A restful Weekend Getaway at Balé

Since our weekdays are so jam-packed at work, we aim to get out every weekend to get some fresh air because we believe that taking mini breaks could boost our mental wellness.

Pools are undoubtedly a fantastic way for us to have fun, exercise, and cool off. So, we made our way to Balé Phnom Penh. The Balé Phnom Penh is a unique and elegant place for a staycation or short getaway away from the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s an hour from the city centre, but you feel as if you have traveled to another province. The resort is located on the banks of the majestic Mekong River, with breathtaking views across the glistening waters.

As soon as we arrived, we swept down a dramatic corridor, past a tranquil Buddha and along a sandstone walkway across a black-bottomed infinity pond. We noticed lemongrass, spider lilies, fragrant frangipani trees, and palm trees around the place.

At the resort, there were only 4 groups of people (each of 3) seated 5 meters apart, which is ideal social distance. In between splashes, we took pleasure in snacking by the pool, relaxing, soaking up some sun, catching up with family, reading a few interesting summer books, playing some games, or simply lounging by the riverside pool. The service and food were both good.

While we were there, we bumped into one of our former students from 2009. We talked for a while and caught up with each other – shared what we have been doing and warmed ourselves with memories. It was a pleasant encounter.

It was indeed a restful getaway! We were delighted and ecstatic.

Hit the open road and started a new adventure

It was a cloudless sunny Sunday with a brilliant light blue sky. Our wanderlust struck, and we decided to go on an adventure.

When I got home from work at around 12 noon, I immediately packed our stuff – sandwiches for lunch prepared by hubby, water, fresh green grapes, extra masks, and hand sanitizer. Then, we hopped into the car and drove away.

We planned to have our lunch when we arrived at our destination at the Chreav Waterfall. However, we took the wrong way and we got lost. It was already 1.30pm. We were starving and our stomachs were growling, so we opted to stop along the way to grab a bite. We ate our sandwiches beneath an old, huge tree while enjoying the shade as well as the sun and looking through the beautiful countryside. We could see the top of Udong in the distance, ancient capital of Cambodia and burial site of kings, as well as a tranquil pagoda standing by the side of a nearby lake.

After that, we continued our journey. It was 3pm already and we still hadn’t arrived at our destination yet. We realized we were heading in the wrong direction again. We drove back until we reached the road’s Y intersection. Then we turned right onto the road and eventually came to a dirt road. We couldn’t wait to get there. However, we were unable to drive quickly due to the steep, rough and muddy roads. We arrived after four-and-a-half-hour travel that was meant to take two hours.

We continued to ascend, but we had no idea how close we were to the entrance. We decided to stop in the middle of the way and exited the car, stretching our legs and arms. The air was crisp and fresh. My husband lit a cigarette as we gazed at the surrounding forests, which went far beyond what our eyes could track, where birds swooped, spun, spiraled, and dived across the air. Our son walked around searching for some spiders and our driver gobbled up his sandwich lunch.  We were completely cut off from the rest of the world – no access to Wi-Fi, mobile connection and GPS, no houses in sight. We felt like we ended out in the middle of nowhere.

It was 5.10pm when we reached the entrance. We pulled up to the side of the road and stepped out of the car. A woman and three small children approached us if we wanted anything to eat. We kindly declined their offer. Then we hiked up for 15 minutes to see the waterfalls. We saw some folks along the way who were drenched and carrying their picnic supplies as they made their way home. As we went further, we saw a woman in her fifties burning a hill-like pile of plastic. It was smelly and terrible.

We continued hiking even though there was no proper trail to the waterfall till we came to a rocky plateau with flowing water and decided to stop. We lingered there for a few moments, taking in the sights. It was breathtaking. The area was lush with greenery and serene, with sweet natural bird and cricket melodies filling the air. When you’re up in the mountains, everything seems to be better.

It was 5.45pm and it was time to go home. We walked back down to the base and jumped into the car and drove off. Along the way, we spied some cool and interesting looking fruits. We made a quick stop and examined the fruits closely. From a distance, it looked like a rambutan fruit to me, but it wasn’t. It was soft and smooth.

As soon as we arrived at the village, the sun was descending gorgeously towards the horizon. We made another quick stop, snapped a few photos of the stunning scenery, and relished the time.

