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!
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The hose down required both person and bikes.
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.
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)
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.
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.