Slovenes abroad: Miha, Berlin (Germany)

A while ago he wrote on Twitter: »After a year and a half in Germany I have come to a position where I am interviewing other people. In German language that is Everything is possible, if you work hard and have a strong desire to achieve something. « Miha fell in love with Berlin during his study and he moved there in 2017. If you want to know how Slovenes see Berlin or if you just want to hear a few tips from tourist point of view, read on 😉

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The best ways to travel to Asia

If you have one or more destinations in Asia on your bucket list, and you are ready to see more of the country, get to know the people and the culture, chances are that you will have to take some time off to plan your trip and find a way to make your budget work. While there are adventure travel package holidays available, this might not be an option if you have a limited budget. Below you will find a few tips on how to create a plan that will match your preferences and your budget at the same time.

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Malibu Stars Homes tour, Los Angeles

Let’s be honest, everyone who visits Los Angeles secretly hopes to spot a celebrity. After all, most of the Hollywood movie stars have a house in one of the fancy neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu or Santa Monica. And they DO go out for dinners, drinks or shopping, right? Well, I have visited Los Angeles three times and I haven’t seen shit. The truth is that most of tourists visit Walk of Fame and other “must see” attractions and those are definitely NOT the spots to meet celebrities. There are some bars and restaurants where the stars usually hang out, but those places are not cheap and you need reservations to get there. The easiest option to get close to Hollywood celebrities is to visit their homes. Not literally, of course, but with the help of tours and guides who know exactly where most of them live. Last year I took Hollywood with movie star’s homes tour and if was pretty fun. We didn’t see celebrities washing their cars or taking out trash, however we did get a pretty good feeling about the neighborhoods, heard some “local stories” and saw a few movie locations. So, this year I decided to book another tour with Starline Tours and do the Malibu part. The tour is officially called Malibu Stars Homes tour and I liked it even better than the Hollywood one.

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Fear of flying? Interview with a pilot and some interesting facts might help!

This might sound strange to you, but in the past few years my fear of flying has increased enormously. It all started on my trip to Vietnam; we had some modest turbulence during the flight for about 2 hours, and for some reason I was sweating and shaking like a leaf, waiting for the end to come. It probably had also a lot to do with the fact that I was flying alone and I definitely didn’t want to make my hairy sweetheart an orphan. Since this has been going on a lot lately (I guess the older I get, the more alive I want to be), I have decided to get familiar with my chances to survive up in the air once for all. So, I talked to a pilot, gathered some statistics and all my fears are almost gone now. Are you also afraid of flying? Then read this interview carefully (or at least scroll till the end to learn some really interesting facts!) and thank me later 😉

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How to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem

I spent a lot of time figuring out which island of Cambodia to choose for our February vacation and after deciding to go for Koh Rong Sanloem (which is supposed to be quieter and less crowded) I was totally confused about how to get to the island. A lot of blogs, forums and official information from ferry services can be found on this subject, however to manage all the logistics seemed quite a challenge. First of all, you need to decide which ferry service to pick, second you need to know your timings (flight arrivals, departures, time to get to the airport and back etc…) and at last but not the least, you need to book your boat ticket online… or maybe not? In the end I decided to buy the ferry tickets in Sihanoukville just one hour before the departure and I was lucky. So let me make it easier for you and explain everything you need to know about how to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem (or Koh Rong, which is actually similar procedure).

First, choose and island and your accommodation

No matter which island you choose, I suggest you search for your accommodation first, because you need to know where to get off. Both islands have a few piers and you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you get off at the right one (for example Koh Rong Sanloem has 3 pier pick up – drop off points). Cambodia’s climate is hot and humid and dragging your luggage for a mile or two on the sand (there are no roads!) is not something you want to do unless you plan to stop at every bar on the way. And, because of the jungle, it is impossible to reach other places if you get off on the wrong side of the island. If your accommodation is not near those piers, contact them to find out how to get there – most of “isolated” resorts offer boat transports and this was one of the reasons I chose to stay in Pearl resort. Their staff is amazing; they offer free pickup and drop off rides, plus 3 additional free rides per day from the resort to Saracen Bay.