As darkness crept over the horizon, the surrounding was very quiet. Everyone in the countryside was in their homes. Every moment was filled with wild mystery and serenity. The moonlight blew about and danced in the breeze and thousands of pinpricks of chilly light were strewn across the deep blue canopy. As the air cooled, we rolled down the windows. My husband pointed his eyes towards the horizon. I followed his gaze and he held my hand. “It’s glorious, isn’t it?” he said.

We arrived home at 9.30 p.m. after a nine-hour drive. It was fun and we once again blazed our own path and went beyond the usual. Never cease to be enthralled by something. Never stop seeking out new experiences. Indeed, every unknown road leads to an adventure that allows you to discover new horizons. Cheers to those who dwell on a higher plane and to those who live in the happy life.

Laze by the pool at Aquarius

We consider that slacking off and having a fun day with the family at weekends is a must in order to stay energized, focused, motivated and joyous during the week.

This weekend, I booked a table for three at the Aquarius Urban Resort’s rooftop. The serene setting is created by the pristine white walls, which are complemented by green plants.

We indulged ourselves by swimming in the pool, reading a book, eating or simply lounging around sipping white wine while looking out over Phnom Penh’s gorgeous cityscape.

Gliding through an infinity glass walled crystal clear salt-water swimming pool was relaxing, healing, and excellent exercise, among other things. For us, simply being near water is already soothing.

What we really liked about the place was their pleasant pool, as it’s a great respite on the top floor. They also serve delicious cuisine. My son ordered pork ribs with steamed rice, while my husband ordered a burger and I ordered a Mexican meal. The staff were friendly, helpful and the service was good.

Overall, it was a restful fun escape in the heart of the city, away from the hustle and bustle.

A Road Trip to Phnom Baset

June 6, 2021 – We needed to unwind, so we set out to find a natural spot in the wilderness where we could gladly spend our weekend. Our driver had mentioned Phnom Baset, so I did some research about the place. After gathering some information, we thought that a road trip to Phnom Baset and some mountain activities would be perfect.

Phnom Baset is around 28 kilometers (about 1 hour) north-west of Phnom Penh and also known as Prasat Phnom Baset or Baset Mountain, where we enjoyed some nature walking at a beautiful hilltop lodge.

As we climbed the north side of the hill, we noticed several nice picnic huts and considered to return there for a picnic one day. When we reached the top, we were treated to a breathtaking panorama of the plains, lakes, rivers and rice fields that surrounded us. On the slope, the air is crisp and refreshing. After a while, we climbed up to see the temple.

Then we wandered through the forest, taking advantage of excellent opportunities for climbing up the rocks and flora viewing, particularly cacti. We had an opportunity to completely unplug while up on the hill. Everything about the mountains captured us, from the natural sounds to the inspiring scenery to the twisting roads.

We then drove to the south side of Phnom Baset. We went to a Chinese shrine there, where many people visit to pray for good fortune. We stood on the shrine’s back patio, watching the descending sun decorate the beautiful clouds in the sky, before they were smashed into a stunning sunset, clipped into the blue sky of poetry, and became a perpetual memory.

Then we sauntered down the hill. The jungle reminded us of our favorite forest in France – Le Huelgoat. We took a leisurely stroll around the area. The breeze was cool. The natural melodies of chirping birds and crickets were so soothing and had a significant positive impact on us. It was eerily quiet and serene. It was relaxing and beautiful.

It was 5.30 in the afternoon and it started to drizzle. So, we decided to return to the car and drive to the nearby temple, which is only a 10-minute drive away.

Oudongkha Temple is a relatively new structure, having been constructed in 1996. When we arrived, it was closed and only few people were around. Since we couldn’t get inside, we wandered around the temple. The surroundings are pleasant, clean, and bordered by trees. And as the rain had begun to fall heavily, we decided to drive back home.

Our quick trip to Phnom Baset was a welcome change of pace. The road trip was delightful and enjoyable, especially because we were listening and singing to some of our favorite classic country songs. Mountains, in general, are a place where we go to slow down time and it has an old-world charm that you must experience for yourself. If you are in Phnom Penh, and you wish for a quiet and tranquil escape and want to get away from the hustle and bustle, Phnom Baset is the place to go.

