Monday, August 17, 2015

Cambodia - Part 1

Crossing an item on my bucket-list..

My first visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia back in 2000
Michelle and I had planned at least four outings in a year. Be it domestic or international, we made it a point to get away from work before it consumes us.
So, I did some research and on the drawing board, I've always wanted to cycle in Cambodia.
After an exhaustive search for flights and accommodation, I found a neat package deal from Expedia.com - offering hotel and air transport for RM635.00 per person. 
This was for 5 days 4 nights in Siem Reap and it was just "perfect" and too good to refuse. I told Michelle about this and immediately placed a booking for the travel deal.

Why Cambodia?

My first visit to Cambodia was back in 1992, I was in Battambang and in 1998, I visited Phnom Penh. This was followed by another trip back in 2000 where I traveled to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I know that for a fact, there's lots to see in this country which is rapidly developing after it came of out conflict in the early 90s. Today, Cambodia is very different. My main focus was Siem Reap and a few years ago, I toyed with the idea of cycling from Thailand to Cambodia. But with Michelle's tight working schedule, I had to forgo my plans.
Hence the flight and hotel package that made it really sweet. So, this time round, we packed our bikes and worked with as little gear as possible to meet the weight-limit requirements. Fortunately, the allowable luggage weight is 30kgs and this made our bikepacking trip possible.
Now, the other factor about Siem Reap is Angkor Wat. This magnificent temple complex is a World Heritage sight. Michelle jumped at the chance to cycle around the historical site. Next, was Tonle Sap lake, which is within the vicinity of Siem Reap.

Our travel itinerary by Expedia

The right bikes for the job..

My 2011 Dahon Jetstream EX

Neatly packed in my Dahon Airporter
There's no doubt that the Dahon Jetstream EX and P8 are the "go-everywhere" bikes for this trip.
It has full-suspension capabilities and recently, I've upgraded the bike with a Rockshox rear suspension that gave it a really smooth ride and a set of Shimano Zee downhill hydraulic disk brakes. 
From my experience in Indonesia, I knew that the road conditions in certain parts of Siem Reap requires a hardy bike.
The Jetstream was an excellent choice. 
Why? It's compact enough to be packed with my Dahon Airporter (it's tricky, but if you know what to remove, this bike fits like a glove!) and with all the tools thrown in, we are good to go.
I spent some time figuring out the packing part and when I got it right, I went to work straight away with Michelle's Dahon Jetstream P8.
The bikes have been serviced and deem roadworthy for the trip. All we needed, was the right tools and spare tire tubes for the ride.

Bah! Another "husband and wife adventure"..

Me and my cycling partner..
As a troll on my blog had put it: "Another husband & wife adventure, what a letdown..", well, it might as well be! Hahahah! 
Back in the early days, we are grateful to a handful of friends who had organized overland trips for us. 
We learned their good traits and are thankful for their efforts to put together trips that we had thoroughly enjoyed.
Traveling in a group has it's advantages and shortcomings.
To blatantly put it: "You win some and you lose some.."
I have no issues traveling with my wife, we communicate well and are pretty disciplined on the road. 
With experience in hand, we avoided the following characters:


  • Master-gurus - folks who know it all, but at the end, are just plain washouts.
  • The Dictator - It's my way, or the highway.
  • Rockstars - people who want it all, but offer nothing in return to the cause and always want to to be in the limelight. These kind of characters have no common-sense and make their own rules, totally undisciplined and expect others to treat them like celebrities.
  • The Man-child - immature characters who put the lives of others in danger.
  • OCDians - Folks who are very obsessed with the littlest things, meticulous to details and refuses to listen to others even when they make mistakes.
  • The new Aristocrats - Folks with fancy and expensive bikes who want to ride in clean places and thinks that their bikes are more important than anything else in existence.

With folks as such, there are bound to be conflicts. So, it's best that we do our own thing and enjoy the peace.
That said, I am just glad that my wife and I share the same interest.

Preparations

Now that I've got the itinerary planned and the trip paid in full, the next step, is to stash enough cash for the expenses.
At the time I booked the trip (confirmed and paid for back in June), my task was to get as much US Dollars as possible in loose change.
Why? That's the main currency accepted in Cambodia. The exchange rate was around RM3.65 in June and I managed to round up as many small notes as possible to pay for transport and food, including the US$20 day pass at Angkor Wat.
I expected to pay around US$15 (RM61.54) for our meals and on the average, we paid around US$25 (RM102.57) for the entire day. There really is no point whining about the high-exchange rate and to my surprise, Cambodia, despite the US Dollar rates, is pretty affordable. In a certain way, traveling around is much cheaper than our own country.
I have stashed up around US$200 (RM820) for this trip, which is enough to get by for the both of us.
The trick is not to spend on shopping. And well, Michelle is not a big fan of that anyway. Our main idea, is to have fun and that is food and entertainment.. 
As far as clothing is concerned, we were minimalists. We packed our riding shorts and shirts, and that was about it.
Since we are staying in a reputable accommodation, we don't have to pack our towels.
On keeping in touch with the world, there's free WiFi in Siem Reap and their mobile network supports 4G LTE. This came as a big surprise to me as SIM cards offering data plans up to 3GB is available at US$5 (RM20.51) at the Siem Reap International Airport.
With all that in mind, the Cambodia trip became a highly-anticipated event for us this year.. 
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