Never believe a German!!!

Koh Kong – Trat 108km

So it was farewell Cambodia and we cycled the 11km to the Thai border. We have done a few land border crossings in Asia and this would be the most chilled out place. Still amazing seeing the comings and goings between the 2 countries but not a scam or scammer in sight. 45 minutes later we were stamped out of Cambodia and into Thailand.

Final footsteps in Cambodia.
Getting stamped out of Cambodia
Transactions taking place on border
Walking food and produce from Thailand into Cambodia

Well Hello Thailand. How clean you look and the roads are modern and pot hole free.

All dressed up for the border occasion and Sawasdee Ka Thailand.

So we got the pedals turning and rode the undulating hills for 10km into Hat Lek super excited that we may find a 7/11 as we were salivating over a sausage and cheese toasty.

Oh yeah………….the things you miss
The toasty was oh so scrummy. Things that excite you when you are on the road.

In no hurry today as we only had 43km to ride we pottered around exploring the cute fishing village of Hat Lek.

Riding HW3 in Thailand was a bit of a mission as it is currently under repair to expand to a multi lane HW, so it was a pleasure to turn onto the coast road and have it to ourselves.

We then arrived after the 43km at the Panan Resort. When we are biking all our info of where to stay is either off Maps.Me or Google maps or reading the other handful of cycle tourist blogs. Having read this German guys blog who was one month ahead of us we were super excited about getting to the Panan Resort. Well I don’t know what hoochy mama he’d been smoking as there was more flora and fauna growing inside the room than outside. There was no way in hell we were going to stay in that rubbish dump, we let out a few expletives at this unknown German. A few deep breaths as we summed up our options and realised it was back in the saddle for another 64km to the town of Trat. It was only 11.30am but the temps were pushing 37deg and humidity 400%! Back on the HW3 and more road works, hills, hills and more hills. Hardly any drink or eat stops available so thank goodness for that toasty! Found an ice cream along the way and tried to keep the fluids in but impossible.

3.30pm we rolled into Trat absolutley exhausted and realised that was definitely our toughest day this journey. Thank goodness we had done a bit of research prior on where the guesthouses were in the town of Trat. We got ourselves some top digs for the night went to 7/11 to get a beer…………………..and what do you know they don’t sell beer as they are beside a school. This was the one that almost broke us, until we found the little old man selling beer out of his house. He was like seeing Father Christmas and good to see our old friend Leo again.

Posh Digs after our toughest day yet
Betty and Nancy even have their own private room
Posh Digs for all the family
What you look like after 108km but we found Leo.

So we are now 2-3 days ahead of schedule with our monster day yesterday. We have had a good look around town today exploring this cute town and will stay a few days as we don’t want to get to Bangkok too early. We do have to depart our posh digs tomorrow as they are booked out.

Not the planned arrival into Thailand but we can’t believe how much cleaner it is, the roads are perfect, people actually sit in their cars with seatbelts on and are super courteous.

Farewell Cambodia and Arkoun (Thank you)

Has been a great couple of days R & R chilling out in Koh Kong but after 28 days in Cambodia, with only two days left on our visa it is time to say Goodbye.

There is no doubt that our impression of this wonderful country has changed from our negative first impressions of it 12 years ago as we rushed through Siem Reap and Phnom Penh tourist spots on a bus like most backpackers carrying an oversize backpack.

How different you see a place on 2 wheels fully immersing yourself into the daily lives of the most wonderful and friendly people we have come across. A country that has gone through so much in recent decades. One thing that stood out to us was seeing very few of the older generation, maybe remnants of the 2-3million people that were killed during the Khmer rouge regime only 35-40 years ago.

It is sad to see their prized tourism spots being sold out to the Chinese and the ordinary Cambodian people left with disintegrating roads and left to live in a pile of dust and rubbish. Oh my goodness the rubbish, we actually became desensitised to the volume of rubbish, plastic bottles and open drains of sludge.

