Early on the 26th of December, we departed with several good friends to enjoy a four-day trip to the beautiful province of Mondulkiri–approximately 5-hours from Phnom Penh, bordering Vietnam. As we left the congestion and chaos of the city and entered the tranquil landscape of the countryside, I found myself quietly gasping at the remarkable similarities between this part of Cambodia and my home state of California–rolling hills with trees scattered throughout–and trees other than palm trees! (I do enjoy palm trees, but it’s nice to see other varieties!). I felt a wave of joy pass over me as I took it all in, peering out of the window with a grateful heart. I hadn’t realized how much I was missing this familiar site until I saw it once again (Phnom Penh is very flat, and the surrounding rice fields, while lovely in their own right, are still foreign). We stayed at a wonderful place, called the Nature Lodge, and it would best be described as glorified camping (though they describe themselves as an “eco-tourism bungalow retreat” :)). We slept in wooden cabins, and while the massive black ants took over our bathroom (see pic below) and the kids were definitely more dirty than normal, we also enjoyed the luxury of warm showers (heated with propane tanks in the bathroom) and delicious meals at the Lodge restaurant. I’ll have to admit the food was probably one of my favorite aspects of the trip—besides all of the lovely surrounding nature…and the cold weather! We rarely feel “cold” in Phnom Penh (perhaps twice a year?) so to wear sweatshirts and fleece pajamas to bed (the kids) was truly a highlight of the trip. I’m fairly certain that I didn’t sweat once the entire time that we were there! We took several little day trips with Sarah, John and their two little gals, Vivienne and Tessa. Both of their kids are slightly older than our two, so we had lots of fun with our little bunch of kiddos. Sarah is a friend from our Friday play group, and it’s been a blessing to know her these last three years. When they asked us to join them on this trip to Mondulkiri, we decided that we couldn’t refuse, despite all of the traveling in December (and the $20/night accommodations definitely made the decision easier!). We had such a wonderful time getting to know them better, in addition to the several other friends that happened to be at the Nature Lodge during our time there (apparently, it’s a very popular destination with the missionary community in Phnom Penh). We will definitely be returning to this beautiful location!
The locals rent out the space on these straw mats for a few thousand riel ($ 0.50)
The littlest explorers, Tessa and Paton
He loved the dirt
Such a relaxing spot–despite having to chase our kiddos from the water’s edge
Paton is our waterbaby, and we had to watch him constantly, as he kept trying to swim away!
Sarah and Vivienne…
…and Tessa too!
Before we decided to strip them
Paton kept trying to go deeper and deeper–crying if we prevented his wishes
We had to be careful with the kids, since there’s another huge waterfall beyond the area where we were playing
Trying to help all of the kids on the slippery rocks
Paton’s huge diaper. It kept him from going too far! Ha ha
Look at those happy faces!
Paton is very comfortable with his masculinity
Sarah’s husband, John, has a birdwatching hobby, so it was fun to spot the different Asian varieties
Checking out the lower falls
We visited a nearby coffee plantation
It was a fun place to explore!
Traditional iced coffee with condensed milk. Yum.
Precious strawberries! You don’t see these often in Cambodia
The kids had fun throwing rocks into the pond
John checking out the feathered residents
This is right before…
…Ava slipped and fell in.
Look at that messy bum
It didn’t stop her, though you can see that she’s standing back a bit
The girls were covered with dirt, but they had a blast
John found this large Rhinoceros beetle at the Nature Lodge
The beautiful mountains of Mondulkiri
Such a great picture of the birdwatcher in his element!
We had fun running down the hill
And running back up the hill to our waiting taxi bus
The landscape reminded me of CA (USA) and I was a little homesick to see all of the hills (we don’t have hills in PP)
The sun was a bit bright!
Ava and Vivienne making animal noises
A villager’s pet elephant
Who needs the zoo?
Taking a ride
An adventure into the jungle
Ava was nervous to get on the elephant, but she quickly realized that it was fun!
A beautiful pond…
…especially to splash into from jumping off of this waterfall (some of our friends were jumping)
Feeding the elephant
Look out behind you!
The kid’s play area at the Lodge
Dusk–and the beautiful horses that roam the grounds
The older girls reading to the younger ones
The girls playing house–the younger ones were the babies
the two little babies in the hammocks
They loved all of the attention from the older gals, especially since both Ava and Vivienne have younger “baby” siblings
Using the restroom in the middle of the night, I had a sudden feeling that I should turn on the light to check the toilet seat…
I’m glad that I did!
The restaurant had some shorter tables that were perfect for eating with the kids
Yes, that is a whiskey bottle-turned rolling pin. Quite resourceful!
She rolled up lots of colored dough balls and placed them on top
The owner (right) had the wonderful idea for the kids to make cookies. She provided the delicious dough and everything else. The kids had a great time!
Paton seems to be enjoying himself
Tessa followed Paton around, holding onto his shirt
A stinky diaper?
The older girls enjoying the toy corner
What a great place for kids!
The warm flannel Christmas PJ’s from my parents were perfect for chilly nights
The kids loved the 2 big dogs that roamed around
The owner (left) with her sweet daughter