On The Road Again - Cycling Around Siem Reap

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January 23rd 2015
Published: January 26th 2015
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It's time to brave the roads again! So, 7am Friday morning finds me pedalling down the road towards Angkor Wat on one of the bicycles from Horizons. No clear destination in mind, but I figured the 14klm round trip to the entrance booth and back would help me find my 'bike legs' again. It was a lovely morning, a cool 16 degrees when I left Horizons.

I took a couple of detours on the way back to town, just because I could, and stopped off at Wat Thmey, about 3klm from the centre of Siem Reap. It's a small active pagoda, and within the grounds are quarters for the monks, a teaching hall and a small, rather tacky, gift stand. So far, so ordinary....

However, at the side of the pagoda is a small and rather gruesome building - Siem Reap's Killing Fields Memorial. Anyone who comes to Cambodia, and has learnt a little about it's history, knows it's been a troubled country since the 1400's. But it's Cambodia's recent history which interests me the most. This memorial contained the skulls and bones of some of Pol Pot's victims. It's much smaller than the memorial at The Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh, but it still serves as a reminder, and a warning, to future generations.

As I cycled towards Jayavarman VII Children's Hospital, the boom gates swung out across the road, halting the traffic. To my amazement young patients lying on wheeled trolleys were pushed across the road by hospital staff. The hospital sprawls over both sides of the street and obviously, this is the only way patients can be moved between buildings. A sobering sight and I couldn't help but think of the dust, litter and throngs of parents with sick kids waiting in the street nearby.

The roadway outside the hospital is always choked with people and motor scooters. Lots of men biding time, probably waiting for their wives and children to emerge from the hospital. People spill into the small, but well tended, park next door. I stopped and took photos of a beautiful monument, attracted by the carving and it's gorgeous green colour. I've no information on it as everything was written in Khmer. Obviously not many tourists stop by here.

Later in the afternoon I walked to Pub Street again and enjoyed a couple of drinks at The Sun Restaurant. Comfortably
Wat ThmeyWat ThmeyWat Thmey

In the grounds in front of the monks quarters. Saffron robes drying in the early morning sun.
settled in one of their big wicker chairs, I watched the milk scam girls work the street. I ended up leaving there early so ate in the quiet and peaceful courtyard at Viroth's Restaurant on Wat Bo Road, just around the corner from Horizons. Dearer than Pub Street, I enjoyed a Tiger beer and a two course meal for $15.

Saturday was a quiet one. A quick visit to the Pub Street area in the morning for a few supplies, with an even quicker visit to the Old Market. It was thronged with people, locals and tourists alike, so I didn't stay long, just long enough to buy a couple of large checked cotton kromas, the traditional Cambodian scarf, for $2.50 each.

Tori, from Hand in Heart, contacted me later in the day. I'd been waiting to hear from her as I knew she was keen to start moving into the Sok San Road studio, a move which was planned for this weekend. Unfortunately a problem with the water pump meant it wasn't happening today. Tori will be living at the studio so a reliable supply is very necessary! So, I spent the afternoon at Horizons, napping, reading and catching up online. There is a very pleasant courtyard area at the front of the guesthouse, and by moving from table to table I have found the best spot for wifi.

Meas texted during the afternoon inviting me to join himself and his family for dinner at Viva Restaurant in Pub Street. Meas had actually been invited by Emily, a young Aussie volunteer whom he was friends with, as a farewell dinner for her. It was a great opportunity for me to see his wife Sochea (pronounced Sok-cheer) and little Muni again.

It was a very enjoyable evening. Emily and I had much in common, both of us having volunteered with Globalteer and worked at ABC's & Rice School. Muni was a lively, energetic 2 year old who rarely visited Pub Street and was fascinated by the lights and activity. We had a lovely meal, Emily and I split the bill and decided to visit the Made in Cambodia Markets together after dinner.

The Made in Cambodia Markets were established two years ago and held in the street outside the Shinta Mani Hotel every Saturday and Sunday evening. I remember orange market canopies over every stand, great
Green MonumentGreen MonumentGreen Monument

In the park next to the hospital
live music, wooden tables with candles where we sat and enjoyed a drink and snack from the food stalls. Unfortunately things have changed. Standing in the empty street outside Shinta Mani, we were approached by a tuk tuk driver asking if we were looking for the markets. The governor no longer allows them to be held in the street, he told us, they are now held in the hotel grounds. He pointed out the way to us.

