Thailand · 26 Days · 53 Moments · January 2016

R Sch

R cycling: Thailand to Cambodia

25 February 2016

Spent the morning at the "russian market" collecting souvenirs to bring home. The afternoon was spent in S-21 the detention and torture block used by the Khmer Rouge during its 3 years of terror here. Afterwards we were off to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center just south of the City - one of the 300+ (and the biggest) "killing fields" - mass graves with 1000s executed and buried. It was a sad afternoon.
The atrocities of dictatorship
After arriving in Phnom Penh we celebrated with an evening of cocktails and scotch. Needless to say yesterday was a bit "slower". We got the most important thing completed - our bikes packed and ready for the flight home. Found an exclusive high end bike store (didn't see anything under 1000$ in the shop) - they packed our bikes away into boxes for 10$. They are probably better packed than when we flew out to Bangkok. Also found duffle bags for the rest of our stuff that was in the saddle bags. Then off to the pool and an early night.
When we got back to national road 5 it seemed that we ended up on a complete different road. The traffic was immense and for the next 30 km odd on it was a total construction zone - they were expanding the highway to divided 4 lanes (up to now it was only undivided 2 lanes). The dust for the next 30 km was amazing - I needed to get a cloth out and over my face. At times we couldn't see more than around 30 m and still the cars were racing through honking horns - not sure how they don't have more accidents here. Once we got far enough into the city the construction was over but then came city traffic. What a blast!! It seems like total chaos with everyone turning driving crossing when they want. Scooters everywhere, SUVs tuktuks all trying to get through the web of traffic - and us on our bikes. I had a great time. Assertive but careful is the way I would describe it - but it was a lot easier than I expected and was a lot more fun too.

24 February 2016

Bikes packed and ready to go.
Last day of cycling yesterday - Kampong Chhnang to Phnom Penh - around 90 km along National Road 5 (more or less). We took a parallel "road" about 35km into the trip along the Tonle Sap river. Turns out it turned into a dirt "road" after about 3 km (more of a dirt track) and continued for the next 15 odd km like this. Was however a great decision - gave us a taste of the not so modern side of Cambodia. Fishing huts along the river and lots of subsistence farmers. Along the way I really needed to go to the toilet (first time at all during the cycle that I needed to stop while cycling. First attempt into the bushes I must have stumbled across a nest of something because I was suddenly surrounded by lots of buzzing and one of the critters stung me on my forearm - I didn't wait around for long to see what it was and just ran - fortunately I wasn't at the point yet where my pants were around my ankles.

23 February 2016

Scotch and cigars in the elephant bar in raffles hotel.
Dusty roads into Phnom Penh
Dirt "road" along the river

22 February 2016

Monday - today - finally caught up with writing notes. Back on the road from Pursat to Kampong Chhnang (double h is correct). 97km along national highway 5. It seems the roads get worse and the traffic denser the close we get to Phnom Penh. Lot of honking and it seems the bigger the SUV (range rovers, Lexus, Audi A7s, Toyota pathfinders, etc. ) the more they honk and race along the roads expecting everyone to get out of the way. Twice we were forced from the road as oncoming traffic was 3 abreast well into our side of the road forcing us onto the shoulder. Not unusual to see a bike on the shoulder being passed by a truck (in the correct driving lane) being passed by a bus or moto being passed by a car or SUV with oncoming traffic (moto or Tuktuk or bicycle). Nonetheless it was a long day with concentration required most of it. We passed the 100km to Phnom Penh mark. Ended in Garden Guest houses - laying in hammocks recovering.
Sunday- day off to lick our wounds and recuperate. Rented a Tuktuk that took us about 35 km away to the edge of the Tonle Sap and the floating villages. From there it was around 2 hours in a boat looking at the village from the water. Was pretty poor region with trash everywhere. On the drive to the edge of the lake there was trash everywhere - almost like on a trash dump - our theory was that this is trash in the lake that when the water recedes just ends up in the ground. Very sad. Rest of the afternoon was chilling napping eating.

21 February 2016

Floating Village Kampong Luong
Yesterday was just plain long. We left at 7:30 to get a jump on the hot weather - was still 28 deg and 98% humidity. Went up to 36 during the day (65% humidity). First day back on the bikes and we did 107 km - all flat but still a long day - everything sore afterwards. Got in around 14:30 in Pursat and headed straight to the pool for 2 hours of cooling off on the water (with 30 screaming kids that were having the time of their lives in the pool!!) Dinner was a long search till we stumbled upon a "stall/restaurants" that had no menu. We just pointed to some pictures and ended u with a version of hotpot and a version of the Korean grill. The tough waitress of the place helped us out by showing how it all worked.
3rd day in Siem Reap was chill day - waited mostly for the bus at 15:00 back to Battambang. Hung out in the room, at the pool ate a quick lunch and then into the mini bus for the 2-1/2 hour trip to Battambang. Would have been ok if they hadn't stuck us in the back row with 4 seats across - we were more than cramped. Battambang was chilled preparing for our big day cycling tomorrow to Pursat.

