This trip is our extended honeymoon, and sometimes we forget that. It’s easy to when you’re walking from the bus station to your guesthouse, sweating in a fan room, and saying “It might not be budget-friendly to have a drink tonight.” Every now and then we give ourselves a bit of a treat, but it’s been a long, long while.
Cambodia might not top the list of worldwide honeymoon destinations, but we could easily make a case for why it should. The activities on offer are more for the adventurous type, but you could also spend days lazing on the white-sand beaches of Koh Rong or getting inexpensive massages among palm trees on Rabbit Island. The value for your money is unbelievable. In Siem Reap, home of the famous and ancient Angkor Wat temple, we got a streetside half-hour foot massage with two beers for a whopping $3 USD (they country uses a mix of USD and riel, the local currency). You could purchase a pitcher of a mixed cocktail for $4 too. Siem Reap also has many luxury properties that are quite affordable, though we didn’t stay in any since we knew our days would be spent exploring ancient temples instead of relaxing in a comfortable hotel room.
Our next destination, Phnom Penh, really made us stop in our tracks. Prior to arriving in Cambodia, we moved at an uncharacteristically quick pace through Myanmar. We only had three weeks there and wanted to make the most of our days. So after an exhausting but fulfilling time in Myanmar and touring the temples of Siem Reap, we gave ourselves an early one-year travel anniversary gift: The Villa Paradiso.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, is not a towering Asian city like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, but has the beginning of a skyline with skyscrapers under construction. Away from the modern buildings lie bustling streets filled with small shops, food vendors and more tuk tuk drivers than you ever want to encounter again. When we arrived inside the gates of The Villa Paradiso, all the city noise and car exhaust seemed like worlds away. It already felt like a true honeymoon getaway.
At check-in, we were greeted with ginger-lemongrass welcome drinks and ice-cold towels to cool us down from the scorching sun. It was a nice welcoming after a grueling eight-hour bus ride from Siem Reap. As we cooled down, the friendly staff gave us suggestions for things to do in the area. But when Mike spied the pool (his ultimate weakness), there was no talking him into another sightseeing day. It didn’t take long to convince Tara either.
When we got to our room (called the Japanese suite), we looked around stunned. “This is bigger than our DC efficiency was,” Tara said to Mike. All that was missing was a full kitchen. There were even unique amenities we would have loved to have at home: an espresso machine, scented oil burner and a mosquito-zapping racket. The latter was Mike’s favorite new toy, because if you know Mike, you know he attracts mosquitoes better than anyone. As Mike practiced his Andre Agassi moves, Tara grabbed her latest book, The Glass Palace, and collapsed onto the couch.
The world outside no longer mattered. We agreed that the next three days would be mostly spent enjoying our honeymoon within a honeymoon. We knew we’d come back to Phnom Penh on our way up to Laos (and did!) and decided to save those days for action-packed sightseeing.
Our short honeymoon stay included a mix of relaxing in our room, swimming and lounging by the pool, taking leisurely walks around town and sundowners on the balcony. We even ordered room service for the first time on our trip (delicious and, no, it didn’t break the bank!).
Months and months of budget accommodations have left us extremely sensitive to recognizing even the smallest details. For example, have you stayed somewhere lately that left an umbrella hanging in the closet in case of rain? How about a cell phone for when you are out? We were highly impressed by the amenities. You might even be able to visualize Tara putting on a bathrobe and falling onto the bed, trying to blend in with the comforter. We made sure to test out everything the room had to offer.
It has been far too long since we have had a good night’s sleep. Asian mattresses typically feel like springs on top of plywood. You can feel wires digging into your back all night. This bed was by far the most comfortable we’ve slept in since, well, since before we sold our very own bed. Even better? We never had to make it ourselves. We would head out to a delicious and leisurely breakfast and return an hour later to find the mosquito net tied up and the comforter tucked back in. The staff was great and quick to respond to our every need, and needs we didn’t even realize we had (like providing citronella spray to ward off mosquitoes).
Life was great for those few days. Can you imagine? We already had NOTHING on our minds. (Work? Bills? What are those?) It was truly the epitome of relaxation.
Disclosure: We received a complimentary stay at The Villa Paradiso in exchange for sharing our experience. As always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely our own. This hotel and its staff are exceptional, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay!
‘Bout time you both relaxed! So happy that you have taken a break. I had to laugh at Mike and his new toy. Why is it the Shubbuck boys (dad included) have to play with/try out any new gadget? Enjoy the pool and the beer. Best wishes on that delayed honeymoon (although I thought St. Pete was romantic with the 3 of us-heh)
Mike Shubbuck says
All you need to understand is how awesome it is to enact some revenge against those bugs that have been sucking me dry. Hearing them crackle is delightful.
And come on, Vladamir has been the most romantic location of our honeymoon so far. That tree bed was the best.
Michel Shlimowitz says
I’m so happy for the two of you! What an AMAZING journey you’ve been undertaking. I sent a little donation through PayPal for you to do something special for yourselves on this winding down of your trip. ( confirm with me yhat you receiced) Wish there could’ve been a way to meet you at some point. I received your postcard today & was thrilled to hear from you. Your my idols!!!! Enjoy… I love & miss you both. XOXOXO Aunt Michel
Mike Shubbuck says
Thanks Michel! Your contribution is ensuring we never have to return to the US. We just bought some beachfront property in Laos. Wait, what do you mean this is a landlocked country? Just kidding. Glad to hear the postcard reached you. We miss you and will see you soon (a few months!)…
Mike's Dad says
Well done! Keep on pumpin’, your reviews are extremely informative and we couch-potatoes can live through your visits; as in dreaming we are there.
Mike Shubbuck says
Just make sure your next cruise takes you here. This place was awesome.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
I know what you mean about needing to remind yourself every so often to loosen the pursestrings and actually stay somewhere that does more than just offer a (relatively) clean place to sleep. Sometimes I think wistfully of people taking regular 2-week vacations where spending $60/night on a hotel room is no big deal, because while that money can easily last us for about two days on our normal budget, it can get you a really nice hotel room in this part of the world.
That said, we actually did not think that Cambodia was very good value for money. By and large, we found hotels to be rather pricey in the major cities, and the rooms you could score for $10/night were generally pretty bleak. Compared to Vietnam, I would say practically everything is more expensive and less nice in Cambodia, and when it comes to food, I would say that you can eat for cheaper in Thailand, especially if you stick to street food here. We’ve also found some really nice $10-12/night rooms here in northern Thailand, but that price got us something just halfway decent in Cambodia.
Mike Shubbuck says
Well, yes and no. We have found that you can not really compare each SE Asian country. You kind of expect them all to be inexpensive, but they each offer something different. For example, we find Laos to be more pricey, especially on transportation. What we liked about Cambodia is that when you did spend more than you would in, say, Thailand, you got your money’s worth. And the level of service is very good too. You can not really go wrong with a $5 one-hour massage on the beach!
Good to see that you guys splurged a little bit, as you said it is good to treat yourself every now and then especially when traveling for long time and on a budget.
I cannot believe you had an espresso machine in your bedroom, amazing! 🙂
Mike Shubbuck says
They would not stop giving us more packets for the espresso machine. Let me just clarify, you can drink 10 espressos in one day and survive.
Agreed, I think I couldn’t handle that myself too even if, being Italian, I was ‘born’ with an espresso cup in my hand 🙂