The move was not a good one. The now permanent stands were covered with yellow tarps which were sagging and grubby. There was no music, no food stands, no tables with candles, and definately no atmosphere. The products were of a high standard but much of it was available at the more up market shops around Pub Street anyway. A huge disappointment..... I walked Emily back to her guesthouse in Sok San Road and headed home myself, via The Blue Pumpkin, for an ice cream cone. Pub Street was crowded and noisy and gearing up for a big night.

Sunday morning and I'm out on the bike again. I decided to ride to the studio on Sok San Road where I
Park Gate StatuePark Gate StatuePark Gate Statue

Impressive statue guarding the park gate
met up with Tori. We headed to Rogues again, for a quick fruit smoothie and an update. The water pump was now operational so today was (hopefully) moving day, but things weren't moving very fast. Tori needed man power to help her move some heavy boxes and strong men seemed thin on the ground today. I left her to her phone calls, promising to return after 2pm for drinks and a burger at the studio, in celebration of finally having the keys.

I ended up having a nap and returned to the studio after 3pm. A motley bunch of expats were there already, sitting barefoot on the concrete outside, as there was no seating, each with a can of Angkor beer and a cigarette in his hands. Tori showed me inside the studio which was just three rooms - entrance room which will be an art room/retail space in time to come, a dim, windowless bedroom with an ancient wooden bed frame, a Khmer style kitchen (basically a tiled bench with sink) plus a tiny toilet/overhead shower bathroom. The electric water pump was in the corner of the kitchen and pumped water from an outside tank.

Tori is
At the Children's HospitalAt the Children's HospitalAt the Children's Hospital

Sick kids being wheeled across a main road
going to live here? There is no hot water, no ceiling fans let alone air conditioning and that windowless bedroom would be stifling in the summer. The only ventilation is air vents high up the concrete walls, which all buildings here seem to have. The floor was tiled and coated with a fine film of dust, as the front of the building opens directly onto a concreted front area, then the street. This is barely basic living for a Westerner, but I think finances are tight. Tori did say she has moved eleven times in the past year, I wonder why?

There was plenty of beer but the promised burger never eventuated, the guy responsible for organising them never showed up. When a joint was produced and passed around, I figured it was time to move on. I walked to Pub Street, enjoyed a Famers's Salad at Molly Malone's and continued on home.

Things seem to be moving slowly all round for Hand in Heart. The Sok San Road Street Festival dates are fast approaching and Tori is still trying to pull in sponsorship money to pay for it all. The festival isn't quite what I was expecting,
Wat Preah Prom RathWat Preah Prom RathWat Preah Prom Rath

Inside the walls I walk past everyday
as it's directed towards the local Khmer community, held way down the far end of Sok San Road, a good kilometre from Pub Street. This is all very well, but I would have thought the reason for a such an event would be to raise awareness, and funds, for the cause. No tourist would venture this far down Sok San Road, there's no reason to. The dry and dusty corner block ear marked for the event isn't exactly inspiring confidence in me. Are we expected to sit out in the sun for the three days? Overall, I have a lot of unanswered questions in my mind and am unsure weather to stay involved with Hand in Heart or not. Time will tell.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Wat Preah Prom RathWat Preah Prom Rath
Wat Preah Prom Rath

Lovely gold buddha and wall mural.
Yolo BarYolo Bar
Yolo Bar

Colourful bar in the laneway beside Wat Preah Prom Rath
Banana Pancakes for $1Banana Pancakes for $1
Banana Pancakes for $1

These street stalls make the best banana pancakes I have ever tasted!
Kromas for SaleKromas for Sale
Kromas for Sale

Lots of kromas in the Old Market, available in 2 sizes, and only in check patterns.
Dinner at Viva RestaurantDinner at Viva Restaurant
Dinner at Viva Restaurant

Meas, Sochea, Muni, Emily & myself enjoying dinner together.
Muni and his mumMuni and his mum
Muni and his mum

Meas's wife Sochea and son Muni

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