Temples and Tuk-tuks


Photos and words by brand ambassador, Leslie Kehmeier

"Do you think I should call ahead and tell them we have bikes?" I asked Chris. I had just gotten an on-line message from our guesthouse in Cambodia saying they would pick us up from the airport with their tuk-tuk.

"Nah, think of how great it would be to get a photo with us and all of our gear packed into one of those things." Chris replied.

We landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia after two-weeks pedaling in Vietnam. It was the second and final leg of our adventure to Southeast Asia. Although we wouldn't be escaping the heat, we wouldn't have any big mountain climbs to contend with.

Our driver was waiting patiently for us when exited the airport. The blast of 95 degree air took our breath away as we nodded to him. He quickly disappeared to get his vehicle. Five minutes later, he pulled up to the curb with our chariot, a motorcycle attached to a covered carriage. In any other place, it might look like an odd way to get around. In Cambodia, it's the unofficial official vehicle of the country.

Our three day mission in Cambodia was to visit the Temples of Angkor, a world renowned historic site that thrived during the 9th to 15th centuries. It's a place that draws a whopping 2 million visitors a year. We had read that it's a place that is perfect to experience by bike. Lucky us! We set up base camp at the Bloom Garden Guesthouse, a short pedal away from 154 square miles of ancient architecture.

The Temples

To take the pressure off knowing and understanding the history and architecture of Angkor on our own, Chris and I joined a group bike tour on the first day of sightseeing. It turned out to be a perfect way to orient ourselves for the remainder of our stay. It also helped us discover some secret stashes of singletrack that we might not have otherwise discovered.

Besides getting a little off-road trail fix, the highlight of the day was Angkor Wat. Although it's not the most popular with visitors, it is the most recognized temple when people think about this iconic destination. For me, one thing that made it remarkable was the attention to detail in the structure itself. Architecture was an entirely different ball game at that time in history.

 

The following days we took advantage of cooler temps at sunrise and sunset to witness the Temples at the most beautiful times of day. Although the experience was shared with many other visitors, it was still peaceful and made me think about when life might have been like in this area's heyday.

Siem Reap

When we weren't pedaling around the Temples, soaking up the sun, we were exploring all of the good food and iced drinks in Siem Reap. With a mix of delicious local restaurants and creative ex-pat run cafes, we were never at a loss for where or what to eat.

I was very excited about a wealth of vegetarian options, including a robust birthday breakfast at Sister Srey. I recommend the chocolate cake (actually frozen pie).

If the culinary delights weren't enough, the town itself was something out of a dream - tree lined roads along a river with the smell of frangipani flowers floating through the air. We savored every moment and discovered that life in Cambodia was definitely a step slower and slightly sweeter than Vietnam.