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Andy Saiden

Travels

Traveling to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

One of the most famous monuments located in South East Asia, Angkor Wat is also considered to be the largest religious monuments in the world. Originally it was constructed as a Hindu temple for the Khmer empire, however it gradually shifted towards a Buddhist monuments in the end of the 12th century. For many years I had planned to travel to this world renowned destination however only recently was I able to make the journey. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap only takes only 2 hours, and AirAsia flies daily, which is very convenient however do take note on their flight times. As there are only one flight a day and their timing is not the same for each day.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

AirAsia Flies direct from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a booming city and is growing rapidly from the tourist influx. Situated 15 min from the airport and only 5KM  from the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, the city is the centre for where all tourists will converge. Accommodation here ranges from the lavish 5 star hotels to backpackers hostels. In terms of food, you will not be short of choices, as most restaurants and hawker stall serves both traditional Cambodia (Khemer) dishes along with western dishes for the less adventures tourists.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Traditional Khmer Spring Rolls

It’s pretty much goes without saying, if you are traveling to a foreign land be sure to experience the most of it. Taste the food and observe their cultures and traditions. Khmer dishes are very similar to that of  Thai cooking however are not as spice filled as the former. Also you get far less spiciness from Khemer dishes.

Sadly due to the large influx of foreign tourist the local currency is not as common as the favoured US dollar. This means that everything you pay for will be charged the US dollars. In my experience of travelling throughout South East Asia, I found that Siem Reap is perhaps the most expensive place to be in. A plate of fried rice or noodles will cos you around USD 3.50 to USD 5.00. A bottle of water will cost you at the very least USD 1.00. Surprisingly it would still be cheaper to have a meal in Singapore in comparison to the food prices here in Siem Reap. And just to mess with you budget a glass of draft beer will only cost you USD 0.50, so yeah beer lovers are safe.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Little Aiden not happy about the prices

The entrance fee for the Angkor Archaeological Park is not cheap, however I do consider it to be worth it as the funds from ticket sales go directly to the conservation and restoration of these old monuments. Per person it is USD20.00/day and for a three day-pass it will cost USD 40.00 per person. For children under the age of 12 its FREE. ( Aiden was very happy about that)

Exploring the entire park will take many hours and it is advisable that you plan the journey before venturing into the park. There are a few different means of getting around the area and bare in mind that you will cover many kilometres getting from one temple to the other. A very relaxing and eco friendly way of getting around is by hiring a bicycle which starts from USD3.00/ day, prices will vary depending on the type of bicycle that you wish to rent. A more comfortable MTB will cost around USD5 to USD8.00

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Perhaps the most popular way of getting around is hiring Tuk-tuk which is basically a motorbike that has a carriage attached to it. Prices will start around US12.00 to US15.00, also you will need to add an additional USD 3.00 for early sunrise tours. This was the most practical options for us traveling with a young toddler, and also the cost was per Tuk-tuk and not per person. Each Tuk-tuk will accommodate up to 4 adults.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Just a quick tip for those who are travelling with babies, toddlers or young children, using a stroller is not recommended as the surface area will vary from sand, uneven cobbles and stairs. Therefore a baby carrier is perfect for traveling around Angkor Wat. It also helps keep your little one secure during the tuk-tuk ride.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

One of the 5 towers of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

A baby carrier is your best choice when exploring Angkor Wat

The be honest about Angkor Wat is also bursting the bubble of expectation, as the initial thought of exploring an old temple ruin which was only discovered in the late 1890s sounded something out of an Indiana Jones movie. However the reality is that the main temple of Angkor Wat is swarming with tourists, there are just so many people trying to get a glimpse of the famous temple. Perhaps due its popularity or the fact that it was one of the youngest monuments, made me not choose it as the favourite.  Instead it was the older crumbling temples that romanced me with its beauty. The giant trees growing out of the large temple was a sight of splendour, which is probably why “Ta Phrom” was the set of the famous movie Tomb Raider.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Ruins of Ta Phrohm

Essentially both the movie and Angelina Jolie who stared in it help make this south east Asian country famous. Ever since the movie was released a storm of tourists has swarmed to see beauty of the ruin temples.