Little Lilly Travel Tips:

  • There are cycling trails and good picnic huts on the north side of Phnom Baset.
  • Bring some mosquito repellents.

Weekend Staycation at Hyatt Regency Hotel

We have all been swamped with work and needed a break, so I booked a 65-square-meter residential-style suite room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the weekend (May 29 &30) to be able to relax luxuriously while overlooking vibrant views of Phnom Penh. We feel that taking a break from work will boost our productivity and creativity, allowing us to work more effectively.

As we arrived into the hotel’s driveway, we were welcomed by a beautiful French historic structure bordered by Frangipani trees. Then we strolled into a meticulously restored cadmium-yellow colonial house with wooden shutters, arched doors, and terracotta-tiled roof, which was built in the early twentieth century and offered us a nostalgic sensation.

We sauntered through the hotel and were struck by how well the interiors portrayed Cambodia’s unique history, flawlessly merging Khmer architectural accents with French colonial influences and excellent artworks. One of the things that caught our attention was the gorgeous spiral staircases that go up to the magnificent Attic located in the eaves of the original colonial house.

Our experience at Hyatt was wonderful. Our favorite part of our staycation was lounging in our incredibly comfortable room.  Our suite was tastefully decorated, elegantly designed, spacious and clean. Throughout our stay, it supplied us with modern comforts and everything we could possibly need.

When I saw this piece of artwork on the wall in the suite, it reminded me of one of my son’s drawings from last year, when he was thirteen years old.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, some of the hotel’s facilities were restricted, therefore our main activity there for two days was to unwind in the 1.4m deep outdoor pool surrounded by some foliage. On our first day, we stayed until dusk, taking-it-easy in a warm pool while gazing at a cloudy sky. On the second day, after we had a gigantic and leisurely breakfast, we relaxed by the pool and soaked up the morning sun and got a tan.

I put on my bikini while the boys put on their swim shorts, packed our goggles and books, and got ready to take full advantage of the outdoor pool. We like to read a book before and after we jump into the water to cool off. The water was very refreshing, and I sat at the pool’s edge enjoying the sun. Life is indeed cool by the pool.

We reserved an outdoor table for three at the Five Five Restaurant and Bar, where we had a good dinner with a view and with a spectacular crimson moon hanging over us in the background. While we were eating, it was breezy, fresh and relaxing. The 5/5 Restaurant menu was exclusively comprised of seafood dishes, which was convenient for me as I was craving for oysters. On the other hand, my husband is not really a big fan of seafood, and my son fancied Cambodian cuisine, so they both ordered from the Market Café. It took us a while to get our food, but it didn’t bother us as we spent the time talking about various topics – music, movies, politics, history, etc.

We grabbed our buffet breakfast and a la carte lunch at the Market Café Restaurant and Lounge. The breakfast at the buffet has many options, including Asian fusion, western and European styles. While munching our breakfast, our conversation veered off in so many directions – Dracula’s history, Karl Lagerfeld’s legendary quotes and many more – that we didn’t realize we had eaten enough for three meals.

Throughout our stay, we were pleased with the staff. They were friendly, polite, and helpful without being intrusive.  Even though the hotel has just opened recently, the service and attention to details were more than satisfactory.

Overall, we had a nice staycation, pampered by the caring management team and treated to the luxury of Cambodia’s past and present. We had gotten enough rest and refreshed our mojos, and we’d been raring to go all week.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Phnom Penh. All thoughts are mine, as this page is to chronicle our stay there.

A Relaxed Lazy Weekend at Palace Gate Hotel and Resort

The day began bright and clear. The rising sun threw a rosy shade across the morning sky and illuminated the city streets softly. Fluffy white clouds floated lazily in the gentle breeze, dotting the blue sky. It was nice and lovely. And we couldn’t resist packing our belongings and spending a lazy weekend at the Palace Gate Hotel and Resort.

With the ongoing pandemic, we tried to stay away from the crowd as far as possible. We chose to stay at the Palace Gate Hotel and Resort because it was not crowded at the time – we had the entire resort to ourselves.

