I am delighted to introduce my first guest post, The wonderful Louise of everylittlebreaze is making me very jealous with her current travel tales in South east Asia and has very kindly written about her visit to the Banteay Srey Project . in Cambodia.
Banteay Srey Project
Hey! I’m Louise, a Beauty therapist from a small town near Liverpool in the UK. I currently work in a spa in Spain for 6 months a year and save as much as I can to do some travelling for the other 6 months. Right now I’m in Thailand, on the beach with my boyfriend, living the dream. We left in November and so far we’ve been to Amsterdam and around Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. We’re off to Bali in a few days (For the rainy season, dammit!) We’re extremely lucky and very grateful but we’ve worked pretty hard to be able to live this life.
I’m a sucker for a beach day and my boyfriend is a surfer, so most of our destinations have been on the coast. We’ve done a lot of moving around and believe it or not, it gets quite tiring. Whilst in Cambodia we got to the point of exhaustion and decided to spend more than 3 days in one spot. That spot just so happened to be Kampot, a small riverside town in the south, known for its pepper plantations and salt flats. Not our usual choice as it is a lot more than a 2-minute walk to the beach, but Kampot is the perfect town for some rest and recuperation. Many small cafes line the streets of the town centre offering a great choice of health foods and juices and a couple offering side dishes of yoga and meditation classes.
The staff at our guesthouse informed us of a place called Banteay Srey Project on the edge of the big river offering traditional Khmer spa treatments, a Khmer Herbal steam room, yoga classes, a vegan café for tourists and so much more for the locals. Founded by a lady called Freya as a social enterprise for women. In their own words “Banteay Srey Project is dedicated to providing Cambodian women with ongoing training and advancement, fulfilling work and fair wages in a safe and nurturing environment.” So much more than a Spa!
Freya employs local women from impoverished situations to run the project and offers vocational training in Leadership Skills and Business management, English, Massage, Manicure, Pedicure, Anatomy, Food Preparation and even daily yoga training to strengthen the body and to help with stress and trauma management. How could I not mention the lessons learnt from meeting new women from around the world! I don’t feel like I’m doing this place and their amazing work any kind of justice.
This place is one of a kind. A sanctuary for empowering Cambodian women. Cambodia is a poor country and women are often seen as lower class citizens. Banteay Srey Project is teaching these women that they can be independent and powerful and they can create a better life for themselves and their families.
It’s only now that I’ve really sat down and read through the whole website that I realise I could have offered some help. Most of the training is done by volunteers. So maybe I could go back and get involved? If our budget allows it…hmmm, something to discuss with the boyfriend. If you would like to help out there’s plenty of ways to do it. You can donate cash, yoga equipment or if you’re ever in the area you could volunteer for some training or just go along for a yoga class or spa treatment or some yummy vegan food. Check out their website http://banteaysreyproject.org/
We decided to go to the morning yoga class, The Project is usually a women-only space but everyone is welcome to join the 9am class. Our class was taught upstairs in a room that was open on three sides to let in the light, breeze and sounds of nature. Our teacher was a volunteer from New York and would be giving a little time each day to teach classes in this amazing location. The room was fairly warm but cooler than your average Bikram class.
I love yoga but I don’t practice enough. I would say I am just above beginner level, the class was at nice pace to break a sweat but still feel completely serene and stretched out after. That amazing buzz you feel when the class is coming to an end and you’re lying in shavasana was amplified by the sounds of the river and the Geckos scurrying around in the roof made from palm leaves.
I followed my yoga class with an hour Face, Head, Hand and Foot Massage. As a Massage therapist myself, I’m always a bit dubious about having massages because I’m very critical of the treatment and I don’t always relax, I lie there thinking “ooh I’m gonna have to steal that move” or “What the hell is she doing to me?!” But after all of the positive things I had heard, I had to give it a go. My treatment was with Sina in a small, wooden hut on a very comfortable massage couch, gently covered with a cotton sarong. Sina gently cleansed my face with what I think was a lemongrass balm and massaged with my absolute favourite, coconut oil.
Sina’s pressure was perfect, deep enough to get to the tension but gentle enough to relax my crazy, busy mind. To say I relaxed is an understatement, I drifted off somewhere between awake and asleep…pure bliss. To me, it was obvious that Sina loves her job and that she had been trained perfectly. An absolute testament to this incredible project and the positive impact their work is having. I’m so grateful to have been able to experience it first hand.
Thank you Sina! Thank you Banteay Srey!
Be right back, just heading to Cambodia... How incredible does Banteay Srey Project sound!?! Hope you enjoyed this guest post, if you want to keep up with Louise's adventures you can follow her on instagram at everylittlebreeze