After my harrowing day of travel between Bangkok and Siem Reap (where I am now), I walked into my dorm to find a group of people who would become my friends and travel buddies for the next few days. We casually talked about our plans and elected to go together to the temples at sunset – something we had heard is quite beautiful and rumored to be even better than the famed sunrise.
Getting to Angkor Wat, most people hire a tuk-tuk (usually to the tune of $15, a truly insane price in Cambodia where everything is so cheap)
Instead, we decided to form an epic bike gang and pedaled out to Angkor Wat, happier with the $2 price tag for a bike rental.
Like a gaggle of geese we flew down the road, narrowly avoiding tuk-tuks, cars, motorbikes, and tourist vans, laughing all the way, enjoying the wind on our faces on the extremely hot and humid day.
I was continuously blown away by everything I saw. On one side of me a motorbike drove by with two adults and three children packed on, all of whom smiled and waved. On the other, the lovely moat around Angkor Wat and the intensely green jungle greeted me. Just ahead, an elephant crossed the road and a monkey scrambled by after him.
I kept pinching myself, it seemed like a dream. I’m finally here in Cambodia after wanting to see this wonder of the world for as long as I can remember. It’s actually happening. Every now and then I just paused, touching the sandstone and saying to myself “I’m in Cambodia right now. I’m really, truly in CAMBODIA right now.”
We rode right up to Angkor Thom and climbed around for a while. A Cambodian guard congratulated us on coming in the afternoon, after the tour busses and massive crowds. I was continually amazed that tourists can walk right up and touch the sandstone carvings.
I continued to be blown away by the beauty for the next few hours.
The sun started to set and we biked to what everyone calls the Tomb Raider temple: Ta Prohm. We were told it was closed, but we elected to go around to the other side and sneak in anyways. This ended up being the best move yet, as we had the temple almost completely to ourselves as the sun set.
We watched in awe as the sun dipped below the tree line.
In that moment I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Nothing else was on my mind. I was smiling from ear to ear and so happy with my present moment. I couldn’t imagine greener pastures anywhere else.
That, for me, is the best high in the world.
As the sky turned dark we hopped back on our bikes, all of which had lights powered by our pedaling.
The ride back proved to be a little scary in the dark as the roads were getting pretty crazy at that point. Luckily we made it back in one piece to start what was going to be an amazing night of dancing in the street and ending at an all-Cambodian night club.
But that’s a story for the next blog…
*If staying in Siem Reap, definitely consider the Mad Monkey. It was awesomely social and clean, with a good location to boot.