Tag Archives: cambodia travel

In Search of: Quad Bikes in Cambodia

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While in Cambodia, I had a few “firsts.”  Make that about 10,000 firsts.  But there were a couple that really stood out to me.  One of those was learning to ride a quad bike.  When you’re traveling alone for the first time and you decide to try something brand new and you’re pretty nervous and wondering if you might make a fool of yourself — well, you can understand why this was a big deal to me.  That, and riding through villages outside Siem Reap was phenomenal.  It was a side of Cambodia I’d seen little of.  Quiet.  Fairly untouched by tourism.  Life went on as it always had.  People fed their livestock and worked in their fields.  Women chatted while wandering down dirt paths.  Smiling kids heard us drive by and ran outside to wave and say hello.  It was a bit magical.

There was a group of people scheduled to ride at the same time as me, but they were experienced riders.  And for some reason, they simply wanted to race through the countryside, seeing how fast they could go.  The owner of the company thus decided to pair me with my own guide, and I received a private tour.  My guide was incredibly sweet and patient.  It took a few minutes to really get comfortable on the bike (those things have some power).  But then I was simply mesmerized by the landscape and felt the need to stop every few feet to soak it in and take pictures.  My guide didn’t mind at all.  In fact, I think he preferred it — I could tell he loved his hometown.

If you’re ever in Siem Reap to see the great temples of Angkor, I highly recommend getting out to see the countryside.  You can rent a bicycle if you don’t mind the scorching heat and meander down dirt paths of the villages at your own pace.  Or you could choose something with a bit of an edge and hop on a quad.  Quad Adventure Cambodia is a great company (as evidenced by the many top reviews on TripAdvisor), and I highly recommend it.

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In Search of: Randomness and More Temples in the Jungle

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I find myself in a bit of a conundrum.  I’m in the middle of telling stories about summer in Southeast Asia, yet I just returned from an amazing trip in Peru, and now I’ve started storytelling about that trip also.  Do I continue talking Thailand, Cambodia and Laos?  Or do I skip ahead and tell the striking diversity I have begun to uncover in Latin America?  Hells bells.  I don’t know.

For now, I’ll continue where I left off in Cambodia.  Once I get more pictures ready, I’ll throw a corkscrew in the whole thing and just start randomly telling stories from other locales.  Because that’s how I roll, all random and shit.

Where was I last we spoke about SE Asia?  Ah, yes.  Angkor Wat.  Cue humidity, blazing sun and a smashing good time!  (Obviously I think I’m British now.)

So.  Remember I told you I stayed at a place in Siem Reap called the Golden Mango Inn?  Lovely place.  Really, really lovely.  Every time I walked past the front desk, they asked if they could help with anything.  One staff member in particular was so, so nice.  For the life of me, I can’t remember his name.  He arranged for me to have a bike at 4am when I decided I wanted to cycle to the ruins to catch the sunrise.  He was my wake up call.  He made sure the kitchen opened super early so I wouldn’t arrive at Angkor without eating.  He packed snacks for my bike ride — and then proceeded to worry about me biking on my own so early in the morning.  That’s actually funny.  I assure you, the 4am bike ride was MUCH safer than the afternoon bike ride on my way home, at which point I had to dodge the insane Siem Reap traffic going in every direction (none of which seemed to be heading the correct way).  The good news is, I survived to tell the story.

The Inn was phenomenal.  And that particular day was unforgettable.  I watched the sunrise at Angkor, then cycled through the park for over eight hours.  It was hot and humid and slightly unbearable at times.  But it was also an experience few people have.  Yes.  There are several bikers at Angkor at any given moment, but most don’t go as far or as long as I did.  Most don’t ride alongside kids biking to and from school.  Most don’t stop to chat with villagers that suspect they’re slightly crazy for taking such a long ride.  Granted, most don’t hit a ditch and go flying into the middle of the road either.  But, hey, it was an experience, right?  And the two school boys riding in front of me seemed rather entertained (if not slightly bewildered) by the whole ordeal.  The fact is, I would go back and do it again in a heartbeat.  Except I would take it even slower and soak in every single second.

Few things in the world can outdo cycling through ancient ruins amongst a beautiful, monkey-filled forest in Cambodia.

