Pete & I had the pleasure of spending 9 amazing & enriching days at Vagabond Temple in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. We feel so blessed for the experiences we had there, and those experiences have followed us on our journey through Southeast Asia. We feel more spiritually connected, we have a deeper understanding of yoga and Buddhism, we were spoiled with delicious, homemade vegan food, and we felt (and still feel) part of the close & welcoming community that is Vagabond Temple.
So let's get into it! We arrived at the temple & were shown to our beautiful hut in the garden. They have many different kinds of accommodations: dorms, private rooms/bathrooms, and the garden huts that we stayed in (with shared bathroom). It was perfect for us!
Each day, there's a set schedule that's mandatory. I have to admit that I was worried at first when I read about the mandatory schedule for Pete's sake (see what I did there?), because he's not the typical practice-every-day kind of guy. Neither of us have a daily meditation practice that we commit to, either, so I wasn't sure how it would be. I didn't want Pete to feel forced to do things he didn't want to do. That wasn't our experience at all, however. The work we put in was well worth it & we were excited each morning to get the day started and to learn so many new things.
Daily Life at Vagabond Temple
The gong is struck 5 minutes before each event and 3 times in the morning for wake-up: at 6, at 6:30, & at 6:55 am. From 6 to 9 am, it's silent time, with the exception of the yoga teacher that guided us through morning meditation & yoga from 7 - 9 am. You are encouraged to engage in self-practice from 6:30 - 7 am. This might mean reading, journaling, meditation, or yoga. You're also advised not to use electronics during this time as the mind & spirit are most sensitive upon waking. I quite enjoyed the break from social media & from picking up my phone right away first thing in the morning. Do you pick your phone up right away upon waking? I'm sure I'm not the only one! You should give it a try & choose to meditate in the morning, even if it's just 5 - 10 minutes of silence. See how it affects you for the rest of the day.
There are many different kinds of yoga practiced at Vagabond Temple. While we were there, we enjoyed Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, Restorative, Kundalini & even an AcroYoga class taught by one of the guests that's also a teacher. I had the privilege of teaching three classes to the students. It was so fun!
After morning class, we enjoyed breakfast from 9 - 10 am. The food was amazing! It's all vegan & home-made. One of the dishes that's available sometimes (the food is different each day) is this yummy Tofu Scramble. Find the recipe here!
Ten - 11:15 am is morning circle where we meet newcomers and are assigned our Karma Yoga tasks for the day. Then we do the Karma Yoga. Tasks include anything from sweeping around the temple, watering the garden and plants, writing the "Quote of the Day", helping with dinner dishes, and more. Tasks are opportunities to give selflessly to the community and to be truly present in the moment. We were encouraged to not think about anything except what we were doing in that moment. It was very rewarding!
When you finish your Karma Yoga task, you get a break until 12 pm. Then it's time for my favorite part of the day: Dharma Talks! Students gather in a circle in the yoga room with either Kobi or Pazit (founders of Vagabond Temple) for an hour-long talk and meditation on Buddhism & yogic philosophy. Yes, please! I deepened my knowledge immensely and Pete loved it as well. We looked forward to it each day & talked about what we learned each night. Sometimes we would sit in meditation for 30 minutes straight during Dharma Talks, which terrified me at first, but was amazing after doing it a few times.
Following Dharma Yoga is lunchtime! Woo! Below is one of the meals that we had at the center: Delicious Dal (click here for the recipe).
Following lunch is free time until the afternoon. The common activity is to head down to the beach for some R&R. We did that most days (other days I took a much-needed nap). There's also a coffee shop nearby for those that need their caffeine fix (caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and animal products are strictly forbidden on site). Pete and I loved to head down and chill on the beach for a couple of hours.
What's break time without some yoga time? I couldn't resist!
At 4:30 pm, it's yoga time again. The afternoon session was usually more chill, being Kundalini or Yin. We learned some amazing and inspiring chants as well that we are still practicing after leaving the temple. We adore them! It's a great place to immerse yourself in meditation and chanting if it's something you've wanted to do before, and it definitely was for me. After yoga, it's dinner from 6 - 7 pm. 7 - 7:30 pm is evening meditation and then free time in the evenings. What a spiritual and fun-filled day!