Carefully check your flight schedule

You will probably arrive to Sihanoukville by air, which means you need to consider your arrival and departure time. Here is the tricky part: a lot of flights get cancelled or delayed, so you need to be very lucky to get by smoothly. I know this is painful but I recommend you to take at least one hour of space for such inconveniences. This is your estimated time schedule:

  • If you are on a local flight you don’t need to go to immigration, and since the airport is rather small you should have your luggage with you in around 15 – 20 minutes. For international arrivals add around 10 minutes more for visa and passport inspection. Buy visa online, to make it easier and faster for you!
  • At the exit you will find “Taxi service” booth where you get your ticket (there is a fixed 20 USD taxi rate from Sihanoukville airport to the city) and the taxis are usually available immediately.
  • The ride from the airport to the Sihanoukville port takes around 40 minutes (depending on traffic jams).
  • If everything goes well you can board on your boat within 1,5 hours from your arrival at Sihanoukville airport.

Do I buy a ticket online or on the spot?

The big question is which ferry service to choose and whether to buy ferry ticket online or at the spot. There are 4 main “fast ferry” services between Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Sanloem, each taking approximately 40 to 50 minutes to get to the island (depends on which pier you get off). All ferries leave from the Serendipity pier in Sihanoukville and the rates are all 22 USD. This means that you are more or less flexible about which one to choose, depending only on their departure times. It is logical that the companies promote online sales “to make sure you get your seat” and I was hesitating to the last minute whether to go for this option, but then I thought what if the flight is delayed or something goes wrong… So I decided to take my chance and buy the ferry ticket on the spot. The taxi driver was kind enough to suggest stopping on our way in a sales booth (there are also booths at the pier of course), where everything was done smoothly, no queues, and we knew exactly how much time we had before the departure. Honestly, I would do it again – if by any chance the ferry you choose is full, you go for another one 30 minutes later (by another company).

Note: all tickets from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem are sold as “open return”, which means that you can return anytime you want; you just need to report the return date 24 hours before departure. Ask your hotel to help you with this confirmation; they do it all the time. And don’t lose your tickets of course!

Saving tip: there are also a couple of slow boat services to Koh Rong Sanloem that take 2 – 3 hours. For example the “supply boat” for the islands also heads to Saracen Bay. It costs $5 each way. It leaves from Sihanoukville Pier 52. For the return trip the boat leaves Saracen Bay at 2 p.m. to head back to Sihanoukville. Tickets can be purchased from the Koh Rong Dive Center office on Serendipity Beach Road. 

 

Ferry schedules

We took Speed Ferry Cambodia and everything was fine and more or less on time. The other 3 services are Island Speed Ferry, Buva Sea and GTVC Speedboat. Keep in mind that all services have only a few departures per day and the last one is usually around 4 pm, so don’t plan to get to Koh Rong Sanloem in the evening! Also, check the schedules of your ferry departures, depending on your flight time. A lot of logistic questions, I know…

Where to sit on the boat

When booking online you need to choose your seat – I am not sure if anyone even checks this, but if you do wonder which seat to book, I suggest you go for the middle ones. First of all, the windows are blinded so you cannot see much through them unless you open them. Second, if you open them, you have a great chance of splashes in your ace, as the sea can get rough even during a fine sunny day. If you want to watch your arrival to the island you can always stand up and go outside in the last minutes when the boat slows down. And by the way, if you have a sickness issue, it is better to sit in the front because the ferry is wider and more stable there.

With all that said, let me wrap it up for you: to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem is pretty easy, the only challenge is the time and possible transfer delays. I suggest you buy the ferry tickets on the spot, to communicate the departure time with your accommodation provider and to prepare yourself to lose half a day in one direction because of the logistics. We were very lucky with everything and a huge thanks goes to the manager of Pearl resort, Mr Ruz!