View from our hotel in Koh Kong looking out towards the border
The journey so far

We have had the most incredible time riding the country. The roads have been challenging with pot holes, dust and traffic but Betty and Nancy have stood up to the challenge despite a couple of flatties. Our old bikes certainly wouldn’t have survived. Prior to coming here we had read that only 20% of drivers have their drivers lincenses and after seeing them drive this may well be true. The wow factor of how many they can put in and on a vehicle and where they opt to sit was mind blowing. Cambodia is predominantly flat so was easy terrain except for HW48 and the Cardamoms which was challenging but a peaceful pleasure. We hope we never have to ride HW4 again!

The dogs are far sleepier than Thailand and only had the couple of dog chases but we have the sticks ready as we hit Thailand tomorrow.

The food was definitely challenging at times just trying to find something that we thought our stomachs could handle. It certainly doesn’t have the same choices or flavours as Thailand. Thank goodness for the pottles of “Mama Noodles” they were a bit of a lifesaver. Beer is everywhere and easier to find than food and a super tasty drop. Coffee is huge here with both their local incredibly strong brew or the odd new trendy cafe popping up serving more western style coffee and has been a highlight of our days.

Modern brew at $1.5-2 per glass
Local brew at 30c a glass.

So we sit here planning the next part of the journey crossing the border tomorrow into Thailand, making the almost 500km journey up to Bangkok to get our flight to Myanmar on May 14th. Hoping to find a bike shop in Bangkok to get the bikes serviced after the rugged month they have endured.

Oh the stresses of a bike packer

So farewell Cambodia and thank you so much for an amazing time. Your warmth, hellos and waves as we cycled your beautiful country bring a smile to our face now as we write this. We will definitely be back at some stage.

Carved up the Caradamom Mountains

April 21 – Sre Ambel – Trapeang Rung = 81km

What a challenging but incredibly rewarding couple of days through the Wild West of Cambodia but we have nailed it. So pleased we forced ourselves to have a rest day in Sre Ambel before attacking the Mountains despite food being a challenge.

Our one stop shop kindly gave us frog! We did double check it wasn’t dog!
With my camera shot translation of fried rice we managed to get this delivered to the one stop shop
Dinner of baguette and those sizzler sossies and chille sauce

We were carbo loaded ready to start the 2 day challenge through the Mountains. We were loving being on the quiet highway 48, minimal traffic taking it all in.

First drinks stop
Village kids in the hills

After 40km we had an option to stay at Botum Sakor at one of the 3 homestays but we were both feeling great so grabbed some water and pushed on.

Botum Sakor

After Botum Sakor we hit the hills and then got caught in a storm which was actually lovely and refreshing in the stifling temps.

Totally drenched but cleaned the gear

Smashing out the kms with more thunder and storms following us we arrived 81km later exhausted into Trapeang Rung. Super relieved that there was a guesthouse right in town. Very basic room with fan, bucket to flush toilet, no hand basin and more creepy crawlies than we have seen this trip. Just a reminder that we are in the jungle. We didn’t take much rocking and after yet another feed of pottle noodles and a beer we crashed at 7.30 in the super stuffy room.

Trapeang Rung and we beat the storm

The Green Guesthouse NZ$13

Trapeang Rung – Koh Kong = 61km

Managed to get some sleep despite the unnerving night sounds outside in the jungle so up at 5.30am ready for what we knew would be the toughest day riding over the Cardamom Mountains.

Fried rice a safe option to hit the road with thanks again to our screen shot translator
Up up we go
Not sure what we would do if one of these popped out of the jungle

The hills were gruelling but super satisfying as every pedal was one closer to what felt like the finish line. There were no drink stalls for 28km so just as well we were loaded up with water.