The resort’s great greenery ambiance was one of our favorites. We also enjoyed the pool, which is huge and has warm water. The food was okay-ish. If our experience was anything to go by, we wouldn’t recommend the pool restaurant. The staff was friendly and helpful. Overall, it was a pleasant experience and certainly a wonderful place to unwind with family and friends.

While relaxing, I realized that laziness is a lost art that can help you become more productive by simply enjoying the moment of doing nothing once in a while.

Weekends are absolutely my favorite time of the week. A two-day break from the daily grind. And we’ve just had a wonderful one at the Palace Gate Hotel and Resort, packed with moments of delight and comfort that my family and I will cherish.

Our son’s second pandemic birthday

Our son celebrated his 14th birthday on April 4th at home again. It was actually his second pandemic birthday – last year, it was around the same time that the Cambodian government first shut down schools and ordered everyone to stay at home, and this year, around the same time that the government has placed the capital city of Phnom Penh under lockdown in order to curb the spiking Covid-19 cases.

Despite these uncertainties, my husband and I are grateful to God for allowing us to witness our one and only child who means everything to us, grow older, wiser, and more grateful. So we did our best to make this day as special and memorable as it could be. First, it’s his day, and making it another year is a huge accomplishment. Second, the pandemic makes us realize how fragile and valuable life is. Third, a birthday celebration injects something positive, something joyful, a ray of sunshine into a difficult time.

Here’s how we celebrated our 14-year-old son’s birthday at home based on his likes and preferences.

We did something special at home.

We surprised him with our birthday gift five days before his birthday. We took him to an electronics store so he could select the item he desired. He was overjoyed when he decided on a JBL brand wireless headset.

When he awoke on his birthday, we surprised him with a versatile birthday breakfast board of eggs, pastries, a pot of natural yogurt, and fresh fruits. He finished everything and enjoyed what we had prepared for him.

Before lunch time, we surprised him with many balloons (including a guitar balloon in the center because he is very into playing his guitar) that we ordered from a balloon shop. It was our way of showing him how much we cared for him, as well as capturing a little bit of magic in our daily lives and the celebratory spirit. He had a great time.

Because Pete’s birthday was on Easter Sunday, my husband prepared and baked one of Pete’s favorite potato dishes – sumptuous Shepherd’s Pie – for lunch. We had a fantastic meal that we thoroughly enjoyed!

When it was time for afternoon tea, I set the table with the cake I had baked for him on the eve of his 14th birthday – raspberry velvet cake with chocolate ganache.  We then sang a happy birthday song to him, he made a silent wish, and he blew out the candle on his cake. It was so authentic and delicious that he ate four huge slices (half of the cake), proving that it was extremely satisfying for him.  

We made a fantastic steak dinner for him with onion gravy and served with pesto pasta and a side of fresh vegetable salad because he loves steak. It was a total indulgence, a complete decadence and a truly memorable dinner with my family.

To wind down, we entertained ourselves with a DIY trivia night after dinner. It was both entertaining and educational. Since then, we’ve been drawn to trivia and have become addicted to exchanging trivia every night after dinner.

We stayed connected with our community.

Despite the fact that our son knows that we must remain at home as much as possible in order to keep us safe and healthy as possible, we could sense his desire to return to school and see his friends. He also realized that the pandemic has altered the way we do almost anything, and we are so proud of him for being so adaptable.

In times like these, when communities are unable to physically come together, we believe it is especially important to remind him that he still has a network that cares for him, as we believe that social distancing does not imply social isolation.

As a result, on his birthday, we video-called our families in the Philippines and France. Throughout the day, he also spent time catching up with his friends via social media, calling and video-chatting with them. Although this gathering took place remotely, it made everyone feel as if we were all in it together – as if we were together even though we weren’t.

Overall it was a simple yet fun and very meaningful birthday celebration.

Indoor Picnic At-home

With the ongoing pandemic, my family and I are not really totally comfortable with venturing into public spaces. Plus right now, the government has placed us into lockdown to curb down the spiking positive Covid-19 cases.

My family and I grew up with an adventurous and active nomadic spirit. Usually we bask in the glory of wandering and exploring off-the-beaten path, keen on trying out new things, luxuriated in the comfort of good restaurants and hotels, etc. However, during this time when the outdoors start looking good and our mobility is limited, it is quite tricky to keep up what we do. So, I decided to bring outdoor activities indoor like having a picnic at home. I thought that this simple indoor picnic was a good way to have fun together at home.

