One of the things you might least expect to find in the ancient city of Siem Reap is an old-fashioned horse ranch. Cambodia’s past includes occupations by countries such as France and China. It is also home to thousands of land mines placed there during the Vietnam War by American troops in an effort to seek out the Vietcong. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, or Red Cambodian, became the ruling Communist Party of Kampuchea. Led by infamous war criminal Pol Pot, the regime tortured, murdered and enslaved thousands leaving Cambodia in the ruins that it is today. The country has never fully recovered, partially due to the brain drain of murdered educated Cambodians due to ongoing anti-intellectual sentiment in the country.
The Happy Ranch horse-riding center is one of the positive things that remain from years of invasion and oppression. It is now also a good source of revenue for some hardworking Siem Reap locals looking to cash in on the tourist trade. The ranch's horseback rides can last anywhere between one and four hours depending on the package that the visitor chooses.
To start with you will be picked from your hotel. Many hotels in Siem Reap city centre have pamphlets from the Happy Ranch for you to look over along with a phone number. You can learn about the horses and how they are taken care of and then you can enjoy a lovely walk through the countryside. Depending on which option you choose, you may visit a nearby village where you can purchase local handicrafts. One package includes a trip through the rice fields as well as the history behind the rice trade in Southeast Asia. You may also get to visit a Buddhist temple and see some of the local pagodas.
After the ride, you and your party can enjoy some delicious refreshments including some local foods that you may get to try for the very first time. The half-day country trail costs just over 50 pounds sterling with prices decreasing about 3 to 4 pounds per hour. You will be able to see what local village life is like as well as have the opportunity to converse with English speaking Cambodians eager to share with you the joys and sorrows of living in Siem Reap. One of the most shocking things that you might see whilst visiting this country is the large number of individuals that have been affected by land mines. Some might be missing arms and legs or have misshapen appendages due to lack of quality healthcare in the 1970’s.
If the idea of riding a horse on your own makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, there is always the option of renting a horse and cart. The carts are handmade by the Happy Ranch staff and can hold up to four people. There is a minimum charge by the hour for two people. You can choose to take the traditional Happy Ranch trail for anywhere from one to four hours, but you can even choose to hire the service for a day at Angkor Wat.
Many of the temples inside the Angkor Wat compound are a surprisingly far distance from one another and as such walking is not an option. Depending on how much of Angkor you would like to see, the entire trip can take anywhere from one to three days. If you are in good physical health, you might choose to rent a bicycle and explore the sights on your own. You will need to remember that the weather is very demanding in Cambodia and can exhaust newcomers to the region quite easily.