Then one magically appears
Pleased we didn’t have to ride the dirt roads today

We had an option of staying at a guesthouse in Tatai at the 40km but we were on a roll and loving the tough ride. The temp was rapidly rising to the mid 30s so we wanted to keep moving. The road was probably the best we have ridden on, traffic was light and the sounds of the wildlife in the jungle were amazing. Some real tough pinches out of Tatai matched with some super fun downhill where we hit 52km an hour on our Speedo! Before we knew it we rolled into Koh Kong bang on midday. We had carved up the Cambodian Cardamom’s. Civilisation looked good and we saw the first Westerners we had seen in a few days.

Main street Koh Kong

Reward time!

After checking out a few places to stay we hit the jackpot and got ourselves the VIP suite at the Nathy Koh Kong Hotel for NZ$27. The best digs we have had in Cambodia!

Betty and Nancys first journey in a lift
So good to have decent digs after surviving the Wild West

So here we are 9km from the Thai border having nailed Cambodia. Going to chill out here for 3 nights and reflect on an amazing adventure in this country and start planning the next stage of the journey.

Cows Can Fly

Stung Hav – Sre Ambel = 76km

A day of two halves yesterday departing the sleepy Stung Hav. Lovely rolling hills despite sharing them with petrol tankers. Still bumpy road with heaps of pot holes so much so the vibration cracked my fork mounted alloy drink bottle holder. Handy Andy cable tied it together and we were back in the game.

Drink stop/toilet stop in the bushes all in one!

After the 25km we were back on the flat and greeted with the dreaded National HW4.

Catching a breather before back into it

Was full on concentration with heavy traffic but we stuck on the gravel shoulder the entire way and had it almost to ourselves except for the odd cow and scooter. The paddocks aren’t fenced so cows just wander and generally have an uncanny sense as to when to cross the road. I had just remarked this 5mins earlier to Andy when 100m up ahead a cow wandered into the path of a car going 100km and the rest was carnage. We literally witnessed the cow flying through the air. Luckily those in the car appeared to be unharmed but shaken and the car looking worse for wear. The cow would be history and bruised beef on the menu somewhere last night.

After the unpleasant cow episode a random coffee shop appeared so we took time out in the aircon and had coffee break. For those of you that know me well know I’ve never drunk coffee however I’ve become somewhat addicted to the strong Cambodian iced coffees with condensed milk!

After 35km on crazy HW4 we were at the junction to turn off onto HW48 making our way towards Sre Ambel. Struggled to find anything edible at the junction but you can always rely on noodles and coke.

Arrived in Sre Ambel about 3pm hot and bothered and we have definitely hit the wild west of Cambodia.

Entrance to the town and main street
Main street outside the guesthouse

Found the only guesthouse in the town and for NZ20 we have aircon and are snuggled up super cosy with Betty and Nancy.

Who needs a ceiling fan when you can tie a desk fan to the wall with a shoe lace
The lock didn’t work so out comes the hatchet and chisel and all sorted. No lock smith here

After a cold shower (no hot water here and power cuts in and out) we went for a walk down the street. I think the only Westerners or “barang” (as they call us) the locals would see would be cycle tourists. So we hear the whispers of barang as we walk down the street but a smile and hello reassures them that we aren’t scary and before you know it you are trying to converse.

Found a snack that looked edible
A wok inside a beer box sitting on a one burner butane gas stove
The result scrummy deep fried sausage with cheese inside with chille sauce. Kind of like the old fashioned sizzlers but hey they say you can eat what you like when cycle touring.
A slab of ice loaded on the back of the moto ready for delivery

Then opposite our guesthouse is the one stop shop. Coffee, beer and noodles for dinner

2 more lucky tabs….”Free Beer”! And even selling the uni drys in XL size behind us if required!!!
View looking out from the one stop shop
The owners daughter even put on a performance for us
Total extreme the local police travel in style in their brand new Ford F150 which still has the dealer stickers on from Idaho, USA.

So here we are taking it all in resting up for a day before hitting the 150km ride over the Cardamon Mountains. We aren’t sure yet how tough they are going to be, also the variables of the early arrival of the wet season, the heat, the availability of a bed, whether it will take us 2 or 3 days of riding. We may also be off the radar as not sure if Wi-Fi will be available. The Wild West bring it on!

