Angkor temples. 50k fam bike tour. EPIC!
Note: links above to sets and streams on pics — this post has a random slice of some of the pics — and as always pro photogs have nailed this zone more than I can w/ my iphone :) — but whatever this post is about a story, and I took a zillion pics, see more at the Flickr Set linked above for sure including a more “chrono” presentation but a few samples are included below w/ the text of the blog
Melting and loving it at the grandaddy: Angkor Wat
Outside the moat late afternoon storms building Angkor Wat
Standard scenery on the ride/tour: Bayon (“face temple!”)
Touron bus. Scott fam style.
There is always only one first time. The Angkor temples are detailed at the wiki link below and I won’t go into the detail on them (think “pyramids” or something if you are not familiar) — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor
No doubt the most significant historical human built site we will see on this trip — by whatever measure and ranking/etc. always in the “top 10 of the world” kind of thing. Now, I generally like my sites and experiences pure nature, not man — but there are times the ancient ruin / site thing carves right through my thick skin and touches something deep. And Angkor is legit for me and our crew.
Crew outside Angkor
Certainly part of our stay in Siem Reap is about exploring these temples, most folks have heard of Angkor Wat — the most famous and featured on the Cambodian flag and the reason most tourists come to Cambodia — but Angor Wat is one of many in the region. As always for us on the fam trip we have this crazy mix of what can we do as a family and not, etc. . . . and as always our attempt is proceed with style that is faithful to what we love (adventure, exploration, learning) while not going over the edge on safety wrt the kids — and get value via authentic experiences as much as possible even on the touron circuit at times.
So the answer here is rent bikes in siem reap w/ “tag alongs” for the kids. They get towed by us, can pedal when they want, etc. This set up is not widely available in Siem Reap but we source via some contacts and head out on what turns out to be a 30ish mile day. The Grand Tour route plus out and back from Siem Reap.
Bayon/Ta Prom shots:
We are also at “low season” for tourism — as the temps are 100 plus F every day and mad humidity and some insane thunderstorms mixed in here and there — right at the end of “dry season” but no regularity yet to the water (rain). All good, we knew it coming in and so it goes. Many do temples only at sunrise (5am) and sunset (7pm) during this time of year. They don’t have kids w/ them :) We actually are on bikes by 6:30ish and after a few stops and adjustments w/ allen wrenches (can’t believe I left my mini set in INDO!!) for the tag alongs we are off and rolling. Of course I don’t navigate perfectly and we get an extra piece of loop in before the ticket office but no worries. We are on a combo “bike ride / temples greatest hits” day today w/ the kids. Not sure how long we have until the heat or whatever blows us out.
Riding out of town in the “peleton” is awesome. I’ll do a dedicated post on why riding in Indo/SE Asia in general is so awesome (except for when it sucks, which it can) — but big themes are that the speeds are slower, bikes are everywhere, the rules are more “don’t run into stuff in front of you” vs. “i have the right of way!”, a big rule is whatever/whoever is passing is responsible for what is in front of it, so if you are not passing anything you don’t have to turn around or whatever you can to wtf you want. Somehow it all works. Stuff w/ wheels just rolls along together, from bike to truck to car to moto to tuk tuk or whatever, some crazy wheeled peleton just rolling.
We are, btw, the second most popular tourist attraction in the area after the temples. It’s not that white peeps are foreign here — it is the 3 blond cuties I’m rolling with on tag along bike set-ups, we are an awesome site! To touch a blond girl here is good luck. So you have me in “front” when we we are single file on the busy roads and I’m like the luckiest guy in the history of man (yes, I am, for real, but now other folks are saying it for diff reasons!) — but my point is the peeps here are all like holy crap look at this crew of one lucky bastard (me) rolling w/ three blond cuties including 2 little girls!!! And they are saying we are probably half crazy why aren’t they in a tuk tuk or something don’t they know its about 100 degrees? Of course four and six year old little blond girls — four and six year old any girls, are pretty dang cute so of course. But it’s a blast in general, there is some “being in a zoo” element but folks are constantly rolling by and waving and pointing and smiling and all good.
Our first stop is Bayon or as the kids now say the “face temple” and yeah, it’s insane. It is 8:30, we are not focused on temps. We explore and it is rad. Actually fun for the kids (and this kid) beyond just the historical and architectural and visual beauty — it’s like the most insane stone playhouse in the world climbing around and through and what not. And the faces are incredible, the whole thing is mind-blowing. The whole day is mind-blowing.
