May 23 2013
In a town that owes its place on the tourist map to some of the most spectacular spiritual monuments in history, it’s only fitting that you can still find a quiet retreat to feed your own 21st century spiritual needs — and re-fuel with some quality vegetarian food at the same time — just a five-minute walk from the centre of Siem Reap.
For the spiritually exhausted, Peace Cafe on Street 26 between the river and Wat Bo Road is more than just a nice cafe where you can listen to the birdsong in a shady garden, grazing on healthy soups, salads, cakes and smoothies while you try to realign you chakras — although that’s as good a reason as any to drop by in between temple tours.
As well as offering some of Siem Reap’s tastiest vegetarian fare — such as sushi, burgers and vegetarian takes on various Khmer classics — Peace Cafe has additional strings to its bow, which make it a real one-stop-shop if you are in need of a top-up of good karma. You could easily spend several weeks in Siem Reap going nowhere else other than your hotel, the temples of Angkor and Peace Cafe and still go home feeling it was time well spent.
Not only can you dine under a banyan tree, but you can also perfect your downward-facing dog with one of the two (three at weekends) yoga classes each day; clear your cluttered mind in the meditation hut, or quiz a local monk on the tenets of Buddhism.
If you fall in love with the vegetarian food served in the cafe then you too can learn to cook Cambodian without harming a single living thing at one of the daily cooking classes – priced at $20 per person. You can also stock up on guilt-free souvenirs in the fair trade gift shop where locally and responsibly made gifts such as jewellery, greetings cards, pottery, pictures and all manner of woven goodies are available at very reasonable prices.
And finally, the latest addition to the cafe’s feel-good repertoire – if you are a native or at least fluent English speaker — you can help local students to practise their English by attending one of the weekly “Talk Time” sessions on a Sunday afternoon. It’s a similar concept to the very popular sessions run by the NGO Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang, Laos.
The Peace Cafe’s website has details of timings and costs for all their activities, but the relaxed attitude of the cafe as a whole – which is mostly a good thing — unfortunately extends to the timetable too, which is often subject to last-minute changes. The only way to be sure something is really happening is to check a day in advance.
Despite its slightly hit-and-miss timetables, Peace Cafe is a justifiably popular haunt for a broad range of visitors and residents and is worth a visit even if only for a quiet lunch in peaceful surroundings served by friendly and professional staff. It is definitely a winning formula which almost – but not quite – justifies the manager’s accusations of industrial espionage as I diligently took notes over lunch one day. Why not go along and see what you think?
Street 26, Wat Bo Area, Siem Reap
T (063) 965 210, (092) 177 127
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