The long run to Angkor Wat

129km Anlong Veng to Siem Reap

A cheery Cambodian teenagerIt’s been a long day on mostly dirt roads. We started out in the early morning hours from Anlong Veng and now we are covered in a fine layer of red dust, sweat and sunscreen, struggling to pull off the final few kilometers and wondering if a hotel will ever take us in this state. We watch the darkening sky in anticipation and then cheer out loud when the heavens finally open, dropping buckets of monsoon rain over our heads.

At first we rejoice in the rain. The torrents of water wash away all the heat our bodies built up over the day. We don’t care that all our clothes and our shoes are saturated. Every time we spin the pedals around there’s a squishing sound from the puddles around our toes but we are happy to feel so refreshed and the Cambodians are also amused to see two foreign visitors as soaked as they are, going home on bicycles in the opposite direction. We start to rue the rain a little though when the water drips into our eyes. All the grit from the day that’s plastered on our faces flows in along with the water and soon our eyes are stinging so badly we can’t see a thing. We pull over, rub our faces with our shirts and start off again. We have to do this at least five times.

Young girl with a bicycleAs always happens when we tackle long distances, it’s the finale that seems to take forever. The rain stops but we are still not in the town of Siem Reap, despite having spent over an hour being passed by tourists in tuk tuks. How far can a tuk tuk go in a day? We must be getting close. We’ve gone through the Angkor Wat park and down a long, wide boulevard and now we’re at a large roundabout where all the signs have mysteriously disappeared. Which way to Siem Reap is anyone’s guess. We decide to follow the tuk tuks and our bet pays off, dropping us just short of the main hotel district. We don’t have a map but we’d seen one online a few days earlier and amazingly Andrew – who Friedel has taken to calling ‘Mr. GPS’ – shouts out ‘turn right’ and ‘left down this alley’ and we are at the door of the hotel we wanted to stay at. How does he remember these things?

The hotel agrees to take us in their one remaining room and we slosh up to our bedroom where we linger in the hot shower and down two cups of coffee. We know the next few days will be expensive – entry to Angkor Wat alone is $20 U.S. a day – but we still decide to opt for eating in the hotel restaurant instead of venturing out in search of cheaper food and this time it’s a very good experience. The fish we order is well prepared, full of flavour and something we would never find from the street vendors.

Finally, we relax. It was a long and exhausting journey, over seven hours in the saddle, but now we are ready to start exploring one of the world’s true wonders and we are excited for what’s in store. We book a tour as well out to see the fishing villages around the Tonle Sap lake and then feverishly start checking our email with the free wifi connection and doing all those other things we think about but never get around to when you normally only have an hour of internet access once every few days. It’s midnight before we fall asleep, exhausted but pleased with our first day on the road in Cambodia.