First little escape in 2021 at Samathi Lake Resort

Just like almost everyone else, we had to stay put through 2020! When the New Year came, it brought a lot of good cheer and so much hope for a better year! Although we survived the merry-go-round of the past year; foreign travel is still on hold as many countries are still in the grips of the pandemic. I won’t deny, though, that my family and I are itching to venture beyond Cambodia’s border again as soon as the restrictions ease, and fly swiftly back to the Philippines and France to reunite with our friends and families.

In spite of all these, we are fortunate enough to settle in a country where we can move quite easily – no lockdowns and no curfews – even during the raging pandemic. We still have the privilege of doing some wonderful COVID-safe day trips and we are keen to explore the nearby places that we have not seen yet.

So on January 3rd 2021, we decided to spend a day at Samathi Lake Resort, our first little escape of the year. My son and I hired a tuktuk while my husband followed us on his gigantic bike. It took us about 45 minutes to get there from the city center. As always we took precautions – wore our masks, and I brought 2 extra masks for each to change and 3 wee bottles of hand sanitizer in our cross body bags.

Samathi Lake Resort is a little hidden paradise, located in the northern part of Phnom Penh. The thing that we liked best about the place was the tranquility while we were there. There were only two groups of guests – my family and another family at the opposite side. We enjoyed relaxing in their outdoor restaurant – look at the view, enjoy the breeze, schmooze a little, read a book, eat (the food was just ok), drink, fish a while, etc – under a huge tree, facing towards the lovely lake and surrounded by a nice garden behind.

Besides the pool and the small gym, there was nothing else to do. However, we were lucky because one of their staff went fishing, so I asked her if we could rent the fishing equipment. It was nice of her to let me and my son enjoy fishing for free even for just a very short while. Husband was not really very interested because he got so caught up in reading his book while sipping a beer. It was fun when we caught the tiny fish. It would be nice though, if the resort could provide their guests with fishing equipment.

We stayed there until the stunning sun disappeared on the horizon. Then we drove back home. Overall, it was a nice little sweet escape to kick-start the New Year with new possibilities and opportunities around every corner.

Little Lilly Travel Tip:

  • If you wish to do fishing, bring your own fishing gear as the resort doesn’t provide any even for rent.

Surprise birthday staycation for my husband at Baitong Hotel and Resort

My husband celebrated his birthday on January 6th. While I was preparing for Christmas, I kept thinking, “What am I going to do for his birthday?” In case you can’t tell, I love surprises. So to make this surprise the most impactful, I knew I had to get him something to make him feel very special.

Months before his birthday, I sneakily tossed him the idea of staycation at a nice hotel. And each time I brought out the idea, I always got a “NO”. He found it nonsensical staying at a hotel (that is just 5 minutes from our home). However one thing I knew, he likes a place that is quiet, cozy and clean. In spite of his dislike about the idea, I still opted for booking an en-suite room at Baitong Hotel and Resort for his birthday staycation.

A day before his birthday, I told my husband and my son that I was going to take them to a dinner at Topaz Restaurant, and on the following day we would be going for a swim at Baitong. Due to heavy traffic jam on his birthday, we agreed not to dine out and instead I prepared a steak dinner at home. It was authentic and relaxed.

Can you spy the birthday boy? 🙂
Can you spy the birthday boy?

The Big Day

The day of the staycation was so exciting and quite nerve-wracking. I woke up giddy with excitement. I prepared everything we needed for a swim. Then, we had lunch. Since I was afraid to be embarrassed in public, five minutes before we left home for a “SWIM”, I told my husband that I actually book a room and that I already paid for it.  He didn’t look happy about it, and said that he wouldn’t stay there. I said we didn’t have to stay there if we didn’t like the place. So, off we went. When I looked at him, I thought that he didn’t believe me when I said that I booked a room, because I only packed our swimming stuff.

Soon after we got to the hotel, the staff accompanied us to our room, and as she opened the door, we were wowed. A few minutes later, we canvassed the whole place. Fortunately, my husband and my son found the place interesting, tidy, very quiet, and they told me that they agreed to stay there. So, we came back home to pack our stuff for staycation. I was elated to hear their approval!

The Hotel

Baitong Hotel and Resort is beautifully designed. We have been to many hotels in Phnom Penh, but we can honestly say that this hotel is by far one of our favorites. From the detail of the décor, the warm greetings we received from the friendly and helpful staff, the light that beamed through the large windows, the gorgeous grounds, the amazingly delicious food, the cool spiral staircases, the nice swimming pools, the lovely rooftop bar, a cozy room equipped with everything you need…it was impeccable. In addition to that it is located in the city centre, which is close to tons of restaurants, shops and several local attractions.