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Resort review: Pearl resort (Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia)

This February we chose Cambodia for our short escape from European winter. After spending 3 days in busy Siem Reap, exploring the majestic Angkor temples, we decided to relax on a beautiful island of Koh Rong Sanloem. While checking carefully all rooms in Saracen Bay (the main beach and port on the island) I got the impression that we would be squeezed between hundreds of hostels and bungalows – and that is definitely not my cup of tea. Suddenly this isolated brand-new resort caught my eye so I dropped a few lines to the management. I wanted to know if we would be able to visit the Saracen Bay and go places we wanted to (the island has no roads and you need to travel by boat almost everywhere). The manager of Pearl Resort in Koh Rong Sanloem responded immediately and left a very good impression by explaining everything in details, including how to arrive to the island. So, I decided to give Pearl resort a chance, even though they had just one review on Tripadvisor at that time.

Location

I have explained how to get to Koh Rong Sanloem in this post, but from the micro location point of view Pearl resort is situated in the eastern part of the island, facing west; which means that guests are spoiled with some pretty amazing sunsets. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the resort by a boat from the main pier at Saracen Bay; and the ride is provided free of charge. Apart from pick up and drop off on the day of your visit and departure, the resort also provides 3 boat rides per day which is more than enough to get your shit done. At first, I was afraid that we would get bored (the resort is really isolated and you practically cannot walk anywhere because of the rough area) but the days went by so fast I didn’t even get the chance to finish reading my book!

Accommodation – the bungalows

Pearl resort comprises of 15 really cute bungalows, which offer a small terrace (some even include small massage pools outside), a large bedroom with TV and coffee machine (water, tea and coffee is complimentary in limited supply daily), beach towels and bathrobes. Bathrooms are fancy and quite spacious, providing all the necessities you need for stress-free vacation. Wi-Fi is available in bungalows and throughout the entire resort area and the signal was surprisingly strong (my first impression of Koh Rong Sanloem was that there are hardly any Wi-Fi spots on the island – obviously this has changed a lot in the last few years).

Restaurant

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in an “open air” restaurant (partly covered by roof) with direct view of the beach (and that sunset I mentioned before). Food choice is of course limited, but still enough variety to get by even if you don’t leave the island for the whole week. I especially loved the morning fruit plates – Cambodian mango is absolutely fantastic. Prices are a little bit higher compared to the ones in Saracen Bay, but this is normal since the fresh food has to be delivered by boat each day. We are talking about 1 or 2 dollars more, so no drama there.

Beach and pool

Looking at the photos of Pearl resort beach on the internet I must admit I was a little skeptical, since I am a white-sand-turquoise-sea fanatic. But in reality it was not bad at all – even though the colors are not as fantastic as in Saracen Bay, I actually enjoyed it. The sand is soft, the ocean is clear and that is pretty much what you need for a good swim. Oh, by the way – the Saracen Bay is so shallow that you need to walk a lot before you can swim for real. So Pearl resort beach is actually a winner in swimming quality category. If you suffer from oceanophobia (I just made this word up and it sounds pretty cool to me), you can swim in a large pool or enjoy a water massage, drinking your favorite cocktail. Sunbeds are provided for each guest, so no need to wake up with sunrise and run down like crazy to reserve your spot.

 

 

Things to do during the day

The management has really done a lot of effort to keep the guests of Pearl resort busy and happy. Besides really enjoyable swim, the bay is perfect for SUP-ing or kayaking (2 SUPS and 2 kayaks are available for the guests). You can also hike a short trail up the hill (just a couple of minutes) to reach a beach on the other side of the island – to watch the sunrise or just enjoy the serenity of the ocean. There is also a beach volley playground available but I’d say this one is a challenge – with only 15 bungalows I can’t imagine how you can gather a team of at least 6 people who can keep the ball in the air for a while 😉 If you run out of options, you can always hitch a boat ride to Saracen Bay where you will find bars, restaurants and a lot of cute little dogs. And you will probably thank yourself that you are staying in Pearl resort because Saracen Bay is very much alive in the evening (and I read that due to many hostels the nights can be loud as well). By the way, the resort owns a cute little cat, which will probably stay cute even when she grows up – you can check her out in my instagram “Cambodia” stories.

