Wednesday, 3 June 2009

KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA






















It may surprise some people (including myself) that I'm still on the bike! This time I was rescued by 2 things - a bail-out by my sister, and the fact that Leana decided not to go back to SA from Bangkok. Since my last report from Chumphon we made good time across Thailand (mostly with a tail wind), cutting across the river by ferry in the South of Bangkok. We reached the border town of Aranyaprathet with a couple of days to spare on our extended Thai visa's. From what I'd previously heard I expected Cambodia to be the "poor cousin" of Thailand, and in many respects that seems to be the case. Even at the border there were throngs of poor-looking Cambodians carting their wares in hand-wagons across to the large market on the Thai side. However, the "dreaded bad road" which I'd heard about was now newly-paved, and within 2 comfortable days we were at the tourist mecca of Siem Reap. The greatest attraction in Cambodia is the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, close to the town of Siem Reap (the main Angkor Wat temple is even depicted on the national flag). The bicycles came in handy, and we spent a day cycling between the various temples and ruins. The people in the lush and wet countryside live mostly in stilted wooden houses which line the roadside for miles on end. As far as one goes you hear "hello", mostly from under the houses where people seem to live during the day to escape the heat and the rain. The many small motorcycles are put to the utmost tests, often towing fairly large trailers loaded with goods or people - and even large wooden boats. Pigs are generally transported to market on the back of these motorcycles (on their backs with trotters facing the sky). By the time they're in transit these animals have usually stopped sqealing, but one still had some grunt in him and I thought I heard "Farang" as he passed me. The countryside through which I cycled is quite flat, and any hill seems to have some religious significance (although the stone sculptors are cutting up the hills at quite a rate). Thankfully things are generally cheaper in Cambodia than in Thailand, particularly accommodation (camping is a bit awkward due to the daily rain showers). However, one has to be wise to the cost of things, as the locals are not shy to quote a "farang" double the going price. Another issue which could be confusing to newcomers is that US $ is commonly accepted as currency alongside the local Riel (ATM's provide $ to Visa and Mastercard holders). From Siem Reap Leana took a boat across the Tongle Sap (largest freshwater lake in Asia), and from there she cycled to Phnom Penh. I cycled to the capital along the other shore of the lake, and found Leana already in the "budget tourist" part of the city, booked into a rickety guest house over the water. We still have a few weeks in the country, so we may go towards the Southern coastal region from here. Daily distances cycled since my last report from Chumphon were:- Ban Saphan 114 km; Prachuap Khiri Khan 100 km; Cha-Am 132 km; Samut Sakhon 129 km; Chachoengsao 109 km; Sa Khao 139 km; Aranyaprathet 58 km; Sisophon 62 km; Siem Reap 108 km; Angkor Wat 45 km; Tongle Sap 32 km; Kampong Kdei 64 km; Kampong Thom 90 km; Skun 94 km; and Phnom Penh 82 km. Total distance cycled since Cape Town is 41 569 km.

4 comments:

ysmedic said...

It continues to amaze me how far you have gone since Lotta and I saw you last, peddling into the distance from the Zomba Plateau in Malawi. We are following your journey with a bit a jealousy.

Regards

Craig, Lotta and new addition Aleksi (4 months)

David Gassner said...

Hey you two, an amazing journey making wonderful reading. Keep going, good luck and our best wishes from Dave and Chel Gassner

Chuck said...

Oh, to be 40 years younger again. At 74 I still do 30 miles per day, but no adventure such as you and Leana. Please, keep us entertained. Keep the wheels spinning. Chuck
http://oldmanbiking.blogspot.com/

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