I woke up to my alarm clock at 4 am. The plan: to bike to Angkor Wat for sunrise.
I thought to myself, “How am I possibly going to ride a bike right now?”
I walked to the guest house next door, Hidden Home, and waited for the owner to open up; I had talked to him the night before, and he told me he’d open up early for me so that I could rent a bike.
He came out promptly at 4:30 and got a bike out for me. I rode away, and immediately realized that the right pedal wasn’t quite right– it was going on a slant, which made it very hard to pedal because my right foot kept losing grip. However, I was too lazy to go back and get a new one so I just sucked it up and kept going.
As I made my way to the ticket office, I realized that the pants I had bought the day before were NOT conducive to biking: the pant legs fly out everywhere, so it was super easy for the cloth to get stuck in the spokes or in some other part of the bike. Plus, I kept stepping on one pant leg with my shoe every time I’d get on the bike.
It was a bit scary to ride in the dark, but there were other people driving to go to the temples for sunrise as well, so it wasn’t too bad.
I got to the ticket office 15 minutes later, waited a few minutes in line, and got my $37 ticket to Angkor Wat.
Pro tip: You can get tickets for the next day starting at 5 pm the day before, so I would suggest doing that so you don’t have to go to the ticket office really early in the morning.
My plan was to do the “small loop” that I had found online, which included 8 temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Thommanon, and Ta Prohm.
I rode another 30 minutes from the ticket office to Angkor Wat. I parked my bike and started heading toward the temple. There were already so many people there at 5:30 am.
I was immediately approached by people selling photography books, coffee and breakfast food. The hustle hath no limits!
I had trouble deciding where to stand for the sunrise. First I stood in the most crowded area, which was by the pond. Then I went by some rocks to sit. Riiipppp. I heard the awful sound as I crouched down to sit. My pant seam had ripped.
How much did it rip?
Can everyone see my ass?
A moment of panic.
I felt around and felt the hole right on my crotch. At least it was in a more inconspicuous area. I kept going, acting like nothing was wrong, and walked around for a bit.
The sun came up at 6, but it was too cloudy to see anything. The inside of the temple had opened at this point, so I went to explore inside. It was huge, with so many different rooms and areas to explore. I found myself just staring at all the walls; the detailing was amazing.
At one point, while I was on the stairs inside the temple, I crossed paths with a guy selling photography books. There was another group a good 50 feet away, down at the bottom of the stairs, and suddenly the guy goes, “BOOK! YOU WANT BOOK???” to the group.
I died. I mean, what did the guy expect? That the group would suddenly run up the stairs and buy the photography books??! They couldn’t even see what he was selling! It was so ridiculous, but it made my morning.
I found a nice quiet spot on some stairs outside and ate my bread and bananas that I had brought for breakfast.
When I walked back out to the front, the sun was just hitting high enough that we could see it. I was able to snap a few pics from the “iconic” sunrise spot by the pond. Everyone had given up and cleared the area so it was quite a nice coincidence that I happened to be there at that moment.
I got a coffee from one of the many vendors and headed off to the next temple.
On my way out, I spotted a monkey who had just grabbed a bag full of food from a lady. He went in on it, ripped it apart, but it was hilarious because he was being all picky and didn’t want any of the food he found. He left the box, the woman went back to get it, and then the monkey came running, hissing at her. She immediately dropped it and put her hands up in surrender. Another monkey came along and they both were hanging around the food for a bit.
Eventually both monkeys went away, and the woman went back down to get the bag. I really don’t understand why she wanted food that had been touched by monkeys, but I guess she was really hungry…
I knew I wouldn’t be able to go the whole day biking in the flowy pants, especially now that they had a rip, so I went to a random clothing stall (there are many throughout the park) to find a new pair of pants.
After a few minutes of sifting through the mediocre selections (most were the same style of pant I already had on, or tight skirts, or elephant pants, which I hate), I finally settled on one pair of blue pants.
I quickly changed in the bathroom, got back on my bike, and headed on toward Bayon, relieved to not be stressing about my pants anymore.
Bayon was incredible. The temple is known as the “face temple” because it is completely covered with faces carved into the stone. I spent a good 30 minutes just walking around, staring at all the faces and details of the stones.
There were, of course, lots of people taking photos for their Instagram. I also kept running into the same people I saw at Angkor Wat.
Next I moved on to Baphuon. I biked around for a bit, looking for the road to it, but I couldn’t find it.
I asked a tuk-tuk driver how to get there, and he told me all I had to do was park my bike and just walk up the trail. Oh.
This was another big temple. It had a lot of stairs. It was starting to get hot at this point, and I was struggling.
I kept walking on the trail, which led to Phimeanakas (I just looked at it from the outside and didn’t go inside), and then the two terraces: Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King. The terraces were pretty cool, but I wish I knew the history behind them because I wasn’t quite sure of their purpose.
I walked back to my bike. I needed to take a quick break to cool off, so I went to a restaurant nearby and got a banana/mango smoothie.
Feeling a bit more energized, I headed onto Thommanon, which was a couple kilometers away.
