Cycling Cambodia Part 4 – Pages 218 to 224

Day 218
Sun 9th Nov
Sihnouhouk to Phnom Penh by bus

We had breakfast on the beach and bought yet another pair of sun glasses each as we managed to break both of ours on the scuba boat, they cost $3 each, hopefully they will last a little longer than the last pair.

Cycled to the bus station approx 2 miles up and down hills, we arrived very sweaty it was really hot it looked like we’d been on the bikes all day.
we were lucky with the timings, we had arrived with 1/2 hour to spare, buses seem to run regularly but 1/2 hour gave us just enough time to moderate our body temperatures, go to the loo and grab a drink for the bus.

The bus was a 40 seater and our bikes were put in the luggage hold under the bus. The journey was advertised as 5 hours but took closer to 7 hours due to the rain, many of the roads were flooded. It was amusing looking out of the window at people showering in the rain and children splashing and playing in the puddles.

Fortunately as we approached the bus station the rain eased a little which meant we were able to cycle the mile to our hotel without getting too wet. We booked into the same hotel we had stayed in the last time we were in Phnom Penh, The Lotus, not that it was anything special but it was only £8 per night and had somewhere to store our bikes.

Although it was a long time to spend on a bus the time went amazingly quickly, I finished my book and the bus stopped for several breaks on route.

We had dinner in a local vegetarian restaurant the food was very good I had the singapore noodles dish which was a very thin omelette filled with vermicelli noodles and spicy vegetables, Gary had a Khymer Rice dish which was a little plain until he covered it in chillies, both meals along with 2 beers came to less than £10.

Day 219
Monday 10th Nov
Phnom Penh
Camera repair day

We stopped in a roadside cafe for breakfast we were starving and soon polished off a large plate of rice, vegetables and chicken. Although the food was cheap the cafe had a very hectic, rushed atmosphere.

We decided to have a morning apart, Gary had to fix his camera and do some research re how we were going to get to Siem Reep whilst I wanted to do some laundry and get my hair cut and coloured)

I set out to get the camera (Shaun bought me for my birthday) fixed as I had dropped it and the lens wouldn’t open. I left it with a local shop that I had found on the internet and cycled to a I Click shop another camera shop. This was a very exclusive the type of shop with only a few cameras on dislpay, on the way I had just missed a large gathering of loads of kids, soldiers and police coming the other way, I think it was a remembrance march as the roads around the national monument were closed to traffic.

I went to the boat port to check ferry prices and times to Siem Reap – $35 each plus an additional $5 per bike. I tried to find the bus station but without any luck.

i decided to get my hair coloured, I asked the hairdresser to take it back to it’s natural colour and showed her the back of my head. It was lovely to be pampered for 1 hour and I kind of like the finished look but I can’t imagine it will last long in this heat.

When I met Gary for lunch he didn’t look too impressed, he kind of likes the ‘devil white haired’ woman look. If it goes white again by the end of the month I may just give in and get it professionally died white – any thoughts??

We met for lunch at 12.00pm and agreed to go to the Royal Palace, in hindsight we should have paid for a guide because although the grounds and buildings were impressive we hadn’t a clue what we were looking at, but we managed to spend a couple of hours admiring the amazing architecture and grounds.

Gary received a call later in the afternoon to tell him it would take a month to fix his camera so we have had to buy another one, same model as we like this camera. This was another unexpected/unplanned for expensive it is amazing how many of these we have had. We are now at least £1500 over our predicted budget, just as well we had a contingent pot.

In the evening we went out for dinner on our way down to the sea front we heard a huge bang, we could feel it under our feet, we both stopped and looked at each other it sounded just like a bomb (not that we’ve heard a bomb, but it is what we imagine one would sound like) the loud bang was then followed by a series of smaller bangs. A number of people were stood around so we asked a local security guard what was going on and he informed us it was fireworks as the King was in residence.
Day 220
10th Nov
Bus to Siem Reep

Gary’s research the previous day had provided us with three choices

boat – very expensive
bus – would take as long as the boat but more than half the price
cycle – we had read several blogs on this route and it had been described as very dusty, rough flat roads

we choose option 2 which would have the added benefit of giving us more time to explore Northern Cambodia before our visas expire.

We were informed we needed to be at the bus station at 9.00am, when we arrived a man on a motorcycle agreed to charge us $20 for the bus trip and asked us to follow him. I thought he was taking us to his bus, but we should have been wiser he actually stopped at several bus agents to negotiate our tickets finally settling on an agent that wanted to charge us $26 dollars we were left to negotiate this down, he then had the cheek to ask for a $1 for his trouble. It is people like this that give Cambodia it’s name of ‘Scambodia’ but I suppose he has to make his living some how and we shouldn’t have been so gullible. We ended up waiting until 10.30am for the bus to arrive!