So, I got good wine, good food, and I got two special people in my life around me, and we’re all having fun at home! I prepared a simple set-up, but I made sure it was elegant and inviting. I lighted a scented candle and the flicker of a candlelight created a cozy atmosphere and softness in the room making it feel warm and welcoming. I kept the food choices simple – I prepared Saucisson, ham, fresh vegetables and fruits, olives, cheese, freshly home-baked savory breads and banana muffins, rosé and white wine – so that we can focus more time on relaxation instead of hustling to get things done.

While nibbling some food and sipping good wine, my son played his guitar and amazed us by his guitar skills. We also challenged ourselves by playing scrabble, and we exchanged good jokes.

What we like about picnic is that it’s just simple but it’s significant. It’s more than good food and good wine, it’s a gratifying state of mind. Indeed, there’s nothing better than enjoying indoor picnic at home with my family especially during these uncertain times.

Valentine’s Weekend Rewind

While my husband and I are all for romance and enjoy the hype of Valentine’s Day, this is not our favorite holiday. We believe that every day is an opportunity to express love to your spouse or loved ones or yourself.

Over the years, I have realized that Valentine’s Day is also about loving yourself. When you love yourself you are able to attract love and you are able to send positive vibes and energy that will naturally have people treat you in the positive way that you want.

On Friday evening of February 12, my husband surprised me with a huge bouquet of flowers when I came home from work. I love flowers! Flowers bring me happiness and bring me instant smiles the moment I see them. It has been a tradition (at least 4 years in a row now) that he offered me flowers a day or two before the Valentine’s Day because he knew that I wouldn’t be happy when he spent a lot on flowers on Feb 14 (since the prices of flowers on Valentine’s day have skyrocketed as occasions like this have become highly commercialized).

Then we decided to book a table for three at Celeste Revolving Restaurant for Saturday (February 13) afternoon to get some fresh air. Plus, we missed the beauty of the outside world and it was our son’s first experience at the 360 degrees revolving restaurant. We went there at 5PM (just a few minutes after it had opened) to evade the crowd. It was tranquil, and we enjoyed watching the stunning sun receding below the horizon while nibbling crème brulee. And we were fascinated by the spectacular beauty of Phnom Penh’s skyline on fire.

We left the place in the twilight of dusk, and looked forward to a leisurely sumptuous dinner in a quiet and colonial setting at Anise Restaurant.

On Sunday February 14th, we had a more relaxed celebration at home (which we always did even before the pandemic) to shun away the hustle and bustle of the occasion. It was sweeter, less expensive and less stressful, instead there were more smiles, more compliments and more kind words that would linger in our hearts forever.

I prepared Bilao Family Love for Valentine’s dinner. What is a bilao? It is a round winnowing tray made from woven wood originally used for sifting rice free from chaff, dirt, etc. Nowadays, it is used as a food container, where it is lined with banana leaves on top and arranged with a lot of food. Personally, I named it Bilao Family Love – I arranged fresh shrimp and vegetables spring rolls, bola-bola (meat balls), bbq, asparagus wrapped with bacon on top of the bilao. I also prepared cheesy bacon spinach dip in a bread bowl. It was so good!

After I cooked the food, I set the table – dressed it up in white and I dressed the plates with rattan placemats. I kept the centerpieces to the minimum. It totally elevated the experience and made everyone feel special.  

Certainly one of the loveliest weekends that we’ve ever had as it provided us an excellent opportunity to cherish quality time with one another.

25 Interesting Facts about My Son, Pete

A few days before my son turned 14, I opted to write interesting facts I find irresistible and charming about Pete.  I thought it is a great idea and a good way to remember all these little things that make life so perfectly crazy and lovely-full. While it’s fun scribbling down 25 awesome facts, I also recognize that Pete has given my life new meanings in ways that have completely surprised me.

1. Pete was born on April 4, 2007. On the same day in 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft, which became the world’s largest personal-computer software company. In 1809, an American mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Pierce contributed to studies in celestial mechanics, algebra, number theory and philosophy of mathematics.

