For anyone thinking of a trip to South East Asia, a stop off in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must. It’s a beautiful city with old world charm and wonderful cuisine. While there is a terrible recent history which has cast a dark shadow over the once powerful Khmer kingdom there is also a protected glimpse into an old Asian powerhouse that cannot be missed.
The temples in Siem Reap are truly divine, and to be understood in their best form a bicycle tour is called for. On a bicycle stops are easy, nature is nearby and there’s something magical about hearing the birds chirping while touring through the historical structures. It takes you back in time.
While in Cambodia I met an equally adventurous French girl who was also keen to cycle through the ancient city.
We agreed that the morning sun was much better than the scorching heat of the afternoon, and besides, we both wanted to see the sunrise. So we planned to meet early in the morning. Very early. 3 am kind of early.
My friend picked me up at my hotel and we jumped on our rental bikes – not the fancy North American mountain bikes, but the garage sale variety.
We had a long ride into the temples, but once we got inside it was pure heaven. No-one was around. It was blissfully silent, with the trees looking so fresh and dewy and the sounds of the birds so clear.
We went to our first temple and watched the sun rise. It was a lovely moment to see the sun rise in the horizon over the agricultural landscape in the distance. We sat in silence with many other tourists, all waiting for the sun to peep out in the sky and welcome the day.
When the sun was fully suspended in the air we looked at each other and with a nod agreed to cycle on. We rode on our rickety bikes for hours on end. Peering in different temples, amazed at the phenomenal masonry skills and the beautiful artwork etched into stone.
We went to one temple that had been taken over by these strange looking trees. I felt like I was in middle earth! It is by far one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
In case you ever imagine that the saying “Slow and steady wins the race” is incorrect you may want to defer to these trees for a second opinion.
On our way back to our hotels we could see all these cars stopped. We didn’t know what was going on, but clearly there was something to see. And that’s when we met the monkeys. They were a little scary for me, and they seemed to be quite aggressive, but it’s not everyday that you get a monkey right next to your bike!
My friend and I looked at the monkeys for a few minutes until we noticed they were getting a little aggressive with the tourists, and jumping on their cars and grabbing food from people. Clearly that was our sign to get out of there!
We slowly rode ourselves home to relax with some great Cambodian cuisine, a cool drink and then an afternoon nap.
It was the perfect ending to a magical day in Siem Reap.
Cambodia is a beautiful country and has amazing cuisine. I would recommend it to anyone. It is a country that has obviously had some major challenges in recent history, but it is a country with a lot to offer, and a really lovely place to travel. If you are in South East Asia, make sure you add this to your itinerary.