We love to ride scooters. I’m not sure why. I don’t drive them, so Robert never gets to do the same amount of sightseeing that I do. And, he gets annoyed because I’m pretty squirrelly while riding pillion because I just can’t stop looking around. But, nonetheless, we both love scooter days. Sadly, riding a scooter in Siem Reap is not as easy as other places — rumor is that (after too many stupid accidents) tourists are not allowed to ride in the Angkor Wat park and, while riding outside of the park apparently is allowed, the back roads are not very clearly marked. So, we were really excited to learn that we could ride to Beng Mealea via country roads with Khmer Ways.
The tour was advertised as suitable for beginners — they would even teach me to drive and set me loose on my own scooter. But at 120 km round trip, Robert and I were in agreement that I should stick to my usual role and ride pillion. Trust me, that was one of the best decisions we have ever made. While we loved our tour, it certainly wasn’t for beginners.
Our trip started out with a small rain storm just as we left Siem Reap. Thankfully, after getting pelted for a bit, our guide purchased these lovely rain jackets for us.
Soon enough, however, the rain stopped and we were enjoying the ride through the back roads. You can’t tell it from this photo, but the roads were littered with potholes. We sometimes rode on the right, sometimes on the left, and even sometimes off road to avoid the potholes (many of which were full of red, muddy water). And, there were dogs everywhere — many of them couldn’t even be bothered to get up as we passed, so we had to dodge them too.
But the scenery was fantastic. Brilliant green rice fields, white puffy clouds, skinny white beef cattle, water buffaloes, and happy children waving and yelling “hello” everywhere.
Shortly into our ride, our scooter started spluttering. What was wrong? We ran out of gas! No worries at all, as our guide was ready. He had a siphon and an old water bottle, and soon some of his gas was in our tank. Problem solved! Plus, if we hadn’t pulled over to fix our gas problem, we would have never gotten this photo.
After fixing our gas problem, we were off to a local market. Markets are just a tiny bit different here than back home….
We picked up some fruit for a snack and, in addition to red dragon fruit, got to try some fruits that were new to us, including longan (kind of like lychee) and something else we don’t know the name of that looked nearly identical to the longan on the outside but was segmented like a citrus fruit on the inside. It was delicious, so if anyone knows what we are talking about, please let us know!
Then, it was off for more riding. Pretty soon, we heard “thump, thump, thump.” Yep, you guessed it, we had a flat tire. No worries, there are shops everywhere to fix flats and we were on our way again in 15 minutes.
Plus, while we were waiting, we got to see several scooters ride by with wagons full of thatch grass. Our guide said it would be used to fix roofs and the like.
Soon enough, we arrived at Beng Mealea. After a quick lunch, we were off exploring. Beng Mealea is largely in ruins, but some walkways have been built to allow access to the interior. We highly recommend getting here right at mid-day. The tour buses had all left for lunch and hadn’t yet returned, so there were only a couple of small groups inside the temple with us (including a lovely Cambodian-American family making their first visit back to Cambodia).
After our exploration of Beng Mealea, it was time to hop on the scooter and return home. Once again, we took back country roads.
Robert and I were both astounded at how much has changed since we were last here in 2007. Then, the houses were without electricity (they used car batteries) and were mostly made of thatch. Now, there are electrical wires everywhere, and many of the houses are built of more durable materials. We even saw some solar panels.
We also stopped at a Buddhist temple on the return trip. It had quite the mural painted on one side. I’m not going to post it, but let’s just say it was an image of Hell and there was an image of a poor woman with snakes attached to her breasts. I hate to think about what she might have done to deserve that treatment!
All in all, it was an absolutely lovely day. Now, if we can just find another scooter tour!