Cambodia upon entry was beautiful, weather was glorious. Coconut palms decorated the horizons and they had beautifully built timber houses up on high stilts, to avoid the rains of wet season I’d imagine, they were roofed with the galvanised sheeting again. Simple and effective. The poverty was similar to that of Vietnam with the rural people, they look to be just living off the land, waiting for money being sent home from the kids hard labour in the city and trading with one another. Looking out for one another.
Cycling through the rural parts of Vietnam and Cambodia you as constantly greeted with children and parents alike greeting you with waves and hello’s from all angles, they are so welcoming, some look bewildered at the two gigantic Irishmen coming along on these gigantic bikes in comparison, but once you lock eyes, initiate the first smile, then they open and greet you with the biggest smiles of them all followed by a wave. Truly beautiful people.
A million different faces a day, all with their own story.
From the Vietnamese border crossing to Phnom Penh it was a few days cycling with pretty much repetitive landscape, very flat land, staying in cheap accommodation as every patch of grass was out to use by the locals, and also the temperatures were mid 30’s on average, putting a tent up isn’t an option in south east Asia by the looks of things.
When we arrived in Phnom Penh we took a few days off and visited sites from the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge era, and it would stop a man in he’s tracks. Harrowing doesn’t quiet cut the cheese, but I won’t delve into here, as with the English invasion of Australia, or the America’s in Vietnam and its neighbours. Reading anything in a book as you’d often hear, is trumped by experience and never more so than down here. It has made me question things like the good and evil in the world, the vulnerability of the uneducated from certain indoctrination , and the stupidity of the big guns in power just that little bit more than usual.
We made our way to Siem Riep, and we were both very surprised at the quality of the roads and also how flat the terrain was. Since leaving Ho Chi Minh we’d barely seen a hill, this can be quiet monotonous at times, but there’s always something going on in south east Asia and you can’t take your eye of the ball for one second, it’s intense in that sense.
A little story, I remember It was somewhere in rural Cambodia I dared Paddy to eat some grasshoppers in a cafe we had stopped into, the local cuisine here entails all sorts of insects, little did I think he would take a shine to them and buy a plastic bag full and strap them too the handlebars for revisiting later when we got to our guest house!!
We arrived in Siem Reip, and had planned on meeting a bike tourer we had met in Phnom Penh by the name of John Blower. An Englishman and an absolute gentleman that’s doing something similar to us, just on the bike with the world at he’s feet. John is living with diabetes, and was telling us of it’s extremities, and the difficulties of obtaining the medication, having to keep it at certain temperatures and all the rest. I tip my hat to a man that’s not only overcoming adversity, but showing adversity who’s the boss. We had decided to meet up in a place called “Bugs Cafe”, inspired by paddy’s tales of the grasshopper, we said we would go full monty and that’s exactly what we did. The chief and owner, a French man and a local Cambodian gave us a run down on what they had on offer and textures and the likes. We decided to get a platter, a bit of everything which included Silk worms, ants, fire ants, grasshoppers, scorpions, widow spiders and none other than the tarantula. Yuck right? Couldn’t be further from it, the tarantula was actually the nicest of the lot, it was deep fried so it just tasted like potato chips. Learning that John was also a music lover, and a guitarist, when he had told us of a story he played in a venue on he’s travels, I offered to give him my guitar/Guitelele, as my time on it was very limited, I knew it was going to a good home and John would make use of it. We said our goodbyes, one thing we are having to get accustomed to on the road, we started preparing for our Cambodian ultra marathon, which we had decided to do around the beautiful grounds of the historical Anchor Watt.
Our first attempt was aborted because of a thunderstorm, we rose at 4am to find the streets flooded. So we stayed dry for the day and went again the following day, running from town out to Anchor Watt. It was quiet the back drop for the day, running through the ancient city gates and around dozens of the temples, and as stated the largest religious monument in the world. It’s a fascinating piece engineering given the times.
We left at 4am that morning to avoid the heat but as soon as the sun rose, your in the thick of it and pushing through it. The humidity is a killer, we ran the first 46 or so, comfortably enough. Stopped to refuel then and suffered for the final 18km, we were both submitted by the elements to a walk
Nonetheless we got through it and clocked up our 64km, keeping our minds occupied by talking about the simplicity of home, the thoughts of a roast dinner or a bag of chips on a cold stone wall, and what it will be like when we get more north and out of the heat! 😀
We left Siem Reap and started to make our way to the Thailand border, landscape pretty much the same as day one, high road and people camped up on either side. We were crossing the border via a plane called Anlong Veng, and I have to say for the first time on the entire journey I got a weary feeling coming into town, locals donning the Khmer Rouge colours and scarfs, military chlothing, the place was an absolute dump, rubbish decorated the place and gangs loitered around. Little did we know that when the Vietnamese drove Pol Pot out after the Americans left, they only ran him this far. A good percentage of these people in the village were once loyal to the man, (through fear of death!) and some of them still are as he lived he’s life here with he’s men right on the borders of Thailand. It was a strange thing to experience psychologically, needless to say we found two beds, locked ourselves in and decided to have breakfast at the border instead!!
There was a finally a mountain range, first one since landing in south east Asia, and we had to go over it to get into Thailand. It was so steep we had to hike the bikes, meaning get off and walk it up over the mountain. Be carful what you wish for they say. We had prayed for hills and the first one we met, we couldn’t cycle over it. 😂
The first few hours in Thailand, were lovely though. What goes up must come down!
And that was Cambodia....
Until the next....