Anda’s rate: 9 from 10

Bottom line: First of all, DO visit Cambodia, it is a fantastic destination. Second, if you are a beach lover, DO go for Koh Rong Sanloem (Koh Rong is also an option, but busier with tourists). At last, but not the least, DO pick your accommodation carefully. If you prefer a good night sleep, more privacy and a touch of luxury for a very reasonable price, I can highly recommend staying in Pearl resort. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t take an extra day or two to enjoy the island.

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Hotel review: Grand Elysee La Residence (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

When I travel to Asia I always search for 5 star hotels first. I don’t want to offend anyone but the hygiene standard is a bit different in Asia compared to Europe (plus I am allergic to all kinds of shit), and usually 5 star hotels are quite affordable. Luckily this was also the case in Siem Reap, where you can get high quality hotels for less than 60 USD per night (2 persons, breakfast and airport transfer included). Grand Elsyee La Residence was the most reasonable and cheapest choice (by the way if you want to save 15€ with your next booking, make a reservation through this link), the reviews were fantastic and the location seemed ok as well. Once again it proved that I have chosen wisely 😉

Location

Grand Elysee La Residence is around 20 minutes’ taxi drive away from Siem Reap airport and less than 10 minutes’ tuk tuk ride to the popular Pub Street and Old market. Angkor temples, which is probably the reason you will visit Siem Reap in the first place, is about 20 minutes away with tuk tuk – so I can say the location is pretty convenient. If you are up to it you can also walk to some places, but for us it was too hot and we were tired after seeing the temples. Tuk tuk ride to Pub street only costs 2 USD so it’s not worth the trouble. The hotel provides one way airport transfer for free, and the ride back will cost you 15 USD by taxi or 10 USD by tuk tuk.

Rooms

We stayed in room 508 with pool view, and it was really nice. The rooms are spacious, with lots of light and very modern design. The bed and the pillows are comfortable, you are provided with bathrobes, complimentary tea and coffee, 2 bottles of water per day and of course all the necessary toiletries. We found the bathroom especially sexy, the design is simple and fantastic. The only thing I resent the architect is the separate toilet with no sink (you have to go to the bathroom to wash hands).

 

Breakfast and dining area

I also loved the dining area; it is located in the lobby with pool view, so you almost get to eat outside but under the roof. Again, very pleasant ambient and stylish design. The breakfast choice was very good, except for the bread, but this is the case in most Asian countries – they simply don’t eat bread so they also don’t offer a variety of wholegrain and all this healthy kind of shit. On the other hand you get lots of fresh tropical fruit, hot and cold choices and eggs any style. If you chose to eat lunch or dinner in the hotel, prepare yourself for rather high prices (beer 5 USD, while you can drink one for less than 1 dollar in town), but food is great as well – I especially loved the different choices of soups.

Pool and spa

The pool is decently large and there are lots of sunbeds provided for all guests. The rooms in the ground floor even offer direct access to the pool, which I haven’t decided whether it is romantic or a bit weird because people in the pool can see your room. Well, to each its own I say. Grand Elysee la Residence also offers a spa where you can get your massage, but again you can get much cheaper service downtown (we paid 6 USD for 60 minutes back massage in Old market).

Anda’s rate: 9 from 10

Bottom line: If it wasn’t for expensive beer and that toilet issue I would have given Grand Elysee La Residence a 10. It is a very nice hotel, the staff is extremely nice and I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants high standard and quality service for a very reasonable price.

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