Top Five Most Memorable Moments In Rovinj

 Venice, with its old-world charm and lively St. Mark’s Square, was always my favorite place in the world until I visited Rovinj, Croatia. The winding narrow passages, the quaint shops, the delicious seafood and wine, all reminiscent of Venice but without the extravagant prices and throngs of tourists. After my visit, I discovered that the Republic of Venice once governed Rovinj, hence the similarities.

Istrian Charm

Croatia…a paradise where every city visited is better than the last! During a recent visit to Croatia, we traveled Northbound from Dubrovnik along the Adriatic sea, hitting a different port every few days. It was after a two week  journey  involving almost every type of transportation;  boat, train, car, scooter and bus, that we arrived in Rovinj, a small seaside city that sits on the Istrian Peninsula, along the Adriatic.  Some of the most amazing experiences of our entire trip we found in Rovinj.

Here are my top five favorite moments in Rovinj!

1. Sunset Cruise on the Adriatic Sea.

After a long day of driving we finally made it to Rovinj. We had just texted Boris our temporary “landlord’ to meet us at the apartment we rented. But on the way we had to stop and pullover by the harbor. The intense orange and crimson  sunset took over the evening sky; it’s warm glow hung low over the crisp blue sea. I wanted to take photos of every amazing moment. There is something magical about the sunset in Rovinj, something so amazing that compels you to want to witness every single minute of it.   Sunset cruises are available every night to check it out from every vantage point.


2. Shopping for Art!

I love shopping for paintings and artwork. There is no shortage of shops or street vendors carrying a variety of paintings ranging from mass-produced to more expensive unique paintings produced by local artists. Sunsets, boats, or buildings;  whatever you are looking for it is easy to lose hours perusing the stacks of paintings searching for that right one ( or two or three).


3. Sipping cocktails at a seaside lounge!


and Champagne at this sophisticated cliffside lounge…


4. Shopping at the local markets for everything from honey to…


to fresh produce…


        to truffles…


to towels! ( Don’t ask me how I fit a full set of beach towels from Croatia in my luggage)


5. Romance & Love; There is a saying that the most dangerous thing that will happen to you in Croatia is falling in love!


Rovinj; a mix of old world charm and European sophistication, has replaced Venice as my favorite place in the world!


A Guide to Navigating Dia de los Muertos; Oaxaca, Mexico

Sugar Skulls

Sugar Skulls

Every year Oaxaca Mexico comes alive for the colorful Dia de los Muertos festival, also called the Day of the Dead. Strongly rooted in Mexico’s indigenous traditions, this festival honors and celebrates the relatives and ancestors that have passed on. During the period from October 31st to Nov 2nd, elaborate altars are constructed for the dead, parades and live music fill the streets, traditional moles are prepared, and late night vigils are conducted in the cemetery.

Aside from the festival, Oaxaca’s center is filled with colonial-style churches, a car-free main square, trendy mezcal bars, and many traditional restaurants.

What is the Day of the Dead?

Although the Day of the Dead festival occurs at the same time as Halloween, the two holidays differ significantly. Halloween tends to focus on ghosts and trick or treating, whereas Dia de los Muertos is a celebration and remembrance of relatives who have passed on, inviting them back into the lives of the living for one short week before they have to depart again into the afterlife. Although the Spanish linked the holiday to the Catholic All Souls Day in an effort to colonize Mexico, it’s no secret that Dia de los Muertos is strongly rooted in the local indigenous traditions of pre-colonial Mexico.

Even with its strong emphasis on honoring the dead, this is not a sad event; don’t expect tearful vigils by gravesites, or people in mourning, this is a fun celebration marked with feasting, parades and live music!

Shopping and Markets in Oaxaca

A fun way to get involved first hand in the Dia de los Muertos is with a visit to a local markets: check out Benito Juarez market, 20 de Noviembre market, or further afield is the massive Abastos market. During the festival week these markets become increasingly crowded with shoppers purchasing colorful decorations, costumes and ingredients for traditional dishes.

