For Khmer New Year in April, my family and I wanted to do something different, so we headed to a new tourist spot in Kampot province, about 150 km south of Phnom Penh.
A dirt road at the foot of a mountain leads you to the Tada Island Natural Resort. There’s an entrance fee—$1 for Cambodians and $3 for foreigners.
(Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Nowadays, many brides and grooms in Phnom Penh like to take pre-wedding photographs to display at their wedding reception.
It has become popular for couples to take these celebration photos at natural spots, resorts or waterfalls. They travel to places far from Phnom Penh and spend a lot of money.
The truth is that by halfway through the hour it’s a battle of stubbornness: Our asses are sore, and we take secret delight in seeing our neighbors fidget and walk out—clearly, it’s proof that we’re closer to enlightenment than they are.
I drift to thinking again of silly daily concerns, and bury them with slow attention to breathing. I remember how I used to do this more often in another place. It seemed easier then to fall into this trance.
At the beginning and end of each session, everyone bows to a couple of Buddha statues and to the room around us. I refuse the gesture, but I get the point: You treat this all as sacred—the smell of rain, the air you breathe, the bare white lights, this moment—and it grows into something that begins to feel like meaning.
Monday, Thursday and Saturday evenings at 6 p.m., Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m., Wat Langka, St. 282, Phnom Penh. Free (it’s just a room full of cushions).
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Holiday weekends offer the best chance to get out to the provinces, but on a weekend like Khmer New Year, the sleepy river city of Kratie slows to a crawl. When my friends and I asked our guesthouse manager if anything was open, he called up Mr. Ben, a city resident with a Tuk- Tuk and the enthusiasm to show us the area, even during Cambodia’s biggest holiday.
Ben carted us through several districts, taking us to meet rice cake chefs, dolphins, a rice wine distiller and Cambodian tourists relaxing at Kampi Resort. As we ate a late lunch with an elderly palm sugar maker who tried to teach us French, Ben explained that he took us to meet the folks he met on his own provincial explorations. A city-slicker like me would struggle to nd these destinations, so it was worth every cent of the $60 in total the three of us paid for Ben’s services.
Ask any guesthouse managers for their small-town local guide recommendations, but if you and yourself in Kratie, message Ben at “Mrben Tuk Tuk Kratie” on Facebook for a memorable tour.