We roll out of Bayon onto the Grand Circuit and its like the sickest bike ride you’ve ever seen. Jungle roads, alternating pavement and dirt, low traffic / no traffic — and the scenery is 1000 year old (+/- 200 years) ruins from ancient civilization?
The heat has not even had time to melt my brain but it is already so.
We ride past many of the “lesser” temples on the route knowing we are on the greatest hits tour w/ the kids and only have so many “stop and get off and walk/climb/explore experiences” chips to play . . . we stop at Ta Som for drinks (not a greatest hits, but just required) — and no kidding the first COKE my kids have ever had!! Yes, learn what the cyclist knows, and this is where we are headed :) It is actually the first time I’ve seem my wife drink a Coke, too. It is 10am. We head into this “lesser” Temple, it is insane. Megan takes a wrong step cruising a temple route (often a class II scramble kinda thing?) and turns an ankle and goes down!! Extreme templing. Crazy. We do some field medicine (thank you Wilderness First Aid cert :) — I don’t feel totally clueless, nothing is broken . . . we assess and determine the day can go ON!!
The heat is starting to get real, and we have 2 more hopefully real stops w/ the kids. I am doing the math on all fronts and not clear what is going to happen wrt time and team energy and capability. Guide zone is on. So the next stop on greatest hits is the “jungle temple” of Ta Prohm and tomb raider fame . . . we hit it. Another amazing exploration, each hour plus when we go deep, cool. Man and nature intermix here, nature wins of course. Mans structural staight lines mashing up with the jungles power that does not care just survival driven . . . there is no avoiding the crazy “bone (man/straight) and muscle “nature/root/tree” set up” — so yeah my head is just tripping on this man/nature mash up on all fronts — whole organism, together — and for those who know me this projection into android land of the future. Awesome stuff. Sorry it’s really hot :)
Fresh pineapple and mango and water are the bridge to the next stop — we are all melting but the idea is maybe we can get back to Angkor Wat and a cooling and lunch and make a final push into the temple Angor Wat itself! Megan and I know we’ll get out to Angor Wat the grandaddy/etc. ourselves — her and I in the next few days — and to other temples just ourselves but we are not sure w/ the kids too so we really want to make it happen “for them” (will they remember?). Anyway, the bikes are mad respite from the heat cuz if you’re drenched in sweat and you are rolling w/ bike wind it all works. Kids are like “can we get on the bikes again?” I feel you.
We make it to the major Angkor Wat area and attendant strip of resto’s — it’s like a 400m bbq — each resto gets 10m, there are 40 of them. I’m not really kidding. The offerings are the same at each. And delicous. BBQ chicken, catfish, bird (looks like about size of a robin). Turns out to be an amazing lunch. Fried rice, bbq chicken, iced coffees (w/ sweetened condensed milk, a SE Asia staple), fresh mango, and papaya salad? This might not be what you are imagining would be amazing 6 hours into a ride/exploration in 100 degree tropical heat. But it is insane. We don’t even care about the 10 flies apiece on our food / faces. I am legit worried if the kids have a push into Angkor Wat our window will be tight.
We go for it, now the faucets are on for all us. It just adds to the spirituality and magic of the whole place. At least for me :) We experience it all together. Not all of it, too much too see. But overall amazing. Carvings, stories, grandeur of the specific temples/towers. There is actually a “12 and over” zone given the climb and descent so Megan and I trade off doing that solo. We are just pouring water and drinking water and the locals are rad and it’s all good. Aili’s face is so red and the sweat beads are everywhere and I know the kids are crazy hot when their pony tails get drenched and are just dripping . . . I keep asking every now and then what’s next monitoring for lucidity and stoke “next is ice cream and pools!” is the enthusiastic answer we seek.
We make it out, walk a shady route back to the bikes (1k?) — and I thankfully navigate a solid route back to town where we indulge in the ultimate yumminess — ice cream!! Unf not the magic street vendor coconut ice cream from thailand but we’ll take what we can get.
Return bikes, this, that, etc. — suddenly it is 5pm and we are doing a plunge in the salt water pool and it magic. An evening thunder and lightening and rain storm round out the insanity and magic of the day. Each day of course is magic and a blessing for all of us here or there or wherever we all, but some transcend.