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Month Thirty Four of Digital Nomad Life was pretty much split in two – with the first half being spent still traveling on my solo trip in South East Asia, and the second half being back home in New Zealand.
I started the month with one more night in my beloved Kampot. Although my last day there was spent catching up on work and life admin, I did manage to get out of the hostel for breakfast and dinner with friends.
From Kampot, a place that I was very sad to leave, I caught a bus then a boat to Koh Rong Sanloem – the quieter of the two Koh Rong islands of Cambodia.
I met up with my friend Ryan and ended up staying at a very rustic eco resort next door to the flash (read: out of my price range) resort he was at.
I spent nearly a week on Koh Rong Sanloem and could have easily have stayed longer had my computer charger cable not broken, and if the weather was better. I really loved that island.
My last three nights in Cambodia were back on the mainland at Otres Beach, where I splurged on a modern bungalow with a pool, which was perfect for catching up on work, watching TV and exploring the beach and small village of Otres.
Then after three and a half weeks in Cambodia it was time to leave, back home to New Zealand.
I had planned to spend one night in Bangkok on the way home but ended up having to also spend 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur after missing my flight – something that was not my fault (see lowlights below).
And finally I was home.
The second half of the month has mostly been spent in Auckland, where I started working at the company I did a two month contract with when I was back a year ago: Southern Cross Health Society. I loved working for them the first time around and it has been great so far this time around as well.
It has been a busy time though as I had things I needed to plan for my wedding and for my US Fiancé Visa that I was putting off till I got home so it was a bit of a whirlwind. Luckily I have things a bit more under control now although I am still very busy, although I don’t feel like that’s necessarily a bad thing.
The last couple of days of the month I went to Hamilton for the weekend to stay with one of my closest friends and her beautiful family. It’s always a fun time when I stay with the Vercoes and this time was no exception, packed with a Farmer’s Market visit, a night of grapefruit gin and cards, and an awesome hike to the top of a mountain.
Month Thirty Four was a pretty great one.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries visited: Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand
- Cambodia: Kampot, Koh Rong Sanloem, Otres Beach
- New Zealand: Auckland, Hamilton, Ngaruawahia
- Thailand: Bangkok
- Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur
Islands visited: Koh Rong Sanloem
National Parks and Monuments visited: None this month
Best meal: It wasn’t the best month for food – I struggled to think of any one dish that really wowed me but I enjoyed the Eggs Benny from Espresso in Kampot, the bean burrito from Otres Night Market in Cambodia – it was nice to have good Mexican food again, and the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich from Miss Clawdy’s in Auckland – a new try for me that I really enjoyed.
Worst meal: Caesar Salad on Koh Rong Sanloem. It was drenched in dressing, had a weird and very strong fish paste on it, and the lettuce was wilted. Pretty sure this is what gave me food poisoning (see lowlights below)
Best craft beer: Montieths Radler. Not a craft beer as such, but craft style, this refreshing lemony beer is one of my go-tos in New Zealand.
- Lazy Beach trail on Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia 2.5 miles/4km return
- Hakarimata Summit Trail in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand 2.5 miles/4km return
Not a lot of hiking this month – it was too hot and rainy in Cambodia, and I have had so much else on my plate since being back in New Zealand.
Reading: After having a reading heavy couple of months, I have gone back to hardly reading anything this month – whoops. I am currently reading In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, which is pretty heavy. It’s about a noble family in Cambodia and their life after the Khmer Rouge took over. It’s really good so far.
Watching: Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not ashamed, I love Grey’s and binge watched it to catch up on the newest season – it was awesome. I also watched the third season of Love which I really enjoyed too.
Relaxing on Koh Rong Sanloem
Man, I loved Koh Rong Sanloem, even though it was by no means a perfect experience. I got food poisoning, it rained a lot and it was really expensive, but I loved it anyway.
The long strip of dreamy beach in Saracen Bay was one of the most beautiful I have seen – it reminded me of the pictures I have seen of the Whitsundays in Australia, all swirls of turquoise and white sand.
I got to hang out with three members of my Cambodian travel family, chilled in my treehouse, and read a lot. It is a place I will always remember.
My Eco Treehouse Paradise
There were good and bad things about staying in a rustic treehouse by myself for five nights but it was a pretty special experience overall so it’s going in the positives. It wasn’t exactly a treehouse, more a house on stilts perched on the side of a steep hill, but the Eco Lodge called it that and I was up in the treetops so I just went with it.