The Room

We stayed in an en-suite room. The design is simple but tasteful. It was spacious and sparkling clean. It had extra-large double bed, a cot (available upon request), premium linens, a large bathroom with a bath and walk-in showers with rainfall heads, a wardrobe, a mini bar, a safety deposit box, a balcony with magnificent pool view, an oversized sofa, a desk, a lounge seating, ironing facilities, a telephone, a flat-screen TV, and a wireless charger next to the bed. We wished we could take this whole setup home with us, especially the bathroom.

The Pool

All the pools are superb! My family and I loved the pools the moment we walked out to the pool area. Each pool has its unique charm. The balcony Jacuzzi was cute and romantic especially during the sunset, surrounded with lots of vegetation. We liked the Forest Pool for its stunning tropical surroundings even though the water was cold because it wasn’t too sunny when we were there. We enjoyed the Deck Pool the most – it’s very cool as it has a see-through glass floor: you can see all the way down to the reception area, and the water temperature was just right for us. It’s a perfect spot for sunbathing – it has sun loungers, parasols and low tables. The pool bar offered a good selection of food and beverages. On top of that, we loved the tranquility of the place especially since we had all the pools all to ourselves.

The Restaurant

The main restaurant at Baitong Hotel is Kuang Seafood. During the entire meal we kept saying “WOW”. The dishes were in generous proportion and delicious that we wanted to keep eating and eating. The free buffet breakfast offered a wide a selection of food. Good service and good food overlooking the city of Phnom Penh.

Overall, we enjoyed our little staycation – it was absolutely fantastic, relaxing and refreshing – and most of all my husband was over the moon by the surprise. We will definitely go back their again to enjoy the place. And if you are looking for a peaceful place to stay and relax in Phnom Penh, Baitong Hotel and Resort is for you.

Disclaimer: All ideas and opinions are mine. I do not work for Baitong Hotel. I wrote this post because my family and I had a beautiful time there.

Merry Christmas!

My family

Sending Christmas cheers far and wide! From my family to yours, Merry Christmas to all of you! Even though this year has been incredibly wild for all of us, I think keeping the right perspective with a grateful heart is very important! Wishing everyone a lovely Christmas time, and may the whispers of the wind this Christmas carry love, peace and joy, to you and to your family.

Tonle Bati: Weekend escape from the city

One of the things my husband and I enjoy doing here in Cambodia are motorbike trips to the countryside. Since my son moved here in the Penh, we haven’t had any motorbike trips to the countryside as the three of us wouldn’t fit safely on a motorbike anymore.

Since my husband and I wanted our son to have a closer look at the countryside, and experience what it’s like traveling with a semi-open vehicle on a dusty rough road, and give him a feel of a real adventure, I enthusiastically packed our lunches, then we excitedly hopped into the tuktuk (passapp) and headed 30km south of Phnom Penh to gleefully escape from the city. It took us about an hour and 30 minutes to get there.

Our first stop was at Ta Phrom Temple in Tonle Bati, built in 1200 CE by King Jayavarman. This Angkorian temple with Hindu Buddhist deities has the same name as the one in Ta Phrom in Siem Reap, they are different from each other, though. It is comparatively smaller when compared to Ta Phrom in Siem Reap, but had some beautiful carvings. We enjoyed our visit there, and as we strolled around the temple, we spied excellent charming specimen of Bayon art style like in the Bayon Temple in Siem Reap. We also glimpsed three headed elephants and a reclining Buddha on lintels of flora and story motifs, pediments, broken stones scattered close by. Although it’s a tiny temple, it’s in a good condition and a wonderful place to visit and explore. It was less frequented with tourist and locals alike, probably due to Covid-19 outbreak. It is certainly a secret treasure with interesting ruins to get away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.

What made our experience in Tonle Bati’s Temple different from our temples visit in Siem Reap was the lush flowering shrubs inside and outside the temple. The blooming bushes provides gorgeous colors and definitely perks up the temple. As we sauntered around the place, we felt like we ambled in Cinderella’s fairy tale garden. It was beautiful!

Then we swung by to the nice picnic spot on the lake for lunch. We rented a floating hut adjoining the lake for $20 that included a mat and two hammocks. We enjoyed our packed lunches, took an afternoon siesta, relaxed and talked about everything under the sun. I saw many families enjoying their little detour from busy life. We were happy with the vibe and a lovely experience.

