So I thought it would be a good shout to write a little blog post about the town I’ve been living in over the past few months and what I’ve been up to.
Cambodia was always on the list of places that I was going to visit on this trip. I came here briefly in 2013, visiting Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. At that time it still wasn't on the majority of "backpacker routes" and at risk of sounding holier than thou, it was relatively un touched. A beautiful country with a grim past, stunning temples and a slower pace of life that I envied.
Banteay Srey was on on the agenda and was the main reason why I came to Kampot. This is a fabulous social enterprise that empowers Khmer women by giving them vocational skills and also the space to learn English. And to be completely honest, you'll struggle to find better spa treatments anywhere else in Cambodia. I've been teaching yoga to guests and trainees, working on social media and marketing and also giving their "yoga outreach" project some love - so teaching yoga to Khmer staff (and sharing this with our Khmer yoga teacher) at other businesses in the area. In particular, an ethical clothing brand called Dorsu.
As my friend Madison put it, it takes a few days for you to actually get Kampot and what it’s about. When the bus initial pulled over outside the Giant Ibis travel agent, with the Durian Roundabout looming in the background, my heart sunk. The place looked like a grubby hole. A grubby hole where I was going to be spending the next couple of months… What on Earth have I done. In my head I’d imagined tango orange dirt roads, lush green jungle, the river running though… Almost the Khmer Dordogne (a few kilometres out of town IT IS like this!). I would hire or purchase a pale blue dutch bike to get myself around town, perhaps with a little basket… Etc etc etc. Oh the stories we make up in our heads! And alas, here I was with the reality being grey buildings, a busy road and a roundabout with a giant statue of a fruit that smells like death (Durian).
And of course, after a couple of days here - I had fallen in love with the place. I love the fact that it was a little rough around the edges. I had a pal who I'd met whilst volunteering at Soi Dog staying at the place next door to me, another friend who I'd met in Chiang Mai back in December who was also volunteering at Banteay Srey. So I was incredibly lucky to have friends here from the offset. I was staying right on the river, waking up and eating breakfast with a ridiculous view - the morning routine of dreams. On my evenings where I wasn't teaching, I'd walk over the bridge and sit on a bench (or at one of the noodle houses) to watch the sun set over the river and glowing orange behind the mountain.
And food! So much food! Of course you can buy food very cheaply from street food vendors or from the market - some basic Khmer phrases works well for this! On top of this, if you want to have a break from Asian eats; you can get your mitts on Italian, burritos, and various places that cater specifically for vegans and vegetarians (Deva Cafe and Simple Things to name a few).
If you're bored of stuffing your face or massages, getting a tuk tuk out to one of the pepper plantations is a morning/ afternoon well spent. Or if you feel like your arms need toning, hiring a canoe or kayak and paddling down the river is bloody beautiful... Top tip, suncream and rehydration salts are your friends - there's not a lot of shade.
After almost three months staying in Kampot something began to click. The realisation when we travel to a new place an experience a culture, we are only really scratching the surface. We can never really understand a place after being somewhere for a few days or weeks - even after being here for a few months, I still feel like I’ve experienced such a tiny part of something much bigger.
Being here has given me space to think and I feel like I’ve mellowed and grown up at the same time. All experiences and encounters positive and negative have contributed to me growing as a person - and as a yoga teacher as well. I’ve finally allowed myself to simply be, to slow down, to relax without any guilt. Hours spent in a hammock reading a book or just watching the world go by. Something that seemed like such a luxury before has gradually become the norm.