The excitement is contagious at the 20 de Noviembre market, children pour through booths filled with devil masks and skeleton costumes, laughing and picking out their attire for the kids parade. Stalls and tables are overflowing with grave site offerings (ofrendas) and altar decorations such as fragrant copal incense, bright orange marigold flowers called cempasuchitl coined flor de muerto (flower of the dead), candles, and religious statues.

Kids Parade

Kids Parade

The market is also a great place to buy purchase inexpensive souvenirs and decorations to take home. Many vendors sell wooden Day of the Dead boxes; these colorful scenes depict skeletons poking fun at everyday life and human existence. Typical scenes may include a skeleton mariachi band, a skeleton riding a bicycle, or two skeletons getting married. Other fun items to purchase are the hanging ornamental metallic cut-outs of male and female skeletons and devils in festive clothing. Sugar Skulls are an iconic image as well; many stands and carts are filled with dozens of chocolate or sugar skull candies in all shapes and sizes, some with names written across their foreheads.

Creating the Altar

Creating the Altar

Benito Juárez is the main food market located just a couple blocks south of the main Zócalo. This is a great place to sample and purchase traditional food items that are central to Oaxaca. Mole is a popular holiday sauce or paste that comes in many varieties like Roja (red) or Verde (green). But the main staple for the holidays in Oaxaca is Mole Negro, a dark paste made with chilis, freshly ground chocolate, garlic, tomato, herbs, cloves, and many other seasonings usually served over chicken, turkey, pork or enchiladas. Another popular holiday item is Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead); visitors will see dozens of large displays of these big round loaves or some formed in the shape of bodies with skulls baked into them.

Snacks at the Market

Snacks at the Market

Adventurous eaters can try some chapulines; this crunchy salty snack is made from grasshoppers and insects seasoned with chili and salt. Visitors will see many chapulines vendors with overflowing baskets and carts filled with these crunchy snacks.

Chocolate lovers will be in heaven in Oaxaca. The chocolate sold is locally produced, freshly ground and minimally processed. For a delicious treat at the market try a creamy hot chocolate made with milk or water served with a side of mini pan de muerto. Afterwards head over to Mina Street, coined chocolate street, to visit one of the local purveyors of chocolate. Visitors can watch as the cocoa beans are ground in large grinders into a rich creamy chocolate paste to later be made into bars or mole. This is a great place to purchase fresh chocolate bars for souvenirs or to eat.

Shopping at Abastos Market in Oaxaca

The bustling Abastos market is another major market on the outskirts of Oaxaca. Navigating this humongous market can be tricky, especially on the days during the festival. But it is worth it. The market is packed with food vendors selling fruits, vegetables, chocolate, cheese, meat, and fish. In addition, there are huge sections selling furniture, religious goods, clothes, shoes, rugs, birdcages and pet products. The handicraft section is overflowing with hand-made baskets and clay and glazed pottery.

The streets leading in and out of this daily market can get extremely crowded, especially during the holidays. Because parking is an issue, it is not advised to rent a car to get there. The most convenient and affordable way to get to Abastos is by public transportation or private taxi.

Constructing a Day of the Dead Altar

Many shops, businesses and homes will have a large altar set up for Dia de los Muertos. The tradition of setting up an altar has a dual purpose: to pay respect and honor the dead and also to invite the deceased back to visit. Most altars contain pictures of loved ones, Cempasuchitl flowers (marigolds), candles, offerings of fruit, chocolate, incense, sugar skulls and candies. Usually people place favorite items their loved ones enjoyed while alive on the altars. If the deceased drank or smoked, one will place a shot of Mezcal or a cigarette on the altar.

A trail of marigold flowers, candles and sand leading from the door to the altar will help show souls the way back home. Copal incense has a heavy flagrant scent and is burned as an offering to the deceased and to help purify the souls of the dead so they can safely make it back to the afterlife.

The Xoxocotlan Cemetery in Oaxaca

The Xoxocotlan cemetery comes alive (pardon the pun) with an almost carnival-like atmosphere on October 31st with live music, clusters of food vendors serving delicious traditional foods and partying crowds that spill out of the cemetery onto the streets. The atmosphere is contagious – order a giant foot-long stuffed flour tortilla filled with ground meat, cheese, beans and hot peppers, and wash it down a cervesa fria (cold beer).

