[Day 11] Hiking Up Phnom Santuk!
Today, I woke up a bit earlier to be able to work a bit for my client. Before starting with pure productivity, I relaxed on the balcony, observing the flow of life in the neighborhood. Locals tend to their gardens and go to the market on their motorbikes. In the distance, a Buddhist chant can be heard via a megaphone. Probably prayer time for local monks.
Preparing for the Hike
Anyways, after doing my work, I ventured to the gas station to fill up the juice on my bike for the upcoming day trip. While waiting for Antonio and Lovel to finish their bike check at the mechanic shop, I got off to explore the area across the bridge. There is a nice little riviera here that is quite relaxing.
After the guys were done with their bike checks, we cruised around the local town market to find something to eat. The market is full of fresh fruit, vegetables, and the fresh scent of seafood, of course! We found a place to eat but didn’t know what to expect. At most street food stalls, you can see what is being cooked, so you know what to expect. I picked a soup with beef skin that had a really bad taste that almost got me in a nausea state. I managed to eat almost all of it in the end, but wouldn’t say that I would try this meal again. Fish sauce in a soup with beef skin is not such a great combination.
We also found a comfortable coffee place that is a movie theater at the same time. Well, not your classic movie theater as there are three TV screens, one showing WWE wrestling, one showing a Korean kung-fu movie with Cambodian dub, and one that is showing Cambodian news.
After sipping our coffee, we rode back to prepare the gear for our day trip to Phnom Santuk.
Ready for the Hike
The ride to Phnom Santuk is a relaxing one, as there was not a lot of traffic en route to the hill. On the way, we lost Antonio and Darian. After waiting for 10 minutes, I and Lovel decided that we continue without them, as they knew where the location is and would go up the hill with their motorbikes, rather than hiking on foot.
Sliding off the main road into the dust trail through the rural part of Cambodia is amazing. The bypassing people look at you with huge smiles and spread the positivity around. After getting closer to the hill, we were stopped by a local man who was selling tickets.
The entrance fee to Phnom Santuk is 2$, and the hike is totally worth it. To the left is the vehicle route to the hilltop, while on the right is the route to the village where the hiking route to the hilltop begins. We proceeded that way and were welcomed by a local kid who gave us the parking spot for 50 cents each. The raindrops could be felt a bit, but nothing too detracting from the hike.
There are 800 steps to the top of the hill. The steps are very steep, and it is a bit tiring to get to the top. On the way to the top, there are some amazing viewpoints over the lowlands below, and you can even see the glow of Tonle Sap in the distance! Macaque monkeys start showing up more frequently as you are reaching the top. The sounds of the tree leaves indicate that they are jumping around.
The macaque monkeys are usually not harmful to humans if not provoked. They can be pretty territorial, asking for a snack before letting you pass. The macaques live in a matriarchy, with the mother being bloating huge and caring for its young ones. Make sure that you don’t provoke the mother alpha by provoking her children, as the monkeys will then turn their attention to you.
Anyways, the hilltop is really zen. Lots of monkeys running around the numerous shrines and golden stupas, while feeling the scent of the burning sticks in the air.
We sat down for a bit to relax from the hike and observed the young Buddhist monk below us. He got his sugar cane juice stolen by a sneaky monkey, so he was throwing rocks on him. It can be seen that he means them no harm, as he was throwing rocks at the safe distance from the monkeys.
We found Antonio and Darian relaxing on the rock that is an awesome viewpoint on the Cambodian lowlands. The monkeys soon came swarming the rock, so we slowly made our way to the next spot. After taking a green pause for half an hour, the sun has slowly started to fade.
Returning to Kampong Thom
The night was inevitable. As I and Lovel were on foot, we decided that we should start our descent before we get cast up in darkness. The monkeys started their descent too, and these are very territorial! They blocked the stairs, so we began our descent down the road that is made for vehicles. The darkness eventually swallowed us, but the numerous fireflies lighted the way for us. Also, there are a lot of small bats that just love flying into my hair! Eventually, we found the village in which we parked our bikes and set off to Kampong Thom!
The road back to the main road is shrouded in pitch-darkness and unpaved. But, it is absolutely amazing to hit the off-road and see that this bike is reliable enough for this. On the main road, we stopped at the roadside restaurant for some rice, vegetables and chicken combination and a few beers that lifted our spirits up.
As our muscles were really tired and sore after the hike, when we returned to Kampong Thom, we decided that we should find a massage place. First, we looked around our neighborhood but found out that most of them are closed at 10 PM.
Eventually, we found a massage place on the northern side of the river that cost 5$/1 hour Khmer massage. Khmer massage is similar to Thai massage, a bit rough and painful in some parts, but gets the job done. Also, no oil! The massage begins with leg and foot massage, then continues to the arm and hand massage before transferring to the back. The back was the most painful one. For the end, head massage and neck massage really closed off the deal nicely. Beautiful Khmer girl did the job well and after the massage session, I felt really clear in my mind and body. It was also a fun experience, as this lady was teaching me some Khmer words during the massage.
After the massage, we relaxed a bit on the balcony before going to rest. Tomorrow, we will explore the jungle temples around Kampong Thom!
To get up to date, check out the previous chapter!