Two hours later, we drove back home. We had fun riding on the bumpy, dusty and busy roads. Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures, and exploring the unexplored is the most adventurous part of the traveler’s life. We arrived home just in time, as it started to rain cats and dogs as soon as we stepped in into our cozy place!

Chicken Salad with homemade mayo-mustard dressing

We love salad! Chicken salad is one of our go-to everyday salad! The mild saltiness of the cheddar cheese makes a sophisticated addition in the salad. Then drizzled in with homemade mayo-mustard dressing puts this salad over the top. The formula of our salad is very simple – there must be fresh greens, raw vegetables, hearty proteins, a generous amount of satisfying fats, and just a perfect splash of homemade salad dressing.

In spite of the healthy benefits that we can get from eating salad, we love it simply because we can always go creative with it – you can add in or swap different ingredients in order to personalize it to your taste. You can try it on a bed of mixed fresh vegetables or spread on top of crackers or stuffed in tortilla or on a croissant or on a sandwich. It’s so easy to make but it’s bursting with nutritious ingredients and full of flavors and textures – fresh, crunchy and tasty!

Here’s my recipe:

What you will need to make mayo-mustard dressing:

  • fresh lemon juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp of plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1tbsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste

What you will need to make fried chicken breast:

  • 500 grams of chicken breast, boneless, skinless, and fatless
  • a cup of all-purpose flour
  • a cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 fresh chicken egg
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste

What you will need to make salad:

  • Romaine lettuce, washed and roughly cut.
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • ½ cup of corn
  • ½ cup of yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup carrot, cubed
  • ½ cup spring onion, sliced
  • 1 apple, peeled and cubed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • ½ cup of cheddar cheese, cubed

How to make it:

  1. Prepare the mayo-mustard dressing.
  • Put in all the ingredients – lemon juice, mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, honey, olive oil – into a bowl.
  • Season with salt and freshly crashed pepper to taste
  • Whisk until everything is well combined.
  • Refrigerate until serving.
homemade mayo-mustard dressing
  1. Prepare the chicken breast.
  • Make sure the chicken breasts are washed and dried.
  • In the first bowl, put in a cup of all-purpose flour. Season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  • In the second bowl, crack a fresh chicken egg. Make sure you wash before you crack it to remove the bacteria and germs in it. Season with salt and pepper. Then whisk to combine.
  • In the third bowl, put in a cup of breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
  • Dip the chicken breast into the flour mixture. Next, dip it into the egg mixture. Lastly, dip it into the breadcrumbs mixture.
  • Put in sunflower in the frying pan, and heat up for about 2 minutes until you can see some tiny bubbles on the side.
  • Gently drop in the chicken and let it cook for about 4 minutes over a medium-low heat. Flip it over, and let it cook again for another 4 minutes. Turn it to the side and let it cook for another 2 minutes or until the chicken looks nice golden brown.
  • Once cooked, put it on the plate with paper towel to get rid of some oil while it’s cooling down.
  • Cut the chicken into bite slices and set aside.
  1. Putting together
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss in all the vegetables that you would like in your salad – Romaine Lettuce, shallots, corn, cherry tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, spring onion, carrots, apples and avocado.
  • Put in the sliced chicken breast on the bed of the fresh and organic vegetables.
  • Spread out cubed mild cheddar cheese.
  • Drizzle in homemade mayo-mustard cheese.
  • Serve, share and enjoy!

Slides and Splashtacular at Garden City Water Park

It’s been raining crazily for the past weeks, but when we checked the weather forecast two days before the weekend, we were thrilled as it showed good sunny weather for the weekend. So, husband and I planned to bring our son to Garden City Water Park for some crazy fun.

Garden City Water Park is the newest and the biggest water park in Phnom Penh. It has several parts that includes a 3 meter high man-made lagoon, water slides, a beautiful man-made waterfall, a children’s playground, steam and sauna facilities, and many more. It’s clean and there are many entertaining rides.

Since we heard that the food there is not really appetizing and exciting, we opted to grab a bite first before we headed to the water park and at 12.30PM we hopped in a tuktuk then off we went. It took us about an hour on the way in and about an hour on the way back.

After we changed into our swimming suits, my husband and my son grabbed a rubber ring and headed to the wave pool while I looked after our stuff. Husband and I took turns of looking after our stuff. When it was my turn, the waves, made me feel like I was in the sea.

