinières served with pasta, chicken with chili sauce served with rice and baked tomatoes, cheese board, chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, and chamomile tea. It was a laid-back and enjoyable evening filled with chit-chat and laughter.

And on the occasion of my 40th birthday, my husband and I had agreed to get me something stunning and sparkly that I could wear on a daily basis — a pair of 18-carat yellow gold round brilliant diamond drop earrings finely crafted for me by Kong Hong Jewelry—to remind me that I am loved and special and to wish me strength, beauty, good health, and a long life. We adore my new earrings because they are beautiful and classy without being showy. I am so grateful to my husband for this gorgeous gift. I am also thankful to my son for his heartfelt tribute to me, “40 Things About My Mom.” I’ve read it several times, and it always warms my heart.

I was taken aback by the sheer number of greetings, well-wishes, messages, and tributes. I genuinely enjoyed reading all of them. They each touched my heart and moved me to tears! I was also grateful to receive numerous gifts from students and friends. I am so blessed to have such precious family, friends, students, and colleagues. You all mean the world to me! Thank you all very much for making my special day that much more special! My love to you all!

As I get older, I am immensely grateful to God for the gift of this stunning life and the lovely people with whom I am able to share it, for the blessings he has bestowed on me, and for guiding me on this amazing journey of life. I pray that I can keep the strong rays of positivity, the hopes in my heart, the good fortune in life, the pink of health, the discipline to stay fit, a happy family life, the love of being a homemaker, the zeal to work extremely hard, the motivation for lifelong learning, the passion for helping others, and the desire to continue becoming a better version of myself with each passing day.

Sunset Cocktail and Dinner Cruise aboard the Samsara Boat

I wanted to do something different for my 40th birthday this year, so my family and I went on a sunset cocktail and dinner cruise with the Samsara Boat, a traditional Khmer hardwood launch outfitted to provide the finest dining experience on the lakes and rivers of Cambodia.

The cruise started at 5.30 p.m. As soon as we arrived at the floating dock, we stored our shoes in a box, wore the espadrilles provided for us by the crew, and hopped on the boat for a short but necessary safety briefing. Then we sailed away from the city’s hustle and bustle on the calm water of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake, soaking in tranquility, luxury, and privacy.

Pete and I were wearing the espadrilles.

As soon as we boarded the boat, the crew began serving free-flowing champagne as welcome drinks and a platter of snacks. We stayed in the open-air bar at the top deck to enjoy the nature and the views. Besides the starlit roof bar, the top deck also consists of a bow with a sun deck and two lookout stools, and a few steps from the bar is a second lounge with a wraparound setting. The sun was low in the sky, the wind was gentle, and when dusk came, the lit buildings in the background were wonderful. It was quiet and soft music was played. It was a perfect way to finish the day and start the evening.

As we cruised onwards, we were invited to a celebratory six-course meal in the air-conditioned fine-dining salon that featured asparagus and foie gras soup, tenderloin steak with a very good sauce, and free-flowing wine. The food was delicious and we enjoyed it all. After the fourth course (trou normand/refreshment), before the main course was served, we returned back to the open-air bar to allow ourselves to digest, enjoy the fresh air, gaze at the stars and the constellations of the night sky above Cambodia, and appreciate the best views of the fast-growing city of Phnom Penh, which never sleeps.

Throughout the course of the cruise and while we were eating, one of the things that we enjoyed was our conversation that covered so many topics, such as menhir, indigenous people, etc.

The free-flowing drinks made us a little tipsy afterwards. I don’t really drink because my body can’t handle alcohol. But I drank a little on the cruise because it was my birthday and my husband was with me; I knew if I got drunk, he would carry me home.