Due to the heavy traffic of tourists some parts of the temples have been made off limits, as you can see here the famous doorway which was featured in the movie has now been blocked so you will now have to stand behind a small fence to capture your photo or selfie.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

The famous doorway of Ta Phrom

One of my favorite temples was the Bayon temple located within Angkor Thom. The area itself is around 9 square kilometers and houses several temples which were built in different times.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Victory Gate

Bayon temple’s most distinctive feature would be the multitude of serene and smiling faces carved in stone.

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The temple style is very different from that of Angkor Wat and walking around the compound you will quickly realize that there are faces smiling down on you, with 54 towers and 4 faces per tower, it is hard not to be be mesmerised  by the serenity of the smiling faces.

Angkor Wat, Sieam Reap

The many faces of Bayon temple

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Day 2, heading back into Angkor Thom ( South Gate)

It may not be covered very well in some guides in regards to the the strict rules that apply to some temples around the Angkor Archaeological Park, however in our 2 day of exploring the temple ruins. These applied only to highest point of Angkor Wat and Baphuan Temple where children below the age of 12 are not permitted to enter and neither are those who are dressed in shorts, skirts and sleeveless  attire. The guards are very friendly but yet strict about the rules, so I would strongly advise to bring along a sarong or a pair of pants to enter these places.

I should also point out that you should not make loud noises when visiting these temples as it will ruin the experience for others and there also some who come to mediate.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Aiden was denied entry into Baphuan temple

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Rules to follow while vising Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Zen moment by a large window

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Another beautiful doorway in Ta Som Temple

As we made the journey to the less prominent temples the masses of tourists started to thin out, it was evident that the majority of the crowed are not too keen on visiting the temples on the “large circuit”. This was no doubt refreshing and made the experience perhaps more memorable.

Perhaps of one of the more under rated temple on the list would be Preah Khan, which is by no means small. The compound extends to about 138 acres and it is largely un-restored with numerous trees and vegetation growing out of the ruins. The temple is surrounded by a moat similar to that of the entrance to Angkor Thom. I found this particular temple to be very enjoyable and more relaxed.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Preah Khan

Angkor Wat

Tetrameles nudiflora

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I realized that if you are going on the grand tour or “large circuit” try to go in reverse and start with the older temples leading up to the young and grander temples such as Angkor Wat and Bayon. This will surely make the journey more enjoyable and slowly build the excitement.

On our trip we saw the much older temples towards the end of the tour and it did take away some of the excitement as seeing all the grander and larger temples at the start of our journey. By no means where they boring, however they were simply overshadowed.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Prae Roup Temple

To round up our the trip I would highly stress on getting the 3-Day pass, as trying to squeeze in everything in one day is going to be stressful and impossible to appreciate all the splendors that these old ruins has to offer.

Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind when traveling to Angkor Archaeological Park:

  • Plan the visit ahead depending on your means of transport.
  • Bring food and water along as the prices will double at restaurants and stalls in the Angkor area.
  • Be sure to pack long pants or a sarong if you are wish to wear shorts to gain access to more strict temples.
  • It can be cheaper and more convenient to hire a  tuk-tuk as it seats up to  4 people and will only cost around USD 15 per day. You will have to add USD 5 -10 for the early sunrise trip.
  • Take your time and enjoy the small details, rushing through could mean you would miss something.
  • Skip the museum as it’s expensive costing USD12 per person and most of the information can be found online or through books.
Cycling

Azzurri Forza Pro Review

The Azzurri Pro Ultegra 11 is hands down one of the most value for money carbon road bikes in the market. What you get is a modern stiff carbon road bike that handles well and is comfortable, without compromising the components. The bike is fully equipped with new mechanical Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 speed components from top to bottom. The bike it self handles really well especially during fast decents and yet is comfortable enough to deal with uneven roads and small bumps on the road. The power transfer is fantastic, especially on the climbs as you feel every pedal stroke pushing you forward without any wastage. 

The Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset is as reliable as it gets sitting just one tier below the pro level Dura-Ace you expect nothing but the best performance from for less the price of the pro level Dura-Ace. Azzurri claims that the ‘Performance Fit’ frame geometry combines traditional and semi compact characteristics, taking the best from both world’s to enable you access to the best fit possible.

Azzurri Forza Pro

As I mentioned earlier the power transfer was very noticeable especially during hard accelerations or during steep climbs. This could come from what Azzurri claims as their “Mega Watt Transfer”the frame’s  oversized downtube, bottom bracket and chain stays to ensure that you get the maximum from every pedal stroke.