Xoxo ( pronounced ho-ho) cemetery is divided into two sections: the pantheon Viejo (old) and pantheon Nuevo (new). Each area exudes its own atmosphere and experience for the all-night gravesite vigil. The old side offers a more traditional and quiet approach. Families quietly sit around the dimly lit decorated graves and share stories of their loved ones. In the center of the pantheon Viejo is the Capilla de San Sebastián; this old church structure is a sight to see. It was built in the early 1500s by missionaries and has been damaged by multiple earthquakes.

The new area of the cemetery is louder and filled with a younger partying crowd. Many children and adults wear costumes, and the graves are elaborately decorated with statues, candles and sand art displays. At the pantheon Nuevo the music, drinking and partying go on well into the morning hours. Although there is a fun, festival nature to this holiday, it has deep spiritual meaning to its participants. The cemetery is not a tourist attraction, so it is essential to be respectful when viewing and walking through the gravesites.

XOXO Cemetery

XOXO Cemetery

Dia de los Muertos Events

Many of the main events are centered around the Zócalo or city square. This tree-lined square is filled with restaurants, cafes, churches, and shops. Many of the comparsas, or traditional parades, originate and end at the Zócalo. These are not scheduled events so check with your hotel for more information.

During the course of the week, dozens of people are busy constructing large scale sand art displays in the center of the Zócalo. These intricate colorful works of art depict skeletons or scenes typical of Dia de los Muertos. Another fun sight are the dozens of giant decorative skulls that line the main streets surrounding the Zócalo. These colorful six-foot tall paper mache skulls are elaborately constructed with colorful themes and artwork by local artists.

Fun Events in Oaxaca!

Fun Events in Oaxaca!


Tours in Oaxaca Mexico

Many tour companies and taxi services are available in town to help visitors navigate and make sense of this event. Norma Hawthorne of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator offers small group size photography expeditions to the festival in both Oaxaca and Teotitlan del Valle. The most valuable part of her tour is her personal expertise on the culture of the area.

Another option is to visit Oaxaca on your own and use private taxis or guides, easily arranged upon arrival. Oaxaca is a safe city, sheltered from the violence prevalent in the border cities of Mexico. Once in Oaxaca, most of the sights and events are within walking distance from the main square and the historic center.

Dia de los Muertos is a colorful festival full of fun activities and events not to be missed. Visitors to Oaxaca are often captivated with its old-world charm, its gourmet restaurants, trendy bars, amazing markets and colonial churches.

Halloween in Salem-It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Salem is the ultimate destination for Halloween enthusiasts and party-goers. The city comes alive with a month long celebration culminating in a massive party in the streets on the 31st!

Happy Halloween Salem

Happy Halloween Salem

The best way to start your visit to Salem is with a glimpse into its tragic past with a visit to the Salem Witch Museum. Dramatic life-size displays re-enact the tragic and haunting events of the witch hysteria of 1692.

“In January of 1692, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village became ill. When they failed to improve, the village doctor, William Griggs, was called in. His diagnosis of bewitchment put into motion the forces that would ultimately result in the death by hanging of nineteen men and women. In addition, one man was crushed to death; seven others died in prison, and the lives of many were irrevocably changed.” Although it sounds morbid the museum presents an interesting and educational view of Salem’s disturbing past.

Salem Witch Memorial

Salem Witch Memorial

Afterwards pay your respects to the poor souls honored at the Salem Witch Trial Memorial located near the Old Burying Point cemetery; dedicated to the women and men accused, tried and executed for being witches in Salem in 1692. The Memorial consists of 20 granite benches lined along a stone wall on the other side of the old cemetery. The benches are inscribed with the name of the accused and the means and date of their execution. With the exception of Giles Corey, who was pressed to death by rocks, the following were hanged: Bridget Bishop, George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, George Jacobs, Sr., Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, John Proctor, Ann Pudeator, Wilmott Redd, Margaret Scott, Samuel Wardwell, Sarah Wildes and John Willard. A good reminder of why religious tolerance is important in not only Salem but everywhere.  The cemetery next to the memorial is worth a quick look  as it is one of the oldest in Salem.