The four-and-a-half-hour cruise was lovely, and dining aboard the Samsara Boat was an elegant intimacy. It was a fantastic way to celebrate a significant event in my life and a great way to get away from the daily grind, especially since we are working around the clock nowadays (literally seven days a week). But we have no complaints; instead, we are grateful that our small business has done well thus far and is gradually expanding across four continents. If you are looking for a relaxing and romantic way to end your day and a unique way to celebrate any important occasions with your family or friends, with good food, good drinks and beautiful scenery, the Samsara Boat is for you.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • Excellent customer service. The crew and entire team were welcoming and accommodating.
  • One thing that bothered us was the stink of the engine. It was quite strong, especially at the beginning of the cruise.

Dinner in the Garden at White Mansion

On February 12, we decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day in advance to avoid the crowds by relishing the moment with a romantic escape under the hues of lights at White Mansion’s garden. We thought that unwinding into the night with a fantastic garden dining menu crafted by an excellent chef would impress, inspire, and create long-lasting memories for my family and me.

There was not much to see in the garden but a lovely greenery, fanciful lighting and chic cocktails and mocktails. The tranquil garden was shimmered with a candle set in the middle of the table and strings of lights hung from the trees. And tender petals of red roses and white frangipani flowers were gorgeously scattered on the table. The quiet ambiance left us more awestruck by our love for each other and for our family.

We started with a glass of nice cocktail and mocktail upon arrival, followed by a luscious and leisurely dinner and wine. Afterwards, we splurge and sweeten up the night with a delectable desert, because Valentine’s Day is not complete without sweets.

We had a great time eating delicious food while enjoying the pleasant smell of the garden and soaking up a little peace and tranquility as we had the entire place to ourselves. Our dinner conversation ran from Pete’s nomination for the Student Council’s President to movies and music to bugs…Hahaha.

It was a wonderful night – we’d got space, peace, good food, and love! If you are looking for a secret hideaway to share with your loved ones, then look no further – White Mansion is the place to be!

12 Things to do in Koh Rong Samloem

Cambodia has a number of remote and undeveloped tropical paradises that are just a short boat ride from the coastal city of Sihanoukville. One of these islands is Koh Rong Samloem, which is both beautiful and authentic. Most of the visitors come to Saracen Bay to relax and take in the astonishing views. Despite its small size, you will be surprised by what it has to offer. Here are a few things my family and I would recommend doing and seeing.

Go Kayaking

Kayaking is an excellent way to explore the coastline of Koh Rong Samloem. Saracen Bay is ideal for kayak adventures because the water is shallow and normally very calm. Some resorts on Saracen Bay, such as The One Resort (where we stayed), offer free kayaks. However, if you don’t have access to a free kayak, you can rent one for around $7 for a half day or $12 for a full day. It’s a delightful way to spend your day.

Jungle Trekking

Koh Rong Samloem Island has some amazing jungle trails which are perfect for exploring the area on your own, ditch the crowds, and discover the secret of the islands, including one that leads to the old lighthouse, Lazy Beach, and Sunset Beach. The trails get trickier and hillier and more challenging, and the boulders get bigger as you emerge deeper into the jungle. On your way, you may expect to see snakes, rare lizards, monkeys, and other jungle creatures. If you wish to trek through the jungle, wear hiking boots and trousers to protect yourself from the massive mosquitoes, wear a headlamp or bring a flashlight, and put mosquito repellent or carry a bug spray.

One of our best memories on the island was hiking from Saracen Bay to Sunset Beach. We began our trek through the jungle at 4 pm and continued until dusk. We had to hold on to the rope or else we would have fallen. We didn’t see any wild creatures, but we heard a very loud cacophony of insects. The trails to Sunset Beach were more difficult than the ones we had when we went to Lazy Beach. It was adventurous, a little scary, and fun all at the same time.

Laze at the beachfront

Lazying is indeed a lost art. The beach is an excellent place to unplug from technology, read a book, and clear your mind. The soothing sights, smells, and sounds of nature can help you unwind because it’s easier to let go of whatever is on your mind. It is also a great place to catch up, tell stories, and have a great laugh with family and friends while appreciating the beauty of doing nothing.