When the bus arrived we managed to put one bike in the luggage compartment (wheel off and handle bars adjusted) and the other in the bus.

It was a comfortable bus with plenty of empty seats, however it was clearly a locals bus, no tourists and there were videos playing with loud background music non stop for 6 hours. There were several children on board who were so well behaved you would have hardly known they were on board.

At our first stop we got off to stretch our legs and to grab a snack and something to eat. There was all sorts on offer including fresh fruit, spiders and cockroaches. We passed on the insects and bought pineapple and some wafer cones.

I am not sure if it was the food, the motion sickness or a bug but within 1 hour of setting off on our second leg I started to feel sick. I initially thought it was because I was reading, but I had read for the first two hours without any problem. I closed my kindle and tried to focus on the view, that didn’t help, so I spent an hour laying down, but that didn’t help either, fortunately I had a plastic bag to hand with the rubbish in it because when I sat up I was sick, not very pleasant. Fortunately the bus was due another break so I could stretch my legs and get some fresh air. We did contemplate taking the bikes off the bus and cycling but we were already being called back to the bus and we didn’t want to delay it. We’d not been back on the bus for more than 1/2 hour and another wave of nausea hit me, I had grabbed a fresh bag at the services but didn’t think I would fill it – yukkkkkk. I hate being sick, Gary jokingly asked if I was pregnant, I hesitated before telling him I haven’t had a period for a couple of months, his face was a picture.

We arrived in Siem Reap late in the afternoon and after putting the bikes together tried to find accommodation in the lively part of town but everywhere seemed expensive or full. We stopped at a hostel and used their internet to check out hotels on and found one within a mile of where we were. For $8 a night it is not a bad hotel and it is within walking distance of the main area. We decided to give pub street a miss and to eat and drink locally. We thought the cafe we ate dinner in was a little over priced until we wandered around the immediate area, which was much more expensive, but the food left a lot to be desired.

Day 221
Wednesday 11th Nov

Very chilled day in Siem Reep.
Gary; we didnt want to rush into Ankgor Wat as we needed to research which temples we could visit in the one day we’d located to temples and plan the route up into Thailand. This research was split between our hotel room and walks to bars with Wifi. I had my sandals fixed by a street vendor as the sole was falling off and Ginette had her shoes polished, expensive at $5 but he did a good job of my sandals even sewing them all around the edges. We did try to get to Angkor Wat for sunset but I got lost, it was late and couldn’t keep checking the map.

Ginette – the trip to Anghor Wat in the evening was not scheduled this was a result of a restless puppy, who needed exercising even though I told him we were too late he insisted on trying. Nothing lost we had an enjoyable ride and it broke up the evening.

Not a lot to report we did some research on Thailand had a few beers, Gary bought another pair of trousers because the blue pair he’d bought a few days earlier had ripped at the crutch, he now has a ‘lovely’ bright green pair of cotton pyjamas bottoms (Gary; if they are so lovely why does Ginette face look like she is sucking on a lime when I wear them). I have a dress a similar colour which for obvious reasons I’m not wearing.

Day 222
Thursday 12th Nov

Up early to go to Angkor Watt, we decided to give sunrise a miss and go after the maddening crowds. We took a leisurely ride up and spent all day riding around the sight which is huge. We took lots of pictures which probably capture the day better than any words we could write, there’s also some very good write ups on the internet. We paid for a guide for the first 1 hour which set the scene and gave us a little background info and after that we were on our own.

Much to our surprise I was asked to remove my sarong for some of the temples?? I had cycle shorts underneath but I did feel a little under dressed, especially as a lot of the ladies were wearing very pretty dresses. We even saw a Chinese couple having photos taken as part of their wedding portfolio.

The only other point of interest from the day was Gary was attacked by a monkey, the monkey had walked behind us, Gary offered him our empty water bottle and the monkey went crazy, Gary jumped up which startled the monkey and a German guy started beating his shoe in his general direction to frighten him away. I did get a picture but it is not very good, please note I was trying to take a picture of Gary offering the bottle not being attacked lol

Gary, actually I was ducking away from the monkeys attack, he was practically sitting on my shoulders when he turned on me, I was just quick enough to dodge him. I am glad I managed to entertain Ginette but don’t plan to make a hobby of this, up close those teeth look pretty fierce

We arrived back at the hotel at 4.30pm, tired from all the sun and walking, but it had been a good day.

