Our elephant encounter left us all smiles despite the fact that we really weren’t feeling any better, so we hastened our speed and spent some time climbing the Bayon in the shadowy afternoon light. Although the heat of the day was finally fading, the rocks of the temple were still radiating the stored heat from below our feet. I can’t ever remember being quite this overheated.
Finally, the sun began to inch toward the horizon, so we headed toward our final goal for the day: the temple of Angkor Wat. Most people head to the main temple for sunrise, and go elsewhere for sunset, so it seemed obvious to us to spend sunset at Angkor Wat when there would be less crowds.
Unfortunately, the security force wasn’t all that keen on us taking our bikes over the path and accessing it from the front. We rode a couple of extra miles around to the back entrance and soon our annoyance faded because we had the place all to ourselves – bikes and all.
We quickly locked up the bikes and wandered around the enormous complex which was mostly abandoned. Even despite our perfect timing though, we kept looking at each other puzzled, wondering why this temple was so much more famous than all the others.
Nice as it was, it was a bit of a letdown. My favorite part about the place was the way it glowed in the evening light, but the temple itself simply didn’t outshine its impressive neighbors. Perhaps our exhaustion left us underwhelmed but as we’ve often noticed, the most popular places aren’t always the most incredible. Either way, we enjoyed our time, and then just before the sun set, we headed back toward Siem Reap.
Although we’d missed the worst of the “after sunset” traffic, it was picking up fast and the tuk-tuks on the road weren’t moving all that fast. We hopped behind one and drafted it all the way into town, with nearby tuk-tuk occupants cheering us on. Its not every day you get to draft behind a motorized vehicle when you are riding a mountain bike and mashing the pedals!
We were hoping to make a quick return and call it a night, but once we got into town, darkness fell and we were a bit disoriented. We stopped a few times trying to figure out where we needed to go. As we hit the road again, Ben made a left hand turn. I waited for the traffic to clear before I followed, but once I turned, he’d disappeared into the darkness. Prepared from our last bout of being lost, I planted on a corner for a while before I realized that he’d have one heck of a time spotting me in the dark on such a busy street. I was pretty sure I knew where I was and sure enough, three blocks later I was back at the guesthouse.
Ben, however, was not at the guesthouse as I had hoped. The friendly guy at reception asked where my husband was, and I tried to explain. I wasn’t too worried since once again, Ben had the GPS, the map, and a full wallet, but the front desk manager was still concerned. I found a chair in the lobby and got comfortable waiting figuring Ben would be along shortly, but the receptionist patiently stood out on the road for a half hour, waiting for Ben to return. He was concerned about how Ben would find the hotel in the dark and though I attempted to explain how the GPS would direct him (never mind that I had just made the same trip, sans map or GPS!) and that he had a map if the GPS didn’t work, he was still worried. He kept asking me what Ben would do if the GPS battery died which made me laugh a little- if Ben was truly that lost 3 blocks away from the hotel, we were two very pathetic adventurers! Little did he know, that this temporary separation seemed so benign compared to our disaster exiting Hanoi!
Sure enough, Ben did turn up after a half hour or so. He’d done his due diligence in trying to find me and eventually decided to try the hotel. I’m still a bit confused how we managed to stay together for 3 solid months on bikes in Europe but had been separated twice in just more than a week in South East Asia! Nonetheless, I was relieved to have him back by my side, and together we dropped off our rented bikes, not sure if we wanted to ride them again for a second day. Having ridden for 13 hours on a bicycle seat that was not designed with any particular gender or even species in mind, my hind end was a bit worse for the wear. I could barely sit down.
We headed over to “our place” for dinner, but Ben wasn’t feeling well at all. I suspect that the heat had gotten to him and our constant lack of sleep probably wasn’t helping much either. I on the other hand was starving (nothing new there). He sipped at a milkshake while I downed a plate of noodles and my own milkshake in no time. Then, we shuffled up to our room where Ben fell asleep practically sitting up. We had an awesome first day at Angkor Wat, but man, we were tired.