After the hustle and bustle of Thailand, when I arrived in Siem Reap, I thought “I’m going to have so much free time to just chill and relax now! Sweet!”. How wrong was I.
In between teaching, lesson planning, hanging out with fellow travellers, pigging out, and heat exhaustion, I’ve had so little time to just sit down and write a blogpost on my tablet like this. I thought hot was hiking through the jungles in Chiang Mai in 39 degree weather. Wrongggg. You haven’t experienced hot until you join a P.E. class with the kids in the same heat with more humidity. When the munchkins look at me, they must see a human version of monkey bars because that’s what I become.
The day I arrived, I witnessed the traffic and thought “nuh-uh, no bicycling for me here”. That Thursday, I caught myself saying “I’m not ready to start cycling in the city yet“. On Sunday, I went cycling in the peaceful countryside. And on Monday, I cycled for the first time in the city, in the DARK. Well, that escalated quickly.
Did I mention people don’t wear helmets on their bicycles here, much less on their motorbikes? Meaning I got strange looks when I asked for a helmet. Noone sells bike helmets. The idea is not too great for a person who works in brain injury, but I got over it (okay, maybe not totally). I guess when in Cambodia, sometimes you just have to do it the Cambodian way. Life’s too short to be so uptight, and I am still very alert when I’m on my bike. The last sentence is there mainly to make myself feel better. Hah =p.
It’s a different type of crowd here that I socialize with, compared to Thailand. In Thailand, almost everyone I met was under 29, full of energy, and knew how to have great fun. Here, I’d say a select few are my age and the rest are middle-aged folks– thus, making for a very mature and wise group of people who always has something interesting to say. Now I’m not saying that either group lacked qualities of the other, I’m just generalizing. Everyone I’ve met has been so generously kind to me, I’m so thankful =).
In terms of touristy things I’ve done here, I bought a package deal for a bike tour of the Angkor temples and ziplining (Flight of the Gibbon + Grasshopper Adventures). The whole thing was superb. We got to bike through forests, and do a bit of adventurous “mountain” biking. We were also treated like royalty– with meals, fresh fruit and snacks, cold water, and even cold towels given to us. I had free hotel pick-up and a temple pass included. We were well taken care of, so I can justify their more pricey costs.
After that, I finally had my dreams come true and got to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I had so many opportunities to do it back in Canada, but I always held on, wanting to save that first experience for something a little more exotic. Get your mind out of the gutter, pal.
I WENT ZIPLINING! EEeee! It was truly somethin’ special and I hold a lot of pride that I did not freak out from my fear of heights. Even when I was stranded in the middle of one of the longest runs. I have a very vivid memory of the guide swiping at me and me saying “ohh no” when I realized I started to go back the way I came. I was more amused than anything to wait to be rescued, while dangling on a wire high above the ground, with some Cambodian girls giggling and taking pictures of me from the platform.
There are a large number of temples to see in the Angkor Temple complex, so I went back to see a few smaller ones another day with my tuk tuk driver. It was awesome because he knew what times the tourist groups were brought in, so I always beat the crowd and left as soon as a busload arrived. I stood in the East Mebon Temple, pretty much all by myself, marveling at the blood, sweat, and tears it must have taken to build the temples. I walked amongst/ touched stones carved by men in the 10th century. Isn’t that wild?
I was going to skip mentioning the next two activities to shorten the post but I couldn’t move along without giving a shout-out to them. One is Backstreet Academy, which supports local artisans and fair trade, through their art workshops. I signed up for the wood-carving class and left a happy camper. They were very accomodating and let us stay an hour more than the stated length. It was something different and very fun!
The second is Phare circus, which was absolutely fantastic. I loved it because it was not only a performance, but they also told a strong story through artistic movements, music, choreography, stunts, and their short script. I quoted them in my last entry.
It’s been a wild ride but I’m not done with you yet, Siem Reap! Wow, it’s the first time I’m not ending a blogpost with something soppy. I can’t help it because being cheesy is built into my system from all the years of writing Nursing papers. Blah blah blah.. to bring about an optimal level of health care that the public deserves. Yes I’m ending with that.