Friday Photo #1

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Leading up to when we got married in July 2013, a lot of people asked us what we were doing for our honeymoon. Honestly, it was very much an afterthought for us. We had been living abroad together for nearly two years at the time. We lived frugally and made frequent travel our priority.

If a honeymoon was meant to be a monumental, forever remembered and cherished trip, well, we kind of felt like we were already doing that, but, like, all the time. We decided not to let the expectation of a big, expensive honeymoon weigh on our minds or wallets.

We opted for a quick trip from China, where we’d been living and working, to Sihanoukville, Cambodia to laze on Otres beach before flying home for our wedding. It was, if we had to qualify it with a name, a pre-wedding honeymoon. Really we just wanted to relax and gear up for all of the exciting wedding events ahead of us.

For us, it was perfect.

36 Things to do at Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sihanoukville Province is located 185 kilometers (115 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh on the Gulf of Thailand. It is known for it’s white sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and beautiful islands that line the coast. We first came to Sihanoukville in June 2013 and stayed at Otres Beach on the recommendation of a friend. For us, it was quiet, uncrowded paradise and we vowed to go back. In May of 2014 we did and stayed for nearly a month, enjoying all the Otres area has to offer. Here are 36  of our recommendations on what to do here, including prices (listed in USD) as of May 2014.

Map of Cambodia

Map from Circle of Asia.

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Magnificent Melaka, Malaysia

This year for our Chinese New Year break from our jobs in Shanghai we took a ten day trip to Singapore and Malaysia. We wanted to go to a Malaysian island called Tioman during our trip, but our plans were thwarted by monsoon rains in the east of the country. Undeterred, as we were, quite frankly, much too sunburned to be hanging out on an island anyways after our white butts spent all day outside frying at Laneway Festival in Singapore(!!!), we booked tickets to a place called Melaka. Melaka is a city about half way between Singapore and Kuala Lumpor, where we needed to end up to fly back to China. From the map we saw it looked to be on the coast, leading us to hope we might still get some beaching and snorkeling in. That didn’t actually end  up happening either. However, this impromptu detour ended up being my favorite place on our trip! Here’s why:

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Indian food! Served on banana leaves. Need I say more?

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Motorbike Trip Around Otres Beach in Cambodia

Stevo and I had been enjoying our little slice of heaven, the laid back, beautiful beach at Otres 1 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia for about two weeks. We spent most of our days swimming, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, going on boat trips, doing yoga, eating great Khmer and western dishes, meeting locals and fellow travelers, reading, writing and enjoying our new found freedom on the road. There was plenty to do to fill our days just in the mile or so stretch of beach in front of our guesthouse.

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Restaurants and bungalows sit just a few meters from the water along Otres Beach.

One afternoon we decided to rent a motorbike and explore the area a bit further. Stevo handed over his passport and $3 to the nice man in the shop, and the motorbike was ours for the afternoon.

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It’s so easy to rent a motorbike!

The one helmet the rental place had was too small for Stevo and a bit too big for me. Our heads are comically different sizes. It’s illegal not to wear a helmet in Cambodia, but in the countryside it’s usually okay, and if you get stopped by a police officer the fine is only 5000 riel ($1.25), so we figured we’d just go for it.

Ya, our heads are different sizes. Don't worry about it...

Yeah, our heads are different sizes. Love conquers all!

We rode through Otres 1 past the Long Beach, an aptly named expansive bare stretch of beach mainly used by locals on the weekends and during holidays.

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Pretty nice public beach, eh? (We’ve been hanging out with Canadians ;)

We continued on to Otres 2, less crowded than Otres 1 with nicer, slightly pricier guest houses and bungalows. There wasn’t a lot of action going on there, except for two construction sites where it looked like three story tall hotels were being built.

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Nobody around but this noisy goose at Otres 2.

The amazing thing about the Otres area was all of the vacant lots. There were dozens of plots of land for sale right across the street from the beach. Many had been sold since we were there for our first time in June 2013. We’re sure that this place won’t stay the same for long with it’s quiet atmosphere and simple, inexpensive beach bungalows. The room we stayed in on the water was just $8/night!

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Dozens of empty lots for sale right across from the Long Beach.

We rode back along the Long Beach until we came to a red dirt road where we turned right, away from the water. We rode past homes on stilts, rice paddies, cows, water buffalo, geese, chickens, dogs, pigs, and then suddenly, horses!

