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Sunday, 27 December 2009

Riding From Saigon to Angkor - Page 4

Written by Jeff Fitzgibbon
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Cambodia’s roads are hot, flat and straight as a rail, but for all that, cycling on them is an exhilarating multi-dimensional experience

Just for a moment, the piglets stopped their squealing. Wouldn’t you, if a panting, sweating, red-Lycra-shirted cyclist loomed into spitting distance of your personal space?

 

The day held a particular highlight – a stop at Skun, better known as Spiderville for a very obvious reason. It makes its tourist dollar from one of the world’s more peculiar culinary delights – deep-fried spider. I was one of the two of our party to try it, but only a leg, and not the, ah, ‘creamy’ mid-section. Let’s just say I didn’t order it for dinner that night.

Riding From Saigon to Angkor, From Saigon to Angkor by Bike, cycling tour with World Expeditions, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh,  Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Jeff FitzgibbonAfter bike-free explorations of Phnom Penh, our bus took us north to Siem Reap. From here, we cycled a full day and 30 km around the Angkor complex, and the next day rode the 60 kilometer round trip to an outlying temple at Banteay Srei. Amazed by the strife-torn richness of Angkor’s history and laden with the scarves and guidebooks foisted on us by squadrons of polite 10-year-old hawkers – it seemed everything cost ‘One dollar, sir!’ – we cycled back to town through rain that sweetened the air and elevated our spirits.

I surrendered my bike with mixed feelings at the end of the journey. It had been at once torturer and conveyor of delight. It was certainly the best way to combine a range of desirable experiences – intimate exploration of the culture you’re a traveler in, healthy exercise, and interesting relationships with a diverse group of fellow adventure-seekers.

Back home, I’ve retained the imprint of only one of those experiences. Contact with co-riders petered out as quickly as expected, and I haven’t gotten back on a bike in weeks. But I’m already planning a return trip to Cambodia, this time with my partner on an itinerary that allows us to dig deeper into dark subsoil of the Khmer civilization.

I’ll give the last words to Lin, the wiry number two Cambodian national road racer. Three weeks after the trip, he emailed us, hailing us individually. To me, he said ‘Jeff, I think of you even though you are not strong but not slow too.’ I’ll put the best gloss on this enigmatic utterance, and choose to think he wasn’t referring just to the speed I worked up behind those piglets.

© Jeff Fitzgibbon 2009


 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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