Following breakfast, we embark on a full day bicycle journey to explore the temples in Siem Reap and the surrounding area. We’ll take a newly paved road 25km to BanteaySrei and you will notice a distinct change in the scenery as you cycle through the verdant countryside. The trails today offer not only an excellent ride, but also many points of interest, and our guide will stop often to point out local temples, pagodas and villages. We will visit Kbal Spean (River of 1,000 Lingas) and a hike to the top gives a great view of the riverbed carving its way through the plains. We stop for a picnic lunch in the shade before continuing to Banteay Samre Temple. On the way back to town, a must-see is the Landmine Museum. The owner, Mr. Ra, is dedicated to clearing the Cambodian countryside of landmines and relies entirely on visitors’ donation to fund his work.
Cycling: approx. 70km
Well we have just finished cycling the last day of this tour and I am going to keep this particular blog short as I will be able to catch up over the next few days on the long journey home.
Even with our careful planning yesterday, the morning started with a surprise, in that the first hour was taken up with travelling to and getting tickets for the Seam Reap site. There was also quite a bit of teasing of Alan because we will be cycling on a wall 8m above the ground and also on some sandy trails, neither of which are in his top 100 list of things to do!
Anyway the morning consisted of cycling along mainly roads and a few trails. We finished the 24 miles by about 11.30 . That was fine because we would be out of the midday heat for a few hours before we cycled again.
We visited the temple of the ladies, so called because it was made of pink stone, although it didn’t look that pink to me. The temple’s carvings were really elaborate, but as we had literally just got off our bikes from the ride and were really hot, hungry and thirsty, it wasn’t quite the right moment to be looking around the ruins and appreciating their intracacies.
The funniest thing was that we saw a group of monks all in their orange robes, and so we couldn’t resist the photo opportunity and they most kindly obliged. This time there were very few jokes!
(To explain, for those who don’t know – traditionally we all wear orange shirts on the last day of our cycle tours).
We enjoyed the heat and ruins for probably half an hour before returning to have lunch which was very welcome. I think it was practically the same food as yesterday!
After lunch we had a transfer to visit the landmine museum. It was a testimony to one man, Mr Ra, and his efforts to clear mines. He had fought for both the Khmer Rouge and also Vietnamese armies laying mines in the process. After the war he started to make amends to the country and personally cleared several thousand mines, bombs etc., mostly with a stick and pair of wire cutters. He set up a orphanage for children affected by the war and landmines. He is world renowned and received many awards. Now his charity is funded my government projects all over the world.
The volume of bombs and mines dropped on the country was staggering. Millions of tons of munitions. B52 bombers used to fly in a formation of 3 and drop 107 bombs each so in 15 minutes a target or village could have 321 bombs dropped on it. Hundreds of thousands of bombing runs were done alone. There are still several million landmines to be cleared.
The wars were tragic. They always are. The legacy here is long lasting and equally tragic. It was an inspiring and sad place. This has certainly been a thought provoking trip.
Then another short transfer to meet up with our bikes and start the cycle for the last afternoon.
Siem our guide had been promising some fantastic cycling through the “jungle”as he put it, because he was born around this area and new many places to go. (As I ‘blog’ there are lovely fireworks going off again to celebrate their festival). I remained very sceptical about this given his performance so far but hopeful it would be worth waiting for.
I have to say that this afternoon was one of the most fun, challenging, beautiful and surprising rides I can remember. We cycled on some very narrow trails through dense, I suppose “jungle” is a good description. The trails were very sandy and muddy in places. There were occasional slopes to ride up and down. Some of the trails were very windy and some very straight.
At one stage we turned a corner after a particularly tricky part, to see a most spectacular lake/reservoir. It took all our breaths away and made the slog through the jungle to see it so worthwhile.
We also saw some spectacular ruins at Angkor Thom. This was an area built by a king in a walled area 3 sq km. The ruins of the temples and palaces were spectacular and we cycled on top of the wall for some time. We also had some fun going up and down a short steep hill to get on and off the wall.
The religious festival around these few days has caused the town to become incredibly packed and the surrounding roads too. Siem wanted us to finish cycling about 4 miles out of town because the traffic was bad but we decided to cycle all the way back to the hotel. Some of the way was absolutely crammed and we had to pick our way through cars, tuk tuks, cycles, scooters, the lot. People were settling down for evening picnics by the shore of a river and all around were cooking food. The area was incredibly busy. It was wonderful to see. So vibrant.
We picked our way through some back roads back to the hotel. It was a good call to do that as we were able to see some of the town that is not in the bright lights area.
We arrived back at the hotel for our normal end of ride photos, but couldn’t wait to get back to the room for a shower as we were hot, sticky and sandy.
All in all this has been a wonderful experience and we have seen two amazing countries. They have incredibly troubled pasts in the recent years and have big challenges ahead.
We coped very well with the cycling coming away with a few bruises and scraped limbs.
It was the heat that was the most difficult part. We thought it would be and can’t realistically train for it.
- I am physically in good shape
- Legs don’t ache much at all
- The heat really got to me the first day in Vietnam and I learnt from that. I think the same happened in Israel. I seem to easily overheat and need to drink huge amounts. I have been doing just that along with using the head/neck cover that Thai gave me. The last few days I have been soaking that in cold water when we stop which helps me cool down.
Well that’s it for now (more once I’m home) – I’m going to enjoy the evening and our visit to Ankor Wat tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to that almost as much as the cycling.
Thanks for reading and following this blog, I hope you have enjoyed it far more than the chore it’s been to produce it. I will get the benefit in years to come when I read back over the wonderful things we have done.
I am so appreciative of the opportunity I have to do these things. It wouldn’t be possible without the support of Lorraine (and the other wives supporting their men too). Ladies, thank you all. Lorraine, love you lots. We must come back here together, you will love it. Also thanks to Stephanie and Jason for your tips about the countries and your support and encouragement. And of course, to the rest of my family, friends and work colleagues.
To my cycling buddies, it’s been another amazing experience we have shared. Thanks for putting up with me and for making me laugh so very much.
This was supposed to be short but I don’t think it’s it turned out that way! There is so much still missed out in these blogs and I will attempt to fill in the gaps at a later stage.
I’m going now…..