A day at Angkor
Ten days have gone since we left the national park. Ten days and there’s not much to tell but the sad return to the Cambodian reality.
We started to go to Phnom Penh, the capital. There were three days riding on the national road, and we didn’t like them. The problem of Cambodia for cyclotourists is the absence of secondary roads. We must choose between straight roads and ground, sand or rocks trails full of holes… If the first ones are really not inspiring, the latter are too hard to ride on on a daily basis despite the beautiful landscapes you can see.
Phnom Penh gave us the opportunity to rest for a few days. We met Mia, a Canadian expatriate of the Warmshowers network. She hosted us for three nights. We had a nice time talking while having dinner. We enjoyed it a lot more since we didn’t have many opportunities to talk (apart from Cambodian people selling us anything and everything). We talked about yoga, tattoes, cuisine, bikes, trips, life choices… It’s funny to see that some of our preoccupations are the same on the other side of the world. We also wandered around the city. We were baffled by the Olympic Market. Imagine a huge old four-floor building where all the salers have a shop of aroun 4 to 8 square meters, where they try to show as many goods as possible. And everything is separated by 50 centimeters-large aisles every ten to twelve shops…. A stiffling hive of activity but it’s really worth it ! That makes you feel abroad ! A happy combination of factors also allowed us to visit the national museum. While we were walking past it, a couple gave us their tickets. It was perfect timing, we learnt on Angkor.
And it was again a perfect timing because, after a well deserved rest, we left Mia to ride towards Siem Reap to visit the Angkor temples. After three days on the motorway (where there were road works for 200 kilometers) we arrived in this very touristy place. We wandered around to find a cheap guesthouse and to buy food supplies at the market. We headed for the entrance of the site. We chose a day pass, ($20), valid for the next day but which allows us to see the sunset in the park that night, a great start of the visit.
We woke up at 4am and arrived at the park at 5.30. It would be too long to talk about every temples we visited and it wouldn’t be interesting for you to read on the Khmer history and culture since our knowledge is limited. So, have a look at the pictures !
Angkor, between exploration on bikes and buddhist spirituality
Of course we chose to ride to discover the park. And it was the best way to do it. It’s easy to go from one temple to another or to use the smaller trails which tuk-tuk or SUVs can’t use. We had chosen an itinerary using both smaller and bigger trails which allowed us to visit some must-see temples like Angkor Wat, the Bayon or the terrace of the leprous king of Angkor Thom. We also saw some less visited temples like Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Neak Pean or Preah Khan. We avoided the crowds of tourists because we were early and we started east. So we enjoyed two hours of almost total peace.
After e few kilometers of riding into a pitch black night (the site has no lights) we arrived on a platform with a view on a lake. It was a good spot to see the sunrise. The peace in this place is relaxing, we felt like leaving the city’s noise to plunge into a break in time. We found ourselves alone amid of old stones and for a minute, we dream we are adventurers. We even sang the ‘Indiana Jones’ main theme, we were wandering the places with the emotion of a treasure hunter, without the poisonous darts…
The first lights of the day offered us a wonderful show. The statues came to life, amid of the vegetation. It seems that the vegetations are holding the stones or that they are destroying them… The protection of the site is quite unequal, but there is a bright side to it. This bright side is that everything looks from origin. The sun was getting higher and we left those far away places to visit the most famous temples. Towards Angkor Thom. The statues there are more numerous, more massive too. We could feel the buddhist religion there. There are massive Buddhas everywhere. We were amazed by the atmosphere so we took a break and visiter the decormore ? There are more tourists here, contemplating is not always easy… We ended our day with the « jewels » of Angkor, Angkor Wat. This temple is well protected and offers a wide range of beautiful bas-reliefs. If visiting this place on December 25th has its advantages, it also had disadvantages : the sanctuary of Angkor Wat was closed. But anyway we were exhausted by nine hours of visits and we were delighted to go back to the guesthouse.
There, we had a nice surprise. The boss informed us that that night there was a party and that he was about to offer to all his customers a party with his friends. And it’s seated all at a table full of biers that we spent an unexpected Christmas eve.