Leaving the tourist trail

Otres Beach – Stung Hav = 35km

Well we can say we weren’t sad to be leaving Otres and the feral hippies and backpackers that were hanging out there. We didn’t really fit in having no tattoos, no dreads, not smoking ciggies or lounging around smoking pot. Oh and even though we are roughing it we still have a shower twice a day, wash our clothes and wear deodorant.

So farewell to OhTrash…….and 10km down the road it’s big brother Sihnoukville aka “Shitsville”, or Chinaville it is apparently referred to. The magnitude of construction is mind blowing and the Chinese presence is huge. The rubbish is shocking, roads atrocious and Betty and Nancy bounced their way from pothole to pothole, proving a city can still provide Mt biking terrain.

Brekkie before departing Otres/OhTrash
Bath time on the street

Once we navigated our way through Sihnoukville we were pleasantly surprised and had what has possibly been out most enjoyable morning of riding. A delight to be off the beaten path again and greeted with friendly smiles, waves and hellos.

Little coastal village and first drinks stop
Drinks stop with this lovely man. Gave us tea and we tried to have a chat
The coast and stunning scenery
200m stretch with no rubbish
Great view and no traffic
Not as scary as the dogs the other day!

Lovely short day riding on quiet roads, undulating terrain and we arrive at the tiny, sleepy village of Stung Hav to be told the Guesthouse was full. Panic time but he points to another down the road which looks like it is actually closed. However we score a dirty room for the night but a beds a bed and we have a big day tomorrow.

Explored the village……

The town of Stung Hav

And look what we find.

A brand new coffee shop

One extreme to the other as across the road from coffee shop.

Restaurant attached to guesthouse. Looks idyllic but reality is it’s more like a toxic swamp land. However the beer is cold and we are having a ball

So one night here before a big day tomorrow. We are starting to hit the wild west remoteness of Cambodia, making our way to the Thai border.

Clicked over 1000km after an eventful day riding

Kampot – Otres Beach 100km

Last few pics of the delightful village of Kampot that we will definitely return to at some stage, hopefully before it gets ruined with another case of “tourism gone wrong”.

Fishing village in Kampot

Houses on the dirty river
Last sunset beer in Kampot
Stunning sunset with Bokor National Park in the background

We were super excited about getting the pedals turning again and were planning on a 54km trip to Khum Veal Rung. On arrival we discovered it was a shit hole junction town and the first place we went for lunch was serving offal noodle soup or chicken rice covered in flies. We declined both temptuous options and kept pedaling where we found a baguette with only half the amount of flies.

We were now on HW4 the busiest HW in Cambodia and it was chaos with it also being the final day of New Year. Which by the way seems to be the most bizarre kind of celebration where they drive on backs of trucks with water pistols shooting anyone in their sights as well as throwing flour and talcum powder. We got bombed going through one village which was a laugh and made the clothes smell a bit better!!!!

Riding with the Bokor hills to our right and glimpses of the coast to our left very occasionally. We thought we would stay in Preya Nob 4km up from the junction only to find out it was 10km up the road and once again it was a dive with one guesthouse. As we were sitting on 65km now we had the option of gutsing out staying in Preya Nob or push through to Otres Beach. We were feeling pretty good so decided to take the challenge and pushed on.

The NY traffic was heavy but seriously entertaining. We saw mini vans that had over 25 people in them with 4 hanging out the back with the roof open oh and a couple on the top next to the chickens dangling down the side. We saw sedans that had 7 in the backseat and 4 in the front and the icing on the cake was a bus belting down the HW at 100km with the side baggage compartment open and a guy sitting in it.

