Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ Category


I have finished cycling for 2015 and my trusty bike is getting a service – new rims, and various odds and ends are being fixed. In Bangkok, other than eating, I have been working on my latest video, which is now ready for viewing. 🙂 I hope you like it!


I have changed countries, and it feels like I have changed planets. In Cambodia the kids run around naked, screaming out hello and waving frantically. In Thailand the kids ignore me, but the slick cyclists sporting their lycra-wear, riding their ultra-light racing bikes wave hi. The little tin lean-tos selling drinks from their orange ice-chests are replaced by the always open airconditioned 7-eleven. It is a shame and a relief at the same time.

Entering Thailand

Entering Thailand

I stopped for a drink at a little lean-to in Cambodia. We soon got laughing, and before I knew it I was given some strange green fruits, and the naked baby on my lap for photos. My zombie-face gave some more laughs.

Funny faces

Funny faces

Over the border in Thailand, and the road got wider, the cars slicker, and the mopeds vanished. The new sim-card was to be bought in the 7-eleven – an air-conditioned paradise that never closes. They have chips, ice-cream, burgers and CHOCOLATE MILK.

I passed 24000km today.

24000km

24000km

I am no longer mute. I can say some rudimentary things in Thai, which is a big relief. It all feels more familiar – but less of an adventure. Bangkok is drawing near – my favourite Asian city.

Day 276. 56km. Battambang

Posted: December 9, 2015 in Cambodia, Cycling
Tags: , ,

The bats were late. They were meant to start at 5:20.
‘Maybe it’s the first sign of the apocalypse,’ said Mark, the Scot, next to me.
Then it started. They poured out of the hole in the mountain like water pouring over a waterfull. A constant stream accompanied by the high-pitched squeal. The bats of Battambang.

The bats of Battambang. The stream lasted an hour.

The bats of Battambang. The stream lasted an hour.

‘Can we meet up a day earlier?’ I asked my Dutch cycling friend Bernadatte who is currently in the outer suburbs of Bangkok. ‘I’m ahead of schedule.’
She couldn’t, and sent me a list of things to do in Battambang. One by one I ticked them off – a ride on a bamboo train (a bamboo platform on two dismountable axles, run by a lawnmower engine), a temple, a ‘killing cave’ from the Pol Pot era, and a bat cave.

The bamboo train

The bamboo train

Me and Mark (the Scot)

Me and Mark (the Scot)

Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan

The Khmer Rouge killed about 30% of the Cambodian population. It was a dreadful part of this country’s history.

The killing cave

The killing cave

View over the Cambodian plains

View over the Cambodian plains


Siem Reap was an oasis of luxury on my trip. Cakes, oil massages and temples abound. After 5 days there, I left for the distant (by road) Battambang on the straight, flat and boring main road. I left at dawn, and arrived shortly before dusk. In between I cycled, cycled and cycled.

The flat road

The flat road

Mark had been in Siem Reap for 3 or 4 days already, frantically sending me luscious photos of the cakes he has been eating. Just after I arrived, a whole battalion of his friends from Hong Kong arrived for the half marathon, and together we explored Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and the Tonle Sap lake.

Tonle Sap lake

Tonle Sap lake

Tonle Sap lake

Tonle Sap lake

Lynda and I on the Tonle Sap lake

Lynda and I on the Tonle Sap lake

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Bayan Temple

Bayan Temple

Ta Prohm temple

Ta Prohm temple

Siem Reap offers services to dream of. Just imagine – free WiFi while having a massage. The pinnacle of customer service!

WiFi and massage

WiFi and massage

After not having run for 8 months, I ran in the Angkor Wat half-marathon. I discovered running muscles are different to cycling ones. I could hardly move the next day. ☺

The Angkor Wat half-marathon

The Angkor Wat half-marathon

The Angkor Wat half-marathon

The Angkor Wat half-marathon

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat


‘Aren’t you afraid?’ he asked.
‘Why? Of what?’ I replied.
We were alone in the crumbling ruins of Prasad Koh Ker. The air was still, heavy with humidity. The cries of birds high up in the forest roof broke the silence for a moment – and then the blanket of silence returned.
‘Ghosts.’

The home of the ghost

The home of the ghost

I’m not sure who he was. He was working for the park in some way, I think. He was serious about the ghosts. It is just the place I would expect to find them.

Actually, that was at one of the side-temples of Prashad Koh Ker. I realised when I had found the real temple. There was a line of food and knick-knack stalls before the entrance. The temple had a large pyramid as its climax, and from the top, you could see for miles across the plains – even to Prashad Preah Vihear where I was yesterday.

Koh Ker Temple

Koh Ker Temple

View from Koh Ker Temple

View from Koh Ker Temple

But, I realised that Siem Reap, with its luscious cakes, was calling. I had had enough of hot Cambodian plains, sweating profusely, and becoming raw in certains areas – the Vaseline was losing its effectiveness. It would be one final dash to Siem Reap – a dash that would see me arrive in the dark.

