I had good vibes on my ride to the Angkor Zen Gardens yoga retreat, in a tiny village 3km outside of Siem Reap. As you arrive, all you can hear is the chanting of monks, melodious chimes of bells and birdsong.The retreat is owned by a french guy Bruno and his khmer wife Resa. The vibe is so positive, they grow loads of their food themselves and employ local people in the kitchen and gardens. The food, all vegetarian, has been phenomenal.
I met the lovely Nina at the retreat. She's from Switzerland and again a super wise head on young shoulders with all the joie de vivre and inquisitiveness and confidence I wish I'd had at 22. We've giggled at how rubbish we are at meditation and how neither of us can jump our feet forward from downward dog. It's harder than it sounds, honest. We have basically been the only two at the retreat which has made it really special.
The yoga has been amazing; taught by two great teachers, James and Vanille. Four sessions a day, and new stuff I've never tried of which my favourite by far has been acro yoga. Acrobatics and yoga, sitting on someone's upside down feet and flying like a tantric superhero. So much fun.
Wish I could say the same for the meditation. Two 45 minute sessions a day. Unguided. That's a long time. Wow I'm bad at it. And the cats keep trying to distract you by sitting on your knee. Practice rachel, practice.
Bruno runs the meditation and is also a trained reiki healer. Reiki healing is channelling universal energy through the healer into the patient. I know, I know it sounds pretty quack right? I'm a sceptic about these things for the most part. But I opened my mind and it was so interesting. We had a session yesterday and I almost immediately felt an intense flow of energy through my hands and feet and as he passed his hands over me I had some very powerful emotions and sensations. I had been pretty sick the whole day I had the treatment, I hadn't eaten anything at all and felt drained. After the session Bruno asked how I was feeling with a smile on his face as he's affected by the same energy he's channeling to me. I felt so happy and positive. And not ill anymore. It had gone completely. It's a really weird practice but my interest has been peaked.
After four blissful days practicing yoga, playing with their pet dogs and swimming in the pool, I left this morning to visit some of the angkor temples.You don't need me to tell you about how amazing the angkor temples are. The site is HUGE. So many temples, all of them different. My favourite today has been Bayon which has loads of smiling faces beaming at you from the stone. As you walk around you just can't believe that these temples have survived for so long, almost a thousand years. Many of them are now integrated with nature, with trees bursting through the stone. The birds sing and it's like a film set. Indeed, tomb raider was filmed at one of the sites.
As amazing as the actual Angkor Wat temple is, I can't help but feel that it may overshadow other Asian temples. I remember being far more impressed with Borobodour and Prambanan in Indonesia. But maybe that's just because of the hype Angkor gets. Controversial, I know.
Word to the wise: don't tramp around temples post a 5.30 am meditation wake up, having not really eaten anything for the past two days in the cambodian sun. So exhausted. Oh yeah and don't wear flip flops.
Tonight Nina and I went to watch the Cambodian circus. It put our acro yoga to shame let's put it that way. So impressive. They acrobats are all trained by an NGO in Battambang and most come from impoverished backgrounds. Such a positive and breath holding experience.
A few more temples tomorrow then Battambang. But first, sleep zzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzz.