Friday, April 18, 2014

South West Cambodia

My friend was in Cambodia and we met up. I knew her from skiing in Georgia the winter before. I asked if she wanted to ride on the back of the bike for a while and she said yes. I made some room by sending my camping gear to a friends house in Australia. I figured the tent and cook stove isn't needed in SEA because everything is so cheap anyway. 

Feb 12. Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. 232 km.
PP sucks to get in or out. It was hot when we were leaving and now I was riding 2 up. Normally I would just ride like an asshole to try to get out of the city but now I couldn't. After about 1/2 hour we were out of traffic an on the main highway headed toward Sihanoukville. I started to realize just how uncomfortable my seat is when you are not able to stand up. I remember thinking that She might be regretting her decision to ride with me. We would definitely have to do something to make the seat more comfortable. The ride was not very interesting. Straight and dry with lots of people burning brush. My friends John and Ana (Into the World) had been living in Cambodia for a month or so. They paid about $130 to rent an apartment for a month. It was 1 room with a bathroom. Not a bad price. We found a hotel room in town and met up later for dinner on the beach at on of the many restaurants that bbq the catch of the day. They have this weird alien lobster looking thing. The reward was not worth the work to separate the shell. We chatted about travel over a few beers, some shrimp, fish, potatoes and at least 3 plates of bbq'd scallops. John and Ana had ridden 2 up through Africa on a Tenere 660, taken a 690 and a drz400 through Siberia and recently they had been peddling in China and SEA. It was interesting to hear the "other side" of the moto vs pushbike debate coming from those who had now done both. Hint: They both missed the motos.

Needed a haircut before we could leave PP. 

Drinking a Coke with 2 guys from Slovakia. (they drank Angkor)
Feb 13 to 17 Otres 2 Beach in Sihanoukville.
In the morning we went searching for a bungalow to stay in. We found one at the very end of the road. Originally, our plan was to stay 1 or 2 nights but that turned into 5 nights quickly. I spent a few days getting over a stomach bug. I was sitting in the bungalow when a guy outside waved and asked me is that was my KTM. We started to talk and he turned out to be "Sinus" from Vladivostok. I had heard about this guy and seen his website. He had traveled many places by bike over the past 15 years or so and now he was doing tours in Cambodia. Of course he wanted to put ink on my bike. Time flies when you are relaxing on the beach.

Our view.

Our "Boat-galow"

The making of Angkor

Something like "don't let the light burn out". 
Feb 18. Sihanoukville to Kep. 139 km.
Before we left town, we stopped to have breakfast/lunch/coffee with Ana and John. We were on our way to a local market to get some food when I got signaled over by the police. They asked me "passport and international drivers licence".
I said "what is problem".
"You are driving with light on".
I laughed at them. "Really? You are joking right?"
"NO. Not legal have light in day. Show passport and international drivers licence"
John peddled his bike back and started arguing with one of the other guys. I showed the guy my MN drivers licence but I didn't let go of it. Once you give something important to a cop, they can try to take a bribe. Just then I saw a car with its headlights on.
I pointed and said loudly "Pull them over. They have their headlights on". Then a scooter came and I said the same thing.
The police said. "They small light. You big light".
I replied. "I'm American that's why you pulled me over. Can I go now?"
"You need to learn Cambodia laws and follow Cambodian laws. No light during day"
"Ok. I can go now?"
After about 5 more minutes of John and I being assholes to them, they told us to get out of there. They knew we weren't going to pay. We weren't an easy target like the tourists on a scooter.
I was told we needed to see Kep so after leaving Sihanoukville, so that's where we went. We didn't spend any time exploring Kampot and Kep didn't seem very interesting either. We stopped at a few hotels and guest houses but they all seemed to be full. The $10 bungalow we stayed in had some very loud critters in the ceiling that decided to keep us up.

Temple being constructed. 

Feb 19. Kep to Koh Kong. 349 km.
We went searching for a waterfall about 1200 meters up on a mountain in the Phnum Bokor National Park. Getting there was quite fun. Smooth pavement and a nice twisty road. Since it was dry season, the waterfall was not quite as impressive as we were hoping. I could have doubled the size of it by peeing over the edge. On to Koh Kong. The southwestern part of Cambodia doesn't have much for development outside of Kampot, Koh Kong and Sihanoukville. Koh Kong is a border town so there are plenty of travelers coming and going.