A Chinese tourist at Trapeang Noem temple

A Chinese tourist at Trapeang Noem temple

From the side road to Siem Reap

From the side road to Siem Reap


The ridge of hills rises majestically from the plains on either side – Cambodia on one side, and Thailand on the other. The temple ruins – from another age – know no such border. Perched on the knoll, jutting out from the main spine, sits the temple, impervious to the swarm of army guards (more than tourists), and to the constant music breaking nature’s silence. The spirit of Preah Vihear temple runs deeper.

The majestic ridge

The majestic ridge

Like the ridge of hills, the road also rises up from the plains. The last kilometre gets the award for the steepest road of my trip. Even though the road surface was good, and I had an unloaded bike, I still pushed my bike up. I also pushed my bike down, as riding would result in locked wheels, and me sliding down out of control.

A steep descent with view over Thailand

A steep descent with view over Thailand

Preah Vihear temple

Preah Vihear temple

Preah Vihear temple

Preah Vihear temple

View out over Cambodia

View out over Cambodia

I got excited seeing the profile of the temple. What a view it would have!

I got excited seeing the profile of the temple. What a view it would have!

I returned to Sr’eam by 12, and so bit the bullet and cycled to the next guesthouse – 80km away. I like this eat away the kilometre challenge. Audio book on, I proceded into the heat of the Cambodian plains, arriving at my destination at dusk.


Mark is in Siem Reap and he keeps sending me photos of cakes he is eating. The non-tourist back-block places of Cambodia know no such delights, although soon, I too can sink into an orgy of cake binging in Siem Reap. Until then, its flat straight roads through wooded landscape void of people.

Dreaming of Siem Reap

Dreaming of Siem Reap

My path takes a detour to see the temple of Preah Vihear on the Thai-Cambodian border. All have raved about it, and it sounds like a temple of the beauty of Angkor Wat without the people. Perfect! Tonight I am in the last village with accommodation before the temple, ready for an early morning assault tomorrow.

Today started with Davide, eating (non Siem Reap) cake (and noodle soup) before embarking. After 23km our roads diverged as he is continuing onto Siem Reap directly. We will meet up again there.

Not dreaming of Siem Reap

Not dreaming of Siem Reap

The long road

The long road

The long road

The long road


Today we cycled on a long, straight, flat road. Our goal was 145km distant Preah Vihear. We left at dawn and arrived in the late afternoon after moving quite quickly through the kilometres in the bright light and heat. Reward was 2 smoothies and 2 mixed fruits with coconut ice. Nothing else to report.

Davide and I eating lots of fruity deserts

Davide and I eating lots of fruity deserts


Happy dolphins, wobbly boats, bike washes in the middle of the 200m-wide river and rejoining with an old cycling companion – Davide. Not much cycling, though..

Bike cleaning

Bike cleaning

Dolphin viewing was on the menu today – in the early morning before it got too hot. After travelling for about 30 minutes, we reached a broad, calm spot in the Mekong. And there they were, blowing out air, diving majestically – circling the boat at about 100m. I counted five, playing with us – always faster than us as we rotated the boat to see them.

Coming back from seeing the dolphins

Coming back from seeing the dolphins

I returned to the boat place on the opposite side of the island. There was no apparent activity. I asked some locals when the boat was leaving, pointing to the other side of the river.
‘No.’
Well, that was clear.
‘When? How long? How many hours?’ I ran it through Google translate.
I got a stream of Khmer language.
‘How many minutes?’
Laughter.
The guy wrote down what he was saying – in Khmer script.
‘One o’clock?’
No – I gathered from their Khmer.
‘Tomorrow?’
No.
Finally, the woman there pointed to a little rickety old boat and went down with her 15 year-old and 5 year-old sons. After almost capsizing when putting the bike on the boat, we made it across, for which I am grateful.. ☺ Thanks to the lovely Cambodians who helped me out!

My humble mode of transport across the Mekong

My humble mode of transport across the Mekong

After some contact on Facebook, I realized that Davide was in town. We had cycled together in Iran, and met up briefly in Luang Prabang. We’ll cycle together to Siem Reap. While sitting on the banks of the Sekong River, we saw a curious site. A parade of motorbikes riding into the middle of the river for a clean. Time to do the same.. ☺

Motorbike wash

Motorbike wash


‘You come and sleep at my house.’
He had returned now for the second time. The rest he said was in Khmer which I didn’t understand. I was staying at the official ‘homestay’ on the island. He looked quite insistent.
‘What did he want?’ I asked my host after he left.
‘Oh. He’s crazy,’ she replied simply.

The beautiful road to Koh Preah

The beautiful road to Koh Preah

It was a lovely cycle next to the Mekong and on a boat across to the palm-lined island. I arrived by 11, and realised that I quickly get restless. On the tropical paradise island, I went for a swim next to the water buffalo. I listened to a podcast in the hammock and then slept. I walked up and down the island village, waving ‘hello’ to all the ecstatic kids. I had dinner, not with the host family, unfortunately. I was showered with gifts of a block of rock salt and a shell from Mr Crazy. I realized I had exhausted the island’s activities for a non-local who doesn’t speak a word of Khmer. A nice little break, but time to return to cycling.. ☺

Before the river crossing

Before the river crossing

Drahtesel (my bike) is ready and waiting

Drahtesel (my bike) is ready and waiting