Siem Reap – Opening spirituality

I will be the first to admit I get incredible FOMO. Whether it’s for a party or a coffee date or an overseas adventure, my need to at least have the opportunity to be part of every experience has often kept me awake at night.

With almost five weeks set aside for my Vietnamese adventure, it didn’t take me long to decide that with this time that I wanted to explore some other country on this great continent. Why would I miss out on going somewhere else when I was so close!

Laos and Myanmar had both come across my radar in a big way, but in the end it came down to time that eventually lead me to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Flying in from Danang on a somewhat suspect miniature plane to Siem Reap, I was keen to discover the magic of Angkor Wat and the Khmer people.

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Rising the next morning, I rented myself a bike – a complimentary service at my hostel The Siem Reap Hostel – and set off round the city.

I’m going to give you a red hot tip here – carry small notes here. You will undoubtably get asked for donations round every corner and I wasn’t really prepared for that after Vietnam.

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Our suspect miniature plane
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Musicians at the temple within the Royal Gardens

Sights wise, there isn’t a lot to check out in Siem Reap itself. You will find the main Buddhist temple along the river, and the Royal Gardens, but it was also just nice to cycle along the rundown streets and take in the heat and the smells and the goings on around you.

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Do treat yourself to a $1 smoothie, you won’t regret it
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Mango and coconut smoothie, droooool

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The Buddhist temple itself is rather beautiful, its gilded structures shining in the summer heat. It also has some rather interesting sculptures in the park, which I’m assuming have context within the Buddhist scripture but left me quite puzzled.

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Making new friends

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The sculpture in question

The old market, in the centre of the city, draws a particularly large tourist contingent, selling all kinds of souvenirs, trinkets, as well as fresh meat and produce. After a quick whip around (these places have definitely lost their appeal for me), I treated myself to a $4 one-hour massage, which is a pretty standard price in this town.

The Siem Reap Hostel runs a whole range of activities, from guided tours to yoga classes and I was hoping to take part in the local food tour that ran over lunch. Alas, as I was the only person who signed up it didn’t go ahead, so I instead headed to the Australian-run cafe Sister Srey for a lunchtime indulgence.

This incredibly delicious cafe is also a social enterprise, training local Khmer students in hospitality, English, and a broad range of life skills so that they are able to make a positive impact on their community and their future. I can most certainly recommend the falafel bowl and the bliss bowl.

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Did I mention the food is incredibly delicious
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Mmmmm Australian coffee

The afternoon was spent lazing by the hostel pool, nursing a headache and catching up on podcasts (my new favourite pastime).

Keen to get moving again and stretch out this headache, I dragged my butt to the yoga class held on the 3rd floor of the hostel, lead by the delightful Emma, an Aussie expat who had recently made the big move to Siem Reap.

What was meant to be a simple stretch and meditation turned into one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. Moving through our flow, a nearby bell signalled the commencement of a cremation that was taking place right behind the hostel. There was something profoundly connected about taking part in an ancient practice, whilst smoke filled the air as a soul moved into the next life. There was a reassuring sense that all of the sadness and difficulties of recent times were all fleeting. Life moves on and that eventually it will move on for good.

Armed with our new sense of purpose, Emma and fellow yogi Anouk and I headed to Tuk Tuk Taco for some much needed sustenance. Siem Reap has definitely expanded under the influence of Australian expats for the better, cause let’s be honest, Cambodian food isn’t the best. Try the fish taco and the passionfruit margarita for a wonderfully flavoursome fill.

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Preparing for a 4am wakeup for sunrise at Angkor Wat, I was tucked in bed like a good girl by 10pm (not that it did me any good on the sleeping front (thanks jerk dormmates!).

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