One of my favorite ceremonies at Vagabond Temple was the Friday night Purification Ceremony. We chanted a cleansing chant that can be found in the video I posted. It included different hand gestures that Pazit taught us. We chanted for about 10 minutes or so. Then, Pazit lit incense for us all the take around the temple and our sleeping spaces to purify the energy that may have been trapped there from travelers past (or any negative energy that might have lingered around). I carry sage, palo santo & incense with me whenever I travel and always clear a space as we enter, so it's nice to have this chant as an extra way to clear the space. It's also great to purify the self and to attract abundance to one's life. Chanting it once a day even for a couple of minutes can create positive changes in your life. I recommend checking it out and trying it for yourself. There are four hand symbols that change each time the chant starts over, & are as follows:
- Bring both hands to the navel in prayer position with fingers pointed away from your body.
- Bring both arms to the chest area, one forearm on top of the other (left on top for females & right for males).
- Bring the right hand to the heart and the left arm up at a diagonal, palm face down.
- Bring both arms up to the sky, palms face one another (but not touching). For this one, bring the palms together for the "Har Har Har" part.
Being Bathed by a Monk
We had a surprise visitor come by the temple one of the days: a Buddhist monk. It was such a treat. We sat with him while he chanted and flicked water at us (it was awesome) and then we gathered around outside for a monk bath and blessing (see the first photo to see what I'm talking about). This was one of my favorite events at the temple and I'm so honored that we were there for it! You can see the video on my Facebook of him chanting here.
Saturday Otres Beach Night Market
On Saturday nights, the gate to the temple stays open until 11 pm (versus the usual 9:30 pm) so guests can go out if they want to. A group of us got a Tuk Tuk and went to the night market at Otres Beach. It was so much fun! There's live music and plenty of vendors to walk around and see. There's drinks served, amazing jewelry and apparel to buy, a live painting going on, and all around good vibes. This isn't the traditional Thai night market that we were expecting - this was something else all together. It felt more like an outdoor music festival! The icing on the (cup)cake was these adorable vegan cupcakes we found from a vegan stand called The Little Cabbage (they have a restaurant, too, but according to their Facebook page, they just shut down).
Sundays are rest day at Vagabond Temple. Nothing is mandatory (morning yoga and evening meditation are offered if people want to attend). The morning class was one of the classes that I taught and then Pete and I explored Sihanoukville for the rest of the day. It happened to fall on Valentine's Day so we had a lovely lunch to celebrate at a vegan restaurant called Dao of Life.
Dao of Life
Dao of Life is a delightful space that knows how to do vegan food and dessert well! We had a scrumptious lunch & some delicious drinks.
We spent the day on the beach lounging, relaxing, and doing some yoga, of course! It was a well-deserved break after all of the hard mental and physical work we invested over the last week. We arrived on a Sunday evening, so by the time the next Sunday rolled around, we were ready for the break!
The beaches that we visited in Sihanoukville were decent, though the ones that aren't maintained by a hotel are filled with rubbish and plastic. It's a sight that I'm sick of seeing. The town itself is filled with trash, just like Phnom Penh. It's clear that there isn't a recycling program in place, as many people burn plastic bottles on the side of the road, creating a toxic smell that fills the streets. Burning trash is now a smell that I can unfortunately recognize clearly, and burning plastic is even worse. There's a river that runs through the town and it's filled to the brim with garbage, which drains into the ocean. It looks like a toxic dump site. As we drove by on the way in from the bus station, I imagined what it must've looked like in times past, prior to the advent of disposable plastics. It probably ran clear with fresh water where people bathed and played. Now, it looks dangerous to be in.
We went back to Dao of Life for dessert in the evening because it was just so delicious! We're so glad we did. The "You Had Me at Peanut Butter" vegan ice cream is simply insane - I'm drooling right now just thinking about it. Take me back!
Visit Vagabond Temple
I hope you'll consider visiting the temple, as it was truly life-changing for both Pete and I. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the spiritual path, regardless of where you are on that path (many there had never practiced yoga or meditated before their visit, which is perfectly acceptable!). Only a willingness to learn and better yourself is required.
Join Vagabond Temple on social media! They're on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. You can e-mail them with any questions you may have (and please let them know Rima sent you!). Hope to see you at the temple and please share your experiences with me in the comments section below!