Ancient Wat

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, February 10, 2008

After a couple of days in Bangkok treating Madelaine (new rear rim, new rear spokes, new bottom bracket, new cable guide, new cables, clean and polish), I set off on a three day detour to Cambodia (you only get 30days for free in Thailand, so needed to leave the country). Logistically, it must be admitted that I cocked this up about as thoroughly as I possibly could have. Vacillating about whether I wanted to go and come by bike or buses, I eventually decided to compromise. Bad idea. 

I took the bus to the border, paying an extortionate fee to put the bike in the hold. The next morning, I rode across the border and headed for Siam Reap, on what transpired to be one of the worst unsealed roads in Cambodia. The dust and corrugations made for slow, arduous progress; the scenery was a snooker table- flat, monotonous, green. About 10km outside Cambodia's primary tourist destination the road switched to perfect tarmac and smart hotels appeared along the roadside. I found a surprisingly pleasant room for 6 dollars, down a sidestreet a kilometer or so from the town centre.

The following day I rode to the Angkorian temples. Outside the famous Angkor Wat I befriended an English girl on a rented one-speed clunker and we spent the day touring the site in convoy. Angkor Wat was as grand I'd hoped, well restored and surround by kempt lawns. However, I prefered Bayon, with it's hundreds of giant faces, staring benignly in all directions, and jungly Ta Prohm. The latter temple, largely overrun by the astonishingly vast and rapacious jungle flora, was rendered famous by being used as a location for Tomb Raider. We were lucky to find it relatively quiet and spent a couple of hours exploring.

The ride to Siam Reap was merely hard. It was the return journey that proved to be the real nightmare. None of the public buses could transport my bicycle, so I had to take a pickup. It took 5hours of clinging to the roof of the cab, in a flatbed jeep with 30passengers, to make it halfway to the border. At that point, everybody disembarked.

-Why's everyone getting off?
-I finish.
-But you said you were going to Poipet! I paid you to go to Poipet!
-Will you at least make sure that the driver of that car is going to Poipet and that he doesn't ask me for any more money?

After all the attendent hassle of unlashing the bike and re-securing it to the new jeep, we drove about 200m to the town bus station, and parked up again. After 20minutes stationary, the driver turned to me;

-That car going to Poipet.
-What! I thought you were going to Poipet!
-No. That car.
-Which car?
-That one.
-Where? Behind the garlic truck?

After another twenty minutes I was perched on top of two tonnes of garlic. As if a day in the dust and sun wasn't going to make me smell bad enough, and the exhaustion and frustration didn't already make me want to weep. By the time I finally reached Poipet it was 4pm. I reeked of garlic, sweat and dirt. I was sunburned and cramped. One of the webbing straps binding my roll-mat had disappeared.

The border guard gave me a highly suspisious look when it appeared that I was claiming to have cycled to Siam Reap and back in 3days, but when I said I'd taken a bus he relaxed. Across the border I road straight to the bus station 7km away and caught the next bus to Bangkok, arriving, exhausted, around 11pm, with 10 more kilometers to ride through the traffic to Kao San Road. 
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