There was one wall that was completely open except for some mosquito netting, there were loads of gaps in the walls and the thatched roof which let some pretty interesting creatures in, including a massive line of red ants, giant geckos, scary looking spiders and millipedes. The power was only on for 3 hours per night and it was a pretty isolated spot in the jungle.
But I didn’t get scared, I generally really loved the peace and quiet, and I loved sitting on my porch looking out over the jungle. After nearly a week with only cold showers, worrying which critter would be in my room next, and struggling to get all my electronics charged in the short period of time the power was on, I was definitely ready for my luxury bungalow in Otres Beach, but I wouldn’t change anything about my time in the treehouse.
Splurging at Otres Beach
For the last few days of my Cambodia trip, knowing I was going back to a two month work contract in New Zealand, I decided to book a really nice bungalow with air con, a hot shower, cable TV and a pool – pure luxury after staying in the super rustic treehouse.
And I am so glad that I did it because it rained much of the time I was there so it was great to just hunker down and get shit done (and watch lots of movies). I definitely made sure to make use of the pool too though, in the brief interludes between rain showers.
Enjoying my Unexpected Day in Kuala Lumpur
I was so pissed off with the whole missing my flight thing and how it was dealt with by Air Asia, but it actually turned out to be OK in the end – because they put me up in a beautiful hotel and paid for all my meals until my late flight the next evening.
I even got a 9.30pm check out! I still had so much life admin and work stuff I needed to get sorted before starting my work contract so it was nice having my own private room to do it. The food at the Tune Hotel was really nice too and I loved the funky vibe of the hotel. I forgive you Air Asia, you came through for me in the end.
A Fun Night out in Auckland
I met a lovely Czech girl on the plane, she was my seat mate, and we became friends over our long trip from KL to Auckland. Dad picked me up from the airport and we dropped Magda off at her hostel, then I took her up to K Road the following evening for a couple of drinks. HA! It ended up being more than a couple.
It was such a fun night, like every night out at Eagle Bar is, with old skool tunes on the jukebox, lots of beer, and a good dancing session, followed by kebabs at Little Turkish Cafe. I think Magda enjoyed her introduction to New Zealand a lot.
Getting Back to Work at Southern Cross
Wow wouldn’t have thought that going back to work would be a highlight but here we are. I really enjoyed the people and the work environment when I last worked at Southern Cross so it was kind of like a homecoming to return, and it has been nice to be using my brain to its full capacity again, and to feel challenged.
Also, I am not a money focused person in the least but it is nice to be making some serious cash as we have a lot of expenses this year.
Finally Visiting a Cat Cafe in Auckland
I love kitties so when my first weekend back in Auckland was a rainy one I thought, Why don’t I check out the Cat Cafe? So I did, and it was great! I went to Barista Cats which is home to a bunch of older cats that are generally more difficult to find a home for.
There was a blind cat, a deaf cat, a tripod cat and cats with emotional issues due to mistreatment. They were beautiful and I loved my time there getting to know the different kitties, who all had such different personalities. I liked that my money was going towards giving these cats, many of whom have had a hard life, a loving home at the cosy Cat Cafe.
Hiking to the Hakarimata Summit
My first hike since being back in New Zealand, it felt good to be back in the New Zealand bush and to push myself to climb the many, many stairs to the Hakarimata Summit. Add to that the beautiful views over the Waikato river and countryside once we got to the top, and getting to spend time with one of my closest friends and two of her cutie kids, which rounded off a wonderful hike.
Finally Losing Some Weight
I have been trying to get my weight under control for a while now, something that I have found very hard to do when I am constantly traveling. I made a serious attempt to get healthy when I was back in New Zealand for two months a year ago, and for six weeks at the end of last year, but only lost a little, so I was very surprised that I shifted a fair amount of weight during my two months in Asia, when I wasn’t even trying.
Maybe it was the heat, the lack of processed food, moving around more than I thought I had – I really don’t know. I may not be able to lose any more weight in the next six weeks of being home, but I will try my hardest to at least keep what I lost off.
Bad Weather in Cambodia
The rainy season came early in Cambodia this year, much to my detriment. Half my time on Koh Rong Sanloem was marred with rain, which, along with being out of commission with food poisoning for a day, meant that I didn’t get to go to all the places I wanted to on the island.
Back on the mainland, it rained every day in Otres Beach which was a bummer but at least I got a lot of work done. I would love to go back to see more of the Cambodian coastline but I will be sure to visit in the dry season.
