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THE GREAT RACE TO ANGKOR



Cambodia. 4.30 am. *
In the pre-dawn darkness of Siem Reap preparations are under way for the big race.
It takes place every morning. And will, until there are no more sunrises.

Quietly we steal out of the house near Sok San Road that we share with our hosts.
We get on the ridgety bikes we have rented for a dollar a day. It´s still pitch dark as we hump and bump down the road that is the source for the red dust on our skin, cloth, shoes, hair. It accumulates under nails and between toes. Don´t wash and dry your cloth here unless you want an orange sheen on them.

At the ticket booth we take up our positions next to tuk-tuks, vans and buses.
I know my vehicle isn´t the fastest in the race, but that doesn´t really dampen my spirits. I only know how great my bike really is once I see the face of a german tourist as I overtake her. She´s in a tuk-tuk and I can´t help but give her a chipper smile as I glide by. First she seems suprised, then her frown turns into a scowl.
We are soon overtaken by the german tuk-tuk again. Maybe she has hit her driver with a whip. 
Ben Hur. It´s on!
I pedal as hard as I can, trying to overtake more tuk-tuks, grinning like a maniac.
Soon we hear the cries of the coffee sellers*.
We tie our trusty steeds to a tree. But the race isn´t over yet. It´s a triathlon. Riding, running, fine motor skills.
Elderly british couples are shouldered out of the way. Flocks of chinese face-masks scatter with loud chattering as we march on to the final part of the race. Find a spot. Crouch down. Finger poised. I repress the urge to giggle.
After a few minutes it´s hard to keep up the suspense in the dark that slowly filters into grey.



But the have entertainment. On the ruin that we have cleverly perched on we are in the company an australian couple and their tour guide.
The man has a stony look on his face and as soon as the woman starts to talk it is clear why.

- Have you been to Indonesia?, she asks their cambodian guide with a throw of her hair.

- No. Bu´ I have hea´ it is ve´y ni´.

- Ah! You must go there. It´s amazing! Her expansive arm movement measures the amazingness of Indonesia. The guide nods humbly. Now she tells tales about Thailand. Soon she pops the question. Again.

- Have you been to Thailand?

Every time the guides answer is the same. You´d think she´d get the hint. Our eyes are already sore from rolling. I assume they were already a few countries into the game before we took seat next to them. The guide takes the offensive.

- Ho´ many state´doe´Australia ha´e ? Go guide!

The woman turns to her husband, a smile plastered on her face that projects itself even through the darkness of the 5 am morning. It clearly reads "Don´t make me look stupid in front of this third world person"

- How many do we have, doll?, she asks him lightly touching manicured fingers to his shoulder. I think our indignant looks might have projected too. The husband mumbles, his stone facade hardly moving. It doesn´t seem to do much for her.

- I think...Seven, I think. Yes. Well, seven big ones anyway.

They definitely projected.
Luckily the guide soon takes them to a more crouded place where they will have a better photo opportunity of some reflection or other. As the sun lazily rises under a blanket of clouds we think about how lucky we are. To witness the sunrise over Angkor Wat. 
With brains to boot.