I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was searching for another yoga retreat after my eat, pray, love stint in Bali. With the help of Google, I was able to scour hundreds of sites and eventually found a retreat center in Cambodia that seemed authentic and affordable. I have found the Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat, and this started my journey.
I immediately bought a ticket to Siem Reap, applied my leave and left Singapore. I thought I had it all figured out. After my very lavish, very expensive 3-day retreat in Bali, I really did not know what to expect in Siem Reap – a place I have never been, a country that was never really on top of my bucket list.
I arrived at the center with an open heart, an open mind. It is located in a sleepy village deep in the rural area of Siem Reap where life was simple and you live among the locals. I was shown to our shared dorm which is basically a big hut with six beds with a huge mosquito net and thankfully, a nicely tiled floor. The toilets and showers were shared which was not really a problem. The center itself is big with its own yoga and meditation pavilion, a small dipping pool, pockets of green areas, a massage and spa area, the common dining area, a small book corner and lots and lots of hammocks.
The schedule itself was stringent in the sense that you will be summoned through the ringing of the gong for yoga practice which was about twice to thrice a day, all the meal times and the meditation sessions in between. Everyone is required to be on digital detox – which was life changing. It just sets you free. There are also optional activities and programs to participate in during your free time. I went for the Yoga Massage workshop and the Hidden Temple Yoga Tour which were both awesome.
The Hidden Temple Yoga tour brought us to a clearing by the jungle which was right beside the oldest temple ruins in Cambodia, not the Angkor Wat by the way. After the practice, we had an amazing picnic lunch with the best home cooked food I have ever tasted. It was just unbelievable.
The yoga practice are not like the ones in the city which was more of an exercise than what actual yoga really is. There are no mirrors around to add up to your anxiety – just yourself and the rest of the people whose only focus is self-awareness and being in the now. The teachers are really friendly and approachable – everyone was just real and unpretentious.
The meditation sessions with Joel are just so unbelievable – it takes a while to really settle in and be at the present moment. But just the thought of you giving yourself this time to just be and meditate, is a reward on its own.
Don’t even get me started with the food. We were all on vegetarian diet that entire week. I am a carnivore, I love my steak – but that week was just amazing. It was the best cooking I have ever had. I have travelled to a lot of places and dined at a lot of fine dining restaurants – but those meals I had there were just so real and heartwarming. I would go back to that place if only for the food.
The part I love the most was just being there. Although I was very troubled with all my personal problems, at that moment – during that week, I was at the most peaceful place and at my most peaceful state. It was life-changing just being able to have idle time to yourself, lounging by the pool and falling asleep in the hammock with a book on your lap. I wrote a lot during my stay there – I had all my emotions going and all my creativity flowing. It was as if it unblocked a part of my mind that wanted to let go, and so, I just let go.
I encourage all of you – and it doesn’t matter whether you do yoga or not at all, whether you are in search of something or you’ve found it all – make a trip to Siem Reap and go for this yoga retreat, I guarantee you that you will not regret it, at all. Do it for yourself.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a message and I would be happy to help. Meanwhile, if you want to find out more – read about Hariharalaya here.
Photo credits : Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Center