Hey there! We spent a fabulous 5 days on the beautiful island of Koh Samui in Thailand. After that, we flew from Koh Samui to Bangkok and then to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to get ready for our next adventure! Before I get too ahead of myself, let's check out the Koh Samui & Phnom Penh highlights!
Like the last travel diary on Koh Phangan, I won't break it up day-by-day, but I'll talk about the best food we had, some fun yoga I did, the gorgeous beach we stayed on, my two yummy massages & celebrating my dad's 60th birthday. This island is a beautiful gem of a place, full of warm-hearted people and some nice vegan options to choose from. There's also many yoga retreat centers to explore! I wish I had gotten to see more of them, but now I have an excuse to go back. Here we go!
We spent our time in Koh Samui on Lamai Beach in a place we rented from Airbnb. It's a lovely beach that's clear and warm, and has some sea life that you can see through the water. Check out the view we had from our dining room above! Quite special, huh? My parents were there with us and it was a great time. In the evenings, we gathered around the table to play cards (I won every time, of course!).
We didn't do too many touristy things as my parents mainly wanted to relax.
We enjoyed maximum relaxation as a family. We played in the water for hours, we laid out on the sand, we threw around a frisbee, we took yoga photos (of course!), and my mom and I enjoyed two massages each! At $9 for an hour, it's hard to say no! Plus, there was a place set up on the beach right near our house, so you're literally hearing the waves crash as you get worked on. I love deep tissue massages - I want to feel the toxins release from my body! None of this light touching crap - anyone else agree? I seem to be the only one that feels this way in my family, but that's okay.
Vikasa Yoga Retreat
Pete and I went exploring and happened upon Vikasa Yoga, a lovely retreat center with picturesque views, stunning accommodations, two yoga decks (they host regular teacher trainings and retreats), and a delicious restaurant overlooking the ocean. They have tons of vegan options so we decided to go there for my dad's 60th birthday. More on that below.
I went back the next evening for a yoga class and chose the advanced Vinyasa Flow class. Boy, did it kick my butt! It was so nice to be back in a studio after traveling and not being regular with my practice. I love being surrounded my yogis and getting my flow on. It was quite the challenging class. So much so that many people that came to try it out had to sit a lot of the class out. We practiced inversions, Titibasana, other arm balances, Hanumanasana, and more. It felt great! Definitely check out a class if you go to Koh Samui. It was 500 baht (roughly $15 USD) for an hour and a half class. Well worth it!
My family met me there after my class to celebrate my dad's birthday. I feel so blessed that they chose to meet us in Thailand and celebrate there with us! We were only missing my brother and his gorgeous girlfriend, Laura. They were there with us, in spirit. We had amazing food, and I'll share our faves below.
Yogi Cafe has two locations and the one we went to had just opened (in Central Market - Chaweng). It's vegetarian as they serve some items with feta cheese as an option, but otherwise the food is vegan. It was really good food. They were sold out of a few of the things we wanted, so we ordered the Super Yogi burger (which allows you to create your own burger), the create-a-salad, and finished up with this raw chocolate cake. It was slightly over-priced compared to the rest of the island, but that's because they use organic ingredients. The owner was out of town so the guy making the food was there alone, taking orders as well. We felt bad for the guy! Some of the food came out cold (the fries). The portions were sort of small. Needless to say, it was good but not our favorite place in Thailand.
Veggie Bean is a quaint restaurant on the main road in Koh Samui, located at 82/27 Moo 3 Ring-Road, Chaweng Noi, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, Thailand, 84320. The first night we tried to go there, they were closed early because they had sold out of food. We took this as a good sign and returned the next evening for dinner. The menu changes each night as it's based on what they have in stock (at least this was the case when we went). This was fine, although we didn't get to order a couple things that we were looking forward to trying. Their menu is quite extensive when it's all available. Nonetheless, it's a delicious vegan restaurant with amazing, friendly service. We were ecstatic simply to have brown rice - their's was delicious. After having white rice day after day, this was quite a treat (it's the simple things!). The boyfriend of the owner served us and was very cool to talk to. Just make sure to call if you want to go to make sure they're open!
