In the past week I completed my bike tour through the Mekong River Delta and traveled up the river to Cambodia.
Last week when I checked in, I was in the middle for a four-day bike journey. My tour guide, Tien, was exceptional and he did a great job structuring our day around coffee breaks and meals while making sure that we avoided biking in the rain.
I loved getting to see the small villages in rural Vietnam, and the fact I was the only person on the tour gave me a big look into how the locals live. Tien explained everything from the current living conditions in the villages, to what people eat for breakfast, to how people practice Buddhism differently throughout Vietnam.
We biked to the border of Vietnam and Cambodia and then I boarded a small 25-seat ferry for a six-hour trip up the Mekong River to Phnom Penh. I booked a tour that would take me to the major sites in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and it was starting in Siem Reap so I took a bus up there. Siem Reap is much more fun than Phnom Penh and has more for tourists to do. It’s crazy to think that it was Tomb Raider that helped to put Siem Reap on the map as a tourist destination.
I had been to floating markets in Vietnam, but I went to a floating village outside of Siem Reap. People, usually poor fishermen, live in small homes built on tall stilts over the largest lake in Cambodia. We took a boat out to a market within the floating village.
We didn’t really get to see the homes and I am not sure if that was because the tour guide wasn’t good or because the water levels were too low.
I learned about the process of making silk at Artisans Angkor, which is far more interesting than I had expected. Cocoons are individually unrolled, made into string, woven into thread, dyed, and woven together to make fabric. I especially enjoyed getting to see how silk is woven into patterns using a loom.
Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise was one of the things that I was most excited for when I decided to do this around the world trip. When I went, due the tour guide’s poor planning, we just missed the sunrise, which had been boldly colorful and would have been incredible. It really isn’t ok when a tour guide drops the ball on something that most people consider to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I still had one more day in Siem Reap so I went back to Angkor Wat the next morning with a private tour guide and did see the sunrise, but it wasn’t nearly as colorful. I am glad that I took advantage of the opportunity to go a second time, but when you book a sunrise tour, you should get to see the sunrise.
If you have been following along on Instagram you might have heard me complain about my tour guide in Siem Reap. I made a major mistake by booking a tour with a company other than World Expeditions (the company I used for my Vietnam bike tour and my Amazon Rainforest tour).
My tour guide in Siem Reap could probably win an award for the worst tour guide. Not only did we miss the sunrise at our sunrise tour of Angkor Wat, he actually told me that if I wanted to know about the temples that I would need to hire another tour guide. It was very frustrating, luckily I only had to deal with him for a day and a half in Siem Reap.
Angkor Wat is just one of many temples in Siem Reap. I also went to Ta Prohm which is famous for being one of the locations where Tomb Raider was filmed. After the temple was abandoned nature took over and now there are trees growing out of the structures.
Angkor Thom was the capital of the Khmer Empire and the complex of buildings contains dozens of temples, including Bayon Temple which is famous for the carved faces that appear throughout the temple.
I have so many photos from Siem Reap, and lots of fact checking to do since my tour guide wasn’t knowledgable, but I will be sharing a detailed blog post soon!
Now I’m back in Phnom Penh for two days. Today I visited the Royal Palace, the Killing Fields, the Genocide Museum which is in the former S-21 prison, the National Museum, and Wat Phnom. Tonight I am going to a traditional dance show.
Sunday I am flying to Kathmandu and next week I will be doing two different tours in Nepal. I am excited to get to a slightly cooler climate since it has reached 90-95 degrees nearly every day that I have been in Vietnam and Cambodia. Plus very heavy rain tends to roll through in the afternoon or evening.