Beach Hopping

There are several beaches on Koh Rong Island such as Saracen Bay, Lazy Beach, Sunset Beach, Clearwater Bay, Sandy Beach, Military Beach, and M’Pay Bay.  Our most favorite were The One Resort Beach (on Saracen Bay) and the Sunset Beach.

Sunset Beach is a perfect place to watch breathtaking sunsets. It is located on the island’s western side and is very popular among French visitors to Cambodia. This self-contained mini-paradise can be found at the end of an increasingly challenging trail. It is almost empty of people, so you can enjoy the gorgeous pink and purple sunsets going down into the water, yellow sand beach, and the tranquil and breathtaking atmosphere all to yourself. You will also enjoy the Sunset Beach’s vibe – easy-going with a secluded feel.

Lazy Beach is a secluded private beach on the west side of the island that stretches more than 700 meters and is surrounded by tropical pine trees. It is clean and, despite being privately owned, it is freely open to the public. It has a very relaxing, castaway beach vibe. There are beachfront bungalows as well as a nice on-site restaurant. It is an ideal quiet getaway for families, friends, or couples looking for a true taste of island life and a sense of isolation. You will enjoy walking over on the white sand here for the day, lazing around in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by mountains, swimming in the green, crystal clear water, playing with the big waves, then having lunch or drinks in the restaurant.

Beach walking

Nothing beats a stroll on the beach, from the cool surf to warm sand to people-watching to awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets. The beach is always charming, full of both adventure and romance. Walking on the beach is also a great way to clear your mind and exercise your body. In Koh Rong Samloem, it is safe to walk on the beach along Saracen Bay, Lazy Beach, and Sunset Beach because we did not see any shards of sharp objects or glass the last time we went there. While there, we walked at sunrise, in the afternoon, and even at night. 

Dinner on the Beach under the Full Moonlight

Every night, the beaches there offer BBQs on the beach. One of our favorites on the island was dinner on the beach (every night throughout our stay) under the full moonlight at The One Resort. Truly, the beach is simply a paradise with all the elements of romance and the chance to see something unique with the one you love. 

Hunt for a Waterfall

If you are bored of beach bummin’, hunting for a waterfall is an option, especially for those who are adventurous. This waterfall will not take your breath away, but it will provide you with a nice beach break and allow you to explore the jungle. The best time to go there is during the rainy season.

Discover your most favorite sunset

Sunsets at Saracen Bay, Sunset Beach, Lazy Beach and M’Pay Bay are all spectacular. Your goal is to find your absolute favorite!

Visit the Old Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Koh Rong Samloem is about a 90-minute hike from the south end of Saracen Beach. The paths leading to the lighthouse are hilly and stoney. The entrance fee to climb to the top and enjoy a magnificent view of the island is $1.

Go on a Boat Trip

From budget travelers to adventure seekers, Koh Rong Samloem offers a variety of boat trip options that include activities such as exploring remote beaches, visiting local villages and nearby islands, snorkeling over coral reefs, fishing with the locals, swimming with glowing planktons, watching sunset, BBQ, and so on.

Snorkel and Scuba dive

There are many operators on the island offering snorkeling and scuba diving trips that will take you to snorkel or scuba diving points and to some great places on Koh Rong Island where you can see some cool unique fish.

Watch the glowing plankton

Bioluminescent plankton on Koh Rong Island is a beautiful natural phenomenon to see at night as it looks like a shimmering starry sky all around you. Despite the fact that this is abundant on the island, these gleaming planktons can only be seen in areas with very little light.

Christmas dinner on the boat with Friends

In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, sometimes it can be difficult to slow down, savor the season, and connect with everyone who means so much to us. So, on December 26, my husband and I decided to invite our friends over for a simple Christmas dinner on the boat because we thought it would be meaningful to share the joys of the season with them.

