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"I'll find my way home while exploring the galaxy"

Day 224: PART II Practice, Presence and Abundance, Otres Style

“You notice that things seem to have changed just slightly and feel a little out of place but at the same time everything comes flooding back”

-     Tycho (current moment cool beats while you read along)

When the new year started, a good friend back at home (Galla, props to you lady) asked me what my three words of intention were for 2017. After some back and forth with myself, I finally landed: Practice, Presence, and Abundance -- powerful words that came alive in daily yoga practice, especially in the months of January through April.

Practice
Presence
Abundance

Fast forward to present day in Cambodia, and quite honestly, the first two weeks absorbing the throes of Cambodian culture shock – mainly learning about the traumatic and recent history of the 70s through 90s along with the daily poverty and unfortunate stories of female solo travelers getting this or that stolen in some of the bigger cities – was, ALOT. Hard, really beyond what I had expected. Not to mention, daily yoga became spottier in hostel environments, so there was very little in the way of Practice, Presence and Abundance. That is, until I found myself in Otres Village extending one night, and then two….and six nights later, unexpectedly sad to leave. More bittersweet, really.

That then begs the question – what is Otres Village? Why do others (both travelers and long term expats) find themselves sucked into the vortex? I wasn’t alone, and even if I was, this was exactly where I needed to be. Imagine a dirt road dotted with locally-owned mom and pop restaurants and food stalls, and two tinier dirt paths running off the side. You veer onto one with your semi-broken bicycle and notice a family of cows in the distance grazing wild grass, India style. Stray dogs run around with careless abandon and as trucks rush by, swirls of dirtballoon into mini dust storms, much like those you encounter in the Playa at Burning Man (should’ve brought that gas mask!). As you ride around, signs pointing to THIS Otres Art Gallery and THAT interesting looking glamping (glamorous-camping) hostel) start to emerge as there are literally NO street names or concept of an address, kinda like...India. See the India theme here? Not to mention, on a separate occasion, I found myself walking down the other tiny dirt path only to stumble into a little two story bungalow structure called “The Nook” selling masala chai, traditional Indian scarves and gemstones sourced from, yes you guessed it, INDIA (!), all against the mellow backdrop of sitar acoustics softly blaring from a nearby speaker.

Water buffalo parading the Main Street running through Otres Village 

Water buffalo parading the Main Street running through Otres Village 

Smiling Cambodian faces as I wander the village. Children = presence always

Smiling Cambodian faces as I wander the village. Children = presence always

All the signs

All the signs

What started as a casual pop in, turned in to a full on hour convo with the owner, an Australian expat who happens to be a lesbian and Trump supporter who's lived in Cambodia for ten years. The combo blew my mind. Needless to say, when I wandered in and left an hour later, my head was spinning with questions...

What started as a casual pop in, turned in to a full on hour convo with the owner, an Australian expat who happens to be a lesbian and Trump supporter who's lived in Cambodia for ten years. The combo blew my mind. Needless to say, when I wandered in and left an hour later, my head was spinning with questions...

SO, is Otres…

  • An experiment in community living in the jungle, with the occasional earthship sighting? Check.
  • A place where you can get away with building a home/studio/workspace without an architect and engineer? Check (I’ll get to that later)
  • A place to wander around for a week and find some of the most eclectic people from around the world, all living in the span of two dirt roads? CHECK.
Construction materials run the gamut in Otres 

Construction materials run the gamut in Otres 

Glass bottles seem to be part of the construction method of earthships?

Glass bottles seem to be part of the construction method of earthships?

Now that I think about it, trying to explain my experience in Otres Village is unexpectedly VERY similar to how I attempt to explain my time at Burning Man. If time and money weren’t things, how would you spend your days? Though Otres Village is a tiny beachside village in the jungle, I somehow found the entire week absolutely liberating in the way of time and money. Time, because I found that instead of operating from a place of social punctuality (unless of course, you’re taking a bus to and from a city), expats were operating from a place of immediacy and presence (one of the ten guiding principles at Burning Man in case you’re not familiar). Let’s call it, Otres time…3pm-ISH means 5PM. There’s always an ISH. Money, because in my time spent at BOHO, I was able to start a tab for all my meals and mandatory morning coffees, leaving me with very few, if any, moments of physically needing to open a wallet.

