10 September – Siem Reap
Awake around 7.30am, and even though there is nothing that we really need to be up for, we get organised to try and make the most of our final day. Slept alright, and while I heard fairly steady rain throughout the night, it’s not raining at the moment.
Which is good.
Out the front and I ask Lisa what she wants for breakfast. Happy wife, happy life, type of thing, but also because I don’t really care.
She can’t tell me, but she can tell me she doesn’t want a banh mi from our lady down the street. They’re nice, but she doesn’t really like them, apparently.
Yeah, I don’t understand that, either….
As we walk we see Kheng in his usual spot.
“Hello!”, he says when he sees us. “Want tuk tuk?”, he asks, with a huge smile on his face.
“Morning Kheng”, I respond, as happy to see him as he seems to be of seeing us. “And no thanks, we’re going for a bike ride”.
As we go to walk off, he excitedly exclaims, “Oh, I show you the snake!?”
He gets his phone out and I expect he’s about to show us a photo. But it’s not a photo, it’s an actual video of him letting it go.
And when he said yesterday that it was big, he wasn’t joking. And it didn’t look overly happy as it took off into the bush, after spending the day in a cage.
Snake lives to fight another day, Kheng happy he didn’t have to kill it, and us very happy with our small part in the whole scenario.
We have a little relationship now, so I ask if we can do a photo. He obliges, and asks his other tuk tuk mate to play photographer.
Photos done, we head off. “See you later?”, Kheng says, as we do.
“I suspect so”, I reply, seeing as we’ve seen him in that particular spot pretty much every time we’ve walked down the street. But I really do hope he’s there later.
Down the road towards the river, and the banh mi man we saw yesterday.
“What about trying a banh mi from him”, Lisa asks.
“Ummm, he’s the one with the pig snouts on display”, I reply.
“Oh….”, is the response.
While I just roll my eyes…..
Head over the river but just can’t find something that appeals. Into the market, and nup, no joy there, either.
I’ve said it before, eating in the morning just isn’t really my thing. And when it’s already 30 degrees in the shade, well, something hot and filling just doesn’t do it for me. Lisa’s sort of the same, but for some reason she seems to have to eat.
Giving up on the market we head back outside. Down Sok San road where our Mexican place is, to find the couple of bike hire shops I’d seen yesterday.
We soon get to the restaurant, which is a problem, because the bike shops I’d seen were before the restaurant. And I haven’t yet seen a bike.
We turn around and walk the street again.
And nup, not a bike to be seen. Which is strange, because I’m sure they were pretty much opposite each other.
The thought goes through my mind that maybe Kheng has used some of his $20 to get the bike hire places to close so we use his services again…..
Frustration beginning to become a thing, we get back to the restaurant and turn left. And there, up in the distance, I can see bikes.
Seeing as we can’t find the other two, and seeing as this is the only one that we have found, this is going to be our bike hire place.
We walk in and ask the lady how much for the day. Not that we’ll be riding all day in this heat.
Three dollars, is the answer.
“How much for two?”, I cheekily respond.
I get a forced laughed as she walks away.
Ok, well that didn’t work…..
The bikes look okay, certainly not the worst looking bikes we’ve ridden previously in Vietnam, so we agree on the $6.
She gets a couple of bikes ready and then asks for our passports, or some other ID that we can’t do without.
Aaaargh, we don’t have anything on us. That possibility never entered my mind.
Not being able to come up with any other solution; she wouldn’t even accept holding onto Lisa while I went on the bike ride alone; we begin walking back to the hotel to solve our problem.
Back past the market and Pub Street, and over the river a bit further down than we normally cross. Fortuitously, there are a couple of vendors set up in the shade of some trees. At least one of them does juices, so we take the opportunity.
Two, what turns out to be tart and very refreshing, orange juices, at $1 each.
I’m sure I’ve paid more than that for orange juice before…..
Eventually back to the hotel, sort out our ID issue, and then begin the walk back.
Reach pig snout banh mi guy, and Lisa, still looking for breakfast, takes the opportunity to buy one.
