Taking a yoga retreat had been on my bucket list for a long time and I was finally able to fulfill it in December 2019. The whole trip itself and the retreat specifically was so amazing and memorable that I’ve got an urge to document and share it. Started writing this post several months ago but my procrastination monster has been keeping me from finishing it until now.
BEFORE THE TRIP
December 2019 was an eventful month. Just a few days before my retreat, I lost one of my dearest friends to a brain tumor and her death was unexpected. She was gone at the age of 32, leaving behind her almost-3-year-old son, a loving husband, and supportive family.
We met at an English class more than 10 years ago, got along quickly thanks to our common interest (the English language) and we had always been very good friends since then. Despite our long-distance (she was living in a city in Central Vietnam and I’m in HCMC), we managed to maintain our friendship by messages and calls. We talked about our projects, plans, and shared many other dreams. The last time I talked to her on the phone was October 2019. The construction of her new house (and also her English center) was just completed and she was planning to open new classes along with organizing activities to help her students improve their English. She had so many exciting plans and I could imagine the sparks in her eyes when she talked about them. I was so happy for her….
Then that happened out of nowhere. I was stunned, speechless, and deeply saddened by the news. This heartbreakingly painful event left me questions: “Why her? Why now? She still has a lot to do. Why don’t things go as planned? Should I continue to make plans anymore?” (I am very much into planning and I love following my plans).
Needless to say, I came to Siem Reap with a heavy heart. Despite trying to keep my spirits up, the sense of loss was still hanging in the air. However, throughout my adventure, I eventually found the peace I needed and discovered a bunch of joys and feelings that I didn’t expect…
Solo travel was an alien concept to me a few years back. Never did I imagine I would go to a place by myself and enjoy that. But guess what? I’m totally in love with solo trips now. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on ourselves, embrace our freedom, nurture our creative souls, make new friends and so much more. I would encourage you to take solo trips (of course with good preparation and caution) at least once in your life.
I planned to spend 1 day in Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat then have a relaxing time at the yoga retreat Hariharalaya.
The hotel staff was very helpful in arranging a tuk-tuk driver for my afternoon visit to the Angkor Wat. All packed and awake from a quick nap, I excitedly jumped on the tuk-tuk, ready for the new adventure.
For your information, the price for a single day pass to Angkor Wat was 37$ (updated in Dec 2019)
Some highlights I want to share on the 1st day – The Angkor Wat day:
THE JOURNEY IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE DESTINATION
Does this sound familiar? I bet you heard or read this quote from some resources at least once in your life. I did. More than once. But I hadn’t fully understood its whole meaning until taking that 30-min tuk-tuk drive to the Angkor Wat. It was a pleasant afternoon as the weather was perfect for expeditions: sunny and breezy. I got myself a macchiato – my favorite drink & a bag of crab crackers to snack on the way. Moving away from downtown, the view got more pleasing as we went down the avenue with rows of trees lined on both sides. I took a deep breath in, ecstatically enjoying a gentle touch of a breeze on my face when a sense of power arose. “This is all I need” – I thought. And I guess that’s the moment when this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh makes complete sense: “Life is available only in the present moment”.
AT ANGKOR WAT – THE RUINS WHICH CONNECT THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Just a brief introduction: Angkor Wat was originally built in the 1st half of the 12th century to worship the Hindu god Vishnu. You can also easily recognize this symbolic temple on Cambodia’s flag. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage in 1992 and today welcomes more than 50,000 visitors each year. You can learn more about the historical site here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/angkor/
As a yoga practitioner, I have developed some growing interest in Hinduism and am quite fascinated by the Ramayana tale. Coincidentally, I chose to travel to places that were/are influenced heavily by Hinduism and heard the story a few times. I find it fascinating that this religion could spread widely to different regions in South East Asia regardless of the language barrier. When you get to the West gallery of Angkor Wat, take a closer look at the sophisticatedly carved wall and you will see the Battle of Lanka carving – the fight between an army of monkeys and an army of demons. You can check this blog for more information: https://coupletraveltales.com/2018/07/14/legends-and-must-see-carvings-of-angkor-wat-temple/
More photos of my trip:
COUCHSURFING – SOLO TRAVEL DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE ALWAYS ALONE
I met my new friend, Giuliano, an Italian artist, in Siem Reap. Despite the huge height difference (he’s like 1.9 something meters while I am only 1.57 meters), we made a fun duo and enjoyed each other’s company. The guy is a true artist who plays music beautifully and creates delightful pieces of art. I didn’t take any pictures together but the details of the evening are still very vivid on my mind. He even played me his favorite song “Just the way you are” by Billy Joel. You can check out the song here:
And this is the bar where Giuliano plays music:
“It’s the friends we meet along the away that help us appreciate the journey”