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Siem Reap Has Become Cambodia’s Wellness Capital

Wellness travel is at an all-time high in Siem Reap, Cambodia. As the gateway city to the ancient temple ruins, Siem Reap was already considered to be a spiritual hub, but in the last few years it has really emerged as a leading yoga destination too.

The city has a lot to offer as an alternative to the wellness scene in Bali or India, with yoga classes being just the tip of the iceberg. For anyone considering travel with a focus on wellness, the mind and body, this is how to do it in Siem Reap.

Where to stay

The lush tropical grounds of Navutu Dreams Resort and Wellness are tucked away on a quiet street, a 15-minute drive from Psar Char in Siem Reap’s busy town center. It is the only central resort in Siem Reap that manages to perfectly balance the demands of a boutique resort with a comprehensive wellness offering for the ultimate of Zen escapes.

Surrounded by farm land, local homes and small family run stores, the resort blends spirituality and escapism with the sights and sounds of the local landscape. On any given morning, you can hear traditional music playing in the distance, see the locals going about their daily lives just up the road, or even just wander out the front gates to see the local cows grazing on the corner opposite.

Behind the gates, the grounds are everything you would come to expect of a resort in tropical South East Asia. Thick greenery, wooden features, thatching and cobblestone walkways really set the scene, while the spacious private rooms and suites, three separate pools, the outdoor restaurant and the resort’s own yoga studio ensure maximum comfort and convenience for guests.

The locale and resort grounds offer something truly special, but it is the seemingly limitless menu of wellness experiences that really defines Navutu Dreams.

There are several different mind and body detox packages available to guests, and umpteen more individual experiences that can be added to beef up your detox. For the newbie on the detox scene, a three-day ‘mind detox’ with daily group yoga classes, a holistic healing session, a shiatsu session, two 60-minute massages and daily private meditation sessions is as good a place as any to start. For a more in-depth wellness experience, Navutu also offers seven-day traditional Chinese Medicine detoxes with meal plans, health assessments and tea sessions, or fitness based retreats that see you biking, running and canoeing through Siem Reap’s countryside and rivers.

If you are after a less structured experience at Navutu Dreams, singular yoga, meditation and wellness sessions can be booked at your leisure.

What to do

Religion in Cambodia has been as changeable as their rule, with the country fluctuating between Hindu and Buddhist beliefs throughout its history. Buddhism has been the Cambodian state religion since the 13th century with some 95% of Cambodians currently practicing it. There are many practicing wats in Siem Reap, and you can attend any of them to learn more about or get more involved in the Buddhist practices.

Wat Bo is one of the bigger and more well known ones in Siem Reap, and it is a great place to go and immerse yourself in the Buddhist religion. If you are lucky, there may even be a monk around willing to give you a traditional blessing to wish you luck, safe travels and a long life.

Of course, any trip to Siem Reap wouldn’t be complete without visiting the ancient temple ruins. For a quieter, more tranquil experience, ask your tuk tuk driver to take you to one of the many lesser frequented temples. You can even book a private sunrise Pranayama meditation session at Prasat Vat Athvea to get more in tune with the mind through Navutu Dreams.

Where to eat

Wholesome Photo: Vibe Cafe

For a relatively small city, Siem Reap has a sizable number of eateries that support the ‘mind-body’ ethos. The sister space of Phnom Penh’s 100% vegan Vibe Café is just a short walk from Psar Char. With a simple vision of good food and good vibes, the café sources all of their produce from local farmers and ethical suppliers, going organic and chemical free wherever possible.

Their plant based menu focuses largely on nourishing sweet and savoury bowls, raw desserts, elixirs, juices and teas, and has many gluten free, sugar free and raw options. If you want to get serious about your wellness, you can even head online and request a signature juice cleanse of six fresh fruit and vegetable juices per day for your requested number of days.

On the opposite side of the river on River Road is Peace Café; a sustainable social enterprise with a mission to nourish the body and soul of customers, as well as educate the Khmer people on sustainable practice. Their entirely vegetarian offering spans a number of western and Asian cuisines with a healthy portion of the menu catering to vegans as well. They serve up everything from fresh basil sauce pasta and inari sushi, to a Khmer vegetable amok and an array of freshly squeezed juices.

If you or someone you are travelling with can’t forgo meat entirely, then stop in for a meal at ARTillery. The gallery and café space has a great selection of vegetarian and vegan food, as well as dishes containing responsibly sourced meat proteins (mainly chicken and salmon). They also limit common allergens like gluten, soy, milk, eggs, peanuts and shellfish on the menu, aiding the reduction of inflammation and helping the body’s detoxifying process even further.

Published 09 July, 2018