20 February 2016

Our dinner in Pursat with the giggling kids that watched us the whole time
Crossing river with herd of cattle
Scenes from along the way- Battambang to Pursat
Still Day 2 Angkor Thom (Bayan) was the only other stop today - after so many temples in 2 days,were all temples out( and the feet and legs had had enough). Bayan was a bit of a shambles in that piles oh ruins were everywhere, but the general structure was still quite visible and of the many (90+?) towers in the place, each had 4 huge heads carved in them facing the four compass directions. Amazing. Here we were supposedly fortunate in that we came after the big bus groups come through so that we were not many people in the complex. We could go (almost) everywhere we wanted - climbing up steep worn stairs or just climbing around the edges of the buildings. At around 2 we headed back into town for lunch and a cool off in the pool before returning to Angkor Wat at 16:45 to see it during sundown.

19 February 2016

Cramped bus
Day 2 in the Angkor Archeological Park Got to Angkor Wat "early" - 8am. Spent almost 4 hours in the place although you could spend days in there and not see everything. A huge complex but given the masses of people that come there a lot more sterile and restricted. Nonetheless an amazing place. Huge complex so that it is tough to really take it all in at once. What amazes me by all these buildings is the amount of intricate stone carvings-almost every surface seems covered but stone carvings - be it a whole wall telling a story (we're talking a good 150-200m long walk and 2 m high full- and this this 4 for the walls around the place) - or be it just the thousands of lions at every stair or the multi headed snake heads abundant everywhere. The amount of effort going into each of these places is staggering to imagine.
Day 1 in Angkor Archeological Park. So many ruins and temples to walk up and down...... The ones we hit: Pre Rup East Mebon Ta Som Neak Pean (the Spa) Karol Ko (not usually on the tour but we asked to go there to have a look at one more rundown and without tourists) Preah Khan Lunch break Chai Say Tevoda Thommanon Ta Keo Ta Prohm Lots and lots of impressions. What amazed me is that most of the time you were free to run around the temple grounds on your own - no fenced off areas (unless they were doing restoration work) and no safety systems - you could fall a long way from some of these temples (notably Ta Keo that was never completed, but has extremely steep and large steps going up to the top - 60-70degrees up supposedly). Ta Phrom - the famous temple overtaken by the jungle was the first one that we experienced where there was crowd control and a "path" to follow, although there seemed to be multiple paths and getting out/through was a bit of a labyrinth. Very cool though.
Siem Reap is full of western style bars and restaurants (there is even a Mexican restaurant here) and locals every 5m trying to sell you everything possible - nut just the usual drinks meals and rides, but also massages women weed etc. this is an annoying part of traveling in Asia that i have happily missed out on until now. Arranged a Tuktuk driver for the next 2 days to take us through the ruins of Angkor - day 1 the grand tour (in reverse order to miss out on the tourists) and day 2 the petit tour with the big sights.
Two days in Siem Reap to catch up on. Bus ride here from Battambang was uneventful -older small bus full of westerners. The air conditioning and the brakes worked so there was little need for more. Arrived in Siem Reap late afternoon- Tuktuk driver was waiting for us to take us a whole 250 m to our hotel - Joerg walked while we took all the saddlebags. Hotel was "standard" for the price - beds were good a/c works cable tv and a disaster in the bathroom. Standard shower with an in-line water heater with all the electrical cables hanging out and a sink half hanging off the wall. In this case hanging so far off that the drain was not even connected any more to the sink and when the water ran it just drained onto the floor at your feet. Met up with a colleague from work who just happens to be here (last day of an organized tour in Siem Reap) and meandered around town (or at least the part of town where all the foreigners hang out).

18 February 2016

Angkor Wat
Angkor Thom

17 February 2016

Temples and ruins around Siem Reap

16 February 2016

Break day today. Lounged around the hotel until around 13:30 when we got picked up to head to Siam Reap. Was a great and needed break. Siam Reap is in strong contrast to almost everything else we have seen since leaving Bangkok. The town is teeming full of you western tourists - seems like all the youth traveling in Asia at the moment seems to have gathered here. I am dreading what Angkor Wat & Co. Are going to be like tomorrow. Even the bars (Pub street!!) and restaurants have a much more western twist to them. There's even a Mexican restaurant here!! Meeting up with a work colleague here (Iris) for dinner - she happens to be on an organized tour here through the region. I knew she was here, but until we updated our planning we were not going to cross paths .
Yesterday was a a long hot day. Over 90 km with 29 (start of day) to 38 deg C temperatures. Was almost entirely along a "major highway" 57 going from Palin to Battambang. Small villages along the way with general scenes of everyday life. Only major scare was as a herd of cattle were crossing the highway the one truck couldn't stop in time an hit one of the cows - not very hard but hard enough to send it skidding across the road and directly at us - stopped about 1-2m ahead of us. The cow seemed ok though - just walked away from it all. The farmer leading the herd across the highway seemed vey unaffected by the whole event and just kept moving the herd across the road