Salem Witch Museum

Salem Witch Museum

Now that you have been fully educated on Salem’s witchcraft history-it’s time for some fun! I love shopping for Halloween goodies at the Salem Open Market located in Derby Square and Essex Street. The open market is lined with vendors selling witchcraft memorabilia, sweatshirts, t-shirts, jewelry and much more. The market is a good place to pick up a fun costume or a mask to wear at night. There are also many shops lining the streets and market as well. Need a voodoo doll or a candle for a love spell? Head over to Hex; an old world witchcraft shop located on Essex street, filled with items that will appeal to the average shopper and to the serious magical practitioner.

Witch Goodies!

Witch Goodies!

A  ghost or haunted history tour  is highlight of any visit regardless of the season. This is a fun way to learn about the history of Salem while visiting its supposed haunted hot spots. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts the tour offers many  entertaining tales about local history and lore. One of the more tragic tales is the account of poor Giles Corey, accused of witchcraft and pressed to death by boulders. According to the legend; where his ghost walks tragedy follows close behind.

At night the city comes alive with costumed party-goers and trick-or-treaters spilling out into the streets of Salem to enjoy the festivities. Its quite a site to see so many elaborate costumes, everything from creepy babies to ghost busters to vampires.  After a long day of shopping and tours, you might need a drink! Don’t miss the Shock Top Beer Garden, where you can enjoy seasonal beers and live music. Once that’s over around 10:30 the entire city stops to watch the highlight of the night-the Halloween fireworks over the North River. Unfortunately this signifies that the end of the Halloween fun and festivities is drawing to an end in Salem; but don’t worry there’s always next year!

Salem at Night

Salem at Night

Salem definitely does Halloween right! For a full schedule of events visit Salem’s Haunted Happenings website.

Creepy Baby in Love!

Fun Halloween Costume

Fun Halloween Costume

Girl’s Guide to Packing for your India Vacation!

“I just booked the trip of a lifetime,  a whirlwind tour of India; Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi. After finalizing the travel plans, I realized there were some really important details to work out-like what to wear.”

Shopping In India

Let’s go Sari Shopping!

My friend and I booked the trip of a lifetime a guided tour to Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, with an independent side trip to Varanasi. After finalizing all the travel plans, I realized there are some details we really needed to think about like what to wear and pack. I read through a variety of blogs and travel sites detailing different opinions on what women should wear, some advice more conservative than others. I decided to go more middle of the road and once in India found I had clearly made the right choices! Here are some tips on what to pack for your first trip to India.

Fun Day Sari Shopping!

Fun Day Sari Shopping!

The main question most women have is what is appropriate wear in India? India is a very conservative country, dressing provocatively or too revealing is frowned upon. Rural areas and smaller cities seemed to be more conservative than bigger cities like Delhi and Jaipur. For clothes, I highly suggest to err on the side of caution.

A good rule is to make sure your knees and shoulders are covered and don’t wear anything too tight. Especially if you are visiting rural areas or smaller cities- dress conservatively. I am embarrassed to admit I was surprised that almost all women were wearing a salwar kameez or a sari, and very few were wearing western-style clothes.

Colorful Saris in Varanasi

Colorful Saris in Varanasi

The salwar is a loose pajama type pants and the kameez is the tunic top, while the Sari is like an Indian dress that you have to wrap. Both styles of clothing are so beautiful and come in a variety of bright colors and styles. I wish I could wear these colorful outfits every day! Even though we were dressed conservatively it was still obvious that we were tourists. We even had a few different men politely ask if they could take photos with us.

Most likely a good part of your day will be spent visiting tourist spots so bring some casual pants or outfits. A lot of women tourists wear light-weight linen-type loose pants. It is not appropriate for women to wear yoga pants or leggings without a long top or tunic over it. Wearing just leggings would look like you are wearing underclothing and also they would be too tight. I love the new harem-style pants, currently out that are tight at the bottom and loose everywhere else. These are appropriate and comfortable to wear during the day. One of the most versatile items I packed was a lightweight pair of hiking pants from Columbia. They dried fast, were super comfortable and didn’t wrinkle in my luggage. One exception would be if you were staying at a yoga retreat you could get away with yoga outfits. I did not see any women wearing shorts either, I didn’t see any men wearing shorts either.

