As soon as you enter Cambodia there is a decline in the standard of the roads. I decided to stay in Stung Trend. After getting some local currency I found a guest house. This is the cheapest place I’ve stayed on my trip so far. It costs NZ$9.80, US$7. For that I get two double beds, a hot shower and a fan and good wifi. There is a restaurant downstairs where I had rice, pork and one beer for NZ$5. A beer is NZ$1.20, US$1
The plan was to head to Siem Reap and stop in and have a look at the Koh Ker Temple complex.
The roads today were in good condition, straight with enough corners to keep it interesting. The bonus was there was very little traffic. It was nice to have a day of relaxing riding. The last 3 days I have been riding with cross winds.
On the sides of the roads there are small fires burning off the dead grass. I’m not sure if these have been lit on purpose or self-generated. It reminded me a lot of Australia. One of the secondary roads I rode along today had a pretty reasonable fire going at the side. The cross winds had gotten hold of it and it was away like a robber’s dog. The flames at one point were about 2 metres tall and had been driven right to the edge of the road. I had to ride through the black smoke and burning debris falling from the sky. It was hard to see so I just kept to the right of the flames, dropped the visor down on my helmet, gave a twist of the throttle and through I went. As I passed the flames, I could feel the heat through my riding gear. I felt like stunt man on a movie set.
Day 156 Wednesday 4th February 2015
I headed to Ankor Wat a world heritage site. Ankor Wat was originally a Hindu temple and later became Buddhist. It’s the largest religious complex in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.
The entrance fee is US$20 for the day. There’s no buying a ticket from someone who’s about to leave as the tickets have your photo printed on them.
The temples themselves have some intricate sculptures and carvings and some are remarkably preserved for their age. Like any old buildings there have been renovations.
After Ankor Wat I went to, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom.
I left Siem Reap and headed north west to Sisophon and then south east to Battambang. I stopped here for lunch in a café near the river. There are many French colonial style buildings. Most are on No 1 Street which runs parallel to the river. There is a real laid-back ambiance here. It’s a great place to chill out and relax. Once I had devoured lunch, I kept heading south east to Tonle Sap Lake. From here you can catch a boat to a floating fishing village. It takes an hour and costsUS$10
Cambodia is the least expensive place I’ve visited so far. You will get a reasonable Guest House for US$10 a night, if you want one with a cold shower you can get them from US$5.
Cambodia is a very flat country nothing special scenery wise but it makes up for it with its heritage. The population is young and friendly. The currency here is the Cambodian Riel. US$ are widely accepted. In fact, most places will charge you US Dollars.
If you’re after Toyota Camry spares parts then Cambodia is the place to get them. It seems every other car is a Camry.
In South East Asia there are small motorbikes and scooters everywhere. People use them to transport some of their family (4 people on one bike), food stalls, dozens of baskets tied to the back making the bike as wide a s a car, Passengers carrying pushbikes, pipes, washing baskets, furniture you name it. Today I saw something to beat all of those. A guy had an identical motor bike strapped at 90 degrees to the back of his bike He was alone. Now that is worthy of a circus act. He was moving along at a fair clip. I wondered how he managed when he stopped or had to negotiate traffic. Maybe he now has one bike and lots of spare parts.
I headed to the capital Phnom Penh. There were lots of road works and dust on the way. I entered the capital going through some very poor areas and headed towards the Royal Palace. I arrived at the palace and it was opulent and well kept. In 30 minutes, I had seen the extremes of wealth and poverty. The road opposite the Royal Palace runs along the river and the pavements have nice shrubbery and palm trees. It reminded me of the French Riviera.
This is the site of one of the 20,000 mass graves in Cambodia. An estimated 2.5 million people died during the Khmer Rouge period.1.3 million were murdered and the rest died from hunger, overwork and disease.
The audio tour is very informative and at the end of the tour you end up at a shrine to the dead. Along the windows are the skulls and bones of the murdered. No bullets were used for the executions. They used hammers, axes, picks and whatever they had available. The babies were grabbed by their legs while their mothers watched and their heads were bashed against a tree until they were dead.
The executed bodies fell into a pit. Not all were killed outright. DDT was dropped on them to finish them off. The DDT also eliminated some of the stench from the decaying corpses. It was a very somber place. It was a timely reminder of the cruelty and inhumanity that will no doubt occur again in the future, somewhere.
While I was in Darwin staying at the Gecko Lodge backpackers, I got talking to an Aussie guy who had spent a bit of time in Cambodia. I remember him saying he really liked Kep. So today I rode the 26km around the coast to Kep and had a look around.
It’s a little fishing village with a few western tourists. The main catch is crab, but they also have squid and plenty of varieties of fish. At lunch I stayed away from the fish and had chicken, no surprises there!
By the sea they have open huts with raised floors that you can hire to have a picnic or generally drift through the day. The huts have hammocks so there are many people snoozing. It’s a very laid-back place.
I had breakfast by the sea this morning watching the fishing boats go out for their daily catch. It was peaceful watching the tide gently lap the shore. I watched the women wade out to the crab baskets, they were full again. There must be millions of crabs here or may be this is the right time of year.
On the way up you pass a large Buddha or something like that. It looks like a woman to me so your guess is as good as mine.
On the way I saw another motorbike carrying an identical motorbike roped onto the back at 90 degrees. Maybe he’s a relative of the guy I saw yesterday.
Tomorrow, I head back in to Thailand.