15 February 2016

Herd of cattle crossing the highway -truck end can be seen to the left edge.
Signs of a sad past in Cambodia. These were everywhere to be seen west of Battambang
Images between Palin and Battambang

14 February 2016

Skipping a couple of days Cycled today from just outside Chantaburi north to the "mountains" and east to the Cambodian border. Weather was warm(28) and extremely humid (90+%) to start and ended just plain hot (36). Crossed the border around 13:30 - no problems. Interesting to experience the changeover from left hand traffic (Thailand) to right hand traffic (Cambodia). Cycled on to Palin (about 20 km from the border) to the Bamboo guest house. Was a bit of a challenge to find - needed to ask a few times as it was not on the main road - was expecting to find it easier given it was in the rough guide guidebook.
Cycle from Ban Phe along the coast to just south of Chantaburi. Arrived at the Faasai resort and spa.
Border entry in Cambodia - with Visa beforehand it was trivial. Mental note for next trip - bring pen along, they were not amused that we needed to borrow a pen to fill out forms.
No mans land between Thailand and Cambodia- the switch from left hand drive to right hand drive is amazingly uneventful. In my head I still have to switch over though after 2 days.
Gas station for scooters in Cambodia

12 February 2016

Pattaya Country Club was a real Dud of a Location !! No wonder there are no ratings on Cycled around 75 km to just west of Ban Phe (staring point for boat trips to Ko Samet). Got there around 14:00 and headed straight to the beach (across the street) and sat in the sea for a good 2 hours cooling off and soaking. Our place (nice beach hotel) was cheap and ok located directly on Mae Ram Phueng Beach. Bike were taken up to the rooms 7th floor.

10 February 2016

Day 2 of cycling. Total of around 60 km. The first 40 of which were along a major highway mostly on the side shoulder but we did have to negotiate overpasses as well - in the end not quite that difficult but a lot had to do with the patience and carefulness of the Thai drivers ( including the big truck drivers). The last 15-20 km were country roads with lots of little (but tough) ups and downs. Temp around 33 deg. I wore a long sleeved shirt due to minor sunburns yesterday. Ended up in the pattaya country club (golf club) that is pretty chick with the exception of the resort "villa"s that are quite run down. Took the opportunity to wash clothes and fix a flat tire ( piece of stuck/twig) that somehow got through my tire. Sitting at the moment in the club house on the balcony e sting lunch/ dinner drinking beer and catching up on blogs etc. Tomorrows it's off to the beach.
Day 1 of cycling Yesterday's cycle was a crash course in Thailand roads. We had everything from deserted lanes to major 12 lane highways with a bypass highway built over top ( the last we cycled partially in the wrong direction on the shoulder which also disappeared eventually do that we were in essence driving in oncoming traffic) on the outermost of 3+3 lanes heading in the opposite direction. The last 2-3 km were a challenge finding the hotel. Tucked away off the main street in a maze of small streets all looking the same.
Images of the day

9 February 2016

The Resort In Chon Buri
Miserable night!! Seems I hardly slept. Jet lag big time. Breakfast of fried egg and sausage didn't quite cut it so we ordered rice as well and got a huge portion of fried rice on top. Now I'm massively full and have to swing on my bike. A bit worried about cycling in the Bangkok streets.

8 February 2016

Day 2 in Bangkok. I think everyone in Asia is at the royal palace today. Weird and wonderful sights - Asia at its best. Hike up and around golden mount- great views of the polluted city and air.
Spent yesterday fighting a cold. Arrival in Bangkok was easy. Needed 2 taxis to get us to the hotel. After a short nap we headed into Bangkok for a couple of hours wandering around Chinatown. Great lunch in a place specializing in shark fin soup and bird nest delicacies- all way too expensive for our budget - but the rest was good too but also a lot more than we expected. Returned back to the hotel to put the bikes together - amazingly everything was ok - I guess I was just being pessimistic.
Free wifi everywhere!!

7 February 2016

The puzzle - and finished.

6 February 2016

No Problems at the airport - they didn't even weigh the bicycles!! All that effort optimizing weight for nothing. I don't think I've ever been at the airport so early before my flight. Sitting here at the gate with over 2-1/2 hours to wait. It all went way too easy at the airport. Even Steffen with his iroq haircut made it through.
Checked in and ready to go - sitting here waiting for the flight.

5 February 2016

Preparations the evening befoe

3 February 2016

Three days and counting. A presnet arrived from the colleagues in Switzerland.

31 January 2016

Total weight in plane about 29 kg - 1 kg to spare.
All seems to fit in the saddlebags.