World wonders of Angkor: Siem Reap, Cambodia

My ride for exploring the Temples of Angkor

After the long boat journey from Siem Reap I headed into town to grab a quick inexpensive bite to eat so I could retreat back to my room at ever-so-friendly Hak’s Guesthouse. On the walk in I was approached by a Spanish lady who asked if I would eat with her as it was her 40th birthday and she was alone. Too polite to say no we grabbed some noodles from a restaurant, much too westernised for my liking but it filled a hole.

Local market – smelly but cheap

The next day I hired a push bike and road around town. It was incredibly hot and I had the unfortunate luck of my bike lock falling out of my basket onto the road with a Tuk Tuk running over it smashing it to smithereens. When I tried to explain to the owner what had happened she said I’d have to pay $3 for a new lock. I asked if I could buy the $1 lock she was selling in her shop but she said I had to buy the $3 one so I said I’d buy my own at the local market where I knew I could get it cheaper.

Sister Srey Cafe

Lock in hand I headed to Aussie-run cafe Sister Srey which is an ethical cafe helping street children and orphans. Although a little disappointed with the food I returned the next day as I liked the staff and atmosphere and it’s obvious that Aussie-style food in Central Cambodia isn’t going to taste as good as it does in Australia

Me and my trusty head torch for cycling

That evening I cycled to the legendary Angkor Wat to watch the sunset which was great but sunrise is a million times better. I kept my bike for the second day and left the guesthouse at 4:30am to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat which was truly spectacular. The temples of Angkor are about 8km out of town and I had planned to cycle the grand circuit which is roughly 50km in total. Come 10am I was pretty exhausted and to be honest, I was getting a little bored of temples but I wanted to stay the whole day to make the most of my one day pass.

Unmissable sunrise at Angkor Wat

Even at 10am I was sweltering (it’s pretty hard cycling in 36c heat on a Boris-style bike) so I decided to take it easy and just do the small circuit. I knew I’d be done by midday so I took a much-needed break from the temples and cycled in search of food. The food on offer around Angkor comes at an extortionate price due to it being a tourist area so I cycled down a narrow path and off the beaten track. Thankfully I come across a local village and pointed at whatever the lady was serving and received a tasty breakfast of spicy noodles with pork for just 75c.

My new friend

The stall owners husband came and sat down with me to practice his English, fairly good in fact, and asked if I would go to his house with him. Stupidly I said yes and jumped on the back of his motorbike. I instantly regretted my decision as headlines of kidnap and murder flashed before my eyes but I arrived safe at his house where his young daughter and dogs were waiting.

An unmissable experience

He told me a bit about his life, like the fact that in Cambodia children go to school from 7-11am and 1-5pm six days a week with many leaving before the age of 15 to work with their parents. The longer we spoke the harder it was to understand so I hopped back on his bike and he kindly dropped my back to mine. What an experience

Angkor Thom seen in Tomb Raider

My cycle back to civilization was a little longer than hoped after getting lost for an hour on the path to nowhere and nearly keeling over in the midday heat, but I made it and rewarded myself with an ice cold bag of sugar juice, another favourite of mine.

Getting lost on the road to nowhere

By 1pm I had covered most of the temples I wanted to see including Bayon and my favourite Angkor Thom which is seen in the movie Tomb Raider. Hot and exhausted, I sat under a tree for a couple of hours to try and keep cool and catch up with my new book about the Khmer Rouge called “First they killed my father”- a must read if visiting Cambodia.

Packed full of tourists, mainly Asians and their cameras

After waiting what seemed like my entire life, the sun set over Phnom Bakheng which would have been stunning if the bloody thing hadn’t gone behind a cloud! Exhausted, I cycled back into town desperate for a cold shower and a lie down. I returned to find that the power had gone off due to a problem in Bangkok, which is where the majority of Cambodia get their power from so most of the country was out.

Beautiful carvings

No light, no food, no cold drink. I was livid but I saw that a small street restaurant for University students up the road had a small generator. I sat down amongst the noisy students and ordered the ridiculously cheap meatball soup and a side of spring rolls. What I actually got was pig organ soup, which I obviosuly picked out after trying and also realised that the deliciously crunchy peanut spring rolls actually contained small shell fish not peanuts – yeuch. The younger boy students found me eating highly amusing and chuckled to themselves next to me. I didn’t mind one bit, I must have looked a little out of place.

Eating local pig organ soup

After a good nights sleep I decided I wanted some company so checked myself in to the Mad Monkey Hostel after staying there in Phnom Penh. As I walked in to my dorm’ Jez greeted me with “welcome to the party room” and I noticed “gang bang” written in lipstick on the mirror. I knew it was going to be a good night. Dusk till dawn was spent dancing on the famous pub street fully westernised to cater for tourists but with an undeniable atmosphere.

Partying on pub street

After three days of drinking, chilling by the pool and eating only western food (burger and chips for breakfast is a new found fave) I knew it was time to move on so I booked a night bus to Phnom Penh with Aussie Lucy who was part of the big group I had been hanging out with. I was excited to return to the capital.

Living life, loving travel,

H x


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