Bloody head winds

Kampong Chnang – Oudong = 56km

Well that was one full on morning of riding. Head winds, hills and hectic traffic as we are now actually only 40km from Phnom Penh the largest city in Cambodia. We are opting to bypass PP as were there back in 2006.

Wasn’t a lot to look at today and concentration was at a premium! We always knew that this 200km making our way to the tourist town of Kampot we were going to be roughing it on and off the bike.

There are 3 guesthouses in this dusty old town and after checking out all 3 we settled on the ChonChau at NZ8 and it is surprisingly good. So hard to imagine we can go camping in NZ and pay NZ$55 for our tiny 2 man tent and here we have our own bathroom, bed sheets towel and Wi-Fi and Betty and Nancy inside!

The main street of Oudong which is actually highway 5 to PP
Full on traffic in Oudong
How much crap can you really fit in a van?
ChonChau NZ$8
Shower and Loo they even supplied shampoo, comb, toothbrush and 2 bottles of water.
And a padlock to lock from the outside
Then out of nowhere in this town we find a coffee shop!
Is this the luckiest town in Cambodia or what? These little cycle tourists purchased 2 beers at a time…….and lets not count the total……and everyone has been free……The guesthouse owner couldn’t believe it but don’t worry we tipped her real well.

A step back in time through rural Cambodia

Pursat City – Krakor = 32km + 10km to Kampong Luang floating village

Tough day of riding the short distance to Krakor either on the dirt shoulder or on the pot hole rough bumpy highway. They don’t call cycle touring Cambodia the wild west of south east Asia for nothing.

Krakor is a dusty very poor looking town with 3 guesthouses, that I’m sure wouldn’t be often frequented. The first one looked a bit dodge so we settled on the 2nd one with a nice lady running it…..well let’s say a business woman. Andy did the negotiations while I looked after the bikes. After being offered fan room for US8 or aircon for US12 she then said $10. Super excited with the bartering once we were in the room we asked for the aircon remote only to be told ” no $8 room and $2 for bikes”. (So our first fan room this trip) Let’s just say lost in translation as no English around here.

Hey after the past few nights of great digs we knew we were going to have to lower the standards but after seeing some of the rural living standards today we are definitely living it up. Super lucky that for an extra $2 Betty and Nancy can be tucked up in the fan room with us as not hot tonight anyway.

Town of Krakor

Opposite our guesthouse – daily life in Krakor, cow and all

We unloaded the gear and rode the 10km down a bouncy dirt track to Kampong Luong one of the few floating villages remaining in Cambodia, which also has a floating school, church, petrol station, police station, markets, shops. It is set on Tonle Sap Lake which is the largest fresh water Lake in SE Asia and listed as a Unesco site. However there was nothing fresh water looking about it and as its the dry season the village was further away as they move it with the water heights. The road out to the floating village would be one of the poorest stilt house communities we have seen and we actually couldn’t wait to do a U-Turn and get out of there. Looked like something out of “Mad Max”. Hygiene was appalling, so we took a couple of discrete quick snaps and home for a shower! Definitely made our digs seem palacial.

The village on the way to the floating village

In the distance the floating village, rubbish and plastic everywhere

Floating house and village child looking for plastic bottles
Another world!

We decided to go for a walk through Krakor and what lovely people, and we changed our initial impression of this dusty town.

We stayed here for about 45mins just chatting or hand charades to this man and his wife and family. He did the best 30c ice creams. Sorting out the finance over the coke purchase

Locals lining up for ice creams, and yep that’s dried fish and beef hanging up in the background for sale
Taking the buffalo for a Sunday walk down main street of Krakor which is actually the main HW5.

Krakor – Kampong Chnang = 64km

Hit the road early before the sun and wind picked up we decided to get down the road a bit before finding brekkie. Starting to get a little jaded it took us 30km to find something edible in Ponley which was a town full of activity

Deep fried banana stall

Good healthy brekkie
Ponley markets in full swing.

So much to look at along the way

We reached Kampong Chnang at midday and found a guesthouse where we stayed last night and today we are having a rest day. We have just under 600km on the clock and have ridden 11/13 days so legs and bum need a rest.

Digs in Kampong Chnang. Garden guesthouse and Betty and Nancy inside yet again

We have 4 solid days of riding ahead where we will be roughing it on and off the bike through rural Cambodia before we will reach the more touristy area of Kampot and Kep in the South where we will hang out for a while. Having a ball and loving Cambodia.

Gets better every day

Battambang – Moung Ruessei =48km

After leaving the delightful city of Battambang and giving ourselves 2 nights to recover from the dust and mud we were ready to hit the road again.

Deciding on brekkie before hitting the road. This cafe was run by widowed ladies and served exceptional food

What a great day of riding, generally good roads although still plenty of bumps so sports bra definitely required! So much to look at and once again friendly smiling faces everywhere. Temps were hot hitting 37deg so was good to pull up stumps before midday.

We stayed the night at Moung Ruessei at a fantastic hotel and enjoyed our first swim in Cambodia.

Lovely scenic ride
Great day on the bikes, just dust but no mud
Drinks break. Heaps of places selling drinks along the way but very few have somewhere to sit and have a rest
Slumming it in Moung Ruessei for NZ$20
Nice little shelter for beer o’clock
A couple of quiets with some Cambodian guys staying at the hotel. Steve the guy on the left actually has lived in the States since he was 11yrs old, departing Cambodia just after the Polpot regime. Now back in Cambodia trying to help the poor villages.
A whisky with the off duty Police Captain discussing corruption. Her base wage of US$300 per month and the rest of her salary supplemented in bribes
This place gets better. Free cans of beer offered under the pull tab! Approx 1/6 success rate!