Or this option for the NY family holiday

Riding along with a nice tail wind we heard an almighty crash and looked behind us and less than 50m away there were 3 bodies sliding along the asphalt and a scooter in pieces rapidly shedding parts. We noticed people had stopped to help so with our lack of Cambodian language skills we carried on.
At 80km we were hot, hungry and slogging up a hill when we nearly at the summit when 6 dogs came flying out a driveway on attack. Our usual method of pedaling faster wasn’t an option as the tank was empty. Plan B of dismounting, yelling and using our bike as a weapon gave us time to subdue the dogs and they lost interest in the puffed out kiwis.

So an action packed day we slog the last hill and descend into Otres to a stall for some water and noodles. Jumped on the Wi-Fi to discover the town is almost fully booked or charging extortionate prices. They quite happily tell us “last day of NY so expensive but tomorrow be cheaper”. We weren’t fussy at this stage and after 100km of riding just wanted a shower and bed. We scored a place with only slightly over inflated prices and will stay here for 2 nights.

Laneway to our bungalow

The digs Betty and Nancy inside and we even have aircon
Long Beach Bungalow Otres

After a quick shower it was definitely beer o’clock. Having a nice quiet beer food ordered when the owners son sits beside us and decided to treat us by blaring out Cambodian rap music at our table.

Thankfully the power went out so that was the end of the music as we sat dining by candlelight. Not exactly your fine dining candlelight experience but all the same an experience and one hell of a day, and that sees the end of the Cambodian NY festivities and our first 1000km on the clock for this trip.

Main street of Otres

Pretty Otres Beach ruined with rubbish
More rubbish and Sihnoukville in the background

The Chinese are already starting to make their mark on Otres after apparently over running Sihnoukville having already built 30 casinos and 27 more being built this year.

Getting ready for the Cambodian New Year.

Kampot – Kep – Kampot = 51km

We are having a great time chilling out in Kampot cycling around exploring. Actually got chased by our first dogs yesterday unlike the very aggressive Thai dogs up until yesterday we have found them more placid. Dog is actually on the menu here in Cambodia so those that play up may well be next on the rotisserie.

Coffee time chilling out.

Our timing has us striking the Cambodia New Year this weekend, so it will be chaos with their one big holiday for the year.

They are already starting to rock into town.

Well it actually builds up for about a week and continues well after the weekend. This being the case we decided to stay in Kampot and just do a day bike ride yesterday down to Kep.

Roadside scenery on way down to Kep
The last 10km into Kep on the flashest of roads, with solar and wind powered LED street lighting. All courtesy of the Chinese!
Fishing village on way to Kep

Pleased that’s what we decided to do as the holiday makers were already arriving by the bus load, spending their day swimming fully clothed with life jackets in a not so desirable beach, eating crab and drinking Angkor beer.

The beach of Kep the locals swimming with jeans and tees and life jackets
Kep Village
Kep beach

We much prefer it here in Kampot where there is a melting pot of locals, backpackers and old leathery male sexpats (with their much younger Cambodian girlfriend tagging along). Its great people watching alongside great food, coffee and beer. All going to plan and our timings are right, after the NY (as accommodation all booked out further north so can’t move on yet) we will hit the road on Monday making our way towards the Thai border.

Nancy has her first flatty. A fine bit of wire was the culprit

Chilling out in Kampot

Chum Kiri – Kampot = 50km

Yesterday we had a blazing ride in the rain most of the way and a great tail wind for a change. A handful of peanuts along the way and that was brekkie before we smoked it into Kampot leaving the dust in our wake.

One drowned rat finds a coffee shop on arriving in Kampot and then discovers her shirt was back to front so sporting mud splatters on both sides!

What a delightful chilled out town Kampot is. Still a poor Cambodian town however quite a large ex pat community along with the odd hippie and backpacker mooching around but no other crazy cycle tourists in sight.

Streets of Kampot

Pizza for dinner last night and 50c beers watching the sunset on the river, it was a great way to celebrate what we saw as a great leg of this journey and incredible adventure. Having ridden 830km now from just out of Bangkok through the length of Cambodia.