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In Search of: Angkor Wat, A Long Time Coming

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There was a time not so long ago I’d never heard of Angkor Wat.  I’m almost embarrassed to say that.  But it’s true.  I remember the precise moment I learned of it.  I was watching a TV show.  For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the show, but I know it was nearly ten years ago.  (At the time, I was in my 20’s.  I should have at least heard of the place!)  The show followed a newlywed couple on their travels, as they’d won the ultimate honeymoon — a trip around the world.  One episode, they woke up at sunrise to visit a place called Angkor Wat.  Wow!  I was enamored.  And from that moment, I knew I had to visit.

The Angkor Archeological Park stretches over 400 square kilometers and is the home to several capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15th centuries.  It’s full of ruins and temple complexes and pristine forest and monkeys.  I was also surprised to discover that many people still live in the lands of the park, often making a living through rice farming or selling souvenirs to tourists.  The park is a pretty astounding place.

My trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, the city closest to Angkor Archeological Park, was fairly uneventful.  For the first time since beginning my trip, my bus arrived on time!  (This was pretty significant and super exciting.)  I made arrangements to stay at a guesthouse called the Golden Mango Inn.  A tuk-tuk driver from the Inn named Song picked me up at the bus terminal.  I kid you not, this was the sweetest man I met in all of my travels.  If you’re ever at the Golden Mango, request Song as your driver.  He’s wonderful.

From the moment I arrived at the Golden Mango, I was beyond happy with my choice.  It was the nicest guesthouse of all my stays throughout Southeast Asia, and the food at the restaurant was muy yummy.  Not to mention the staff.  They were so considerate and thoughtful.

My first full day in Siem Reap, I decided to hire a tuk-tuk driver (I chose Song again) to do the Grand Circuit of the ruins, which is farther out.  I knew I would be bicycling the ruins the next day, so I wanted to save the shorter, smaller circuit for then.  From the moment I spotted my first temple, I was like a kid in a candy store.  I wandered through deserted hallways, climbed steep, narrow stairs and soaked in the sights.  I learned to use the tiny tripod with my camera quite well, and many a tourist stared at me, somewhat awkward, as I smiled and jumped and posed for seemingly no one.

I loved every minute of it.

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In Search of: A Little Village Outside of Kampot, Cambodia

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One of the best things about my little river retreat in Kampot, Cambodia was the red dirt paths.  Meandering down the roads led me away from the guest house and into a rural village area.  I walked under the shade of trees as girls rode past on bicycles, a man worked in his the rice field and women chatted at a roadside fruit stand.  The cows stared at me as I stared at the chickens quite literally crossing the road.  It was a slice of heaven.

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In Search of: Cambodia, A Country That Captured My Heart

Let me tell you about my friend, Cori.  We met sitting next to each other at a writer’s conference in Orange County, California.  She was in town from Cambodia, visiting her dad.  We shared a few laughs and a common bond over the struggles of wanting to write something prolific (nah, forget prolific, I think we’d both settle for something pretty good).

Someone in our conference session collected emails and started an online writing group.  The group soon fizzled, but Cori and I connected on Facebook and thus stayed in touch.  We commented on status updates and pictures.  We emailed occasionally about writing and travel.

And then one day I showed up in Thailand, and she said, “You’re in Thailand? You absolutely must come to Cambodia!”  Okay.  Perhaps those weren’t her exact words, but I’m fairly sure they were something to that effect.  And just like that, I was off on a whirlwind trip to another country.  It’s amazing how a shared Facebook bond can connect two would-be strangers from halfway across the world.

While in Phnom Penh, Cori opened her home to me (and her washing machine).  It was like being welcomed home.  She treated me as an old friend, and I learned a hell of a lot about hospitality from this woman.  I won’t forget it.  For that (and much more), Cambodia ended up being one of the absolute highlights of Southeast Asia.  I’d go back in a heartbeat.  As a matter of fact, I certainly hope I do.  That country captured my heart.

When I arrived at Cori’s, she wasn’t planning to stay in town long.  She had plans with her daughter to drive to a town called Kampot.  Just outside of Kampot was a guesthouse/river lodge that Cori had stayed at a few years before.  She made no promises as to its current condition, but recalled a restful river retreat.  They invited me along.

Les Manguiers, the river lodge, turned out to be phenomenal.  It was the perfect mix of relaxation and recreation.  There was yummy food (and, coincidentally, the mango shakes were beyond fabulous).  There were bikes, kayaks, sun decks, hammocks, a Tarzan river rope and walking trails.  I’m fairly sure I could move in if the situation presented itself.  Seriously, if you’re ever in Cambodia, go to Les Manguiers, the little retreat along the river.  You won’t regret it.

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