Apr 9, 2016
19 days in Siem Reap...Thank you and Goodbye
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
This being my third time in Siem Reap, having gone to see the temple systems in my previous visits, I was not in tourist-mode. I didn't bother to see any of the temples or any tourist attractions. Simply put, Siem Reap was another place where I can live my life until my visa expires. Most backpackers do the tour offerings in the daytime and get hammered at night on the bars. I, on the other hand, have to work as I travel. Half the time, I'm just on my laptop doing online stuff. Drinking isn't my cup of tea either. A leisurely walk around the busy Pub Street or Night Market and I'd be happy to cap the day. As long as the day is productive, I'm happy. Simple life. But every now and then, something interesting happens.
As a lone traveler, I am free to interact with anyone I come across. I'm glad Risa, a Japanese I met in my previous visit decided to stay in Siem Reap. We spent some time catching up and even saw the circus together. At Angkor Zen, I met some of the staff who have become friends - Marc, Joy, Katia and Tammy. I also spent quality time with some guests, Anna and Aisley, where we spent dinner together on a roof deck and shared little bits about ourselves. I've had the privilege to meet evolved people who inspired me - Pohin, the hotel owner who pushes his learning to be better for himself, his family and community, Marc who shared his Tai Chi philosophy with me and Craig, the visionary marketing man for Phare Circus. People, specially fellow travellers, are fleeting company - friendships can have a 24-hour shelf life. Of course there were the countless people I had brief Hellos in my day-to-day. Some will become a blur through time, and I'm sure others will be reinforced, with a little help from Facebook. That's part of the peoplescape.
Perhaps the reason I stayed in Siem Reap for the entire duration of my visa was also because of abundance. Through my web deals, I was able to secure my lodging for nearly all my days, availed daily yoga practice and even got to see a circus show and attend a full day of yoga retreat. My only expense was practically on the $1/day bike rental and food. Since I eat where the locals eat, I get authentic Khmer food without spending too much. Can't complain to any of that. Life has been good and generous. I am always grateful and willing to give back on every turn as well.
Biking About Town
I rented a bike daily for $1/day and it took me places. I can't say enough about being on a bicycle in Siem Reap. You simply cover a lot of ground to discover nice little niches and off the grid interesting spots. You can even ride the 30-km loop to get to the temple systems like I did in 2014. If I had stayed much longer, I would buy a beat up bike, condition it, and sell it when I leave.
Nice Little Deals
As a guy who looks for the biggest bang for my buck, I get to discover little deals that give great value. One such is Temple Cafe. It's a high-end cafe but offer an easy price point for guys like me. On certain days, a Frappe is only $1.50. After 6pm, all pastries, cookies and bread are 50% off. From 7am to 9am, you can get a soup breakfast for as little as $1.50. Not bad at all for a plush cafe. At Banana Leaf, if you order a beer before 7pm, you get it for $.50/glass and at 7pm, live music happens and beer goes up $2 - but you're still drinking your $.50 beer. At Malis, an intimidating high-zoot resto, where you might think coffee starts at $20, you'd be amazed you can enjoy a cuppa for only $1.50 (breakfast price). A rice topping meal can go as little as $3.30. Little things like that. Of course if you want to blow money on a meal, there are also restos charging $100 on a dish.
Nearly all my 19 days in Siem Reap was supplemented by yoga with Thomas of Ahimsa Yoga Academy. I got a sense he wanted to get back into optimum shape with his yoga as well, so he invited me to do hard yoga with him in the afternoon daily. We would do breath holds on a challenging asana for up to 10 breaths (like a Chaturanga), do a kriya 20x times (like from squat to Tadasana) and add advanced poses into our Surya Namaskars and repeat the cycle with no rest. At the end of the hour, we would be drenched in our sweat. Those yoga days gave me added strength and endurance.
Marc, the manager of Angkor Zen and long-time Tai Chi practitioner offered to teach me Tai Chi. I couldn't say no to that. I came over and spent the next hour doing the moves with him. Just like Bro. Sinh, the monk who taught me Tai Chi at Thai Plum Village, Marc moved with cat-like grace and suave. Moreover, and this is what appealed more to me, he transcended the mechanical moves and went into the concept and philosophy of Tai-Chi. He underscored that it wasn't the body making the moves but the vertically aligned spine moving through space. With that paradigm, the whole stance took new meaning. He also talked about the 8 directions you could take - each direction offering limitless life possibilities. As he takes on one direction, he establishes harmony with the space and plants the intention. Having planted the seed, the universe takes over in manifesting that into reality. If it happens, well and good. If not, it wasn't for him. But the due diligence has been exercised. Again, he echoed what I have long held about the universe and the natural laws. He also stressed the interplay between the yang and the yin. On one thrust, the body goes yang, but on shifting body weight to the back foot, the body goes yin, completely relaxed while the spine stands erect, almost single-handedly propping the body up.