Great digs for the next 4 nights while we chill out and give the bums and bods a rest

Where we crossed the border from Thailand into Poipet and rode the 560km down through rural Cambodia now sitting in Kampot in Southern Cambodia. We will bike the 22km out to Kep for a couple of nights on Wednesday then next weekend start making our way towards Sihnoukville up to Ko Kong (250km) on the west making our way through the Cardamon Mountains where we will cross the border back into Thailand towards the end of the month. Mountains will be a change after such flat riding so far.

Thanks heaps for all your messages on the blog, we absolutley love them despite not replying to them.

What a difference a day makes

Kong Pisey – Chum Kiri = 50km

Surprisingly good sleep on the hardest of beds, felt like a slab of concrete with a sheet over it and woke to a few cockroaches on the floor, so moved on pretty quickly.

After the dusty effort yesterday we were hoping for a more enjoyable day and we got it. Lovely riding on a nice road with heaps to look at and friendly waves and smiles along the way.

Let’s get a baguette to takeaway……just that one beside the pigs head would be great thanks.

Village where we had brekkie

100m down the road to get a seat and eat brekkie which was just a dry baguette……but a safe option.

Arrived Chum Kiri which is a very small village but out of the countryside appears this modern 2yr old hotel with aircon and hot water for nz$20.

Certainly didn’t expect this in Chum Kiri

Feeling a bit posh after yesterdays grubby day
Across the road from the hotel. Absolute extremes
Stunning view across from hotel

The family hotel owners can’t do enough for us but like most places in this part of the world have zero English but so hospitable.

Locals off to work

A sachet of coffee with this 30yr old local trying hard to practise his English.

So a couple of quiet well deserved beers (after coffee) and a stinking hot day we then found one of the few places open for dinner and we were treated like rockstars. Phone cameras appeared from everywhere and before i knew it the girls had my phone and they had me as their FB friends!!!! No matter how remote we are Wi-Fi is available

Restaurant kitchen
Staff quarters at the restaurant.
Having a ball thanks to Google translator to order our fried rice!
This little pocket rocket was one of the staff members’ kids

One more day of riding to get to Kampot tomorrow before cruising it for a week or so.

Laughter is the best medicine

Oudong – Kong Pisey = 64km

After a good night sleep (maybe our free beers last night) our Maps.Me app showed us we had 2 options of towns ahead with guesthouses, one at 40km, and one at 64km. So far it’s been accurate and off the beaten track the guesthouses are few and far between. We had ourselves a baguette for brekkie and hit the road.

The young girls serving us brekkie as well as lunch yesterday. Once again finding food is a battle when you are this remote but absolutely no problem finding Beer!

We were looking forward to getting off the busy highway we were on yesterday and the day started well….

But we didn’t think we were going to be eating dust for 30km of the 64km ride. Without a doubt the traffic was quieter but holy moly what a day. Once again battling headwinds it was a tough, dusty, slow, beyond belief day.

The dusty roads below and the dry baron landscape. Would be impossible to bike these roads during the wet season and is one hell of an experience in the dry season. The thing is we are doing this by choice but this is everyday lifestyle for the rural Cambodians

At our first drinks stop we took a look at each other and were in uncontrollable laughter. Andy had gone from grey hair to being a ginga and I was nicknamed “Sooty the chimney sweep” for the rest of the ride.

Now last week I said I had never ever been so dirty but this was another level for sure, but what can you do but laugh.

Found the only guesthouse in town spent half an hour trying to get us and our clothes clean and enjoying chilling out in the aircon after a crazy day.

Our Guesthouse Manager and yep that’s our sandals hanging up on the clothesline.

Strolled through the town and it would be the least happening town we have stayed in.

Obviously a wedding in town tonight though.

We have biked 730km in 2 weeks now and only two more days of riding before we get to Kampot to chill for a few days. Let’s see what tomorrow brings, as we have had no two days the same yet…….