Another question is what to wear at the hotel pool. The pool was pretty empty where we were staying but I think a one piece bathing suit is a reasonable garment to wear. I do want to visit Goa and other beaches in India on my next trip so I will have to research this further.

Super Cute Girl at the Taj Majal!

Super Cute Girl at the Taj Majal!

Luckily long skirts and maxi dresses are in this year! I ended up wearing both for the majority of the tour. These can be dressed up for nighttime or down for casual touring during the day. Because it is suggested that you cover up your shoulders, I do not suggest maxi dresses that have skinny straps or that are strapless. A sweater or cover-up sounds like a practical solution except that it is very hot in India. The temperatures range anywhere from 90’s to 105 during the tourist season. For the most part I wore short sleeve tops but I did bring a couple of chunky strap tank tops, more like sleeveless tops and wore them only twice. You definitely do not need a sweater during the hotter months. It was 100 degrees and sunny every day we were there in September. Instead of a sweater, a better solution is a light weight gauzy cover-up.

Village Outside of Jaipur

Village Outside of Jaipur

One fashion mistake I made was bringing a black skirt that had two long slits up the side. By day 5 I was starting to wonder if anyone cares or even notices what I am wearing, so I wore my H & M skirt with the slits on a detour to a small village outside of Jaipur, a woman pointed out the slits and motioned with her hand that they should be sewn together. It was more in a teasing tone as opposed to judgmental but still, I made sure to dress appropriately for the rest of the trip after the public shaming.

Don’t forget to pack a light-weight but versatile scarf to cover your shoulders if you wearing a tank top or if you are visiting a temple or a mosque. You probably will not need to cover your head but the scarf will come in handy if you are taking a rickshaw or walking around a lot as it can get quite dusty and hot. Shoes –everyone wears flip flops or sandals. Even at night unless you are going to a club dressy sandals or even casual ones were appropriate with dresses.

A Visit to the Taj Majal

A Visit to the Taj Majal

A few key factors to consider are temperature, culture, length of vacation and itinerary when packing for your trip. My friends from India suggested buying clothing when we got there, but before you rely on shopping abroad, I would review your itinerary to make sure you have time to do this. We arrived in Delhi late afternoon and after checking into the hotel and eating dinner, it was pretty late to venture out alone to purchase clothes.
Overall, I was happy that I packed a mix or comfortable but stylish clothes; we didn’t have time to shop until about day 4, which is when we did get a chance to buy some scarves and even a Sari. With some careful planning and packing your trip to India should be as amazing as ours!

Packed and Ready to Go!

Packed and Ready to Go!

Get Ready for a Wild Ride…Icelandic Style

Iceland is a land of extremes filled with hot geothermal springs, ice cut fjords and sub-glacial volcanoes.  What better way to tour Iceland’s natural beauty than by dog sled?

“Waiting at the top of the Mýrdallsjökull glacier was a team of ten anxiously waiting sled dogs. These tough but adorable dogs are purebred Greenlandic Huskies, Yann our dog musher told us.  Despite their tough exteriors these dogs are friendly and playful.  After playing with the dogs for awhile, we climbed onto the long white wooden sled.  Markus the second musher, warned us to sit as far back as possible and leave enough space in the front for them to stop the sled in case of emergency. Though I was not quite sure what that meant, I did as instructed.

My dreams of an energetic start failed to materialize. The dogs were off to a slow start. The lead dogs would trot a little then stop and look back at the mushers, as if to ask, ”What should we do?”

Markus ran up ahead to lead the dogs so they wouldn’t keep stopping and playing with each other.  Yann and Markus skijored (skied) alongside the sled calling out commands to the dogs. “Hike!” they shouted, to get them to run, “Haw!” they yelled to turn left, and “Gee!” to turn right.

 I was enjoying the ride as the dogs were trotting along now at a leisurely pace. Skijoring effortlessly alongside, the mushers were successfully controlling the team. All of the sudden the dogs took off and ran out of control at full speed.  I was surprised at this sudden change in speed. Yann yelled “Whoa! Whoa!” repeatedly, but they didn’t stop.  I was laughing hard but also was kind of scared that they would run off the side of the glacier!   All of the sudden Yann let go of the rope to avoid skiing wildly into our sled.”

