I was excited to cross into Cambodia. I longed wanted to visit this country so many people raved about. Crossing into Poipet gave the wrong impression about the rest of this fabulous country. Like many border towns, Poipet is dusty and not an enjoyable place to linger but after riding about 50kms to get to the border and spending a little bit of time for visa formalities, I decided to spend the night there. Many overloaded trucks, motorbikes and minivans were going over the border to sell their goods. Over the next month, I’ll sometimes be smiling at the sight of those overloaded buses and trucks sometimes carrying way too many people, livestock or goods.
The next day I met Mark and Mio, a couple riding on a tandem bike. We rode together into Siem Reap. We rode on the highway all the way which was ok, but some of the construction works along the way were doggy. Arriving in Siem Reap 2 days short of Chinese New Year, we had to search a little bit for a room. We finally settled in a large room which we decided to share. It was great to have some company after so long on my own.
The following morning as I was doing some computer work in the lobby I met with Christine, a Chinese radio DJ on holiday. She decided to tag along with us to visit the incredible complex of Angkor wat. The tuk-tuk drove us all day around the historical site. I sometimes marvelled it as impressive as the Taj Mahal.
After resting for 3 days in Siem Reap, it was time to get moving again. I decided not to stick to the highway and head to the northern country side. There I found quiet roads, lots of small communities and villages, great people (kids running after me, welling “hello!” as many times as they could), unconventional food (deep fried spiders, snakes and rats, boiled eggs with embryo) and beautiful landscapes. I also had the chance to spend the night in a village where I was offered a bed for the night.
I met Matt and David in Preah Vihear while searching for a room. They were going to ride to Preah Vihear temple the next day so decided to tag along. The ride was quiet and the road was as good as it gets. Arriving at the small village of Sram Emm, we negotiated moto-taxis to take us to the base of the mountain where the Banteay Srei temple was built in the 11th century. From there, it was on another motorbike to the top of the hill which was incredibly steep towards the top. Sitting on the top of a steep hill overlooking towards Thailand, the land surrounding it has been subject of continual dispute between the two kingdoms until very recently, hence the high military presence in the area. Most of the soldiers were chilling out at food stalls watching the volleyball match in the center of it all.
The next phase of my journey was to join the Mekong and ride along it for as long as I could. The country side road to Stueng Traeng was very quiet and in nice condition. I encountered fewer villages on that stretch but when I met locals they were super friendly. From Stueng Treang I opted for the highway after being told the road was good. It proved wrong as that stretch to Kratie was the worst I encountered in Cambodia. It was a hell road; construction work, patches of big rocks, long stretches of badly maintained roads reminding me the Gibb. From Kratie though, I flirted with the Mekong all the way to Phnom Penh. The next 3 days were the highlight of my journey in Cambodia; continuous villages, friendly locals and good seafood.
I rolled in Phnom Penh with 4 frenchies I met along the road, all in their 60s. Ken, the organizer, planned a journey along the Mekong which they followed no matter what. They spend a few days on a boat from Stueng Traeng which I probably should have done. They were great fun to be with. The first night in Phnom I got sick. Fever got me up for most the night, diarrhea forcing me to numerous trips to the toilet. I rested most of the next day, running some errands around the place where I was. When my condition got better, I ventured out to visit the museum and the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. Many have died in this prison during Polpot’s regime. I went out that night, played pool and had good fun. The next morning wasn’t so fun though, headache caused by the alcohol the night before saw me resting for another day before starting my journey back towards Thailand.
The next 2 days back on the bike I had no energy. After doing 50kms I was out of gas. On the third day I got my strength back. For most of the way to Battambang, I rode on the highway. The original plan was to ride the Cardamon mountain but after my first day there was no way I was going to venture there given my physical condition. I spent a day in lovely Battambang visiting some Wats around and relaxing before going towards Pailin and the Thai border.