This was the day I was waiting for. I took time to get acclimatized in Cambodia, to get familiar with the way the country works, to hook myself with my own, independent means of transportation and to wait out the rain so I make the most out of my visit to Angkor Archaeological Area. And now here I was – riding away to buy my 7 day pass and see Angkor Wat with my own eyes at last.
The road to Angkor Wat gets interesting right after you have passed the ticketing office. Trees that line the road are marked with name plates at the base of each tree. This educational effort is repeated and present along the roads of most of Angkor Archaeological Park. The plates offer the Cambodian name of the tree, as well as English and Latin names.
As I rode further, I came to my first T intersection. I already knew I was gonna go left because that’s where the nearest, but also the largest and the most popular temple is – Angkor Wat. I was gonna do the clockwise circle starting from the left so I can cover the most famous and interesting temples first. This way if I end up with some extra time left, I can return to these temples and explore some more.
Interestingly enough, as got close to that T intersection, I noticed a couple of friendly monkeys on a side of the road. Since the only live monkey I have seen before (at the Damnak Wat Temple) was a bit shy a ran away, I wanted to take this opportunity and snap some pictures of these few that seemed to be the opposite of shy.
I really couldn’t wait to see Angkor Wat and I knew I was really darn close, but I was intrigued by the monkeys so I got off my bike, pulled the camera out and got ready to snap a few. What happened next got me by surprise, though. The fact that I pulled over and stopped must have been seen as an opportunity by the monkeys because within seconds from dismounting my bike, I found myself surrounded by dozens of them that showed no shame and went right towards me and my bike.
It was as though whole jungle that surrounds the Angkor temples came alive. There must have been a monkey hiding on every branch in sight and each showed up, climbed off the trees and sprinted in my general direction. Not knowing how to safely deal with the monkey, their straightforward approach got me freaked a little. I mean, these were cute little animals, but I didn’t know how dangerous they were. Last thing I wanted would be to get bitten by one and catch some disease. What’s worse, I didn’t know how strong they were and with increasing numbers that kept showing up I would be overwhelmed quickly. I started to beck off to keep my distance.
That didn’t go over too well, though. Seeing my bicycle, bunch of monkeys jumped on it and started pulling stuff out of my camera bag that was mounted on the steering bars. I had to yell at them and run towards the bike to scare them off but they leaped off and knocked the bike over. Others got dangerously too close and started to climb me reaching for anything that had a strap or was sticking out in any fashion. At this point, I no longer saw these monkeys as some cute animals. They were some truly greedy and shameless buggers one needs to watch out for.
I got a last minute rescue when a family riding in a cab that was approaching got excited seeing all these monkey around me and wanted to experience the same. Monkeys noticed the car that just pulled over and their focus shifted from me to them. I took this opportunity and darted out of there. Monkeys are little cuties, but they are a bit unmanageable in highly touristy areas and their numbers are endless. I saw way too many of them emerge out of nowhere in seconds. It taught me a lesson and I stopped treating them like some cute kittens. Monkeys have very good control of their hands which look and work like human hands and are capable of grabbing just about anything they can carry. If they grab something and run up on a tree before you can halt them, you will have just lost it, regardless of how expensive it was. Watch over your stuff when monkeys are around. They are thieving little mischiefs.
Off I was set free from the monkeys and on the way to Angkor Wat the shapes of which I could already recognize. My heart was pumping with excitement. I’ve seen Angkor Wat in pictures countless times before and now here it is right before my eyes.