Crossing Borders

Current Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Crossing the border into Cambodia for the second time wasn’t any easier than the first, probably due to the fact that this time I was part of a group and got wrangled into paying an extra fee for getting my visa done with them instead of handling it on my own as I did the first time. Other than that little hiccup it was an uneventful ride through to Siam Reap, although I did see a couple of cycling tourists on the Thailand side which made me miss the cycle again.

Walking around town the first night to get my bearing I was astonished to find the downtown area so flash. I’m staying at the Happy Guesthouse in the backpacker district and it’s still on a dirt road, the guesthouse itself is very nice, 3 story hotel-ish building, while the downtown area could be mistaken for anywhere USA with all the trendy bars and restaurants all packed to the gills with falang tourists. It certainly feels like a tale of two cities because once you leave this district things immediately become evident that this sort of opulence doesn’t belong here.

I knew coming into Cambodia that the economy runs on the greenback but it’s still strange to go to an atm and pull out a wad of Jacksons. Officially the currency is the Rhiel, conversion 1usd = 4000rhiel, which instantly makes me a millionaire! Technically the currency might be the Rheil everything is quoted in USD. Foolish me I was swayed at the border to change what Baht I had left into Rheil after being called unpatriotic, I must learn to trust my instincts. Now I have 300,000 Rhiel to spend somehow.

I spent the entire day yesterday in the Angkor Wat area. I rented a cycle, a very ill-suited one I might add, for $1 and hit the road at 7am. Angkor Wat is as grand as I could have imagined and then some, and it’s not hard to see why it’s considered a wonder of the world. I’m not entirely sure people should have the kind of access they have to the area as lots of people touch the sandstone carvings, the sandstone can’t stand up to being groped all the time.

It did have the level of authenticity I was looking for in the Thailand temples, everything looks and feels untouched for the last 1000 years. I could take 1,000 pictures and still not capture 1% of the grandeur of the area. The level of detail is constantly astounding.

I think I managed to fit in 7 temples yesterday in the 10 hours I was wandering around the area, didn’t even bother stopping for lunch of a bathroom break (it’s so hot I drank 6 litres of water), cycling from temple to temple. I’ll not suffer you but maybe 20 pictures out of the hundreds I took yesterday. It’s something that needs to be experienced, pictures do it little justice.

For the amount of tourists in the area it was still possible to find quiet moments rest at some of the lesser travelled temples. Notably I got a 30 minute siesta at the top of Ta Keo, 50meter vertical climb that many people weren’t keen on doing, listening to the insects thrum and wondering how long it took to construct these temples.

The last temple to visit I heard was at the top of a hill that overlooks Angkor Wat, Angkor Wat is a particular temple, not the area, to catch the sunset. I got there a little bit early and there was already a massive amount of people. After a while I decided it wasn’t worth the chaos of crowds there and decided to hike it back and head into town where I’d treat myself to a pizza and beer after a long day. On the way down I met several more bus loads of people, good luck to them… I hope they got to see something after the long hike and vertical climb up to the top of the tower.

It was a fun day especially since I got to ride again, though it made me miss my saddle and I know now why I spent as much as I did on a Brooks. Lots of climbing vertical steps and walking, fending off touts.

Great day.