Yesterday, we hired a couple of bikes to cycle around Angkor. Our hostel offered a vast array of ‘bikes’ though after taking a couple for a spin, we resigned them to scrap metal and looked elsewhere. Now we weren’t expecting top quality but at least one brake and a fixed saddle are kind of necessary. Especially on Cambodian roads! Round the corner we managed to score a couple of beauties for just $1.50 per day. After a quick service we were off to Angkor. Upon our arrival I accidentally tested out my town bike in a massive pot hole, sending my two water bottles flying out of my basket, in perfect sync, straight into the 3 foot deep gutter. This was pretty funny and we did retrieve them but it’s pretty gross to think about. After a fantastic day cycling and temple spotting we found our selves 10.5km from Siem Reap and our hostel but only 4.5km from Angkor Wat. We decided that if we cycled fast we would make it to the the Wat for sunset in 40 minutes time. Not sooner had we set off, Rich got a puncture rendering the bike unrideable. Luckily, there was a puncture repair station just minutes walk away. This made us a little suspicious that someone had sprinkled glass on the road on purpose but there we go. In any case, our only option was to get it fixed. Awkwardly this was done by a girl that can’t have been older than 15 and charged $3, but again, there wasn’t really any choice.
15 minutes later we were on our way again. With just 25 minutes to go until sunset we were really pushing it now. As it happened, the odds weren’t in our favour. The tyre that has literally JUST been fixed blew out again as soon as we were round the corner. Now we’d definitely missed the sunset viewing op, it was getting dark and we were still 10km from Siem Reap with no transport. We decided to walk (for lack of any other option) and no more than 5 minutes into our journey a guy on a moped pulled up beside us and offered us a ride, with the bike. We asked how much and he insisted ‘no charge’ and that he just wanted to do it as a friend. This took me back a little as he was the first person we had met in our few days in Asia that wasn’t shamelessly trying to rip us off. The next thought that crossed my mind was ‘how the hell do you ride, two-up, on a moped while holding a bicycle?! Through trial and error we learned that you have to turn it upside down. Simple right?!
The rest of our 10km journey involved riding down the hard shoulder, weaving in and out of crazy cambodian traffic at twilight – Pieb and Rich on the moped and me cycling frantically along behind on my town bike with no gears. It was hard not to laugh out loud as everybody we passed was laughing and pointing as us. In Cambodia it’s illegal for foreigners to hire a moped so seeing Rich on the back with his bike must have been pretty funny. All the tourists that passed us in tuk tuks were the same – you could totally tell they were jealous. haha. Naturally, I couldn’t let the moment pass without a few pictures so I used my supreme circus skills to swivel my backpack from my back to my front, hold it with my teeth, get my camera out, snap some pics, put it away and back on my back all while riding a dodgy bike through heavy traffic. SO worth it.
Pieb dropped us off at our hostel and flatly refused our offer of payment. Again, he insisted that he just wanted to be friends which thoroughly restored my faith in humanity and let us in on the kindness of the Khmer people. Thanks again Pieb! You are awesome.