Feb 20. Koh Kong.
Koh Kong had good street food and a cheap, clean room with WIFI. We went to the mangrove forest to play tourist. It was interesting and it is good that some conservation efforts are being made. The mangrove forest is a very important defense against tropical storms and tsunami that might otherwise devastate the areas near the sea. For many years fish/shrimp farms and harvesting the mangrove for charcoal production was threatening to wipe out the entire area. We would see later that conservation of natural resources in Cambodia is a loosing battle. In town we found the main market and tried some fruit we did not yet eat. Bbq chicken, fried noodles and Papaya salad from the food carts fed us that night.

Bugs anyone?

Looks like garlic. Tastes like berries?

Feb 21. Koh Kong to Pursat. 268 km.
After looking at pictures on the internet of the road north of Koh Kong, I was sure we would be in for an interesting day. As it turns out, in the past couple years there have been many hydro-electric projects in the mountains and jungle in western Cambodia. Where before this area could only be reached by 4x4 or enduro.. Now it was an easy Sunday ride 2 up. The road didn't really get bad until we turned toward Pursat. This was due to heavy traffic, pot holes and poor maintenance. We met a guy on an XR250 who told us about a nice place to say in Pursat. When we fount the hotel, it was a huge 4 story white building with a swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurant, and bar. All for $20. This would be a $200 hotel room in any city in Europe or the US.

Easy roads.. even 2up

Lots of hydro projects. 

Oh I hope so!


Feb 22. Pursat.
Since we felt so comfortable in the lap of luxury, we decided to stay another day. Its funny how you can get lazy when your ass is still sore from the ride the day before.

Feb 23. Pursat to Phnom Penh. 187 km.
It was a quick ride until about 30 km from PP. Then it seems to go on forever with the traffic. We made it and found a cheap hotel room close to a night market. Rice, stir fried vegetables with meat, bbq chicken, cucumbers and baguettes would be our dinners in the hotel room for the next few nights.

Get anything at the night market. Including totally legal dvds. 
Feb 24 and 25. Phnom Penh.
We had to come back to PP so I could extend my visa which was about to end on the 25th. Time flies since I had already been in Cambodia for a month. My friend was complaining that we did not go to enough touristy places. She said all we do is ride around and never stop. I tried to explain to her why most tourist places suck but it wasn't working. So in PP I said we can go anywhere you want. First place we went was the palace. It was $7 each. After about 15 minutes she looked at me with a shameful smile and said "ok, we don't need to go to anymore palaces". I laughed and said "I told you so". Next we went to "the silk island". There are 2 islands in the Mekong river about 15 km north of PP where most of the people that live there are part of the silk industry. Either raising silk worms for the raw silk, making the thread, or weaving the thread on huge looms. It was an interesting way to spend the morning.. and we only saw 1 other whitey :P The day wasn't over yet. When we got back into PP it was just after noon. She had not seen S21 and I had not seen the killing fields. Some people do both in one day but I wouldn't recommend it. It would be way to depressing. I was skeptical about it but it was actually good tour. Every visitor gets an audio player/guide to listen to. It tells the history, the events during, stories and the events after the Khmer Rouge. Every rainy season pieces of bone, teeth and clothing come to the surface. I did not take many pictures there. Instead I walked around and thought about history, life and the future of the Cambodia and the region. If you are in PP I would say you can skip S21 but the killing fields tour is a must. It is more educational and definitely more emotional. That evening I got my passport back with a brand new 1 month visa extension. We would leave PP in the morning for the isolated areas near the Vietnam border. 
Guy making candy. 

Kids eating candy.

Good place to nap.

Sinking or normal?

Full ferry. 

Custom side stand. Because 1 side stand and 1 center stand just isn't enough. 

Reverse gear on a mototruck thing. 

Our awesome tuktuk driver. 

Silk worms.

Wheelie time!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome blog man. Just read through it all in the last days. Just send you a message on FB, said it would be in your "other" folder as we aren't friends. Can't wait for your next entry.
    The German