What better way to explore the Cambodian outback than on a honda 125 cc (sporting a vintage war helmet). A little more horse power than a scooter but slow enough so I don’t break my neck. A word about riding bikes..there is truly no better way, in my opinion, to explore than on a bike..where one can observe all that surrounds them in a way that awakens all the senses.

Today, with my local guide, I started my adventure throughout the Cambodian countryside. With the warm wind gliding lightly over my face, I pass through small farming villages, rice paddies, mango groves, cashew farms, and water buffalo.

Who knew this is where our cashews come from?

We stop before our incline up through the forest at a food vendor for some fruit and banana stuffed in rice and cooked in banana leaves-a Cambodian breakfast.

Tamarind, longkin and tangerine

Fresh mango with chilli sauce

We then begin the real trek up. The heat intensifies along with the dirt road that has morphed quickly into craters of sand.

I feel like Fred penner..crossing bridges,  ducking under branches, anticipating the next stop. Finally we arrive at the sacred elephant site ..stone carved at the request of a centuries old king into the enormous shapes of elephants and lions…these forms are even older than Angkor Wat itself.

Then to the bat  caves where Buddhist  monks come to meditate.

Eww..says the girl who ate a tarantula

We stop for lunch at what seems to be the friend of my guide. I order Tom Yam chicken which is essentially a soup combining tastes of  sweet and sour. Chunks of green tomato, fresh herbs, onion, sticks of crushed lemon grass, and oyster mushrooms.

Yum! But damn like I needed that spice. I’m sweating buckets.
I’m ready for  a nap after that but I know the adventure is just beginning. I splash some cold water over my face and hop back on the bike.

Finally we arrive at these magestic waterfalls where locals are swimming. There is a small wooden change house that my guide gestures me to use, but before he can finish explaining how to get up there I’ve peeled off my clothes and have jumped in (I was smart to wear my swimsuit underneath my clothes this morning..not so smart to wear white while outbacking in the Cambodian forest). Little fish nibble at my feet (I’m told they use these fish for pedicures..hmm) ; I am thrilled that the water on my body is for once not mine. I needed this.

Back on the bike, he takes me to the buddhist monastery where Buddha himself has been thought to walk. Up the long narrow staircase to this massive stone Buddha from about the 9th century.

I stand in awe considering how long, and with such determination,  it took to complete such a monument. The monks sitting peacefully under the bagnion trees below smile at me in a way that sends warmth throughout my body.

I leave this sacred forest with an even greater desire to live a life based on a foundation of good intention, dedication to what is truly important to me, and kindness (kind words, kind thoughts, kind gestures).

..and maybe a little hungry;)

Time to find a place to eat on my last night in this magical country..


A footnote for those curious.. Cuisine Wat Damnak, I had read, is an incredible restaurant here in Siem reap-‘Cambodian food with French sensitivity’-the receptionist at the hotel called and was told it was fully booked..I grabbed the phone and called again “dedication to all that Is important to me” must have bled through my desperate plea-“we will fit you in”. Yay!

Five courses including the amuse bouche, for a wopping $27.00. This was the last supper in my blessed Cambodia…

Boneless frog legs with lotus root, herbs and seeds

Black sticky rice porridge with Mekong langoustine, glazed turnip, mushrooms and chilli tomalley emulsion

Slow cooked beef cheek, spicy jungle soup, round eggplant, wild mushrooms and crispy tongue

And my favourite.. Chilled pineapple and tapioca pearl soup, lemon basil sorbet, and palm sugar meringue

Full and satisfied I tucker out in the back of my tuk tuk-tomorrow I head for Thailand !