However with all the positive compliments I can give for this bike, there are some compromises that had to be made in order to keep the price low, for starters the Mavic Aksium wheelset that comes with the bike is on heavy side. The FSA stem is not very stiff, during sprints you can feel it flexing ever so slightly and the seapost is a bit irritating to adjust. Also the Prologo Zero Pas Saddle was not really my cup of tea, a bit too hard for my taste despite the mention of gel on it.  

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Then again, if you are serious about road racing then of course all these small points would not be an issue as these components can be easily swapped out. The Mavic Aksium’s that came with the bike was by no means unusable, from reading other reviews I know that they are reliable and robust.

However as I already had a pair of aero wheelsets on hand, I made the swap immediately as most of the events and training ride I go for are on relatively flat areas or just rolling hills. A good friend of mine was still running the Mavic’s for century rides and he had not issues with them. 

As for the flexing during sprints, FSA stem as previously mentioned, that wasn’t such a big issue as I needed a longer stem to accommodate to my reach so the FSA was swapped out for a longer 120mm PRO stem which also solved my problem with the flexing. The handlebars that come stock standard has a compact design meaning the drops are shallow and the reach is short. This is for more aggressive style of cycling which certainly favoured my riding style.

To sum it all up the small compromises are easily neglected, as the value for money of the bike will outweigh all the negatives. After almost 3,000km the Azzurri Forza Pro has yet to let me down, I ride at least two to three times a week and quite frequently participate in century rides and events.The brand Azzurri might not be as recognisable as others in the market however that might be a good thing as you are not paying for marketing and other forms advertising costs. What you are paying for is a bike that won’t hurt your wallet and will certainly ride brilliantly and perhaps outperform other brands with a higher price tag. Azzurri will certainly give the big names such Giant and Specialized a run for their money. 

Azzurri-Forza-Pro3-Azzurri bikes are available at some local bike shops, however if you want to get the best deals then your best option would be to get directly from CyclingExpress. Be sure to check the bike geometry properly before making a purchase online to ensure the right size will fit you. 

Cycling

Group Cycling Etiquette

As simple as it is to ride a bicycle, there some things which you should consider before joining a group ride. Of course you could ignore these tips altogether but your first group ride would probably be the last you ever have. It does astonish me that so many riders lack the understanding or etiquette of group riding which puts themselves and the riders around them in danger. So here are my top tips in no particular order on group cycling etiquette.

  1. Always carry spare tubes, tyre levers and a  pump/CO2. Just because others have them along does not mean you should depend them. If you are worried about not fitting everything in jersey back pocket. Then what you would need is a small saddle bag which would fit everything that for need.
  2. Don’t make any sudden movements when riding in a group, the last thing you want to do is to clip the tyre of another rider and cause a bad accident.
  3. When braking, slowly engage the brakes, so that the riders behind you have enough time to react. Only brake hard if you really need to.
  4. Be sure  to communicate with other riders. Give verbal and hand signals to show the directions the group is going, or point out dangerous objects or potholes on the road to help those behind you. As the view is often obscured when there are multiple riders in front of you.
  5. Look ahead at the rear wheel of the rider in front of you so that you do not get too close and that you keep the same pace. That being said, don’t forget to enjoy the view while you are out cycling.
  6. Spitting or clearing your nose. If you really need to clear the your throat or nostrils, please do so in a respectful manner. Ride to the side of the group and be sure no one is behind you before you spit.
  7. Lights: if your group is out ridding in the wee early mornings or in darkness of the night be sure that have lights fitted to your bicycle, both front and rear. This is to illuminate the road ahead of you as well as to make yourselves more viable to traffic coming up from the rear.
  8. Don’t leave someone struggling to change flat tyre on their own, always make sure someone helps out. It make the time spent on the side of the road that much less and it keeps the mood up.
  9. If it’s your first time riding in a group, start from the back so that you can observe and get the feel of riding in a group.
  10. If the route has some steep climbs there will certainly be a break in the group, where some rides would be dropped behind. So stop on the peak or on the side of the road to regroup and make a headcount and ensure that everyone is doing alright.
Video

Video: Tadom Warrior Sprint 2015

Had a blast at the Tadom Warrior Sprint 2015 event, It was not by any means difficult however it was enjoyable. Having obstacles back to back as the course itself was around 3km only. Here is my POV video from the event.

