Long day ahead. Big plans for today include cycling 13km to the Roluos group of Angkorian ruins, and also having my last meal of the year at FCC Angkor.
Initially, I thought that reaching the Roluos group would be a relatively painless affair, after my experience of cycling 14km on the mini-tour yesterday. However, it turns out that cycling 13 km on a straight road under the hot sun can be a despairing affair, that after 1.5 hours, I started wondering if I had missed the sign leading me to Roluos. Thankfully, another Australian cyclist was also taking the same route. Together, we finally managed to get to Preah Ko of the Roluos group.
Preah Ko was undergoing much needed conservation, but I got to enjoy it away from the tour bus crowds, perhaps because it’s so out of the way, and doesn’t score so high on the splendour factor. One km south of Preah Ko was the Bakong that was surrounded by a moat. It was pretty ornate, with elephants guarding the 4 corners of the 5 terraces, and stupas (or what I call stupas) in between. And of course, I got to enjoy it in relative peace, since there weren’t many tourists, just a few others who were mad enough to make that 13km cycle from town. Though the Aussie and I planned to visit Prasat Prei Monti (we had to travel together as her bike lock malfunctioned), the plans were abandoned as we got lost due to the lack of a good road map on hand, and of course, hazardous sand paths.
The long ride back to Siem Reap was leisurely, with ample time to take in the surrounding countryside, punctuated by the friendly “hellos” of Cambodian kids on Highway 6.
No definite plans were in store for the late afternoon following the visit to the Roluos group, except for the hunt for lunch, since my ravenous hunger had to be satiated. Post lunch, and leg and sore butt break, I decided to cycle around Siem Reap town, hunting for CKS and the Golden Banana, Kyle’s favourite guesthouse. The Golden Banana is indeed central while obscure, as it was tucked in a little lane somewhere near Phras Chas, the old market. On my aimless journey, I also bumped into a Cambodian wedding, where the guest were decked out in their colourful dresses.
Eventually, I decided to return to my guesthouse for a refreshing shower before welcoming the new year. Though I initially planned to dine at FCC Angkor, I ended up having pasta at The Red Piano (yet again!) as FCC Angkor was having some special new year buffet which I didn’t exactly fancy. After dinner which ended at 21 00, left with lots of time to kill, I decided to go pub-hopping. After walking about, I settled on an Irish pub run by a friendly European who seemed to know his clientele. In order that I would not get sloshed before midnight, I decided to have a dessert (profiteros, a cream puff looking thing with ice cream sandwiched in between, and lots of chocolate sauce!) and some juice to ease into the night. After my failed attempt to order a beer from the waitress, I decided to move on, to FCC Angkor.
FCC Angkor was decked out for the occasion, with blocks of ice surrounding the dance floor that was perched near the pond. The music was groovy, and most people were having a swell time dancing the new year in. Thankfully, no one was overdressed, or I would have been out of place with my bermudas and T-shirt. Close to the new year, something amazing happened! I actually saw a Chinese lantern, the kind that you send into the sky by lighting a fire within it! Though I’ve seen it numerous times on TV serials, I’ve never seen a real one being lit and sent into the sky. But there they were, sending one lantern after another into the night! That was just amazing!