In the evening we went out to Pub Street and had an excellent indian meal (we both had a Thali dish, I had fish and Gary had chicken both for $5 each) we then took a walk and did some people watching before going to watch some local dancers who dance in really slow moments (Gary; the girls were able to hold the fingers bent backwards, I have read that when they are younger that there hands are tied to enable them to learn how to do this, however our double jointed daughter can do this with ease). All in all a very good day.

Gary; Ankgor Wat summary of temples we visited.

Ankgor Wat, huge temple complex in a moated and walled area, this is the main attraction, we paid $10 for a guide which was well worth it rating 10/10.

Phohm Baklong, Temple on a hill, would have been easy to cycle past as no signs, 15 minute walk up hill, run down temple but some good views rating 7/10.

Ankgor Thom, Another moated and walled area much bigger than Angkor Wat area but the temples are smaller in the centre of the wooded forest, this is were me and the monkey didn’t see eye to eye. the temple is great to walk around n all the nocks and crannies, loads of detailed stone work and towers with 4 large faces on the top of each tower, and there were a lot of towers. rated 10/10

Chap Say, a small temple / church which was on route to another temple rating 6/10

Passat Ta Prum, a really overgrown temple, huge trees are growing through the ruins with the roots like giant Anacondas wrapped around the stone work, I think this temple was used in the Indiana Jones films. rating 10/10

Day 223
Friday 13th November
Siem Reep to Svay Leu; 46 miles away

We had a leisurely start to the morning, due to the pouring rain, it was lovely but it did mean we didn’t set off until 10.00am.

Several of the hotel staff showed an interest in our bikes and again we received the usual ‘you’re so strong’ and ‘we’re are you going’ type questions, cycling as a sport hasn’t really caught on in Cambodia probably due to the history of very bad roads.

It was a flat day although the roads had a number of ruts so I couldn’t listen to any music as the tracks kept on jumping, so I listened to podcasts all day, a bit of woman’s hour, followed by the economist, followed by World today and a drama all interspersed with a number of tracks of my life. The day whizzed by, nothing too demanding which meant I could take in the local countryside and shout out hello’s. Gary found the day a little harder, he had a headache and a niggly pain in his knee.

One of the highlights from the morning was leap frogging a Cambodian version of an ice cream van, it was a man on a motor bike with a flatbed trailer, as the motorbike approached the villages he would play music to alert the children of his presence and they would run out with their money but instead of exchanging their pennies for ice-cream they got a cup full of what looked like cockles but could have been snails and off they went to enjoy their little treat.

We stopped for lunch at about 1.30 just in time to avoid another down pour. Whilst we ate our dinners. Gary had freshly killed pig and rice whilst I had vegetables and rice with added pig bits which I had to pick out. (We’d seen several bikes go passed us in the morning with freshly killed pigs so we presumed this family had purchased one) We watched the world go by including watching local women making sausages from the freshly killed pig (all manual work, filling the pigs intestine with the mince by a funnel and a stick), people on bikes with drips, children asleep in hammocks and asleep on motorbikes but the most entertaining aspect was watching two little boys enjoying the rain, one on a bike and the other younger boy either pushing or running away, the mud turned to a lovely red colour and the puddles got deeper. the boys didn’t care they seemed oblivious to the rain and simply enjoyed playing for the camera.

We did wonder if the rain had set in for the day but it soon cleared allowing us to get back on our bikes. Amazingly less than a mile up the road and it didn’t look like it had been raining at all.

The day was spent cycling through rural villages and we were greeted with the usual happy ‘hello’s’ from the children we passed. If we were paid £1 every time we shouted ‘hello’ we would be rich beyond our means, instead we will have life long memories of smily happy children and you couldn’t put a price on these. It is hard to imagine children in the UK being so excited about seeing two strangers on bikes, which is a shame.

We stopped at in a village at the 46 miles mark as we passed through the village we saw a guest house but pressed on hoping they’d be another one in the main town but did not find one so ended up camping at the edge of the village with the permission of the shop owner. We had bought a couple of cans of cold beer and once the tent was up we settled down to enjoy these and write up our diaries. No sooner had we sat down than a local dog started growling and barking at us, I was having none of that I growled and shouted for him to go away which he promptly did with his tail between his legs – Oh how I have changed since Turkey.

As we were writing our diaries the land owner turned up to say hello. He told us in fairly good English that he had purchased the land to build on but it would be another year before he started building as he needed to do some further research on the land to see if there was any land mines beyond the land we’d camped on. He told us he was a nurse and he’d learnt English by enrolling in an ‘organisation’ that made you speak English Monday to Saturday, he told us that if he spoke Cambodian he was hit at the back of the legs with a stick!! effective yes but not something I would like to try.