Read my full article online at Dog Sledding Adventure Tours Near Reykjavik Iceland.

Sugar Skulls, Chocolate and Mezcal

Surrounded by dimly lit candles I kneel down beside an old grave to pay my respects, the site is marked with carefully placed bright orange Marigold flowers, candy offerings, and fruit. A young man leans in out of the darkness and offers me a shot of Mezcal in a plastic shot glass, I smile and accept. Salud!

 Normally I wouldn’t suggest drinking shots with a stranger at night in a cemetery but this isn’t just any cemetery; I am in the old section of the Xoxocotlan cemetery celebrating the Day of the Dead festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The carnival-like atmosphere is contagious at Xoxo (pronounced ho-ho)! The streets outside the cemetery are filled with live bands, vendors selling mexican favorites, sand art displays and costumed party-goers. I join in by ordering a massive foot-long tortilla stuffed with queso, grilled vegetables, beans and guacamole. To wash it down- I order a cervasa fria!

Every year during the period between October 31st -November 2nd, visitors and locals alike flock to Oaxaca Mexico to attend the colorful Dia de los Muertos festival.  The events range from lively parades (comparsa’s), construction of massive altars for the dead, shopping for decorations at the local markets, to of course the all-night graveyard vigil in xoxo cemetery.

Although this holiday emphasizes remembering and honoring the dead, don’t expect this to be a sad or somber event. This is a fun festive celebration meant to remember the dead, and also to invite them back into our lives once again before they sadly have to depart.

Giant altars for the deceased are constructed using traditional items (ofrendas) that the dead may have enjoyed while alive. Mezcal, cigarettes, chocolate, fruit, and candies are some of the items typically placed on the altar for the dead to enjoy.

Cempasuchitl or bright orange marigold flowers; coined flor de muerto or flower of the dead, can be seen on every altar and grave not to mention spilling out from many table and carts at the markets.   

Fragrant Copal incense is commonly burned in homes and businesses to welcome and purify the souls of the dead. 

Pan de muerto is placed on altars and also eaten during the week of and after the festival. Pan de muerto (bread for the dead) are big round loaves of freshly baked bread decorated with the faces of skulls or jesus and flower designs.

These colorful and delicious holiday treats are seen lining the shelves and stands of the local markets.

 For a delicious treat visit the Benito Juarez market, near the main square (zocalo) for a hot chocolate and a side of mini pan de muerto.  

Also at the market, you will find dozens of colorful and decorative sugar and chocolate skull candies.

These candies are meant to be placed on altars and graves rather than as snacks. They make great inexpensive souvenirs to take home for friends and family.  

Visit the  to 20 de Noviembre to watch the kids get ready for the kids parade. Most of the parades, live music, and activities take part in the main Zocalo.   

Locals gather in the main square to construct massive sand art displays that depict various scenes and images of Dia de los Muertos.  Vistors can join in the festivities or relax and watch from one of the surrounding cafes and restaurants that line the perimeter of the Zocalo. 

The most fascinating event is by far the all night vigil at the xoxo cemtery on October 31st.

To read my full travel guide for Oaxaca’s Dia de los Muertos festival- please visit my published article at: 

Sugar skulls, marigolds, and mezcal; a guide to navigating the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Read more at Suite101: A Guide to the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Pateis de Belem; an Old World Pastry Shop

Visiting Lisbon? Make sure to pick up some creamy custard tarts at Pateis de Belem. This old-world pastry shop has been serving up creamy custard tarts using their same original recipe since 1837.  Over 10,000 of these delicious tarts are served daily to an endless  line of both visiting and local customers. Even though this place gets packed, the line moves fairly quickly and there is plenty of seating in the rear of the cafe for guests

With so many delicious desserts to choose from  it’s hard to decide what to order. My suggestion-at least 3 creamy tarts and a café con leche. Their seasonal specialties such as such as Belem Marmalade  and Pumpkin Jam make  great souvenirs to take home.  Stop by the pastry viewing area to get an idea how many tarts are pumped out of their kitchen per hour. Literally thousands of  these traditional pastries are made daily on site.