All the Plastic in the Ocean in Cambodia
Just like last month in Bali, I was shocked and disgusted by the amount of plastic I saw floating in the ocean on the way out to Koh Rong Sanloem. I was also grossed out by all the waste rivers flowing from resorts straight into the ocean where people swim.
I know that it isn’t fair to judge developing countries on their waste disposal by comparing it to the western world – but seeing all that rubbish and pollution just makes me feel sad for our planet and what we have done to it. Something has got to give.
I nearly got away with not getting sick the entire time I was in Asia but, alas, the food poisoning got me good on Koh Rong Sanloem. I started feeling sick around midnight and ended up not sleeping that night, with constant trips to the loo which was too far from my room. Oh, and it was my first night at the rustic lodge I was staying at and the dogs weren’t used to me yet so they barked and growled at me every time I needed to use the bathroom.
The nausea was bad and the whole experience was pretty hellish as I was also by myself. Luckily they moved me to a better room (the treehouse!) with a bathroom the next day and I had pretty much come right after 24 hours.
Missing my Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland
This one was such a cluster fuck. I was waiting for my flight from Bangkok to Auckland which was going via Kuala Lumpur and the Gold Coast, when I got a text saying my flight was going to be two hours late. This would mean I would miss my connecting flight in KL.
I went to the Air Asia Desk to find out what I should do about this but they insisted that I would arrive in time to catch my connecting flight because it turns out, they couldn’t comprehend the fact that KL is on a different time zone, meaning that I would arrive at the same time my flight was departing, not an hour before in Bangkok time.
After arguing with them for an hour I gave up and ended up in another line for another hour to sort my issue. In the end, I caught the flight to KL then had 24 hours to wait until the next flight to Auckland – but at least they put me up in a nice hotel.
The US Consulate website is not super clear and I ended up misunderstanding what they required from me before they could set my interview, which had me frantically rushing around trying to get everything together.
It has been two weeks now and I still haven’t been able to submit everything as I am waiting on documents Toby sent from the US, and my Australian police certificate. It feels like it will never happen at this stage. I’m going to have a lot of grey hairs after this excruciating process.
I spent more than I thought I would this month but that was mostly because of US visa related costs including two Police reports and passport photos, as well as my Macbook charger dying and a big splurge on clothes so I would look respectable for my office job.
I spent quite a lot on accommodation during my last ten days in Asia – after traveling with people for a couple of weeks, I needed time to catch up on work and I was craving some privacy so I splurged a bit on a bungalow in Otres Beach and accommodation was expensive on Koh Rong Sanloem too.
My accommodation for the last month broke down into 1 night in a hostel dorm, 1 night in a basic private room, 5 nights in a private treehouse, 3 nights in a private bungalow, 2 nights in hotels, 1 night on a plane, 17 nights with my Dad in Auckland, and one night at a friend’s in Hamilton.
Food and Drink $409.50
A pretty standard amount for me to spend on food and drinks for a month. Although generally food in Cambodia is cheap, it really wasn’t on Koh Rong Sanloem. Once I got back to New Zealand I didn’t spend much on food but I have spent a fair amount on alcohol, with two biggish nights out.
- 3 x Work tops $68
- Work trousers $14.50
- 2 x Work skirts $18
- Winter dress $68
- Tuktuks in Cambodia $12.50
- Bus and boat from Kampot to Koh Rong Sanloem $16
- Boat from Koh Rong Sanloem to Sihanoukville $10
- Bus from Otres Beach to Phnom Penh Airport $12
- Return bus from Auckland to Hamilton $26.50
- Cat Cafe entry $9.50
Website Costs $22
- One Year Domain Renewal $22
- Toiletries $25
- SIM cards and data $36
- Macbook Air Charger $45
- Passport Photos $29
- Haircut $3
- Laundry $10
- Australian Police Report for US Visa $32
- UK Police Report for US Visa $112
- Makeup $22.50
- Beeswax Eco Sandwich Wrap $11
What’s in Store for Next Month
The next month won’t be terribly exciting as I will be in New Zealand the whole time and working a full time job – at least it’s exciting for my bank account!
But seriously though, I am actually kind of looking forward to being in one place for a while, and I’ll be keeping busy with work, planning my wedding and applying for my visa so I don’t think I need to worry about getting bored.
I also have a few plans for weekends away including a couple of trips home to Papamoa to visit my Mum, and a long weekend in Napier to explore the area – a part of New Zealand that I haven’t spent a lot of time in.
I’m not looking forward to it getting colder though.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here