Beyond time and money though, lay something even more profound. At Burning Man, the moment you step outside of your campsite, all your personal interactions, convos, and manifestations of thought begin to flow exactly as they should. You are always exactly where you need to be, and find yourself actively cultivating flow each and every day. In Otres, the same was beginning to happen, not coincidentally the morning I woke up to do sunrise yoga on the rooftop of BOHO following a mystic breakfast encounter with Jen, a human embodiment of abundance in every sense of the word, and current travel buddy J. I’ll save that story and friendship for another post.

What I’m trying to say is that over the course of seven days, I somehow manifested just that,

Practice
Presence
Abundance

Abundance in the way of meeting…

..Bretton, a native Californian who studied yoga teacher training in India the SAME exact month I did, who introduced me to…

Bretton's also a volunteer for Otres Art Gallery, exchanging help around the center in exchange for free accommodations. In her free time, she's been working on this Hindu goddess mural. She also has the coolest dog named Parvati, whom she adopted in India. 

Bretton's also a volunteer for Otres Art Gallery, exchanging help around the center in exchange for free accommodations. In her free time, she's been working on this Hindu goddess mural. She also has the coolest dog named Parvati, whom she adopted in India. 

There she is!

There she is!

Anastasia, a native Belgian who moved to Otres two years ago and now ran Otres Art Gallery, an interactive art studio open to travelers and locals for all kinds of art making and social gatherings. She’s the one who DIY-ed the construction of her space – no architect or engineer needed. I interviewed her for Experiments with Living, so stay tuned…!

We set the interview up so Anastasia could talk while painting to relieve some camera shyness. Interesting to say the least

We set the interview up so Anastasia could talk while painting to relieve some camera shyness. Interesting to say the least

Setting up the money shot

Setting up the money shot

Stop by, make art, drink a smoothie and donate as you wish

Stop by, make art, drink a smoothie and donate as you wish

Inspiration book for those who come by to make things 

Inspiration book for those who come by to make things 

My Otres masterpiece. I clearly was craving some pineapple

My Otres masterpiece. I clearly was craving some pineapple

And don't forget to pursue the studio's gift shop, selling all things funky and artsy

And don't forget to pursue the studio's gift shop, selling all things funky and artsy

…Two Westerners in the SAME day who left their lives in the West to live in Buddhist monasteries. One of whom I casually met at a Saturday night music venue meets food market, Otres Market (otherwise known as Cambodia’s Most Debauched Night Market, according to Vice). A former MIT professor of computer science who took a sabbatical and was now ordained as a Buddhist monk, no big deal…

Allan, a 74-year old English jazz musician living in Cambodia for four years, who frequents Otres Village for weekly gigs. In conversation, he mentioned he was heading to Kampot to play his weekly weekend shows, literally the SAME day I told myself I wished to find an expat to interview whilst in Kampot, where I shall head next…(yes, I end up interviewing him but I’ll save that for the next post).

And the list just goes on and on, but these were the standouts by far.

So in the scheme of being blown away over and over and over again, I more importantly, grew to love my home away from home (or you can say, Burning Man camp), BOHO. Started by a French-Cambodian woman from Paris who decided to leave a career in Financial Communications (not sure what that is, but let’s call it corporate) and her husband, they’ve successfully created a visually vibed OUT hostel of amazing proportions. In the seven days, the music never stopped once and I’m almost sure no song played more than once. The music was DOPE (follow her playlists on Spotify pronto). A mix of old school hip hop, oldies but goodies, electronic tribal beats and everything in between. She threw in some Elvis Presley too. The pizzas were delicious each time – yes, I ate a whole pie to myself more than once. Their mango sticky rice? GLORIOUS. And best of all, Sunday nights were movie nights on the roof which meant Kill Bill I and II back to back on a giant projector screen while ravaging an incredibly savory vegetable roast. HOLY hell.

That's my room straight ahead, shared with five others 

That's my room straight ahead, shared with five others 

Crazy cool BOHO cats. They were either loving on you, or hunting

Crazy cool BOHO cats. They were either loving on you, or hunting

Sunset rooftop vibes before the movie marathon starts

Sunset rooftop vibes before the movie marathon starts

The beach is yonder 

The beach is yonder 

According to Jen, Parisian design is very much about sticking to three colors and their monochromes. BOHO = turquoise, yellow and white

According to Jen, Parisian design is very much about sticking to three colors and their monochromes. BOHO = turquoise, yellow and white

Experiments with living 

Experiments with living 

In short, epic vibes all around. No exaggerations.

Would I live in Otres forever? Probably not. But I can say with confidence, you’d be crazy not to experience it at least once while in Cambodia.

<3

Tiffany Wen