The first Local Hideaway I visit in Cambodia is a mere 45 minutes taxi drive from the border crossing at Had Lek, Thailand, followed by a short boat trip to our destination. For the next three nights, we’re staying at the Rainbow Ecolodge, where nature is still relatively unspoiled and time seems to have stood still….quietly, the Tatai River meanders through the beautiful scenery, where boats are the primary means of transportation and birds skim the water, looking for fresh fish. It reminds me a bit of Central America, although the local facial features contradict this image.

After mooring the boat, we follow the wooden decking to the Lodge, where we are welcomed by Steve. Together with his friend Elliott, he is the British co-owner of the Rainbow Lodge. He starts off by giving us our safety instructions (better to get this part over and done with ;-)): don’t venture off the decking, don’t wander off on your own….there are many poisonous snakes around here! Hmm, okay…. Now, my husband is someone who goes into enthusiastic Tarzan mode at the mere mention of possible snakes, asking what kinds there are and whether there’s  a chance of us spotting one, while, behind us, I notice our children turning slightly pale.

High time for lunch, for traveling makes you hungry and the distraction of food is what we need right now! The food is lovely and I’m particularly touched by the warmth and friendliness displayed by Vanna, the lady who works here. She immediately hits it off with my daughter, who is fascinated by her super cool flip-flop socks! In the meantime, Steve tells us all about the daily activities and we decide to sign up for a ‘medium trek’ through the jungle the next day and a mangrove forest tour the day after. Kayaks are available for resident guests and the river is safe for swimming. The food is included in the price of a room, which means that a lovely breakfast is served in the mornings, in the afternoon there’s an a-la-carte lunch and a three-course (buffet) dinner at night.

After the introductions and lunch, we are taken to our large and comfortable family lodge. No air-conditioning, which I think is a plus, but electric fans do the job perfectly and all the beds are equipped with mosquito nets. Time for a dip in the river and a refreshing beer. Sitting on the jetty, I contemplate my beautiful surroundings. That night we experience the delicious dinner which can even be accompanied by a nice glass of wine, for Steve and Elliot offer an extensive selection of lovely wines…..No deprivations here in the jungle!

Early next morning, Pirom and Worn guide us to the Tatai waterfalls, where we take a cooling dip in the water, after which we set off for a brisk walk to our next stop for lunch: a hidden arm of the river created a small lake where we can go swimming once again. Unfortunately, we don’t spot a lot of wildlife along the way, a teeny tiny snake, some leeches and a big fat spider are all we see (in addition to lots and lots of bamboo), but that doesn’t spoil the fun. Tired but satisfied we return to the Lodge, where Vanna has a surprise in store for us: flip-flop socks for my daughter and me….she’s such a sweetheart!

The mangrove forest tour the next day is another success. Pirom is our guide again today, and we encounter a jungle of aerial roots, bright blue kingfishers and some intriguing local life!

After three nights, the time has come to say goodbye to this wonderful place. Although the jungle here can’t be compared to Central America, it is beautiful and still relatively pristine. The Tatai River is enchanting and absolutely worth to explore by boat or kayak. A visit here will be a welcome variation in your journey through Cambodia and can even be combined easily with your trip through Thailand. And on top of that, the Rainbow Lodge is a splendid accommodation for an escape from the rat race in the West, without sacrificing comfort. But what makes it especially wonderful is the genuine kindness of the locals that work here….Vanna, Pirom and Worn, for instance. When I left, I said goodbye to three new friends! And what’s more, owing to Steve’s helpfulness, when we got home, my daughter was reunited with her ‘best’ friend- the stuffed bunny she had left behind in the Rainbow Lodge!