Photo credit: Jofel

We rented a small boat for two hours that was exclusively for us. Then we set sail on the Tonle Sap Lake. The cool breeze that blew from the Tonle Sap Lake emitted its own energy, and as it washed over us, it brought us the peace and tranquility that only the lake could provide. Looking at the dark skies, I reckoned we were all enveloped by a sense of calm that we seldom experienced.

Photo credit: Jofel

We opted to stay on the boat’s upper deck because it was nicer and cooler than the bottom part. We dressed the table in a green table cloth and set the food on it. Then we took our seats at the table. We exchanged gifts and enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by my husband and me, which included beef stroganoff with buttered pasta, beef kimbap, bola-bola (meat balls), and a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. My friend Liza also brought a delicious roasted chicken. We talked about everything under the sun while eating. We laughed and giggled. We took some photographs. We had a fantastic time as we embraced the magical time of year.

Photo credit: Jofel

While we were busy chit-chatting, my son Pete and his friend Santi found themselves playing at the lower deck of the boat, catching up with each other and talking about adolescent stuff before and after eating. I felt happy seeing them having fun together.

Boating at night is indeed awesome. It was a perfect way to celebrate Christmas and share a merry memory with friends that will be cherished for years to come, as well as a cozy night spent chatting and catching up over luscious home-cooked food.

2021 Christmas Eve at Home

My husband and I both grew up celebrating Christmas Eve at home and enjoying large Christmas Eve meals. In our families, Christmas Eve is a time for food, gifts, and laughter. Typically, family members spend hours in the kitchen on both Christmas Eve day and the day before, preparing traditional French and Filipino dishes. Now that we are living abroad, we try to continue this tradition so that our growing teenage son can have a similar experience.

We have carefully planned the menu and have decided to cook and prepare a six-course meal for Christmas Eve, meant to be delightful and memorable. We started eating at eight o’clock in the evening and finished at two o’clock in the morning.

Besides menu planning and healthy cooking, I reckon a nice table setting affects the enjoyment of the meal. This year, instead of our traditional festive theme of red and green, I opted to switch it to white and pink for Christmas Eve dinner and by using simple Christmas table decorations, which I thought was perfect for celebrating the season.

I dressed up our table with a white tablecloth. I added some small touches — two pink candles with mountain berry scents to fill our table and home with inviting fragrance, a small white vase with pink roses, and a tiny Christmas bell — that I thought would add to the mood and atmosphere of the meal. I made sure I kept the height of the centerpiece low and narrow so that we could make eye contact while talking and see each other across the table because, in my family, mealtime conversation is an important part of the meal. In fact, some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had have taken place at our family’s dining table.

We had our exchange gifts and unwrapped our presents before we started our dinner so that our son could enjoy his present. After all, Christmas season is the moment of gift-giving and gift-unwrapping. We believe that novelty is beneficial to us because we require stimulation, innovation, and the enchantment of new things. This holiday season has always reminded us to never stop bringing novelty into our lives, to appreciate what others give to you as well as what you give to others, and to experience the new and the good in balance.

Even though we were only three, our Christmas Eve dinner was enjoyable, fun, and meaningful. Everything tastes and feels better during the holidays when you are surrounded by loved ones. From our family to yours, we would like to spread the Christmas cheer and the warmest greetings of the season far and wide.

Sunset Adventures at Sunset Beach, Koh Rong

It was a lovely day, with the sun shining brightly and the sky clear. So, while we were on the island, we took advantage of the opportunity to embark on a mini-adventure.

Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach

It was exactly 4 pm when we left the resort to make sure we would be able to catch the sunset on the other side of the island. Heading east, we walked away from the resort in our comfy shorts and tee-shirts. We enjoyed the breathtaking view of the ocean, the salty air kissing our cheeks, and the quiet relaxing sound of the sea waves as it cracked on the shore while walking along the beach.

