Cambodia – the lands to the west of Phnom Penh

16.01.12 Day 164 Phnom Penh – Rest day 0km

This morning we have an epic Internet session backing up photos etc. Tom is feeling a little ill so we take it pretty easy buy head to the Thailand embassy at 3ish to pick up our 2 month visa which we get ok – despite the grumpy staff which seems to be an embassy trait. Earlier, tom leaves the Internet café before me, and heading back to the hotel on his own, all the massage parlours, which were trying to sell us nice innocent massages, are now offering ‘nice lady’ and ‘boom boom’! We’ve been eating cheap street food for weeks now and decide to treat ourselves, go to an Indian restaurant and eat the most amazing thali. Walking around after a temple wall has been decorated with mirrors and turned into a makeshift barbershop. Rubbish men squeak their toy horns pulling recycling trailers and bikes are piled high with multicoloured kitchenware.

17.01.12 Day 165 Phnom Penh – Rest day Okm

This morning we pack up out things to leave and head to the Indian embassy to hand in the paperwork. After queuing and signing in etc the guy tells us ‘no visa’ with no proper explanation or advice. We are pissed off and spend some time researching picking it up in Bangkok instead. By this time it’s nearly lunchtime and a bit fed up, we check back into the same guesthouse and stay another night!

18.01.12 Day 166 Phnom Penh – Tani 117km

At last, we leave Phnom Penh, south, and for the first time in over 5 months, to the sea. We ride amongst the huge crowds of school kids and its good to get out of the centre and into the chaos of normal, everyday life. 10km out of the centre and we hit our first big landmark – 10,000km. We are constantly feeling the heat now… sweating more and drinking more and it makes me feel a bit weak! When we arrive at a village called Tani, it happens to have a guesthouse so we are happy to stay, stand under the cold shower and cook dinner in our room!

19.01.12 Day 167 Tani – Rabbit Island 70km

We pick up our breakfast banana fritters from a friendly husband and wife team running a stall in Tani. Past a guy with one duck attached to his pannier rack and we eat a dragon fruit for the fist time. Bright pink from the outside and tiny polka dotted interior. The road is flat and so are the fields either side and we can see as far as the tiny hills – like little bumps in the distance. In Kep we pick up fruit and veg before loading our bikes onto a small boat to take us… on the sea, to a tiny island. Rabbit Island. No cars, bikes, hardly any people. Just a beach, warm sea like a huge bath, soft sand, a beach hut. In our bathroom is a weird frog with fat spherical pads for fingers. So nice to swim in the sea after 5 months of being land locked!

20.01.12 Day 168 Rabbit Island – Rest Day – 0km

This morning we walk the 6 or so km around the island, partly climbing over rocky shore, partly on the sandy beach in-between. There are a few tiny houses, fishermen, mangroves, beautiful shells and pebbles rounded into nice smooth shapes by the sea. The afternoon in spent hammock bound and wallowing in the water, reading and crafting! Getting back from another lovely sunset I find a snake in the bathroom, about a metre long and in the process of stretching is jaws around our pet frog.

21.01.12 Day 169 Rabbit Island – Stung Chhay 113km

At 7.30 this morning we get everything back on the boat and leave the island for Krong Kep. A quick look around the market for snacks and we take the main road, which follows the coast west. The road is busy with a mixture of lorries, cow drawn carts, scooters with lop sided and over loaded wicker panniers, bicycles and motorbike pulled trucks with huge amounts of passengers wearing multi coloured sun hats with attached neck shades. Later we pass through Kampot and we notice a guy in a wheel chair with a roof for shade and a whetstone that he is using to sharpen knifes. We stop to get our blunt kitchen knife re-sharpened. By lunchtime its completely sweltering and we collapse in the shade under a tree and eat banana sandwiches. We can hear some kids saying hello but we can’t see them! At a turn off minivans stop and a crowd of ladies rush over with huge baskets of baguettes trying to make a sale through the window. Lots of houses painted green, or pale blue with red corrugated metal roofs. We find the temple in Stueng Chhay and we are shown to a room full of colourful bunting. We explain we prefer to sleep in our tent, which acts as a mosquito net. A crowd of monks gathers to watch/scrutinize our cooking! Always dodgy cooking rice in front of professionals. Obviously they are not too happy as one runs off and comes back with a couple of packets of super noodles for us! One monk has part of his robe wrapped around his head with headphones hanging out of his ears. Later he puts the speaker on to reveal some sort of Khmer hip-hop to complete the image! Another is watching boxing! A young boy hangs out with us too – he has an English book from school and is keen to practice what he knows.

22.01.12 Day 170 Stueng Chhay – Kampong Speu 110km

This morning an elder monk and another with an amazing tattoo watch us pack away our tent and we show them where we are going on our map. I actually slept really well considering how hot we were when we first got in the tent – tom was seriously sweating out and having a minor panic attach while I was fanning him with the map!! We buy some crazy spherical sponge cakes with grated coconut, sesame seeds and black pepper for breakfast. The road is narrow, and busy. The scenery still flat and dry rice fields – although at one point there are a few hills as we ride between two national parks. Cambodia has been amazing for its people, and friendliness but we are looking forward to riding some more interesting roads… and some hills! At one point scaling a (very) minor hill, a group of Thai motorcyclists fly past us. At the top, they are all sat in a restaurant, and we get a round of applause! Kampong Speu isn’t an attractive town. It’s on the main road 60 or so km from Phnom Penh. Huge piles of rubbish surround the market. Tall white cows with ears like pigtails are slowly grazing on it in the middle of the road. We find a guesthouse but have less luck with food, as all any street stall seems to be selling is rice porridge!

23.01.12 Day 171 Kampong Speu – Kampong Chhnang 112km

A quick trip to the market this morning and we buy weird glutinous sticky rice and beans in a bamboo tube. We take a minor road, which is much nicer than yesterday. Tiny villages, a lake with lily pads and pink flowers and people washing their cows, clothes and selves in the water. In the afternoon there is no choice but to get back on the main road. Every now and again someone rides beside us on a scooter to chat and huge trucks crammed full with standing women pass by, waving and laughing. Maybe they are returning from work on a farm or factory. We find a guesthouse in Kampong Chhnang.

24.01.12 Day 172 Kampong Chhrang – Pursat 110km

We eat our breakfast on a bench in town and tom realises he has left his bar bag in a shop with everything valuable in it and has to run back! Huge sculpted mounds of straw are outside houses, big blocks of ice are sawn up – we see it all the time, then someone else ties it to their bike to deliver to the shops to keep their drinks cold, hats like colourful light shades. We stop to get a plastic bag of sugar cane juice and a coconut cake before carrying on the Krakor where we take a minor detour towards Kampong Luong. Most of the road is unpaved, red, dusty, covered in rubbish. Lots of make shift houses, which look like they have been thrown together. We are near the lake and I guess this area floods in the rainy season so the locals are used to moving their houses. More chaos as a fair takes over the road with a few precarious looking rides and stalls to throw darts at balloons for prizes. At the end of the road is the ‘Boeng Tonle Sab’ lake. We take a boat around an interesting floating village – everything you can think off – mobile phone shops, grocers, Buddhist temple, church, petrol station but all floating. When the water retreats the whole village is towed house by house, by boat to deeper water. We get rice, eggs and coffee for lunch before carrying on to Pursat where we find ourselves lost in a hectic market attracting a lot of attention! Oh and toms made up a joke to share… What do you call a homeless man in a floating village?… Bob!

25.01.12 Day 173 Pursat – Battambang 113km

We stock up on bread and shredded potato and egg dumplings from the market before taking a slight detour in search of the ‘bamboo train’. We don’t actually find it but ride down some interesting streets none the less. Huge Buddha heads and elephants being carved from marble on the side of the road. We eat our breakfast over looking the river watching a fisherman on a tiny wooded boat laying his nets in a circle. The houses on the other side are uneven with their stilts of varying sizes resting precariously on the bank. Every now and again, back on the main road,  a house like some we saw in China, pale blue with lots of shiny metal railings and decorations that look like they are made out of icing. Still everyone shouts hellos and often we can’t even see where the voices are coming from but it’s becoming more normal. Battambang is fairly large and busy when we arrive. Tired we take the first cheap hotel we find and surprisingly for the first time in months it has hot water. And… a huge spider which when we finally get it out side runs back in again!

26.01.12 Day 174 Battambang – near Preah Netr Preah 104km

This morning, again we go in search of the legendary bamboo train! Down lots of sandy roads and people busy getting o with their day. We see the men working at the station fixing the carriages, which are essentially just a wooden platform made from bamboo with a teeny engine resting on top. (to be honest we were imagining something a little grander!) Through town and there is a sort of band and Chinese dragon performance which seems to be dancing door to door through the shops maybe blessing or something to do with removing evil sprits. We are feeling a bit tired today and looking forward to a few days off after tomorrow in Seam Reap and meeting our friend Mike who will ride with us for 2 weeks. We eat our lunch – noodles, green beans and peanuts in a field while a few guys load a tiny tractor with a mass of straw completely enormous in comparison. Earlier while we were sitting in the shade a lady came up to us completely out of the blue and gave us a bunch of theses green plants. Like nothing I have seen before, they are the shape of a cocktail glass with round lumps on the top, like the glass is full of peas. You break the pods out, which are the size of an acorn, and inside is a sort of bean. I think they grow in water, such a bizarre and perfectly packages snack – and really nice of her to share them with us. All the fields are flooded and the sun is going down, we camp in a dry field behind some bushes.

27.01.12 Day 175 Preah Netr Preah – Seam Reap 90km

An early start as the sun rises and we stop for breakfast in a café, which is completely man town! On the side of the roadmen carve amazing statues from stone and some women carry their kids in tiny hammocks tied between the handlebars of their bikes. We stop in a few shops to buy food for lunch and a couple of ladies follow us with their bikes loaded with wicker hoping we might buy some! As we get closer to Seam Reap the road gets busier and there are more and more hotels. We find somewhere to cheap to stay for 4 nights with a beer shop conveniently over the road!


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1 Response to Cambodia – the lands to the west of Phnom Penh

  1. Mary Vincent says:

    Fantastic pictures…..I am a bit worried Tom has entered the realm of Mark’s “jokes” with his latest offering!! Hope you have a nice break in Seam Reap and are prepared for the arrival of the BRIZZOL MASSIVE ,they are all very excited ! Seeing those Dragon Fruit brought back lovely memories of Thailand .Take care of yourselves in the sweatfest…..drink lots ! Love Mary and Mark xxx

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