After a week of luxury, it’s time to leave Phnom Phen behind. Thank you so much Grant and Shelly!
After we have cycled out of the city it will take a while before we are out of civilization. We actually cycle 50 km on a road that seems to never end, but eventually we turn off and we return to the smaller villages where cycling is the most fun.
Most villages are located along the Mekong River, which makes the temperature a bit more pleasant. It is quite warm and at a certain point we seek the shade at a small hospital post. Here we see some monkeys walking and later a woman also tries to start a conversation with us. She continues to speak to us in Khmer even though it seems quite clear that we don’t understand her.
We get back on the bike, we arrive in a section between some villages and decide that it has been enough for today. We sit in the shade next to the river, watching the fishermen cast their nets.
On the other side of the road are rice fields with a flat area where we decide to pitch our tent for the night. The sunset is beautiful and we enjoy the colors while lying in our bed.
That morning we sit by the river again eating our breakfast and enjoy the slow start and see other people on the water start their day again. It’s a nice day on the bike but it’s getting really hot. We take a ferry which is always an experience. We see people living on an island in the river in self-made houses of plastic tarps and wooden poles, poverty has never been so visible as here. We cycle on again but don’t want to make it a long day because of the heat. We leave the road towards a national park and pitch our tent at the foot of a green hill. We see a fire on the hill and expect people to be there but when it gets dark we find out that it is a wildfire. We try to call the fire department but cannot call with the SIM card we have. We just don’t know what to do. The moment we decide to pack our things and continue cycling, we hear a siren coming coming closer. We see the fire truck in the distance so we stay here and watch the spectacle. The fire brigade tries to get close, but it is impossible on the sandy paths and they decide to turn around. We wait and wait but no one comes to put out the fire. That night we woke up in shifts to check if the fire was not getting too close.
The next day we cycle the first 40 km on an unpaved road with a strong headwind. It is very heavy and we are very happy when we see asphalt again. Only this doesn’t take too long and we cycle on unpaved roads again. It’s a beautiful road for cycling and we don’t meet many people, but we don’t really make any progress. After a long day of cycling we find a spot with some huts on the water, drink a coke here and ask if we can set up our tent here, this is no problem. We have found a really beautiful spot again.
The next days we will only cycle on a main road towards Siem Reap. Fortunately we have a tailwind and the kilometers go fast. At 11 am we have already covered 70 km. We decide to take a break and get some sleep. Then we do our shopping. We decide to leave the main road for a while and arrive at a beautiful old bridge that dates back to the Angkor Wat era. We’re really getting close now.
Because we only cycle on the main road, it is difficult to find a place to sleep, so we look for a place in the city. We think the prices are too expensive and think we have found an alternative on Google maps. We find another beautiful spot on the farmlands, but once we are in our tent, 4 men come on the scooter. One of them is from the police, we have to show our visas and passports. In the end we have to pay some money for “our safety” and take some pictures, but luckily we can stay there.
The next day it is only a short distance on the main road to Siem Reap.
We arrived in Siem Reap. A place that is best known for the Angkor Wat temples. Nina has already been here once, but there is so much to see and it seems very special to her to be able to discover this beautiful temple complex by bicycle.
We arrive in the afternoon and have decided to immediately get our day ticket for next day. We would like to be at the Angkor wat temple with sunrise. We buy our tickets and then go to a bed and breakfast that is fairly close to the temple complex.
Later in the day we go to the market to buy some food for the upcoming days and we get some snacks for the next day. Q also goes to the police station to ask permission to fly the drone there, unfortunately this turns out to be a difficult procedure so we leave it at that. It promises to be a long day so we go to bed early. We watch a YouTube video about the history of Angkor Wat to get some more background information and get even more excited to explore tomorrow.
The park opens at 5am but the sun doesn’t rise until 6:15am. We decide to get up at 4:50 to pack our things and hit the road. The gate of our residence turns out to be locked, we have to lift our bicycles over the gate. After this we cycle through the dark on “roads” towards the entrance of the park. It is daily fare here because cars and tuk-tuks drive everywhere with tourists with the same idea.
Once we have arrived at the park it is still a short walk, it is starting to get light and we are starting to see the contours of the temple. After having found a nice place to stand, we are waiting for the sunrise with the other tourists. The colors start to change in the sky, but around 6 o’clock it doesn’t get any better. We wait a little longer, look at each other and decide to enter the temple. Because of this we are still ahead of the crowd and we can take a good look at this beautiful structure.
At the back of the temple is the possibility to go to the highest part of the temple. This turns out not to be open yet, but just as we get in line, it opens, so lucky. Once we want to walk up the stairs, Nina is refused. You are apparently not allowed to use a scarf as a covering. This is a big downer, Q wants to show solidarity, but Nina insists that Q goes anyway.
Once Q comes back down he sees Nina sitting there a bit defeated. There are now enough men who also do not wear the correct dress code, but they are allowed to enter. It’s so beautiful up there that Nina shouldn’t miss this, so we decide to swap clothes. Nina puts Q’s shirt on and Q puts Nina’s scarf on. This way Nina was still able to see, because the last time she was here, it was too busy and she had decided not to visit.
Then we go back to our bikes to see the other temples. The next temple is a temple located on top of a hill. They are busy with restorations here so we can’t go everywhere, but that makes it nice and quiet.
After this we arrive at the Bayon temple. At this temple are all large heads made of stone, very impressive to see. To get here you also have to cycle over a large bridge and through a gate with a head on top. What a structure and to think this was built in the 12th century.
After a short lunch break we continue into the park. There are several temples, each with its own story and beautiful details. The other temple that has made the most impression is the Ta Prohm Temple. This temple has been completely taken over by nature, trees grow everywhere. They try to cooperate with nature, but that does not always work, so you see a huge trunk that has been sawn off to ensure the safety of the temple and people. Fun fact is also that this temple was used for the movie Tomb Raider.
After a long day of visiting temples we return exhausted to our sleeping place. We eat something around the corner and go to bed early. It was such a beautiful day and we are so grateful to be able to experience all of this.