From the beach we walked towards the slides. My husband and my son tried several spiral water slides, spiral slides combination and water house. My son also tried the flowrider. I only tried one water slide (the pink and purple one), it was already an adrenaline-pumping-ride for me. The end part was just incredible, and I found it the scariest part. I screamed. But it was okay. Nobody thought I was weird. The rides are crazy and wild. I just had to overcome my fears and I’m glad I did.

If you are a thrill seeker like us, you will love the fun at Garden City Water Park. My husband and my son favorite part was the exhilarating slides while I enjoyed drifting myself at the Lazy Mekong River.

We had so much fun and we were so hungry. We had some sandwiches, though it wasn’t that tasty, we gulped it down anyway. We were so exhausted that when we got home all we did was sat on the couch and crashed. That was really a good feeling, because the next day, we felt completely refreshed.

What a day! We certainly had loads of absolute undisturbed fun at the water park! The place is awesome. It definitely makes you happy and boosts your mood faster.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • It is a nice and safe water park. There are many attentive lifeguard scattered everywhere.
  • You are not allowed to bring food inside. The food there is not really interesting (to say the least), so if I were you make sure your stomach is full before you go.

Archery: Bullseye Fun for the Family at CCC Phnom Penh

Since we needed a short break over the weekend, I thought that Archery was a great thing to do for the whole family. Plus, it’s one of those things I have always wanted to do but never had a chance till we did it a few weeks ago.

Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh
Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh

So, I called the reception at the Cambodian Country Club. When I learned that CCC wasn’t busy on that day, I immediately decided to book an archery range for us (just for me and my family).

Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh
Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh
Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh

We were the only visitors there at that time. It was quiet and calm. Before we started shooting, the assistant showed us how to do it. Then, we held our bow, got the arrow, and started firing. After firing all 5 arrows, the assistant collected the arrows back to us and we fired again.

Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh
Archery at Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh

We certainly had a blast and everyone had fun shooting arrows using a bow. It was satisfying.  My family and I really enjoyed it.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • We paid $30 per person per hour.
  • The range was clean, but the bows were not in good condition.
  • The assistant didn’t speak English, but he tried to help and made sure we were having a good time.

Picnic on the Boat along the Tonle Sap River

Since the beginning of this year 2020, we haven’t traveled anywhere far as we’ve cancelled all our scheduled trips and adventures due to this deadly invisible enemy that we are all facing right now – the Covid19 pandemic that none of us has ever imagined, not even in our wildest dreams. But no matter what, we didn’t want to let this year just go sideways.

Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River

One a weekend, it was my turn to choose an activity for me and my family to do, and I chose picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River at sunset. So, we rented a private boat for 3. We opted to go at 5pm, so that we could watch the sun setting down the horizon while munching some fresh food. But suddenly, it rained. So instead of a sunset, we had got a chilly boat trip.

Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River
Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River

The nightfall came early. It was windy and wintry. We sailed along the Tonle Sap River up to the Mekong River and back to the pier. We love being on the boat and enjoyed spending time on the sailboat – it was breezy, breathtaking, tranquil and relaxing.

Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River
Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River
Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River

What I love about boat picnics, is they are meant to be simple, but full of flavors. I spent most of the day (before we went on a picnic) prepping the food we were going to have on the boat. I made a simple but tasty homemade guacamole with fresh and organic avocado from the Province of Mondulkiri, and I prepared a huge platter of charcuterie with healthy goodies – a selection of cheeses, fruits, vegetables, crackers, ham and saucisson. I paired the meal with a good bottle of sparkling white wine and a soda for Pete. Very little was needed. Nothing was complicated and it wasn’t intended to be.

Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River
Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River
Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River

I also packed the food and dishware, glasses for the wine as well as necessary serving pieces. I also brought a few extra napkins, and I made sure we had bottle opener for the wine.

Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River
Picnic on the boat along the Tonle Sap River

My husband, my son and I have fallen in love with the rhythm and the feeling of the water when boating. A simple late afternoon/early evening felt pretty darn special and romantic. We certainly didn’t need a fancy restaurant to make an ordinary day turn special, all we just need is a great selection of good food and some great wine with a gorgeous view of the water.

Sunset Quad Bike Adventure in Phnom Penh

One quiet weekend, my family and I decided to take a road less traveled through lush countryside and communities, including a visit to the rice paddy field.

Sunset Quad Bike Adventure in Phnom Penh
Sunset Quad Bike Adventure

So on a bright and wonderful afternoon, we hopped on an ATV (automatic Polaris 330cc bikes) which were well maintained by the Village Quad Bike Trails, and were safe. Then, off we went to experience the calming and peaceful ride through the rural villages outside Phnom Penh during sunset. However, all of a sudden, a dark stormy sky hovered above us. And in no time it poured down cats and dogs. So, we decided to stop in one of the shops to put on our raincoats and for shelter as it was quite tricky to continue since we couldn’t see the road.