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Water buffalo swimming just off the road.

We stopped off to check it out. It turned out to be Liberty Ranch, opened by a French woman in 2012. Her company offers one, two or three hour horse riding tours along the beach, through the countryside and across a river. It looked like a fun thing to do for an afternoon!

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They also have ponies for riders 3 and up. Must be 85kg or less to ride the horses.

We continued on to the end of the road and made a right toward Wat Otres. Young monks gathered out front smiled and waved us in toward the temple.

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We love the colors of Cambodia!

We parked the moto and walked around. I always love the strong smell of incense and bright colors of Cambodian temples.

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Stevo: “Guess what they’re building?” Jen: “What?” Stevo: “Exactly.”                                    We love Wat puns :p

As we were leaving we saw an older monk blessing a group of people in front of a building, chanting and dumping water over their heads from a plastic pail. They were all soaked and smiling.

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Maybe someday we’ll act like mature adults…this was not that day.

We followed a road that was under construction that led pretty steeply up a hill. At a flat area Stevo stopped and I hopped on to try riding the moto. We’ve talked about taking a long motorbike trip, and one of my goals during this trip is to become confident riding on my own. I did pretty well!

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The back of Jen’s shirt says: “If you can read this, the b*tch fell off.”

We rode around some bridge construction half way up the hill and stopped. We climbed up some boulders to get a better view. There was countryside below us, and the Gulf of Thailand and islands in the distance. So beautiful.

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I can see my house from here.

As we rode further up the hill, the views just kept getting better. At the top there was more construction of what looked like a future hotel, shaped like a ship.

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You can see the ship’s prow on the left.

There was a friendly Cambodian family and some workers tending to the landscaping, and a baby sitting on a pile of rocks.

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“Wat are you doing, baby?” PUN

From that vantage point we could look out over the whole city, the countryside, villages and downtown Sihanoukville. The sun was dropping lower in the sky, casting a bright golden light over the entire scene. I stood in front of Stevo and he wrapped his arms around me as we looked out. Exploring and experiencing moments like that are what I treasure most about our travels together. I breathed in a big sigh of contentment and joy. At those times I know we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.

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We coasted back down the long hill, waving to people making their commute home going either up or down.

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Realizing our moto was almost out of juice we stopped at the first “gas station” we saw with the tell tale signs of one liter liquor bottles full of yellow liquid. When we pulled up we saw a young woman there who works at our guesthouse. It turned out to be her home! 5000 riel got us a full liter and filled half the tank.

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Let’s set this party on fire.

We rode back the way we came, then made a right past the Long Beach and through Otres 1. We passed some shacks and graffiti covered walls, then were out on the open road. Instead of turning towards town, we zigged down a road up another hill.

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Swan Skeptic-By  Anonymous

At the top and around a bend were huge homes and condos for sale. The prices were from $8,000-$30,000. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop and look as the sun was quickly going down. A few minutes later we turned back toward Otres 1. We wanted to avoid riding in the dark and watch the sunset from the beach.

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We made it back just in time.

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There’s lots to explore in the Otres area, and I’m sure we only scratched the surface. But getting out of the well trodden areas and seeing more of the countryside, meeting friendly Cambodians and seeing beautiful views made for a lovely afternoon.

Have you ever rented a motorbike? What was your experience like? 

After leaving Cambodia and APCA at the end of 2012, we headed back to China with new jobs in a new city. This time we ventured much further south from our prior home in Mudanjiang to a city called Yangzhou, located in the Jiangsu province. Once we were living in this more geographically desirable locale, we wasted no time in taking trips to nearby cities including Suzhou and Shanghai. We even got down to Hong Kong in early January.
Here’s a short video to show some of our travel and living highlights.

Some Backlogged Jevo Adventures. China from December 2012 to February 2013.

Cambodia, Scenic and Up-close

Close-up of a monk's robe out to dry in the mid day heat.

Close-up of a monk’s robe out to dry in the mid day heat.

Hundreds of people gather at Angkor Wat to watch the magnificent sunrise.

Hundreds of people gather at Angkor Wat to watch the magnificent sunrise.

Like I said, it is magnificent.

Like I said, it is magnificent.

Never forget it. Sticker posted outside a beautiful abandoned building in Phnom Penh.

Never forget it. Sticker posted outside a beautiful abandoned building in Phnom Penh.

Some Cambodian street art.

Some Cambodian street art.

Sunset silhouette of recently deceased King Sihanouk's stupa construction.

Sunset silhouette of recently deceased King Sihanouk’s stupa construction.

Sunset silhouette of the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Sunset silhouette of the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Beautiful bowls on a ledge at a temple in Phnom Penh.

Beautiful bowls on a ledge at a temple in Phnom Penh.

President Obama came to Phnom Penh while we were there to discuss Democracy, corruption and Cambodia's future at the 2012 ASEAN conference.

President Obama came to Phnom Penh while we were there to discuss Democracy, corruption and Cambodia’s future at the 2012 ASEAN conference.

Five stupas housing the remains of former Cambodian kings seen from the top of Oudong Mountain in Kampong Speu Province.

Five stupas housing the remains of former Cambodian kings seen from the top of Oudong Mountain in Kampong Speu Province.

A view of one stupa.

A view of one stupa.

An up close look

An up close look

Monkeys on Oudong Mountain in Kampong Speu Province.

Monkeys on Oudong Mountain in Kampong Speu Province.

A temple overgrown with trees dating back as far as the temples of Angkor. Battdung Mountain, Kampong Speu Province.

A temple overgrown with trees dating back as far as the temples of Angkor. Battdung Mountain, Kampong Speu Province.

A headless warrior statue at the top of Battdung Mountain, Kampong Speu Province

A headless warrior statue at the top of Battdung Mountain, Kampong Speu Province

Monk's robe out to dry outside the temples on top of Battdung Mountain in Kampong Speu Province. Photo taken by Tina Ryder, my beautiful mother

Monk’s robe out to dry outside the temples on top of Battdung Mountain in Kampong Speu Province. Photo taken by Tina Ryder, my beautiful mother

Shadows of Garudas playing on the temple walls in Kampong Speu Province

Shadows of Garudas playing on the temple walls in Kampong Speu Province

A small temple in Kampong Speu Province where one monk has lived since he was 7 years old. He is now in his 90s.

A small temple in Kampong Speu Province where one monk has lived since he was 7 years old. He is now in his 90s.

My brother, Scott, and some of the older boys at APCA hanging out on the mushroom building in progress.

My brother, Scott, and some of the older boys at APCA hanging out on the mushroom building in progress.

Sunset in Kep

Sunset in Kep

It just kept getting better.

It just kept getting better.

And better.

And better.

A little end of the day dip at Kep Beach.

A little end of the day dip at Kep Beach.

Peppercorns up close and on the vine at a pepper plantation in Kampot Province.

Peppercorns up close and on the vine at a pepper plantation in Kampot Province.

The view from our $20/night room at the Kimly Lodge in Kep Cambodia. We can highly recommend you stay here if you are ever in Kep.

The view from our $20/night room at the Kimly Lodge in Kep Cambodia. We can highly recommend you stay here if you are ever in Kep.

Inside the Central Market in Phnom Penh.

Inside the Central Market in Phnom Penh.

Bright seed pods attached to reeds in Kampong Speu Province

Bright seed pods attached to reeds in Kampong Speu Province

An up close look at the rice fields in late November. In Kampong Speu Province.

An up close look at the rice fields in late November. In Kampong Speu Province.

Lotus reflections in Kampong Speu Province

Lotus reflections in Kampong Speu Province

Foreground: Lotus field. Background: Palm trees. The Cambodian countryside is stunning. In Kampong Speu Province.

Foreground: Lotus field. Background: Palm trees. The Cambodian countryside is stunning. In Kampong Speu Province.

The best time to check out the lotus fields is very early morning, when they are just opening to greet the sun. In Kampong Speu Province.

The best time to check out the lotus fields is very early morning, when they are just opening to greet the sun. In Kampong Speu Province.

Some APCA kids playing in the rice paddies across the street from the center. It's an alright front yard to explore.

Some APCA kids playing in the rice paddies across the street from the center. It’s an alright front yard to explore.

Desensitized to Strange?

After living in Asia for over a year now, mainly in China and a couple of months in Cambodia, we’ve seen and experienced some pretty weird sh*t. From watching a grown adult poop in the middle of the sidewalk directly in our path on our way to work, seeing a woman shove an iguana down her throat in a night club, to watching Stevo get hit on by a ladyboy (hilarious), I’ll be amazed if we don’t need some serious therapy in the years to come. Lately I’ve become concerned that we’re now a bit desensitized to all the strange. Not much seems to shock us anymore. Continue reading