(483km - 7days)
Day 38 - 8 October - Chau Doc Phnom Penh by boat and minivan
Our boat trip was not quite what we had expected as it only took us to the Cambodian border and not to Phnom Penh as expected. On second thoughts, the price was way too low for a trip all the way to Phnom Penh but at least it did include a minibus ride to Phnom Penh. Still, it was a fascinating boat ride on the Mekong, past houses on stilts and fishing vessels both big and small.
We set to work straight away to get a copy of a flight ticket and copies of bank statements for the visa applications.
It was also nice to shoot the breeze with Mat, Chop and Teresa while having a few beers.
Day 39 9 October Phnom Penh
First thing in the morning we were off to the embassy armed with all the necessary documents, just to find that the embassy was closed! Not a word was mentioned on their website but there was little we could do. It could have been a blessing in disguise as Tania found that Lucky Motorbike shop could apply for a Thai visa on her behalf and as the visa processing takes three days, they could send it to wherever we found ourselves at that time. That was fantastic news as we were running out of time. I opted for a 14-day border visa as I was planning on visiting Malaysia while my sister is visiting. That way I will save a page in my passport, which is getting full very fast.
Day 40 10 October Phnom Penh Prey Lovea 86 km
We first had a cup of coffee with Mat and then cycled out of busy Phnom Penh looking for small roads along the Mekong River. It turned out quite an adventurous day as first thing in the morning we crossed the river by ferry and landed up on the opposite side of the Mekong River - it would have been better if we took the bridge and cycled along the road next to the Bassac River.
In any event, the first part of the road was stunning, extremely quiet and clearly not a route foreigners take. We soon found out why, as the road became one potholed, muddy mess. We slipped and slid, weaved and snaked around the potholes until we eventually found a ferry to take us back across the river. The area was as rural as anyone can wish for. Ladies were drying and dying grasses for weaving mats, others were drying rice, men herded cattle and fished while monks in bright orange robes collected food from villagers. Its truly a fascinating country. Still the road did not improve and mud-clogged our wheels, making it nearly impossible to cycle.
A second ferry took us across the Bassac River and finally we were heading in the direction of Kampot. Our attempt to escape the traffic worked but it came at a price as the road remained potholed and very muddy, sometimes more clay than mud, making for a messy and slow ride. It was, however, a fascinating day in a very rural part of Cambodia.
Around 17h00 we reached the small village of Prey Lovea and although we planned on camping at the temple, we spotted a guesthouse and opted for a shower and fan room! First thing on our minds was food . something there was, fortunately, plenty about.
Day 41 - 11 October Prey Lovea Kampot 127 km
This is Cambodia baby, Tania uttered (her, by now, trademark saying) as we set off in the early morning light past green rice fields and wooden carts loaded to the hilt with all kinds of stuff. We cycled past typical Cambodian roadside stalls selling steamed pork buns, small grill birds, barbecued duck heads and unknown grilled animals with strange feet. As it was not long before we weakened and bought steamed buns for the road. We cycled through small villages where tiny kids on small bicycles were off to school, some even giving a friend a lift. Their amazing balance on a bicycle is clearly learned at a very young age.
Day 42 12 October Kampot Sri Amble Temple 127 km
After a typical Cambodian breakfast, we cycled out of Kampot across scenic rivers where fishing boats were laying four deep. We passed oyster farms where child labour was not an uncommon sight, and we waved at monks and their helpers collecting food. At Vinh Real, the weather came in, and we ducked into the nearest restaurant for noodles with a curry sauce. The weather soon cleared and we could be on our way again, slowly making our way to the Cambodian/Thai border which was still a two-day ride away.
Once we reached Sri Amble, the weather looked ominous again, and we turned down to the small village where we camped at the temple. It was a rather busy temple with mostly small kids, around 8 to 13 years of age. We were no doubt the centre of attraction and had little privacy as the eating hall where we slept was also a sleeping area for the kids.
Day 43 13 October Sri Amble Trapeang Rung 80 km
We stopped for a noodle soup breakfast at a typical roadside stall consisting of a corrugated iron shed and a dirt floor. As one can imagine, it is always a fascinating stop, as not only are we foreign to them; they are equally foreign to us. We smiled uncomfortably at each other while slurping our noodle soup.
It was a short but hot and hilly ride and we made slow progress. The hills were not that steep, but it made for slow going. Not that we minded, as it is a beautiful part of Cambodia. Kids were fishing in ponds, making use of ingenious methods and others were herding buffalo or looking after the cows.
We stopped for lunch in Trapeang Rung, a small community-based tourism village. It had plenty of restaurants to choose from, and the food was delicious. Heavy weather came in while we were eating and as there was a brand-new homestay across the road, we decided to continue in the morning. Good thing too, as it rained for the rest of the evening.
Day 44 14 October Trapeang Rung Koh Kong 63 km
We tackled the last part of the hilly section, and we felt amazingly strong after a breakfast of noodle soup. Hills are not something one can fight on a loaded bike, and we took it nice and easy. Easy does it, they say, and thats precisely what we did.
Halfway to Koh Kong, the weather came in again. There was not much we could do but don our rain jackets and push on. The Cardamom Mountains are very scenic, and we enjoyed the landscape as much as we could. The rain clouded our view somewhat as we had our hoods down low. Soon we reached the top of the mountain, and, even in the rain, we managed to ride at 53 kilometres per hour downhill. The ride was a bit on the risky side as water streamed along the road, and I could not always see the potholes. However, it was very exciting to do it. We reached Koh Kong early, found a hotel room, and went out to fetch Tanias passport, which the visa company had sent by bus to the city. We were more than happy to learn the passport had arrived on time along with the Thailand visa. Phew! that was a relief.
With all that done, we were ready to cross the border into Thailand in the morning. We still had 340 kilometres to reach Pattaya, and we wanted to be there in three days. We will take it day by day and see how things pan out.