Sunset Beach

Then, when we got to the octopus bar, we turned left and walked into the jungle. While walking, our nostrils filtered the pungent smell of rotting leaves on the jungle floor. Our eyes were drawn to the various shades of green and the colorful birds darting between trees. The air had the pleasant smell of damp moss and we could feel the humidity of the jungle surrounding us. It was fascinating to walk around because we could hear a symphony of insects thrumming and buzzing.

As we progressed deeper into the jungle, the terrain became rough, hilly and challenging. It was supposedly a well-trodden path, and while it was clear which way to go, it was often dangerous because we had to balance on rocks and roots above a steep drop, and we held onto the rope so we wouldn’t fall.

It was 5 pm when we arrived at the incredibly secluded Sunset Beach. The place looked carefree and serene. Then, I laid out our fabric mat for us to put our stuff on. As I sat there, my husband and son relaxed on the hanging wooden swing on the tree, savoring the beauty of unexploited nature and gazing at the stunning sun going down into the blue sea. It was pure bliss.

We only stayed there for 30 minutes. Although it was a short visit, we enjoyed the place. We decided to trek back to the resort before dusk set in, because hiking through craggy terrain in the jungle in the dark with gigantic mosquitoes must be tricky. Since we stumbled across this hidden gem, we would like to spend the night on Sunset Beach the next time we go there, because watching the sundown is just so amazing and picturesque.

When we got back to our resort, we learned from the manager that there is a time of year when the boat cannot dock at Sunset Beach, and the staff of the resorts there must carry all the goods and supplies and walk through the rugged, hilly path from the other side of the island to Sunset Beach. We can only imagine how difficult it is, especially when the weather is bad.

If you are looking for a peaceful getaway to enjoy the simple things in life, solace, natural air, a nice walk and a mini-adventure, Sunset Beach is definitely hard to beat!

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • If you are staying in any resort at Saracen Bay, I really recommend a visit to the Sunset Beach, but do not do this unless you are fit and healthy.
  • Bring a mosquito repellent.
  • Wear proper walking shoes.
  • You need to know what you are signing up for before you go to avoid disappointment.

Tropical Christmas Escape at The One Resort in Koh Rong Samloem

For this year’s winter break, we decided to go on a tropical Christmas escape to the island of Koh Rong Samloem. We stayed at The One Resort to experience the beauty of Saracen Bay, perfectly located in a tranquil setting.

A forty-five minute ferry ride from the coastal town of Sihanoukville, 18 kilometers off the coast of Cambodia, offers the opportunity to explore the Gulf of Siam, which is ideal for family and friends. As we arrived at Orchid Pier 1 at Koh Rong Samloem, The One Resort fetched us in a small wooden boat. The sea was calm as we sailed to the resort, and we enjoyed watching the sun set over the horizon from our boats. The 5-minute boat ride was smooth and pleasant, and it was the perfect way to welcome us to the island.

The ferry ride to the island was fun.

The stylish seafront bungalows, the cool infinity pool, the best sunrise views, good food, and the accommodating staff combine to create a charming, relaxing and quiet nature-island-filled escape with plenty for adults and children to enjoy and learn from. 

We relished our stay in a nice Deluxe Bungalow with a sea view because we had always wanted to wake up to not only the sound of the sea but also the sight of it. The view of the sea was breathtaking. We could fill our lungs with the taste of the Saracen Bay as we slid the glass doors left or right, and since our bungalow was right in front of the beach, we could literally see the ocean water wear and tear away. It is wonderfully situated on the beach and offers the most stunning sunrise view on the island.

Our first sunrise on the island.

Our bungalow was large, spacious, clean and equipped with everything we needed: air conditioning, an en-suite bathroom with hot water, 24-hour electricity, WiFi, comfortable beds and pillows, a mini bar, a digital steel safety box, a closet, and a cozy couch. It had an attic, which reminded us of my parents’ beach house in Tandag, Philippines,  where we grew up. The large private veranda with comfy chairs allowed us to take in more of that incredible, amazing sea view and was a great way to wind down in the evening. It also had free high-speed WiFi throughout the resort, allowing us to stay connected with our loved ones and work at the same time.

me-time on the island – my husband was watching a movie on the veranda.
me-time on the island – my son was playing with the waves under the moonshine.

