For Christmas, Siggy and I had decided that we should relate all presents to our South East Asia tour. So for the first present, I went ahead and booked a 3 hour horseback riding tour, through the rural outskirts of Siem Riep. Some would call me crazy, but it was really a brilliant experience! So serene, cosy and because of our great guide also a very educating experience. And not to toot my horn, but even though it had been years since I had been on a horse it went really well – although I don’t know if the guide was being sarcastic when he renamed me, John Wayne 😀
Shopping and the city
But before we went riding, I spent my first day in Siem Riep wandering around town, taking it all in and trying to buy clothes, since my bag had not arrived. And just as the night before the city of Siem Riep totally amazed me! This city has just the right size, and the right ratio between tourism and local spirit, which is amazing when nearby Angkor Wat accommodates over 3.5 million visitors (2018). And if you keep away from the streets surrounding the notorious Pub Street, you never really get a feel of the city being too crowded with tourists. The downside to this, when you need to go shopping, is that there aren’t that many shops to do ‘emergency shopping’ – but if you are in the mood for a pair of elephant printed slacks – the choices are plentiful 😉
The great thing about travelling is that, if you are open and talkative, you meet a lot of new and interesting people. In the evening after a great meal at a small French/Kmer restaurant, we went ‘cocktail-crawling’ through Pub Street. And after a lot of amusement over Australian backpackers, celebrating Australia Day, we sat down at a bar and met Mickael from New Caledonia. New Caledonia or Nouvelle-Calédonie is the largest overseas territory of France, discovered by James Cook in 1774 and colonized under Napoleon III in 1853. Last year in November the territory for the second time had a vote on independence from France, which once again was rejected. Mickael and his wife (who is Cambodian) are farmers and bee-keepers, with a large plot of land, on the main island of New Caledonia – and over several rounds of beers we had a very interesting and heartfelt talk (sometimes discussion) about colonization and the fears of the future, that he and his family felt. No need to go further on the topic, but let me say, that even though we might disagree on the rights of colonists, I utterly understood the fear of the future, that Mickael raised. And the night turned from deep talks to an introduction to the way our chakras influenced our body and spirits – long live White Russians at $2 a piece 😀
Well, back to the horses. Booking rides with any kind of animal can be a tricky thing. But after a lot of research into the facilities and the welfare of the horses at Happy Ranch, I felt certain that this was an okay company to support. And we were not disappointed. The facilities where amazing, the horses well cared for and the staff was the nicest people. So full of cowboy spirit, even after being brutally honest about my weight, I was introduced to my trusted steed, RAMBO. Rambo was a huge stallion, so I felt a bit frightened about the fact of riding alone for 3 hours – but Rambo had apparently been doing this for years, and just slowly walked along, understanding almost every command, and generally being a very nice horse – thanks for that Rambo!
So for 3 hours, we rode through the countryside on the outskirts of Siem Riep. Riding through rice paddies and small villages you really get an amazing feel for how beautiful and diverse this country is. And with a guide, whose self-taught English were very understandable it was no problem to broaden one’s horizon about the Cambodian people and Siem Riep. Oh, and we also learned a lot about duck farming and water buffalos. I like water buffalos a lot, from a distance – HUGE distance 🙂
On the way back from the rice paddies, we strode through a small town which I think had the most amazing bar – it was an all-day karaoke bar, and even though it was in the afternoon the place was packed and people were singing their hearts out to contemporary Cambodian tunes. I’m not sure Rambo really appreciated it, but I truly did 🙂
That night I once again slept like a baby, totally exhausted by impressions, the heat and the riding. And it was a good day for turning in early because the next day we had a tuk-tuk pick up at 05.00. It was finally time to go see my bucket list item number 1 – Angkor Wat!!