We caught a flight out of Bangkok and landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the famous Angkor Wat. Siem Reap was probably the hottest and most humid place we’ve visited on our whole trip – hotter even than manual labor in Turkey at the peak of summer or crowded buses in southern India. We’d step out of the shower and already need another one, but the three days we spent exploring Angkor Wat were absolutely worth it. For two days we hired a friendly tuk-tuk driver to shuttle us from one ancient crumbling temple in the jungle to the next, the breeze and shade of the ride being our only respite from the heat. On the third day we hired bicycles for $1 each and set out early in the morning to peddle ourselves throughout the amazing ruins at our own pace. Despite the heavy heat and the dripping sweat and the sunny sun, it was a fun day because we love bicycles.The city of Siem Reap exists primarily as the gateway to Angkor Wat and while it didn’t exactly capture our hearts, we did love the friendly old people we encountered and the fresh coconuts. We were also surprised to find that Cambodia uses the US dollar. After such a long time away from home, handling the currency of our home country felt as though we were playing with Monopoly money, but it did eliminate the need for mental math (not our strong suit).
From Siem Reap we took a bus to Kampot, a small town on a river in the south of the country. We were so pleased with the gentle and cautious driving of our bus driver. We felt safe on the Cambodian roads. About two hours into our 12-hour bus ride and at a speed of about 50 MPH our bus suddenly swerved sharply to the right. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw a human figure flash past our window, dangerously close to the side of our bus. Suddenly we felt a big thud under the bus, followed by loud crashing, screaming passengers, and erratic steering. We came to a hard halt as the front of the bus plowed into a huge pile of firewood on the side of the road. Our bus was lurching to the right side, and peering out of the windows we could see that we’d come to a stop teetering atop the rim of a deep crater. Thankfully no one was injured. It turns out our bus driver had swerved to avoid a pedestrian crossing the street at a very inopportune moment. The bus entered at top speed into the wide dirt shoulder, plowed through a roadside kiosk (thankfully no one was inside) and the driver managed to steer the bus into the giant pile of firewood, effectively avoiding the huge crater that would have certainly resulted in a much more severe crash landing. After the crying children had been soothed and everyone collected themselves, all of the passengers (including some frail looking older folks) squeezed out of a small window on the uphill side of the bus and dropped about 8 feet down to the ground. Looking around we found that we were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around but a few roadside kiosks, one of them flattened. Our bus was definitely out of commission and we prepared ourselves for a long wait on the side of the road until the bus company could sort something out. To our surprise another bus arrived within 10 short minutes to pick up where we left off. We continued the rest of our journey without any further incidents. Austin was a bit shaken up from nearly running someone over while David maintained a strange sense of serenity throughout the entire event. This is a bit telling and seems representative our general responses to various unexpected travel adventures where Austin gets nervous and David is always* cool.After arriving safely in Kampot, we booked into a hut-tel directly on the river, a little ways from the town center. We stayed in a bungalow made of palm fronds and bamboo and planted ourselves there for three full weeks. David spent his days making various films, including the wedding, India part I, a moto adventure, a tribute to a new friend who is deeply moved by Destiny’s Child and another one about the end of the world. Austin finished a lot of books and did some writing and tried unsuccessfully to catch our blog up to present day (it is still a few weeks behind real life). We swam in the river which was brackish and full of fish, laid in hammocks and occasionally ventured into town on bicycles or dirt bikes. Although it was beautiful and relaxing, we somehow managed to feel anxious about how little we were accomplishing in our lives and felt guilt about not contributing to the world in some more productive way. Not having a WorkAway project left us feeling a little undirected. Austin even starting fantasizing about having a real job. Oh, the endless ways we humans can find most any opportunity to not appreciate the present moment, even while living in a bungalow down by the river.After three weeks of existential crises in paradise we prepared to make our way to neighboring Vietnam, home of the beloved Vietnamese iced coffee and the reunification location of Fodenvensel Studios with our friend Joel. It’s also home to some of the craziest traffic in the world. So we decided it would the perfect place to embark on a motorcycle adventure. Stay tuned!
*Except for that one amazing F-bomb in Delhi