Just minus the snout bit. And just like our banh mi lady, it was just 500 Riel.
She’s now happier, and I’m pretty happy breakfast just cost me 12 cents.
Finally back to the bike hire place, and there’s now a young guy there. Bikes are sorted, along with a lock and key, one passport handed over, as well as the $6.
Instructions are then given on when the bikes need to be back, which is hours after I plan on returning them, followed by charges applicable should something happen to his equipment.
Lost / stolen bike is $300, and lost key is $5.
No problem I say, without really thinking about what he’s told me, or how it could impact us.
Quickly onto the bikes and out into the street, trying to remind myself to ride on the side of the road that doesn’t seem right.
It’s far harder than you think it is.
Then again, maybe that’s just me….
So, those bikes that seemed okay?
Of the 24 gears, or whatever the bike actually has, the only one that works is the one it’s stuck in. Fortunately, it’s not too high or too low. But it’s still not ideal.
And the brakes?
Well, at least they do move when you adjust them. Unfortunately, it’s just not quite enough.
There will be significant judgement used when slowing or stopping is required.
This little assessment makes me then think of that $300 lost bike fee.
Hmmm, paying the lost key fee would be overpaying.
Slowly getting the hang of which side I should be on, but then having to revert to the ‘wrong’ side occasionally, to dodge other things on the road, including water filled pot holes the size of small spa baths, we stop a little further up to check Maps.me.
We then decide to check it elsewhere, as three dogs come out to convince us that right here isn’t a good spot.
The convincing process didn’t take long.
Finally working out where we need to be, and what sort of turns are required on what looks to be some fairly busy roads, we make some slight adjustments to our route.
The traffic soon gets much busier, and while my gear issue is of some concern, I am now far more aware of my brake problem.
I am also trying to ‘look after’ Lisa, but seeing as I’ve never been any good at dealing with any more than two problems at once, I decide to concentrate on the gears and brakes only.
And if I stay in front of her, thus not being able to see her, well, what I can’t see won’t be a problem.
Interestingly, the cars, or more accurately, their drivers, seem to be quite aware and considerate of us. Some even slowing down to let us cross.
Not sure it would happen in Vietnam….
Onto the road I think we need to be on; well, that’s what Maps.me is telling me; and it gets a little easier as we leave town. Past a hospital, which reminds me of a Vietnamese hospital with all the people and vendors out the front, and then a bit further up a quick stop to see where we actually have to go.
Maps.me is saying we need to turn off to the right, and I believe it.
Until Lisa pipes up from behind and says APOPO is actually over the road. Yep, we were actually out the front of our destination target.
Now both Lisa and the App annoy me….
We head across and look for somewhere secure to leave our, potentially, $600 bikes, and while contemplating that, a guy, who looks to be some sort of security guard from APOPO, comes out.
Apparently we can just lock them to one of the palm trees out the front.
Hmmm, I really hope he spends most of his day looking out the glass front doors of APOPO….
Bikes locked, then checked, before being checked again, we head inside.
“Do you have an appointment”, we’re asked.
“Umm, no”, I reply, not thinking for a minute that we would need one. But now worried that I may have been really naïve in thinking that.
“That’s okay, a tour is about to begin”, we’re reassured.
We head back outside for some light reading of the several information boards nearby. While still keeping an eye on our worthless, but very expensive, bikes.
Information boards read, far quicker by Lisa than me; one of the reasons I hate watching films with subtitles; and we’re soon called over by a young guy to start the tour that was about to begin when we arrived.
And yep, we’re the only two.
Another two guys then appear, and excitement levels, for want of a better term, rise somewhat as one is carrying a rat.
We’re introduced to this rather large, but very cute, looking rat, and we’re told his name is Peter, which sounds more like Peder. Which seems like an unusual name for a rat.
Turns out, after looking at his box, his name is P. Derr.
Which seems an even more unusual name for a rat.
Anyway, a quick explanation of how the rats do their thing, and then an actual demonstration.
Well, and this sounds a bit over the top, but I am just in awe of what these rats are capable of, as well as the people that have trained them to do what they do.