Pateis de Belem is located in Lisbon’s portside district called Belem. The shop is located on Rue de Belem  just 20 minutes by bus or tram  from the city center.  

The store in open late every season to accomodate the hordes of hungry visitors. Winter hours are Monday through Sunday 8:00am to 11:00pm and Summer Monday through Sunday 8:00am to 12:00pm.  Definitely worth the trip!

 Don’t forget to get some to go…

Read the full story about Belem at:

Cruise Through the Floating Village of Chong Kneas

“Every visitor to Siem Reap Cambodia knows the star attraction is Angkor Wat. But after a few days of hiking through the jungle ruins you might need a break!  Just 30 minutes outside of the city is the floating village of Chong Kneas. Brightly colored house boats bob up and down on the choppy waters, small boats buzz back and forth carrying kids to their watery school, there is even a giant floating basketball court. With just a short 3o minute trip to the village you too can experience this floating water world that many Vietnamese and Cambodians call home.”

Floating Village

Floating Houseboats!


A visit to the village of Chong Kneas is a unique experience not to be missed. Along the way visitors will feel as though they have been transported to another world; farmers with oxen harvest the lush green rice paddy fields that dot the countryside and brightly colored stilt houses rise up from the farm land like rural skyscrapers.
This is not a tourist attraction, this is a real village that many Vietnamese and Cambodians call home. Unlike the average community we envision in the states though the residents live in the brightly colored houseboats that bob up and down on the choppy water and worship at the local floating catholic church or mosque. During the week children are sent to school by boat rather than bus to their house-boat school. After their lessons, the children get to play at the large floating basketball court, surrounded by netting so the ball doesn’t fall out into the water. All day motorboats buzz up and down the waterways carrying passengers to conduct their daily duties. Don’t be surprised if a rickety wooden boat flies up selling coconuts and other beverages to tourists.

Floating Basketball Court

Floating Basketball Court

The viewing deck from the floating restaurant offers a great panoramic view of the marine city from above. In the village is the Gecko Environment Center, where you  can learn about the conservation of the Tonle Sap River. The floating center offers information on the ecology of the waterways and the fishing industry and other facts about the village. Really the main attraction of Chong Kneas is the 1000 plus brightly colored houseboats that line the waterway. This fairly large community consists of a network of 8 villages that lie along the Tonle Sap water way, migrating with the rise and fall of the water levels. About 6,000 residents live in the villages, mainly of Khmer and Vietnamese origin.

Although It sounds charming, life on these waterways is hard. Inhabitants live mainly in wooden house boats, some of the more poor live in makeshift stilt houses you will see out on the shore. Don’t expect too much in terms of tourist attractions, this is a working village where people live.  One criticism of visiting the village is that the residents don’t profit too much from tourism, and there is a level of extreme poverty.  I did have mixed feelings about my visit.

Viewing Deck

Viewing Deck


Chong Kneas is about a 30 minute drive outside of the city. The paved road to the village passes through a number of rural villages made up of wooden shacks and brightly colored stilt houses. It is easily accessible by car, tuk-tuk, or arranged tour. It’s best to leave early for a visit as it gets extremely hot in the afternoon. There are a number of options available for getting to the floating village. Tuk-tuks or taxis are readily available to take visitors from Siem Reap to the boat docks. From there it is necessary to make arrangements at the marina for the two hour round trip boat ride. The price to hire a boat is usually $15.00-$20.00 USD.

Stilt Houses Cambodia

Stilt Houses Cambodia

Another option is to arrange for a private tour. As this is a half day excursion, it would be practical to combine this trip with another half day tour. For $75.00 per person, Peace Of Angkor Tours offers an air conditioned car with driver and a guide, private boat, and a half day trip to one of the outer areas of the Angkor Wat Complex. Check with them directly for current prices. Most hotels in Siem Reap are able to make arrangements for a tour as well.

A visit to Chong Kneas is an exciting opportunity to experience the culture and countryside of Cambodia. The colorful houseboats and floating village alone are worth the trip but getting out of Siem Reap and seeing the countryside and small villages is a unique experience in and of itself.

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