Mountain Biking Through the Jungle

Jungle biking, heck yeah! So today is the Angkor Wat bike tour! I’m up early to enjoy breakfast before heading out. I tell the receptionist that I need a ride into town. This was a bad move. I really should have mentioned this last night, that perhaps, despite yesterday’s experience, it’s not easy to get a tuktuk driver.

As usual, I’m late. So late. I’m ready to wave someone down on the main road but I’m assured a driver is on his way. He arrives and I hope he can time travel back fifteen minutes. No luck there but the group did not leave without me.

I apologize for being late and quickly scribble on some forms. We get our bikes and riding through town toward the temples. There’s something odd with my bike. It feels like the chain is popping off but not really. I’m not able to go very fast. I mention it to one of the guides near me and we switch bikes. I’m not sure if he managed to fix the bike or if he was stuck with it the whole time.

After a few busy streets, we end up at the main entrance where I bought my ticket last night. Some people needed to buy theirs and we all had to show our tickets again anyway before continuing into the park. We stay on the main road for a couple kilometers.

Then we take a short break to drink water and soon leave the road to ride on the first trail. The dirt paths varied. It was easy going when flat and firm but more difficult when the dirt was soft like sand or small uphill grades. The soft dirt was worse as it’s hard to keep your balance if you don’t go through it just so. To make matters worse, my pants are not for bike riding. They are too wide and get caught sometimes when pedaling, so I spend my time tucking and untucking my pant legs into my socks. Very fashionable, I know.IMG_8693

The first temple is Ta Prohm, now dubbed the Tomb Raider Temple as it appeared in the beginning of the film years ago. Although I did see movie, I don’t remember temple. I’ll add it to the to do list for when I get back home. So, we’re here and it’s very crowded, which ruins the atmosphere. Our guide takes us through. This is the part that I don’t like about tours. You’re on someone’s schedule so you can’t linger. It’s crowded so it’s hard to keep track of where your group is when you fall behind. But we do get to walk through the whole place. Photos galore:   IMG_8694IMG_8701IMG_8706IMG_8721IMG_8727IMG_8736IMG_8737IMG_8738

We’re back on the trail and come across one of the gates. Can you imagine stumbling upon this in the woods? How awesome must it have been?IMG_8740

Onward! I’ve lost my map so I can’t really say which temples we visited except for the famous ones. We stop at a lesser known temple where we have some time to explore on our own after the guide gives us an overview. IMG_8744IMG_8746IMG_8748IMG_8750IMG_8751

We continue onto the main road to ride through Victory Gate.IMG_8758.JPG

To explore here. IMG_8760IMG_8765

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the temples are still active

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We stop for lunch. There’s some small restaurants all throughout the temple complex. It’s more like a food stand/bar with tables out in the open, sometimes a canopy above to protect against the weather, the hot sun. Unfortunately I don’t think I have any photos of them. Shocking I know. I was too hungry for photos and the food did not disappoint. They put out some peanuts that remind me of ones that I had in China. There’s some spring rolls too. Then curries and other delicious things… I didn’t feel like pedaling afterwards but the tour is not over yet. I spoke with the adults next to me (also on the tour). They’re a British family visiting from Hong Kong.

Our last stop is the grand finale, the crown jewel of the complex– Angkor Wat. We’ve been eating lunch across the street from it but I wasn’t facing that direction to give it much thought. Our guide points out a spot that’s great to watch the sunrise from and tells us some history before walking in. This temple is much larger than any I have seen so far. The sun is high and it is hot out. We walk across the long bridge to the entrance.IMG_8782IMG_8783Through the main gate…IMG_8785

I’m amused that the icon photo which suggests a body of water near Angkor Wat is really just a pond. The power of photography!

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original paint color

IMG_8797IMG_8800.JPGWe’re walking to the top of this:IMG_8802

Inside I try to setup a photo of myself. It’s not too successful but another tourist offers to take the photo for me. Yes! After a try she tells me to go stand over there. Where? There! I try to explain that I shouldn’t be standing over there and you can see the sign saying so. I typically follow such signs at museum because I don’t want to ruin these treasures for anyone. So much for that. To top it off, I’m wearing the wrong colors for these photos.

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the view, facing the main entrance

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On the way out, we spot some monkeys running about.IMG_8825

That’s the end of the tour and we ride back to the bike shop where we started. Once there we are greeted with coconuts.

I still have time before the tuktuk driver is suppose to pick me up so I walk towards a handicraft market. I’m not sure what this place is but it’s neat. I look around.2015-10-21 16.22.292015-10-21 16.21.042015-10-21 16.25.32

I find where the market is suppose to be but it’s only open on certain days. Today is not one of them. D’oh! I walk back toward the bike shop. 2015-10-21 16.30.51.jpg2015-10-21 17.06.55.jpgThe restaurant I wanted to eat out is closed. I don’t see any sign for when it will open. It’s near the restaurant I ate at yesterday so I check there. Apparently I’m in that time slot that most restaurants are closed in between lunch and dinner. So, I walk toward a cafe that’s suppose to be open all day. I walk through a market, trying to find my way through to the other side where the street is and spot the cafe.

It’s quiet here with another customer sitting upstairs. I have to take off my shoes before going further. Upstairs I can look over the street below. I order and watch as the sky grows dark. The service here is very good. It’s only a few dollars but they have great pride in the cafe. The food is good too.2015-10-21 17.34.41.jpg

2015-10-21 18.20.25After dinner, I walk back to the bike shop. I get there a few minutes before the agreed time and I wait. And wait… And wait. The driver is not showing up. Ugh. I weigh my options. I could walk the main road but pervious research tells me that Siem Reap can be sketchy at night. I decide to walk toward a more crowded spot before waving down a tuktuk driver. I remember passing a Hard Rock Cafe where some drivers were parked across the street. (Yes, Hard Rock Cafe, my symbol of a safe city. Haha) It doesn’t take much. As I start walking up to the drivers, they take notice and ask if I want a lift. The driver doesn’t recognize the hotel name but finds it on his phone. We agree to a price and we’re off. I keep an eye on my phone because one never knows. However, there’s nothing to worry about as I make it safely to the hotel.

Back in my room, I decide that I will go for the sunrise tour tomorrow and inform the receptionist. I ask for breakfast to go as well. It’s going to be a long day. I shower and go to sleep. I hate early mornings.

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