Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On to Siem Reap

Once we'd gotten the bikes running smoothly again, bought everything we needed, and eaten all the cheese we'd craved, we decided to move on to Siem Reap.  Siem Reap is best known as the home of Angkor Wat, a massive complex of intricately carved temples that actually stretches across much of Cambodia.  Angkor Wat was the highlight of our last trip, but we didn't want to see it again so soon, to not lose its impact. The temples are overwhelmingly beautiful, and it is difficult to believe that all the work was done by hand. 

 Traffic leaving Phnom Penh was heavy and hectic, and again, it was hot already by 9:00am. But Colin's bike ran smoothly, and mine purred right along as well (I forgot what it should sound like!). The traffic lightened as we put some distance between us and Phnom Penh, and the highway was nice and smooth. Toward the middle of the ride, the landscape greened up quite a bit, and we rode through small towns, farmland, orchards, and paddy. Traffic picked up again as we neared Siem Reap, and driving into the city itself was an eye opener. The area seems to have exploded since we were here! 

We arrived at about 3:30 and went right to the Angkor Friendship Inn. We spent several nights there last time, and when we decided to return to Siem Reap, we knew we'd stay there again. Why? Because the staff is friendly, the rooms are nice, and...they have a pool. We pulled into their parking lot and removed our helmets, and immediately the manager, Sophea, recognized us. After we'd caught up a bit, we checked in and started schlepping our gear to the room. As we were unloading the bikes, an Australian couple came up to ask about our adventure. Here we met Allen and Maureen. They spent a month at the Angkor Friendship and come by to visit every few days with the staff. We chatted with them for a little while, and then headed in to change into our swimsuits and jumped in the pool for an hour. Once we had soaked long enough and cooled off, we went inside to clean up before dinner. 

Fabian and Tanja with their local guide in stripes
We walked to the old market, where there are small, "hole in the wall" restaurants that serve up some really good, cheap, Khmer food for dinner. As we were finishing our meal, a couple sat down at the table next to us and asked, “Aren't you the people riding the little bikes in India?” What?!?! No, we are not international celebrities, it is just an incredibly small world. Their names are Fabian and Tanja, and we first met them in Hampi at Christmastime, riding their bicycles with Tanja's parents. The four of them would come to have breakfast at where we stayed, and we had some interesting conversations with Tanja's mother about traveling in Africa. Fabian and Tanja left her parents riding somewhere in India. The two of them recently flew from Delhi to Bangkok and had just arrived in Siem Reap that day. They have only been cycling for seven months, but Tanja's parents, who are in their mid-60s, have been at it for over five years, covering more than 60,000 km and camping rough most of the time. Upon hearing this, Colin and I decided that we are punks.

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