Muang Ruessei – Pursat = 60km

Great sleep after a couple of whisky nightcaps and woken up at 5am by some ridiculous music blaring out of the village town speaker. The same song was on autoplay so decided to get the day underway at 6.30am. Oh my goodness Muang Russei had come to life on a Saturday morning. This was amazing to people watch and it was like a total step back in time. Different to what we have experienced anywhere else in Asia before.

Saturday morning market time
First time we have seen the horses put to work
Horses carrying a big load of dirt
Road side bum rest. So much rubbish everywhere alongside the roads.

After grabbing a baguette for brekkie we were on our way making our way to the city of Pursat. It was overcast so easier riding than yesterday but heaps more traffic, maybe as it is Saturday.

Once again so much to see and blows us away the different modes of transport. Bicycle, scooter, horse and cart, crappy cars, flash utes, mini buses with people and scooters on the roof and hanging out the back. Strange looking tractor things, motor carts with the village people loaded on board sitting in the hay, buses packed to the max and big trucks. So the 60km was peeled off with so much to take in biking through village after village and you could notice the difference in wealth between villages.

Once again not roughing it tonight in Pursat and even get a buffet brekkie tomorrow so that will be a first for this trip and saves us having to wander the streets in the morning looking for edible eats. Can’t really stomach bug salad first thing!

Traditional village house although there are definitely some more modern houses starting to pop up in places.
Typical villages we rolled on through
KM Hotel in Pursat.
So this is where we are currently sitting on the Cambodia map. Making our way down South. Seem to have come a long way since Poipet with just under 500km on the clock now.

Dust, Mud and Potholes to Battambang

Sisophan – Battambang = 68km

We thoroughly enjoyed our one night stopover in Sisophan which was a great introduction to Cambodia. We actually first visited Cambodia 12 years ago but it was a quick 8 day trip through the tourist traps of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. It didn’t leave a positive impression of the country back then so we wanted to come back again and get off the tourist trail……….and so far we are really pleased we did.

The dusty town of Sisophan
5pm aerobics class on the footpath of Sisophan
Pancakes for dessert for 70c

Up early yesterday to hit the road to Battambang on Highway 5. Had no idea what riding conditions to expect but I think we covered all conditions. In fact I can honestly say I’ve never been so dirty in all my life. By the end of the day we felt like we had just done a 68km tough mudder bike endurance event.

We have since read that the Japanese are pumping US200million into the upgrade of highway 5 and this development was well under way.

Departing Sisophan.
The dirt shoulder we rode on for some of the way
The new highway 5 under construction we snuck on from time to time

Potholes, mud, dirt and the fun began

We rolled through dusty villages, dodging potholes, waving and talking to the happiest and friendliest people. Kids on bikes would ride along side us practising their English so the day flew by. Then we hit a town where there had been rain and we wondered why we bothered showering that morning.

Primary school
Schools approx every 10km where they seem to go for either morning or afternoon classes
Drink break with the kids. 20 kids loaded into this school minibus
A test for the motor bike

The hose down required both person and bikes.

Oh so dirty
Shower cap on the Brooks saddle and the hose down begins
City of Battambang. The 2nd biggest city in Cambodia
Back streets of Cambodia. Coffee shops, mobile phone shops everywhere
River downtown Battambang where we had beer o’clock
School kids playing in the river.
Roast pig with tail still on
Awesome digs at Holiday Hotel. Betty and Nancy downstairs but certainly not roughing it for $18nz.
Andy so wants to push zero and see what sort of “hot service” he gets!
Coffee cart on the footpath. Star Lucks with same logo as Starbucks

So after riding the last 7/8 days and nearly 400km on the clock we are staying here 2 nights before hitting the road tomorrow making our way south through Cambodia. Having an absolute blast. They say that Thailand is the “land of smiles” but so far Cambodia takes the cake.

We have made it to Cambodia!

Aranyaprathet/Poipet border – Sisophan = 52km

Well we have survived what is renowned as the most corrupt and dodgey border crossing in SE Asia which is nicknamed the “Scambodia arrival”. Without a doubt you aren’t the same target for scams when you are on your bikes as maybe you look ready for a quick getaway. When the corrupt police at Cambodian immigration requested his 100b bribe money Andy gave him a very stern “no that won’t be happening”, he rolled his eyes and 10 minutes later we had the visa and we were in Cambodia. We have now done a few SE Asia border crossings by land but boy this was something else………………..(couldn’t take many pics as police everywhere and didn’t want to be caught)

Everything except for us was 100 miles an hour
You name it they were running it through the border
Even kids were in the rat race
The chaos continues

Now on the Cambodian side it is immediately obvious the difference in wealth compared with Thailand, from roads, to cars, houses and everything in between. A quick stop just through the border at a bank in Poipet to get some Riel and off we go. Amongst the dusty and smokey roads and villages we were greeted with huge smiles and hellos from what would be some of the friendliest people we have encountered.

It was a tough 52km today with a head wind, now biking on the right hand side of the road, wasn’t a lot of shoulder and the traffic heavy out of the border.

Hmmmm hope we are going the right way
Village on the highway where we stopped for a coke and spent our first Riel
13yr old boy loved practising his English and his 4yr brother that we had our drinks stop with
One of the main streets and market at Sisophan where we are staying
Late lunch after the ride and baguette and goodies inside. Like the Vietnamese Bhan Mi not sure yet what they are called here but I’m sure we will have many more and super yummy.
Back of a house in Sisophan

However yet again scored some great digs for NZ $20 with Betty and Nancy parked up inside. The shower was awesome after the dust and the heat and looking forward to trying some Cambodian beer tonight.

Choices…….hmmmm getting thirsty now.