I got there and saw another temple, Chau Say Tevoda temple, across the street. I decided to visit that one too. Both temples were interesting but not CRAZY memorable. There was an exhibition explaining the restoration of Chau Say Tevoda, which is being funded by the Chinese government, that I found interesting. So many foreign governments (Japan, China, and Indian seem to be the biggest from what I gathered) pump so much money into Angkor Wat.
I went on to my next bookmarked temple, Ta Prohm, but stopped at another unplanned temple along the way. It was called Ta Keo, and it was another big one with lots of steep stairs. Parts of it were under construction, so you couldn’t explore it all, but much of it was open.
Ta Prohm, my last stop, was probably my favorite: it had a mix of ancient architecture and ancient nature. There were all these super old trees that have spread their roots so far and wide that they have overtaken the temples. This temple was in the worst shape of all the ones I saw— there were MANY loose sandstones everywhere.
It’s also where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed, so that added a coolness factor to it, too.
I was tempted to keep going and explore more of the park, but I was pretty tired at this point and decided to call it a day. I still had an hour of riding to get back to town anyway.
On the way home, I tried to stay present but was having trouble with being present while still working through my problems.
Some of the thoughts I was having were about my ego. Lately I’ve been feeling like I might be more extroverted than I thought I was before I started traveling. I find myself craving human interaction more frequently than I thought I would, but I’m not sure if it’s human attention I crave, or genuine human interaction.
I also realized that this staying-present-and-accepting-each-moment-as-is thing can be applied to so many areas of life: to veganism, running, writing, saving money, cooking healthy, etc.
You just have to make a decision in each moment– I will eat vegan for this meal; I will not spend $3 on a cup of coffee; I will have a smoothie as my snack– and not think about what you’re going to do tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week.
But do I balance the two? How do I think about all these things while still staying present?
I got into town around 1 pm and went to New Leaf for lunch. I was craving a wrap or sandwich, and they had a vegan wrap so it was perfect. It was like a fajita wrap— sautéed onions, peppers, and green beans. It also came with sweet potato fries, pickles, and a salad. I loved it all. I stuck a few fries in the wrap, which made it all the more amazing.
I rode back to my hostel and talked with some girls who had done the hostel-provided van tour of the park that morning. They said it was a total waste of money and a complete disappointment. The guide barely gave them any information, didn’t go inside the temples with them, and only showed them 3 temples. For a $37 entry, I think they expected to see more than 3 temples. If I were them, I probably would have just stayed back and explored for a bit more instead of driving back with the group.
I attempted to nap for a bit. There were quite a few girls in the room, though, so it was hard to sleep amongst all the chatter. It finally calmed down around 3 pm and I napped for a couple hours.
I realized that the girl who sleeps above me in the dorms, who I was annoyed at the day before, isn’t actually as mean/insensitive as I thought. She just craves attention.
Quick recap of the night before: I was trying to go to bed, but she was talking SUPER loud for hours and then when others in the room told her I was trying to sleep, she said she didn’t care and kept on talking and being loud.
She’s one of those people who loves to create drama out of every little problem in their life (e.g. today she was hungry and wanted Indian food, but spent an hour talking to everyone about her hunger and how much she wanted Indian food instead of just shutting up and getting it). The trick, I think, is to not take her seriously, just laugh, and go along with it.
After my nap I chatted with my dorm-mates some more and then asked if they wanted to get dinner. Two of them, Jen and Otty, were ready to eat so we got ready to go.
Jen wanted to shower, so Otty and I went downstairs to get a beer at the bar while we waited.
Jen and Jen’s Dutch friend Huub came downstairs and we got going. It took us a while to decide where to go because we wanted somewhere with both cheap beer (50 cents is the lowest) and cheap food.
We ended up at Golden Coconut, which had a sad total of 2 options for me: fried rice or fried noodles. I went with fried noodles. They were ok. Theres not much you can do to make fried noodles a stand-out, though.
We went to pub street and got drinks at Angkor What? bar. We ended up sharing a couple of NAAASTTTYYY rum & coke buckets. I don’t know why I do this to myself.
I can’t believe that the insanity of Pub Street occurs every night. It’s so loud, crowded, and bright, it cannot be easy to live in that atmosphere every single night if you are a restaurant/bar employee.
At one point, Huub discovered that the place next door was selling beer for 50 cents, as opposed $1 at the bar we were at, so he went and got beers there by himself. He awkwardly sat there and every so often would turn around to talk to us. Oh, the lengths we will go to save a couple bucks.
A couple buckets and beers later, we went to the club across the street called Temple.
We danced for a good while. At some point I started talking to this guy from California. We played his little bar game where you play best of three rock paper scissors, and whoever loses has to buy the other person a drink. I lost two out of two times. Ugh!
He asked me to salsa dance with him, and it was so fun. I LOVE when guys don’t just ask to dance, aka grind, with you (or worse: don’t even ask and just start rubbing against you unsolicited) and actually DANCE with you. I love the spontaneity of real dancing. There is no spontaneity with grinding: its just one movement, back and forth.
We danced and danced and eventually left around 3 am. I checked my Health app when I woke up and saw that I had already logged 4 miles. Gotta love those early morning workouts.