Travel Well Traveled
'If at first you don't secede, join the Union. We have pizza.'
Or Indiana Jones, Dirk Pitt, that Uncharted guy. I would assume that everyone who makes the journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia, goes to there to see Angkor Wat. Along with Angkor Thom (the faces) it is one of those special places, but Jack loved both those places so much they'll get their own issues. This particular one you're holding is not filler, though, it is to celebrate the dozens of other incredible temples on the same massive grounds as their more famous siblings. And we're going to tour them by bike. A crappy bike that cost $1 to rent. Oh, yeah. . .
How to Get There
Get on a bike, son! Rent a little 2-cycle from your hostel/hotel/dude on the street and ride around. If you're Mr. Moneybags you can get your own little scooter, but only do that if time is a factor or you have an injury. Otherwise, get some exercise!
If you didn't fly directly into Siem Reap then you need to take a bus across the border. Beware a couple of things. One, do NOT leave anything at all valuable in your bag that is stowed under the bus, especially an overnight bus. Two, do NOT assume the Cambodian border officials are telling you the truth. Know the rules before you cross and if you see something fishy try and find a new official. See this issue's essay for thoughts on corruption and contrast.
What To Do
Bike all over creation, use your map to try and figure out where the hell you are, and wander through some ancient temples. It's an experience that will make you feel like a legitimate traveler and not just a tourist (whatever that means), but you will feel like you accomplished something.
The downside to not having a guide is that there is little to no signage so we generally had no idea what temple we were at. Jack had to look them up later on the internets using pictures as clues. Still, it was totally worth it to spend an entire day just sightseeing, drenched with sweat from the humidity, but happily walking inside cool, stone buildings and eating fresh fruit for lunch before buying some local handicrafts as gifts for those poor souls stuck back home.
A Bicycle Built for Two?
You can certainly meet plenty of other travelers while walking around the temples, just be confident and ask them to take your photo, ask for advice, ask if they want a bite of your fresh banana (literally, get your mind out of the gutter). And many of them will be cute and adventurous. If they are on bike, why not join forces? Then why not ask them if they want to meet you for a drink or proper dinner back in town? You are all high on energy from exploring this cool place, it is a good time to make your move.
Beware False Profits
If someone offers you incense or a blessing inside a temple, it is a scam. They are NOT holy men and will demand an 'offering' for the privilege. Ignore them, don't engage even in saying 'no'. They are parasites.
Well ol' Jack thought he was going to be extra clever and pinch those pennies, renting the 1 dollar bike. Ol Jack is an idiot. The brave little nil speed (opposite of a 10 speed) actually held up very well. He rode it from dawn till dusk (no yo mamma jokes, I promise), but then, just as the sun was setting and he was tired, totally soaked with sweat, grimy, and hungry wanting to make the 3 mile ride back to the hotel, the bike's chain decided it would like to go home first. And Jack kind of went careening off the road and down a hillside. Much cursing insued. The chain was repalced by hand, lasted about 1/2 a mile and fell off again. Repeat the entire way home. He was covered with grease by the time he came back while the other guys on their fancy 5 dollar bikes were already sipping their victory beers. Lesson learned.
Well you can get a cheap bike or a really cheap bike. But you get what you pay for. Even 5 bucks to rent a bike for the day is a bargain when you're using it to explore an incredible sight like this. The pass to get into the park is pretty steep, but you are already saving money by not hiring a tuk-tuk driver, right?
If you do hire a driver, have a definite schedule in mind and be a little dickish about it. Don't let him take you to a friend's store or any of that nonsense and negotiate the full price beforehand! Shenanigans will probably still ensue, but that's the game.
The Seal Club
If you only have time for some stuff, see the famous two (Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom). However, if you have another day to kill, do this bike trip rather than go shopping in SR. Even if you don't have much time, you must go see the 'tree temple'. You'll know it when you see it and you will be impressed.
Travel Tip # 121: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Pee often. Be well.
Travel Well Traveled អត្ថបទ
The Metaphor of Two Lines: