You plan your next trip back to do it all over again!
We arrived here on Sunday, March 5th, and our personal tuk-tuk driver Poly took us to our retreat space. I knew this space would be unique and calm. I was not expecting it to be this artistic oasis with plenty of meditation spots, hammocks, mango trees with branches that provided a canopy from the Cambodian sun and bungalows with handmade mosaic floors. The owners have thought of every detail. Sweet touches of Buddhas, vases, flowers everywhere. The community table we ate all our homemade vegetarian meals, that are farm-to-table, is a complete mosaic table with adorable French dishes set inside.
After setting down our bags, we explored the Shalas where I would be leading Pilates class. The best way I can describe our room is a treehouse. Completely outdoors above the mango trees with a covered roof to protect us from the sun and in the rainy season the rain.
As our group arrived (we had 11 total) they got settled in their rooms, and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner of Cambodian style curry and rice. Getting to bed early to wake up for our first day of the retreat. We had Pilates class bright and early as the sun rose. Our first day filled with Pilates classes, a workshop to understand the Pilates mat better for a home practice, the Pilates teachers who joined us loved the deep dive. The retreaters Pilates experience ranged from less than a year to several years and a couple of teachers. Diving deep into Joseph Pilates “Return to Life” mat allowed everyone to develop a personal Pilates practice all their own. After a lovely lunch and lounging, we went out to a Pagoda (Buddhist temple) and met a young monk who blessed us. We did an outdoor standing mat class and then hopped on a boat to enjoy the sunset over the West Baray (a reservoir).
Not sure if it was the heat or the beauty but the Baray called us, and we had to jump in. Swimming in the West Baray was incredibly refreshing and while on a retreat so liberating. Here we are in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a place with incredible history and we are floating along as the sun sets on our first day.
Not sure how our second day could top the first but it did! After Pilates class, we got lots hammock time in and then off to the Temples. Our guide Pich is unlike any other. She grew up in Siem Reap and spends her days touring every temple. When she is not, she is giving food to the monks in her village and taking care of her elders, even ones that are not family. I say this because the people here in Siem Reap are the nicest people you will meet. They give more than they have.
Pich started us off at Prasat Kavan, a Temple built in the 10th century. I had not seen this Temple last year. In fact, there are so many Temples here in Angkor that I still have many, many more to see (hence why I am already planning the next trip). After Prasat went to Ta Prohm, also known as the Jungle Temple. This one is so Tomb Raider. Our guide took us in a back way so that we could see some of the buddhas they thought were missing. Eventually found under some stones that had fallen without their heads. Something you’ll learn about this place is that there are few Buddhas with their heads. Most stolen or destroyed.
After our tour through this place made for the covers of National Geographics, we took a long drive off the beaten path to visit Bantey Srey, the pink temple.
I try not to make trips like all tourists. Our retreats are meant to take you away from the routine and to also learn more than what you could from a few articles and some you-tube videos. So, Pich, our all-knowing guide took us off the main route, and we stopped at our driver’s village to see how they make sugar. It’s not at all how you expect it, and you’ll just have to join me next time to see how good sugar can be.
Then back on the bus to continue our adventure to the pink Temple. I cannot tell you how amazing this space is. Seriously, you will just have to see it for yourself.
Day 3 was spent diving deep into the last half of Joe’s Pilates exercises and then enjoying all that Siem Reap has to offer. There are many restaurants, shops, and museums to see. Our 4th day woke up early and went out to watch the sunrise above the center tower of Angkor Wat. This time of year is perfect for it to line up over the top tower. Pich, our guide, knew how to take the best pictures and then took us off to see Bayon and Praer Kahn before we went back to Angkor to see the inside. There are thousands of tourists at the Temples each day, and my guide knows when to go to what Temples so we can enjoy them all to ourselves.
My favorite Temple is Praer Khan. A very extraordinary woman lives there and takes care of the Temple. She was not there this trip so of course, I just have to come back. She is worth the trek through the jungle to meet her and receive a blessing.
After a day of touring, we enjoyed a sunset class together and then a group dinner at one of my favorite cafes, one that when I am in LA, I crave.
Our final day included a long mat class and a great farewell breakfast. As I write this, I am sad this retreat has come to an end. But, it’s not THE END. I am deep into planning my next retreats. To be first to know about the next Angkor trip message me here. Space is limited, so it is first to come first serve.
You also do not have to wait! This summer I will be in Ojai, CA. Instead of saying “I wish,” or “Someday,” just say “YES!” Saying yes means time for you away from the norm, from the walk of the same and it also means connecting with yourself and connecting to the world. It’s an exotic place out here. See you soon!