It was not crowded when we were there. The other guests were similarly quiet. As a result, we took pleasure in the attractions almost exclusively for us. Everything was in order. We also liked the fact that several families were staying there so that children could play together.

Paddle boards and kayaks are provided free of charge by the resort. The weather was nice throughout our stay, and the water was calm with very few waves, so our son enjoyed the little adventure of exploring the Saracen Bay by kayak and discovered the joy of gently paddling in the calm sea every day, almost all day long.

The kind and helpful management team and staff were one of the reasons we enjoyed our stay at The One Resort. The staff were friendly from the moment we arrived and welcomed us with a lovely mocktail. They made every effort to accommodate us, and they paid close attention to details. The staff went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable, and we felt well taken care of. Shout out to Lily and Adam for organizing dinner on the beach for us every night with no fuss.

During our stay, the full moon was shining brightly. Our stay became more romantic and meaningful as it was enhanced by the dinner on the beach under the moonlight shadow with my husband and my son. Indeed, nothing says “I Love You” like treating your loved ones to a special moonshine dinner on the beach, complete with a variety of thoughtfully designed menu options to create the perfect evening right here in paradise.

On our second day on the island, we chose to unwind at Lazy Beach. We left the resort in the morning to give ourselves more time to enjoy the beach. We hiked for an hour (one way) from the resort through the jungle’s rough terrain. When we arrived there, we were captivated by the green, crystal clear water with big waves, as well as the very quiet and relaxed atmosphere surrounded by mountains.

On the third day, we were looking forward to watching the sunset at Sunset Beach. We hiked through the jungle for an hour to get to the other side of the island. We didn’t expect the terrain to be more challenging and rougher than it was on the way to Lazy Beach. When we were halfway through, the path became hillier and steeper, and we had to hold a rope to keep from falling off. When we arrived, the sun began to set at Sunset Beach, and it was stunning. Indeed, Sunset Beach is a beautiful spot to enjoy the alluring view of the golden ray of the sun shines over the ocean. We also liked it there because the beach was nearly empty of people. However, since we had to hike back and it was getting dark, we couldn’t see the entire sunset.

Another activity that we were pleased with was simply walking on the beach, as it makes everything better—it stretches our legs and our minds. The beaches on Koh Rong are safe to walk on because there are no pebbles, stones, shards of glass or sharp objects. We did, however, see some plastic on the shore. While walking, we kept our phones in our bags and disconnected ourselves from the outside world because we preferred the sound of the crashing waves over our favorite playlist. Those were very enjoyable walks, as we talked about various topics while walking past truly spectacular views—breathtaking ocean expanses, beautiful white sandy beaches, glistening tropical lagoons, and exotic jungle wilderness.

On our last day, it rained. We simply lounged on the veranda with a cup of tea, admiring the beauty of lazing on the beach while raindrops fell on the white sands. Since we were active all throughout our stay at the beach, the rainy day was a perfect excuse to slow down, relax, and appreciate the little things with my husband and son.

At first, I was apprehensive about many things on the island since our last visit to Koh Rong in December 2016, and to say the least, we were not really happy and we ended up cutting our trip short. This time, we opted to give it another shot, and our stay at The One Resort was nothing short of fantastic. We were sad to leave, but would gladly return there. The One Resort was definitely the cleanest and most modern of all the resorts we saw on the island, with beautiful sand, well-kept grounds, awesome kayaks to use for free, and a great location. If you are looking for a good place to relax with your family, as a couple, solo, with friends, with your pet, or as a destination for team-building or other group trips, The One Resort is good for you.

Little Lilly Travel Tips:

  • Wear proper walking shoes and trousers if you decide to go hiking in the jungle (the warm weather calls for short trousers, but mosquitos in the jungle are famished, big and fearless, trousers do offer protection against them).
  • You can settle your bill by using ABA to pay online. You do not need to bring any large sums of money.
  • How to get there:
  • From Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, we hired a SUV car from Taxi Cambodia. They are very responsive, even if you message them on their Facebook page. It costs USD$120 for a round trip.

FB page: Taxi Cambodia

  • To get to Koh Rong Samloem, I booked a GTVC speed ferry boat online. It costs USD$22 for a round-trip ticket per person. The boat departs at Sihanoukville port.

Website: www.gtvcspeedboatcambodia.com

Weekend Staycation in Baitong Hotel with Friends

My friend Liza and I both felt that our sons needed a breath of fresh air away from the daily routine as they have both been swamped with academics lately, so we opted to take them together with our families and a few friends to Baitong Hotel for a weekend staycation.

Here are 6 reasons why we thought Baitong Hotel would be a great place for staycation.

SWIMMING POOLS. The pools at Baitong Hotel are without a doubt the greatest in Phnom Penh. It has three types of pools: a forest pool, a jacuzzi, and a deck pool, all of which are large, open-air, and surrounded by lush greenery. Furthermore, all of their pools are reserved exclusively for their guests, ensuring that you get all the space you wish for. And one of the things we loved doing during our stay was swimming in serenity. 

FOOD. The food is tasty, fresh, and varied. The complimentary breakfast buffet offers a large variety of options, and the cuisine is all delicious. Furthermore, the Kuang Seafood Restaurant offers ample food servings at a reasonable price.

ROOMS. The rooms are spacious, cozy, and sparkling clean. It has everything that we need. Every time we were there, we requested a room with a pool view (my husband’s favorite). The beds, blankets, and pillows are all soft and comfortable. The bathroom, which features a toilet, a rain shower, a good sink, and a nice bathtub, is one of our favorites. We also liked the fact that we could watch Netflix on the TV and work as the Wifi is really good.

ROOM PROMOTION. It offers cool room promotion. We booked directly with the hotel, which was cheaper than booking through booking.com or other sites.

SERVICE. The service is amazing, from the security guard who unlocks the door to the cleaners, the front desk workers, the marketing team, and the management staff. Despite the fact that I messaged Ms Alex, the assistant sales and marketing manager, late on their social media page, she was quick to respond to all of my questions when I booked the accommodation. She is very efficient and approachable. Once there, and as soon as we entered our room, we were greeted with a chocolate cake and a welcome card written by the manager. What a kind and sweet gesture to make us feel at ease during our stay. The cake was wonderful, and we all gobbled it down. 

LOCATION. It is situated in the heart of the city, making it excellent and convenient for visiting tourist attractions. However, once there, you’ll feel like you’re miles away from the city.

As the sky was ablaze with the fire of the setting sun, my husband and I proposed pizza for dinner to our friends at a famous pizza place in the city. The idea piqued their interest since they hadn’t been there before. We exited the pool at 6.30 p.m. and got ready for dinner. When everyone was ready, we hopped into the tuktuk and made our way to Piccola Pizza. Our pals were blown away by the pizza’s freshness, size, and affordability. I’d say it was a fantastic pizza party.

Then, while the young boys were having fun, we watched “Notting Hill,” starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grunt, on Netflix after dinner. It’s surely one of the best feel-good movies in the romantic comedy genre as it beautifully portrays the love between the top Hollywood actress and a modest bookshop owner in London. The movie kept us all entertained and in a good mood. What a lovely way to conclude the day.

We spent most of our time swimming and schmoozing throughout our stay. It was great fun to see Pete and Santi, his friend having a nice time together. We believe that spending time or having a staycation with your pals contributes to your overall well-being and offers true health benefits that are hard to beat. Certainly, nothing else compares to tapping the “reset” button on your life and creating lifetime memories with friends!