A few days prior to my departure, when my head was all psyched-up for Thailand, a yoga retreat resort offered a job - one month teaching yoga, inclusive of board, lodging and stipend. That was a dream job for me! All I had to do was pursue it. But it came a little too late. At that point, my headspace was no longer in Siem Reap. It didn't excite me anymore. It wasn't the security of a roof over my head or continued stay. The moment has come and gone. I wish the offer came at the outset rather than later.
The Wooden Elephant Puzzle
Early in the morning as I was walking along the Old Market, a cute wooden elephant 3D jigsaw puzzle caught my attention. I asked for the price and the vendor said $5. I said thank you and began to walk away. She called and said I was to be her first morning sale, and that it would be bad luck for her not to make the sale. To entice me, she lowered it down to $4. I said no thank you and resumed my walk. She called me again and said it was important for her not to lose her first morning sale. So she lowered it down further to $3. I was interested, but really, what use do I have for a wooden elephant? So I politely said no thank you and started to walk away. She said she was willing to forego her profit just not to lose her first morning sale, so she gave me a price I couldn't refuse - $2. At that point, I realized she really had to make the sale otherwise she would be tortured about the impending bad luck that would befall her. I bought it. What to do with a wooden elephant? Fast forward to Chiang Mai and you'll find out what I did with it.
I was busy. Altogether, I was developing a Wordpress website for a resort in Palawan, coming up with fresh content for a hotel in Siem Reap, keeping up with my blogs and finding time to be with people as well. Meals would take on a new spin as I bike around in search of local food that interest me.
In Asia, Blues music is hard to come by. It's not mainstream and you have to do some detective work to nail down where the Blues bands play. As luck would have it, as I was walking around town one night, I heard live blues being played. I followed the sound and it brought me to the roofdeck of a building to X Bar where the Soul Gypsies play. Band singer and guitarist is Lance, an American, with Cesar on drums and a lady on keyboards. On one occasion, 2 accomplished harmonica players joined them on stage and lashed out some real serious Blues. I was a kid lost in a toy store!
Siem Reap was a nurturing home for me...at least during this visit. I accomplished a lot, stayed an entire 19 days with my basic needs being looked after, and got by without spending too much. I deepened my yoga practice and met interesting people who added color and dimension to my journey. Life is good. I believe this is something you work on. Abundance like this doesn't just happen randomly. With my heart in the right place, being open to possibilities and giving as much as I receive, the universe looks after my well-being.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap Cost Index (US$1 = Riel 4049 = Php 46.47 as of Mar 26, 2016)
- $2.00 haircut (they'll price you at $3 but local price is only $2)
- $0.50 one mug draft beer
- $0.50 1.5 liter drinking water
- $4.00 one hour massage
- $2.00 muesli breakfast
- $0.50-1.50 coffee
- $2.00 pad thai
- $1.00 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- $0.25 sugar cane juice in a plastic cup
- $0.50 fresh coconut
- $5.00/day single fan rooms
- $4.00/day dorm lodging at Garden Village Guesthouse
- $18.00 starting price for Phare circus
- $1.00/kilo laundry
- $1.00 regular tuk-tuk ride around town
- $15.00 tuk-tuk ride for a short tour of Angkor Wat
- $20.00 Angkor Wat admission fee
- $8.00 1-hour drop-in yoga session
- $5.00 Alibaba pants (asking price is usually $8 but they'll go down to $5)
- take a tuk-tuk at the airport to the town center, $5/trip (you can split the cost with other passengers from your plane), 10 min
- no need to convert your dollars into riel. All establishments in Cambodia accept US dollars.
(Apr 11, 2016) Gigit, wishing you all the best in your next destination. I'm pretty sure the universe will keep making of your trip an extraordinary adventure in abundance of the each ingredient at the perfect time, that's the magic frequency resonating within you. Namaste!
(Apr 12, 2016) I love the pants
Apr 9, 2016
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