To be able to detect miniscule amounts of TNT from these insidious weapons, that then allows them to be made safe, just astounded me.
I’m not sure what it was; perhaps it was what we learnt on our unplanned Landmine Museum visit yesterday; but I found the whole demonstration and explanation of how it all works, very moving.
I suspect it just comes from now having a much better understanding of the enormity of the problem, as well as the catastrophic consequences when someone ‘finds’ a landmine.
Paid our $5 entrance fee on the way out, which I thought was a little unusual, and headed out the front hoping, and probably praying, that our bikes were still there.
Fortunately, they were. Along with the palm tree.
Knowing that we weren’t that far from Angkor Wat, and seeing as we still had one day left on our three day pass, not to mention quite a few hours’ worth of bike hire, it was decided that a bike ride around the temples might be a good idea.
Back on the bikes, traffic steady but not too busy, and enough shade to make it all rather enjoyable.
We soon reach the ticket inspection point and have our third and final hole punched into our tickets. Strangely, that was a good feeling, as there were never any plans to visit a third time.
Continued on, corrected the mistake of turning right when we should have veered left, and there, up ahead, Angkor Wat comes into view.
Seeing it for the first time the other day was obviously an amazing moment. But today, for some reason, it’s different. It just seems to be even more impressive.
Maybe it’s because we’re coming up towards the front of it, as opposed to walking through it from the back, as we did on Saturday?
Or maybe it’s because we’re seeing it while sitting on bikes. And the fact that we’re actually riding around the park, kind of makes it feel more special, for some strange reason.
We continue riding past it, which takes a bit of time, partly because we keep looking at it trying to take it all in, and then find ourselves on familiar roads.
Lisa seems to be going along okay, and seeing as Bayon isn’t too far away, that’s a good enough reason to keep going.
Past all the vendors out the front, as well as a few people enjoying the day on picnic rugs, but then having to stop when something catches my eye.
It’s one of those picnic rugs. But it’s more about what’s on the picnic rug.
It’s a young mother. With her three young children. And a dog.
But that’s not all.
There’s also a monkey sitting on the rug.
And none of the rug sharing group seemed to be even remotely interested in what each other is doing.
It really was a head scratching moment.
We continue on and eventually reach the gates to Angkor Thom. A name that I’d obviously heard of while researching this trip, but up until three days ago, not having any idea of the significance of what was contained within.
And now, on our return, just that bit excited to be seeing Bayon again.
Which really surprises me, as I can’t believe I’m excited about a temple.
The size and scale of Angkor Thom had been an eye opener the other day, but riding from the gates to Bayon really gave a whole new perspective.
We finally reach it, and yep, it’s still just as impressive and imposing as it looked previously.
Lisa’s legs still holding up, we ride around the perimeter. While it’s an easy ride, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when riding past something like this.
Back to the front, stopping to try and get the camera to do a job I know it’s not capable of, before heading back towards the entrance of Angkor Thom.
A couple of final selfies at the gates, and then it’s back in the direction of Angkor Wat, while on the lookout for somewhere for lunch.
Our ride is interrupted briefly as half a dozen cows cross the road in front of us. Looking a little underfed, but still significantly bigger than us, and with rather pointy looking horns, we give them right of way.
As we approach Angkor Wat we notice a few food places on the right. Very local looking, and not seeing anyone else that looks like us, it feels a much better option than all the vendors catering to all the tourists right out the front of Angkor Wat.
We find a guy cooking various things, including chicken, on a BBQ, and seeing as the various other things don’t appeal to Lisa, we decide on the chicken.
I’m not sure he sees too many Westerners here, as it takes a few moments to get our point across. But once we do, he instructs us on where to leave the bikes, and then clears some space so we can sit down.
Which fortunately, was within sight of our now parked bikes.
And the chicken?
Well, once again, there’s just something about grilled Cambodian chicken. So simple, but just so delicious.
And made even better by being able to get a glimpse of Angkor Wat in the distance.
It was all a bit surreal, and I had to keep reminding myself of where we were.
