Most known for its ancient temples, Cambodia is becoming a popular destination for backpackers and travelers in search of adventure and history. While it’s definitely worth visiting the famous Angkor Wat temples – the most notable legacy of the 13th century Khmer Empire – there’s also a growing health and wellness scene in this charming, humble country. Whether it’s yoga, luxury spa treatments, khmer boxing, circuit training, or even meditation retreats, Cambodia is a wonderful destination for those seeking an exotic, health conscious getaway.
Angkor Wat Temple Tips:
If you, along with every other tourist, are planning on visiting Angkor Wat here are my tips on making the most of your time and how to best handle the somewhat challenging conditions.
1 – Take the Sunrise Tour.
Yes, you have to wake up very early to get there in time. Yes, it’s absolutely worth it. While there’s still flocks of people crowding to get that “perfect shot” of the temple over the water at sunrise, I’ve heard it is considerably less crowded then going for the sunset shot. I booked mine with my hostel, but there’s tuk tuk drivers offering them left and right. I liked that the one I booked included water and snacks and a guide that went inside with us to explain the history – the one’s with tuk tuk drivers just sit outside and wait for you.
2 – Dress for Success.
Expect to spend a majority of your day walking, standing, or climbing stairs. Wear comfortable sandals (sneakers are fine but it’s very hot so choose accordingly). Light and loose-fitting clothing is recommended, with a special note to the ladies to cover their shoulders and knees out of respect for the temples. You will be turned away if your clothing is not appropriate – I saw it happen. I personally wore flowy pants (a dress can cause chafing sometimes), a moisture wicking sports bra, a light colored kimono wrap to cover my shoulders for the temple, and Birkenstock sandals that could handle a long day of walking without cooking my feet.
3 – Hydrate, Stretch, Repeat.
As mentioned above, this day will entail a lot of walking in the hot sun. To avoid feeling sluggish and experiencing muscle cramps, plan on over hydrating to compensate for the excessive sweating that will occur. To avoid lower back pain from standing all day or tight lower body muscles, stretch frequently throughout the day! Anytime our guide stopped us to explain something, I’d use it as an opportunity to stretch my hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and do spinal twists. You might warrant some looks and you might have some people join you because then they realize their body is aching. Both scenarios are entertaining in my opinion.
Where to Work Out:
Ahimsa Yoga Academy – beautiful space to practice yoga as well as other healing modalities such as tai chi and qi gong
Yoga Space – practice yoga in this intimate, outdoor balcony space outside of a salon with community events and many classes offered throughout the day. The owners of this space employ women at the salon who come from difficult hardships and empower them.
Khun Khmer Boxing – Kingdom Fight Gym – worth checking out if you want something high-intensity, authentic, and local.
Rolok Fitness – group and private sessions in circuit training, boxing, and yoga
Angkor Inter Fitness – a no-frills gym with a very affordable $3 USD drop in rate for doing your own workout with all the equipment you need.
How to Eat Healthy (and still try the local Khmer food of Cambodia) :
Personally, when I’m in hot weather, I tend to eat less because the heat reduces my appetite and all I want is water. I also got food poisoning at my retreat a couple days prior in Phnom Penh so my stomach was still a little sensitive to heavy meals and red meat.
This was my typical diet in Siem Reap:
Breakfast: if not fasting with black coffee or green tea, I would typically order 2-3 eggs soft boiled with avocado. I added bacon a couple times as a treat. I always make sure my first meal is high in protein and healthy fats to keep me full and regulate my insulin levels for the rest of the day.
Lunch/Dinner: I would incorporate as much fiber as possible with fresh (not fried) spring rolls, a salad or cooked veggies, or a traditional Khmer dish such as Lok Lak – definitely worth trying!
The Best Spots to Eat Healthy in Siem Reap:
If you haven’t visited Siem Reap (or Cambodia) before, this magical city is definitely worth adding to your list.