Next boat...July!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Sovanphum Hotel

Flag of Cambodia  , Kâmpóng Chhnăng,
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Writing this now, having had a fantastic day, it seems hard to remember why we were so annoyed this morning when yet again a boat trip fell through. Arriving at the dock at 7am we were told that no boats would be going to Siem Riep until July due to low water. There was no explanation as to why they were still advertising the trip and selling tickets, but it clearly wasn't going to happen. The 6hr boat trip would be a four day cycle ride, days we don’t have to spare and so we had to give up on seeing the Angkor Wat. (I’ve already been, but was really looking forward to another day chilling on the boat. Also it rained when I was there last time) Instead we now faced with a 3 day ride to Battanbang, which is meant to be very beautiful, but we’d no idea what else was on the way.

Anyway, delicious French pastries and Café Lattes revived us, and we decided to look at the positive side, which is that we’ll now cycle through the entire country and get out of the tourist traps again. Also we do like cycling, something which we sometimes forget when we get a chance not to do it!

We were changed back into cycling gear and on the road by 8am, and the day was brilliant. Despite what we’d heard and read, the roads have been excellent tarmac and pretty quiet, and although there are snack shops at regular intervals, there were also quiet spaces to have a picnic. The landscape is completely different from Vietnam, vast fields with funny lollipop like palm trees at intervals and houses on stilts. There are also masses of ornate temples and we’ve started to see our old friends the Buddhist monks again – most being ferried around on mopeds at the moment. In both Vietnam and China, religion seemed to be something the minority took part in, in Cambodia, it is immediately clear that it is a very important part of daily life.

The absolute best thing so far however, has been the friendly smiles and waves we’ve had all day. No silly voices and giggly pointing and shouting, just happy waves and 'allos’ from even the tiniest children. It feels like being back in India, except far more relaxed as there is about a 100th of the amount of people, traffic, mad animals and general mayhem! We did keep stopping en route to check out crazy food stuff – entire fried tortoises probably win for today.

We were enjoying a picnic lunch of barbequed eggs served with salt and lime when we witnessed a couple of very naughty pigs on the back of a motorbike make a break for freedom.  They kicked and wobbled so much strapped to the back of the speeding bike that they knocked the bike over and the driver went tumbling. They then dug their heels in so that the poor guy had to call for reinforcements before he could get them back on.  He eventually whizzed off with them squealing and kicking their legs up in protest. I think they knew the end was near.

The early start meant that we arrived in Kompong Chhnang by 1.30 and had time to get some very flash plastic mud guards fitted to my bike before checking into the hotel. $15 dollars buys a clean room with cable TV and aircon it seems, which is pretty good. ( a man on a moped wanted to take us to his mate’s guesthouse where a room was $3 – don’t want to think what it must have been like!)  Having intended to do some blogging and planning we promptly crashed out for two hours, enjoying our fridge like room.

At 5pm the heat was still really intense as we ventured out to find food and check out the town. It turned out to be pretty small really, but we found one eatery and they even had a menu in English. Pork with pineapple and Beef with chilli were both great. As we ate we saw lots of women being ferried around on mopeds dressed in beautiful lacy white tops and purple silk skirts. The waiter explained they were off to celebrate their ancestors. The night ended with a wander round the night market, where some great stuff was being barbequed. I had a fruit shake at a stall into which the lady poured an entire can of condensed milk – this probably explains why most of the children have blackened stumps for teeth. I just stopped her dumping a raw egg in as well.

On the way back to the hotel we dodged leaping frogs and massive flying bugs which keep dropping out of the sky onto us.  Tired, but really pleased to be here and not living it up in Siem Riep.

Miles cycled: 56
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