The Wild, Wild East

Trip Start May 07, 2003
Trip End Sep 05, 2005

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cambodian green cross code:
- Don't stop, look or listen to anything while driving. Buddha will guide you.
- No less than 3 people to a moped. 6 is optimum.
- Mopeds are also to be used as tractors, pickups, removal vans and hay trucks.
- No less than 7 people to a car. 9 is optimum.
- Use two wheel drive vehicles on unpassable Ox cart tracks and for traversing rivers.
- Depending on mud, traffic or laziness, drive on either side of the road.
- If unable to turn left or right due to thick traffic coming at you 60ks an hoor. Just lean on the horn and drive into it anyway. Buddha will save you.
- The horn is the most important component of the car, it is to be used at all times and in all situations. Don't worry yourself with the engine, tyres, gearbox or other similar useless things.

Mondulkiri, meaning "the meeting of the hills" was two days by bus from Siem Riep. I spent a couple of days there burning round the rolling green countryside on an old 100cc Chinese moped with a fucked gearbox and no front brake. Found some hidden minority villages in the jungle and a massive waterfall. The craic with the stuckup moody buggers in the guesthouse was cryptic though, so I pushed on to the remote Ratanakiri province in the far north east. First leg was on an old pickup. The crazy Cambodian had managed to shoe-horn 25 of us into this thing, along with all our luggage and enough goods to set-up a market. After stopping several times to pick up dropped suitcases and rice sacks and to douse the boiling radiator in puddle water, the wee kids sitting on me were getting decidely agitated, and with a cute wee grimace the baby boy quite happily pissed on my leg; then moments later, his slightly older sister blessed me with the regurgitaed chunks of her mornings breakfast all over my shorts! Lovely.

After leaving Roel in Phnom Penh, I hoped that would be the last i'd see of cheeky Dutchman. But low and behold as I'm wandering the streets of Kratie, I hear a cry from a above "Goddamn it, you dirty Scotsman, get yer erse up here fir a smoke!". There he was on the top floor of some dodgy hotel, puffing away as usual. I couldn't beleive it. This was the 8th time we had met up, and bang on 3 months since those heady times in Pai. The man's a bloody legend and Asia wouldn't have been the same without him but I think we've defo spent too much time together as most people are now mistaking him for a Scotsman!! After all the abuse and Edinburgh slang I've been throwing at him since we met, as well as looking like a Ginger Highlander, he's now sporting a Scottish accent too!! 10 points!!

So we got the boat up the Mekong to Stung Treng and bade a sure farewell this time as I headed east and he made for Laos (for the 3rd time, and I don't blame him). The journey east was one of the worst in the last two years. On a par with the bone rattling Guatemalan highlands or the gooey mudpits of the Amazon, and Cambodia is almost completely flat! Not only did the roads resemble the B-52 flight paths's of old, with pothole bomb craters that regularly swallowed our shitey wee Toyota Corrola but we were 9 bloody people crushed into the back of the rickety heap!! 4 in the back and 5 in the front! The driver was sitting on someones knee, someone else got the delights of the gearstick, and two in the passenger seat! The cheeky bastard even had the gaul to charge us ten bucks each for the dubious priveledge of constantly rattling my head off the window for four and half hours as we crashed thru craters, rivers, over broken bridges and washed out roads. It was really worth it when we got there though, Ratanakiri is a unique land in Cambodia, with many waterfalls, ancient volcanic crater lakes and some beautiful untouched minority villages to check-out. The worst was to come however - I nearly had a nervous breakdown on the way home as I realised the boat was cancelled and we had to make the whole way back to Phnom Penh by those horrible roads - AAAARGH!! All I need now's a back-crackin massage to sort out all my ailments and tomorrow I'm off to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
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