Sunset Quad Bike Adventure in Phnom Penh
Sunset Quad Bike Adventure
Sunset Quad Bike Adventure
Sunset Quad Bike Adventure

We rode through the main roads, muddy roads, small villages, by traditional Cambodian houses, rice paddies, temple of countryside, kids playing, cows grazing, birds chirping, and we got a real insight into this beautiful country and its friendly people. It took us to the authentic beauty of Cambodia, unexposed to the world. The freshness and greenery of remote and undisturbed countryside and the stunning sunset at the paddy fields was just awesome.

Sunset Quad Bike Adventure

The entire sunset quad bike tour lasted for 2 hours. Indeed, quad biking is really a fun way to get the scenic views of the countryside and a perfect way to spend a weekend with family and friends.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • There were two professional guides accompanying during the trip, who made the tour easy, fun and safe.
  • You are going to cross the main roads, so if you haven’t driven before, I suggest to do it with someone who knows how to drive since the main road is very busy.
  • This blog post is based on our personal experience.We just had a very good time with this company. If you wish quad biking in Phnom Penh, here’s the company’s website: http://www.quadbiketrails.com or call 099-952-255.

Have you been quad biking in Phnom Penh? What was your experience like?

6 Reasons why traveling with our son is magical

Going on trips with our son – either on a staycation, a day trip, a weekend getaway, a short out-of-town trip, a long travel or an adventure trip – is a no brainer question for me and my husband. We believe travel is a magical tool that helps providing a solid grounding in our own home and provides an enormous learning opportunity in a myriad of ways. Thus, we make sure that wherever we go we turn every trip into an organic lesson in history, culture, gratitude, etc.

Here are 6 reasons why we believe traveling with our son works wonders and beats learning in any classroom:

1.Traveling with our son strengthens our family as we share a range of experiences together. It makes our son feel that he is important to us. It is a wonderful opportunity for us as a family to collect memories, not things. And it provides us with one of the best ways to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Indeed, traveling together makes every crazy, exhausting trip totally worth it.

2.Traveling promotes excellent personal growth to our son and broadens his mind through complete immersion. It is inevitably a huge eye-opening experience for him that helps widens his understanding of the way things are. It introduces him to new things that stoke up his sense of curiosity and wonder to learn. It teaches him the value of learning how to get along with various kinds of people. It teaches him to be adaptable to new situations. It encourages him to express himself more. It teaches him to be patient – to wait out a little bit more until he is/we are allowed to explore and just enjoy the sights. Through traveling, he has practiced tolerance, met different challenges and became more flexible. Travel empowers him to be self-reliant and makes him more social as he gets to meet and interact with people in all walks of life from all age groups – people who can enrich his life even further. And most importantly, it allows him to develop skills on decision making, problem solving and trip planning which he can use in the future.

3. Traveling provides a break from the digital world not only for our son but for us too. Our favorite is when we explore off-the-beaten-path places for a couple of days where there is no internet connection. This way, we talk more, our son gets to have more time with us and we have all our attention to him.

4. Traveling teaches him the ways of the world. We noticed that our son becomes more excited when we start him getting involved – even at the planning stage. Where is our next destination on the map? Who designed that amazing building? Why it was built? How do we get there? What activities we can do? Husband and I read information and show some pictures of the places we will visit before we get there. Learning easily becomes a part of the traveling lifestyle. Plus, it teaches him to experience the world for himself.

5. Traveling brings our son closer to nature. He gets to see different plants and animals much closer and even get to touch them. Indeed, traveling is a great way to introduce him to Mother Nature’s beautiful creations and masterpieces.

6. Traveling boosts our son’s school grades. Through travels, real-life learning experiences adds tangibility to what he is reading, creates a richer context about what he is learning in school, widens his vocabulary and eventually boosts those school grades.

Life on the road is certainly very different and that is part of its charm. Traveling triggers all our senses, and the benefits are absolutely endless – promotes outstanding personal growth, tightened family bonds, cultural awareness, culinary diversity, discovery of nature, indulging in breathtaking landscapes, experiencing new adventures, and it forces us to break away from those daily routines. Since we know that these influences are extremely important, my husband and I settled for spending less money for toys and invest more in traveling and discovering every nooks and crannies around the world with our son.