We ordered the Coconut Soup (soft tofu, tomato, onion & mushroom cooked in coconut milk infused with lemongrass) and the Sweet & Sour Veggies (stir-fried mixed vegetables with pineapple in a sweet and sour tomato sauce). To drink, we had a fresh coconut. We were pleased!
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
After a fabulous time in Koh Samui, Thailand, we bid farewell to my loving parents and made our way to Phnom Penh. The airport in Koh Samui is super boutique and amazing! At the gate, they offer free coffee, juice, water, sandwiches, desserts, WiFi, and more! It's all outdoor as well.
We landed in Phnom Penh and checked into our place for the evening (an apartment from Airbnb). We were only there for one night as we headed over to Sihanoukville to next day to spend some time at Vagabond Yoga & Meditation Retreat Center. More on that to come, of course, but first, let's recap Phnom Penh!
The city itself leaves little to be desired. It's sad to say but the poverty is rampant and obvious. The apartment we stayed at had multiple locked gates and the streets were filthy with trash. People burned the trash in the evenings, including plastic, leaving a toxic stench in the air. It was very disheartening, and as we learned more about the political situation in Cambodia, we were able to understand why things are the way they are.
We settled in quite late so we searched for a restaurant that would be open and would accommodate our needs. We found ARTillery Cafe on the opposite side of town. We rushed to a Tuk Tuk and had him take us there, though his motorbike moved so slowly that I had to call our order in on the way to ensure we would have food to eat. They were kind enough to wait for us and we enjoyed delicious food.
Even though this restaurant is labeled as vegetarian, we found, upon arrival, that they serve chicken and fish as well. So strange! Their items are clearly labeled vegetarian, vegan or raw. Anyway, we ordered the special - BBQ Vegan Pulled Jackfruit Tacos (jack fruit, veggie broth, cumin, nut cheese, salsa & tortillas), Pete ordered The Macrio Bowl (Ibis brown rice, seasonal roasted veggies, wakeme seaweed, french lentils, pickled apple cabbage slaw, black sesame seeds, & goddess dressing), and I had a Lentil Chimichurri sandwich. Our fave was the Jackfruit tacos by far! It was so exciting to have avocado after not having it in almost a month. To drink, I had fresh tamarind juice.
The restaurant was close to the bus station so we went back for brunch the next day. It's so hard to find good coffee in Thailand (it's mostly instant coffee everywhere you go) so we were delighted to enjoy a latte and a french press at ARTillery. We ordered the tacos again because why not, and also enjoyed Avocado on Toast - wheat bread, avocado, wilted spinach, fresh tomatoes and lime.
Off to Sihanoukville
After breakfast, we headed to the bus station via Tuk Tuk to catch the bus to Sihanoukville. We were informed by our Airbnb host that it was Chinese New Years Eve, and so we saw many people celebrating in different ways (our host had an entire roasted pig on the table, which was extremely saddening and disheartening). Anyway, we saw many people burning things outside in metal bins. I asked around and it turns out that at Chinese New Year, people burn fake money and other fake valuable items because of a belief that these items will be passed on to their ancestors in the afterlife. They also burn incense when giving these offerings. This is done for the deceased so that they are well-cared for in the afterlife. A "happy afterlife" means that the deceased will continue to care for the surviving loved ones in the present life, so it's reciprocal.
Unfortunately, on our bus ride, we drove by a devastating structure fire that was hardly being tended to properly. I'm not sure how this situation turned out, but we witnessed shop owners frantically trying to remove merchandise from their shops and onlookers in agony at the fire. Some wires had caught on fire as well and we fear this fire probably increased in intensity before it got better. There was one firetruck with one hose trying to put it out, and it hardly seemed to be enough to extinguish the flame. We sent love to those affected, and hoped that no one was injured or displaced because of this!