Pete at 5 days old.

2. Pete takes pleasure in books and reading. He has a couple of book collections Asterix, TinTin, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, Percy Jackson, Geronimo Stilton, and many more. He likes to read under covers past his bedtime using the tiny orange flashlight that was given to him by his Papalo (his Grandpa), a day before we left for Cambodia.

Pete was reading secretly at 11.45 PM.

3. Pete loves animals. Here in Phnom Penh, he has spiders and cats as pets. In the Philippines, he used to have a bird as a pet when he was a little boy, and he adores all of the animals that my parents keep in the backyard, including chickens (hens and chicks), roosters, ducks, pigs and so on. When we went to France in the summer, he kept a spider as a pet, then released it outside the day before we left.

Pete is trying to teach Alonzo how to paint.

4. Pete likes to play with words. He enjoys making PUNS and jokes.

5. Pete has a knack for drawing. He started to draw when he was one and half years old. He participated in different art competitions both at the national and international level.

Pete got 5th Runner Up at the 17th International Art Competition held at Singapore organized by Global Art.

6. Pete is hooked on playing a guitar. He learned it by himself first. When we found out that he really liked playing a guitar, we got an acoustic guitar for him and hired a teacher to enhance his skills and learn more techniques.

7. Pete’s favourite band is Guns N’ Roses.

8. At the age 10, he wrote and illustrated his own book for younger kids.

9. Pete is not fond of food that are too sugary. He savors savory stuff such as apple pie, Leek tart, Quiche Lorraine, etc. He loves homemade dishes. And he loves meat.

10. Pete dislikes the idea of throwing away food leftover. He tried his best to finish whatever it’s there even when he is already full.

11. Pete used to be a picky-eater when he was a little boy. Anything without rice was not a meal for him. When he moved with us in Cambodia (he was 9 then), he started to appreciate different cuisine. Now, he doesn’t like to eat rice everyday anymore, and he adores eating variety of vegetables.

12. Pete is our question master. Even when he was a little boy, he asked non-stop questions. Sometimes we run out of time and energy to answer and tell him to keep the question for tomorrow. Even as a teen, he still asks questions that most of the time leads to a wonderful discussion over mealtime.

13. Pete is not delighted when someone makes a schedule for him. Even though I don’t like the fact that he doesn’t follow my schedule, another part of me would like to allow him to assert himself because I want him to feel powerful in this world and to trust and love himself enough to follow his own path.

14. Pete is such a ball of energy. He gets a bang out of being active. At school, he trains for swimming squad. After-school, he plays football, badminton, work-out routine, athletic, ride his bicycle, etc.

15. Pete is very peculiar with time keeping. For example, when he says, “I’m going to have my shower at 6.53am.” or “I’m going to have a nap at 1.58pm.” or “Oh, the last time we had this dish was in 2018.” Hahaha…

16. Pete is still confused with exchange rates between Riels and dollars.

17. Pete gets a charge out of adventures and exploring new places and things.

Behind Pete is Cairn de Barnenez, the oldest building in the world.

18. Pete loves nature and being with nature. He enjoys playing with the ocean waves. He is fascinated when watching the sunrise and sunset. He likes to laze on the beach and to climb up mountains.

19. Pete enjoys poetry, History and Science. He is not quite good at Geography and does not really like Math, though but he is trying his best.

20. Pete is hooked on crafting. Among the crafts he made were Optimus Prime’s sword and Thor’s hammer, constructed out of recycled papers and masking tape, which he built when he was 11 years old.

21. Pete has many nicknames – me and our Filipino families call him Beboy (short for baby boy), his dad calls him Pete, our French families call him Peter, some of his friends call him George while others call him Peter.

22. Pete is learning four languages – English, Tagalog, French and Mandarin.

23. Since Pete was a toddler and until now he never complains about being bored. He always keeps himself busy by doing the things he enjoy doing – read a book, draw, play a guitar, listens to music, watch TV or Netflix, DIY and create some crafts, play with his iPhone game, ride a bicycle, exercise, chat with his friends, etc.

24. Pete has never been demanding. He never asked us to buy him this and that.

25. Pete has definitely makes parenting for us smooth and easy because even when he is grumpy he is being nice about it.