And at 10 000 Riel for the chicken, plus another 4000 for two Cokes, ($3.50 total) with the experience and the backdrop thrown in, it was a bargain.
Lunch done, we decide to begin the eight kilometre trip, according to Maps.me, back into town.
Past Angkor Wat one final time, and then eventually onto the road that will get us home. Apart from the last ten minutes or so, which is when you start to hit all the traffic, the whole thing was such an enjoyable ride. So flat, and mostly shaded, it was just so much fun.
And as I said before, there’s just something about the fact that we actually rode bikes around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.
Managed to get the bikes back without incident; and very relieved about that; along with the key to the lock.
Walking back to the hotel, Lisa’s legs now starting to complain, and we reach our laundry lady. As I suspected, she recognises us straight away, and we quickly have our, now clean, clothes returned.
Seems they weighed two kilos, which surprises me a little as I thought it might have been more than that, as the charge is just $2.
Back near the hotel we see Kheng in his usual spot, and he still seems as happy as he was this morning.
We have a brief chat and then I ask him about getting to the airport tomorrow morning.
Five dollars, apparently, which sounds good to me, so it’s a done deal and he’ll be waiting out the front at 6.00am.
Upstairs for a recovery session, before leaving Lisa behind for my usual afternoon thing.
Back over the river to sit with the food vendors, and the realisation that it’s the first of the ‘lasts’.
A couple of beers had, and world watched as it went by.
Including the dog who found a discarded bag of rubbish, which obviously had something really tasty in it, and decided to remove said tasty thing while standing in the middle of the road. The constant stream of blaring horns quickly brought an end to that little endeavour.
At least she made it out unscathed.
Headed back over the river and into Jungle Bar for another ‘last’. Again, while it’s not normally the type of place I look for, I’ve actually enjoyed it for something a little different.
Beers and goodbyes done, headed back to the hotel to get ready, as well as start packing up for our flight to Phnom Penh in the morning.
With that mostly done, it was time to find dinner. And because it’s easy, close, really good food, and it’s not Pub Street, it was to be the food vendors on the river again.
Found a place that did a noodle soup, which may or may not have been classified as pho.
Whatever its correct name, it was beautiful.
Asked for a couple of beers, but unfortunately that wasn’t their thing. Knowing that it wouldn’t be an issue, I quickly solved that problem by finding a nearby vendor that did sell beer.
Dinner reluctantly finished, and even though we’d spent less than $10 in total on both lunch and dinner, it was time once again to change lots of Australian dollars into nowhere near as many US dollars.
Back to the last exchange place we used; xe.com is quoting 68.5 cents; and we change a couple of hundred at 66 cents.
That little painful chore out of the way, it was time to deal with another ‘last’; our final visit to ‘our’ Mexican restaurant.
While we now consider it ‘our’ Mexican restaurant, and no longer Trinity’s restaurant, I guess I do need to thank her for the recommendation.
Once again, the usual beers and cocktails, along with lots of chatting to the girls. They really are so friendly, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know them over the last few nights.
While chatting to the girls, the chef appeared with a complimentary plate of corn chips and small bowl of salsa.
I wasn’t looking forward to saying goodbye, and now he’d just made it harder.
Eventually, and unfortunately, it was time to do it, but not before a few photos.
Back down Pub Street one final time, which wasn’t overly difficult, and then past our street food vendors by the river, which was a little difficult. That is definitely one thing I am going to miss about Siem Reap.
Dropped into our convenience store for some supplies, but also to say goodbye; damn goodbyes…..; before heading back to the hotel for the usual beer or two on the bed.
As well as a little reminiscing of what we’d done today.
Little more than 36 hours ago I’d pretty much had enough of Siem Reap. Feeling less than average, I’d essentially spat the dummy and given up.
And it was pretty much right at that moment that things began to change. Meeting Kheng, going to a museum we had no intention of visiting, inadvertently saving a snake, finally getting to the place we tried to see the previous day, and then riding a bike around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.
Yep, just a bunch of little things, that turned out to be one incredibly fun day and a half.
Said it before, it’s funny how stuff pans out…..