 

 

Cycling

Klang Premier Century Ride 2015

Before entering the Klang Premier Century Ride 2015 I had heard from my team-mates about the danger of this event due the condition of the roads in Klang. However I chose to brush it off and register anyway. This being only by third event I had ever registered for, as previously I had only done one proper century ride an another 128km enduride. Also I do find it strange that they call it a century ride when the total distance was only 122km. Most probably the organisers lack the understanding the methodology of a century ride.

Anyway before flagging off, I had done some research on the route, which was very flat, and I had imagined it to be fast paced and difficult for riders to breakaway from the main peloton. The elevation gain for the total ride was only around 100 meters. This meant it would be difficult to see any breakaways and was certainly built for a sprint finish. 

The event started on time, flagging off from the Premier Hotel at exactly 7am. The cloudy and cool weather made the ride very pleasant as it stayed that way through out the day. However the entire race was far from pleasant. Due to the horrid road conditions in the Klang area,  right after the flag off I had to be on my toes as riders would be swerving left and right to avoid pot holes and cracks on the road. About 20km into the race I had already had to avoid countless bottles rolling around on the road and also some very close calls where the front riders would jam their brakes. At one point my wheels were touching my team-mate, fortunately we both managed to stay up right.  

Upon reaching Banting town there was a left hand turn which immediately caused the peloton almost come to a immediate halt as there was a building which was still soaking in water as the fire fighters had just put out at fire. The road narrowed as we had to move aside to avoid the fire truck.

The burnt down building can be seen on the left hand side with fire fighters taking up a lane of the road. 

The next ordeal of the day was just before reaching Pantai Morib where a taxi had ignored the police and continued to drive along the road. A few of the riders who were going well over 40km/h in the opposite lane panicked which resulted in at 3 to 4 riders hitting ground. Not long after that we reached our first U-turn which was in all honesty a very tight squeeze. I had prepared for it and made sure to take the long way round the turn just be safe. Those who were stuck in the middle were forced to unclip and slowly push their bikes around the turn. 

Taxi driving right into the cyclist, however the video doesn’t do justice to show what happened further upfront 

Roughly around 50km into the ride we squeezed into a very small and uneven road which frankly was better suited for MTBs than it was for road bikes. To make matter worse these small roads were filled with potholes, sand, mud, as well as small bridges which caused a bit of a mayhem in the rear of the group. The Second U-Turn was not any better than the first, to make things worse the road which was already small now had ridders coming from the opposite direction. 

The final 20km was fast, and it did not help that the road conditions leading to the finish line was worse than ever. The speed was hovering around the high 40km/h and it was intense seeing a rider hit the ground after misjudging a speed hump, what made it worse was his bike bounced off the ground and hit another rider to his left which caused a domino effect to the back. I was a bit shaken up by the incident but but my team-mates snapped me back and I continued to pedal along with the peloton. 

As we were approaching the final 5km, everyone started to feel the need to move forward, a train on the right was trying to get forward fast, however that ended up in great catastrophe as riders collided, I jammed by brakes almost rode over a few bottles and Garmins rolling around.

Klang Premiere Century Ride 2015   001At this point I told myself to just keep myself out of trouble as I did not have the experience to be part of a bunch sprint towards the finish, I eased off  a bit to keep myself somewhere in the middle of the peloton and as I saw the finishing line coming up in the last few hundred meters. A massive crash happened right in front of me, I jammed my brakes and came to a screeching halt. Unclipped and moved aside to make sure not be obstacle for the other rides coming up from behind.

I can’t say for certain how many riders went down. But there were at least 10 bikes on the ground from what I can recall. According to the a few riders it would seem that it was caused by a stationary car which was parked on the left hand side of the road. Not being able to avoid the stationary car the rider smashed into it and went down causing other behind to also topple over. And on the right hand side of the road in the heat of battling for the sprint a few riders had their handle bar lock up which also resulted in a crash. IMG_20150524_101509

Normally I would be walking away with a sense of happiness and satisfaction after completing an event like this. however this would be the first one that I walked away feeling a bit sad and angry after seeing so many riders go down and also my fellow team mates hitting the ground.  The route set by the organiser is not safe and I would advise any fellow riders reading to please stay away from this event. Unless they change the route this will certainly be my very first and last Klang Premier Century Ride. 

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