On our third full day in Siem Reap we were really keen to take a break from temples, explore some of the surrounding countryside and try to get a feel for what a regular day in the life of a local Cambodian really felt like.
While there are dozens and dozens of tour operators that can take you on a tour of the ‘floating village’ of Tonle Sap (the massive lake near Siem Reap), most seem to be plagued by touts and other scammers trying to make a quick buck by either isolating you on your boat and then trying to sell you stuff you don’t need, or by trying to put a guilt trip on you for not supporting their local ‘charity’ (ie. Barry and his brood of professional beggars).
We were close to giving up on the idea altogether, until we stumbled across Triple A Adventures. From the various reviews we could find it seemed that these guys took their tour a lot further out of town, to a village called Kompong Khleang. The other bonus was that they also spend half a day with you on bikes, moseying around one of the numerous villages that scatter the Cambodian countryside. Sounded perfect!
The day started out a little dubiously, as our driver for the day reversed into a concrete stub with a nasty crunch! No permanent damage thankfully and it seemed like just another morning in Siem Reap judging by the look on his face!
Things only got better from there, as we travelled the 45 minutes or so out of town to our first destination for the day.
Clambering out of the bus, we were greeted by a couple of locals with bottles of cold water and smiles all round! After selecting our steed of choice for the day’s cycling, we proceeded to slowly amble our way along the red dirt roads of the Cambodian countryside.
It’s worth mentioning something funny that happened at this point. We rode past a group of Cambodian ladies walking on the side of the road and I could see their brains ticking over as they saw the big Dutch bloke (see the photo below) pumping away on his pedals with bowed legs and sweaty back. I imagine the thought process would have been something like…
1. Someone coming on a bike, better move over.
2. Oh, more tourists. Carry on.
3. Hang on…is that what I think it is?
<eyes widening and grins appearing>
4. Check out how fat that guy is!!
<grabbing their bellies and rocking with laughter>
5. How can he even balance on that bike?!!
The poor bugger! He wasn’t even that big, but in their eyes he was bloody huge!!
After arriving back at the village we then took off in our minivan to the village of Kompong Khleang. KK is situated up one of the tributaries that feed into the massive Tonle Sap lake. Most people that live there are fisherman, with many not just living on the edge of the river, but actually living on floating houses out on the lake itself.
We spent some time at the house of an English teacher, meeting some of his students and eating lunch in his house/school room up on stilts.