Having done Ta Prohm justice, we were back on the road again, but the cool morning was rapidly turning into a blazing hot afternoon. There’s a reason there are so many people selling cold drinks near the temples and we were buying them like crazy. As we pedaled, not toward anything in particular, we stopped frequently outside smaller temples. We quickly discovered though, that pedaling was more comfortable that stopping to rest- keeping some wind on our faces was imperative to surviving the heat.
At one such small temple, we were coasting around the outside walls when an official looking guy started heading toward us. I was expecting to be told to get out bikes off the main path, but instead he smiled and declared that riding a bicycle was way to much work on such a hot day. Then he smiled and sent us on our way.
Soon, our route took us toward Angkor Thom where a number of very young monks were meandering around. A small group of them allowed us to take their pictures, and then we watched with amusement as they wandered around taking their own photos and frequently attempting to readjust their saffron robes in the steamy afternoon heat.
Following the group, we too climbed to the top of the towers, frequently seeking shelter in the stone rooms, and eventually giving up and taking refuge in the shade. We’d hit a major wall- our energy was spent, we hadn’t eaten nearly enough to fuel our bicycles, and the heat was getting unbearable. We laid down on a quiet row of stone and tried to decide what to do with the rest of the afternoon.
We debated going back to the hotel to wait out the heat a bit and then returning before sunset, but we knew that if we pedaled in the heat all the way back to our guesthouse, that would be it for the day. We decided to stick out a couple more hours outside to make it a full day. Ben looked downright miserable, but he was willing to keep pushing through if I was, so we got back on the bikes.
I felt like my bike must have weighed a million pounds, a common side effect of starving yourself when you’re using human powered transportation, so we set of in search of food. We didn’t make it very far however before we found a worthy diversion. Monkeys!
These monkeys weren’t afraid of people but we confidently stood back and used our telephoto lens to capture them. Spring seems to be in full swing in Cambodia as well meaning there were plenty of baby monkeys along for the ride.
As the monkeys headed down the road in the opposite direction, we renewed our efforts at finding something to eat. With the ridiculous number of westerners hanging around, I was sure we’d be able to find something substantial at one of the nearby stalls, but aside from eating a Cambodian version of cheetos and soda, soup was about the only thing on offer.
Soup was also about the last thing on the planet I wanted to eat at the moment since I could feel the heat of the day welling up in my cheeks as I pedaled, but we desperately needed the calories, so we sat down to a bowl of rice and chicken(?) soup. As we ate, the skinniest dog I’ve ever met crawled up beside us. She must have been thin to start with, but nursing pups seemed to have reduced her to nothing more than skin and bones. Her knobby spine was prominent along her back and her fur hung limply over easily visible ribs. We patted her head, but she didn’t even seem to have the energy to acknowledge us. Soon, I was sneaking her bits of the rubbery chicken in our soup. She practically inhaled them. It broke my heart a little bit. Even in the middle of the most touristy, wealthy city in Cambodia, there simply doesn’t seem to be enough food to go around. Our own discomfort seemed a bit less dire as we pedaled away.