That was one of the longest and most rewarding days in the history of me. The fact that it was all done in the Cambodian dry-season heat makes it on the top ten list of most exhausting but important days ever. We started around 7am after a really great night's sleep (nothing like a long bus ride and clean sheets to make you sleep like the dead) and packed our bags and made coffee. We're doing the instant thing, since it's really the ritual that's important at this point, not the quality. Plus, hot water is free in most places. Aughh, I know, we're awful. But it's gotta be this way or we couldn't travel for 8 weeks. Anyway, today we knew where we were going so we hit the road on our squeaky, creaky bikes. Last night my knee was really sore, so I did some experimenting to see if I could use the three gears more efficiently. Turns out all I had to do was shift into the middle gear, meaning I couldn't go as fast unless I wanted to pedal like a maniac. Oh well. So we started at Angkor Wat and spent the whole morning there, acclimatizing ourselves to the museum-meets-Disneyland feel of the place. I actually really like these kinds of places, where you hear dozens of different languages and accents go by you. Pretty fun. The morning was spent climbing crazily steep sets of ancient stone stairs, walking around oohing and ahhing and taking pictures, and trying to imagine what the place would have been like throughout the centuries. Angkor Wat was built in 1191, if I remember correctly, but I probably don't. My brain is sort of cooked right now. At noon we hid ourselves in a shady alcove near the steps of the inner wall and ate our cheapskate lunch: we got 4 apples and 5 baguettes for $2.25, which had to get us through breakfast and lunch and any snacks we might want. It actually wasn't a bad system: the bread here is the same as the Vietnamese banh mi style, medium sized squishy white bread with a good flaky crust, made fresh all over the city every morning. After lunch we got back on the bikes and went up the road to Angkor Thom, the great city of yestercentury, which has many ruins and even more trails going all over the place for miles. We were digging the breeze and the fun of making our peasant bikes do mountainbike things, so we spent a good long while just traversing the dusty trails, winding around beautiful temples and wilderness Buddhas wrapped in orange and saffron cloths. It was truly the high point of this year so far. Maybe it was all the carbs from the brad, but I felt this exhileration (don't laugh) in my soul. I was so grateful to be exactly where I was, and I felt to lucky to be able to see one of the wonders of the world for myself. Cause yeah, there are pictures of all this stuff online already, and I could stay home and read a book. But the smells of the temples, all the incense and old sandstone and that cool dark smell of high ceilings-- now I *know* what it's like to be here. And if anyone's thinking of going, bicycles are the way to go. Maybe not the oldschool $1.50 a day bikes that are more dust than cushion, but biking it is the most fun way to see this place, I guarantee.
After Angkor Thom, we left the city walls and proceeded north to Preah Khan, which turned out to be Kenny's favorite temple so far (mine is Bayon). It was a lot of walking, a lot of stepping up and over things at just about shin height, and then a long ride back in the sunset. Right now, my neck and shoulders ache from the not-quite-right lengths of the bike and handlebars, my toe aches from where I dropped the bike on it, and my scalp itches from sweating and then getting covered in road dust, then sweating again.
But you know what? I'm in Cambodia! This is awesome!