Day 224. Say Leu to Kack Ken
First we was abduted by the police, and then it was our tents turn!
Sat 14th November
cycled 26 miles – Poorly Gary

Abducted by the police; We had an eventful night once we’d written our diaries we settled down to watch the stars and then go to bed to read. It was still early about 8.30pm but it was pitch black outside. No sooner had we put our things in the tent than Gary heard a motorbike pull up outside the tent. He went to investigate to find two policemen waiting for him. After a very confusing conversation it soon became apparent that we couldn’t camp where we’d pitched and that we needed to follow them to the local police station.

We quickly changed and gathered some of our bags together to put on the bike and followed the police motorbike back to the station. The policeman seemed fairly relaxed and good humoured and even allowed us to take a picture or two but it was unclear at this stage where we would sleep, we had visions of sleeping in the cells. We needn’t have worried as 10 minutes later another uninformed officer arrived at the station and he explained in very broken english that we would need to stay at the guest house we had seen earlier in the evening. He then drove off only to return 10 minutes later insisting we followed him to the guest house, which we did.

The guest house was very basic it had no windows but a hole where you would expect one which meant the mosquitoes could have a feast on us and the room was covered in large cobwebs if this was not enough to make your skin crawl there were droppings all over the floor and bed. I turned to the officer in desperation to ask why we couldn’t stay in our tent but unfortunately he did not understand and we were left to sleep in the room. The landlady/guest house lady was lovely she arranged for several family members to bring us some fresh water to wash in and to flush the toilet (no flush system) and tried to explain that the fan would keep the mosquitoes at bay. She tried to engage us in conversation but all we could do was shrug our shoulders. As the water was being brought into the room a big black flying cockroach landed on the bed by Gary, I did my normal girly squeal and Gary tried his best to grab it, the woman was highly amused by this scene and simply picked it up, pretended to eat it and then placed it on one of the family members chests Ewwwwww.

Gary, Ginette face was a picture.

Then our tent was abducted – Soon we were left alone to ‘enjoy’ what was left of the evening. The TV from the room next door was blaring some local drama and children were playing outside so we decided to have a snack and read our kindles, which was just as well because half an hour later we had a knock on the door, the police had returned with our tent and belongings. They’d not been able to put it down so it still had the tent poles attached to the tent, the chairs were still in one piece rather than in their bags and our clothes had been squashed into one bag.

We didn’t have the heart to pack it up in the night and agreed to wait until morning.

I slept surprisingly well, I was aware of Gary getting up and down but it wasn’t until the early hours that I realised he’d got an iffy tummy, which unfortunately kept him awake most of the night (Gary, me and the toilet are now on first name terms).

In the morning we washed had some fruit and packed up the tent. If we thought our room was a mess it was nothing compared to the outside of the building which looked in places like a rubbish tip. A poor dog with mange and a condition which meant his front legs kept collapsing was wandering the grounds along with kittens, cats and chickens. Once we’d packed up we realised we were missing Gary’s trainers, we checked all the bags but to no avail and agree to stop at the police station on our way to our next destination. Before leaving the site we paid our bill of $5 and said our thank you, although the accommodation was basic the people had been good humoured and very welcoming. At the police station we found Gary’s shoes and two pairs of my shoes which I hadn’t even realised were missing.

Gary took one of my pills which I’d bought from a pharmacy in Java although they stopped the urge to go to the loo he still felt rough so we had an easy day of 26 miles cycling, the next guaranteed accommodation was a further 45 miles away.

On our way to our destination we bumped into a German tourist who was on his way to Siem Reep, he explained that throughout Thailand he’d stayed in temples and police stations and he’d had no trouble so we will give this ago once we’re over the border.

At our end destination we cycled into town but the accommodation seemed very basic and as it was only midday we decided to look at a guest house advertised by a local temple. We inadvertently cycled passed the guest house and ended up at the ticket office for the temple we enquired re the price and was informed it would be $10 each so we passed. The ticket officer kindly pointed out the guest house which was just up the road. We stopped for a drink but i felt they were taking advantage when they wanted to charge $12 a night for a room with a fan and no wifi, we’d paid that in Phnom Penh for a room with A/C and wifi in the city. With this in mind I suggested I looked at the guest house back in town, Gary was feeling really tired so I left him to rest and agreed to email him if I could find cheaper accommodation and wifi, which I did (wifi in a local cafe and a guest house with similar accommodation but at only $8).

As we’re in town we will probably eat locally and have a chilled out day which hopefully will give Gary’s body time to recover.

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