Last days in Cambodia: Gaining insight the sad history; seeing the ocean after a long time and meeting lovely people – Crossing the border back to Thailand

Early morning at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh we met a nice couple, Chantal and Patrick, who are riding with some interruptions for 17 years around the world on their bicycles – very impressive!!! Accidently we met again in a pub at the evening so we had a good reason to celebrate our visa application together with some beers.

Unfortunately nobody was able to serve us with a back tire. Only a street tire and one size to small was available. Anyhow, we felt better taking this one as it was cheap instead of worrying all the way what could happen… at least it will bring us to Bangkok.

To gain insight the sad history of Cambodia we went to the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek. They built up a big Stupa full of skulls and bones of the victims; a large number of people were killed and buried in mass graves by the Khmer Rouge regime during 1975 to 1979. It was very depressing walking along the mass graves where still bones, teeth and clothes get washed out with the rain again and again. It is worth to take an audio guide getting known more details and background.

As soon as we got the visa for Thailand we head south direction to the sea. Shortly after Kampot we did a loop up a mountain nature reserve, Bokor, where jungle and some ruins from the French colonist times were supposed to be. We recognized a brand new big street going up the hill. After about 25km we stopped at a new build roundabout in front of a big hall. Inside is a huge model of the planned project for this area: a high class villa city including a casino, a 36 hole golf course, resorts, mountain lift… for about 40 000 people! Remember, we are in Cambodia!!! We could not really believe what we see and that it is supposed to be reality very soon. When we continued with a refreshing rain shower we passed the casino, nearly ready and many other buildings under construction. At the very top we reached the ruins and the church bonded in clouds and we could imagine how peaceful magic this place was in the past.

In the end we finally reached the sea in Sihanouk Ville. We drove south, the road turned gravel and sand until we reached the very end of the Otres Beach. We settled in a nice little open bamboo place on the beach with sunset view to the sea with a fresh breeze. Smelling, hearing, seeing and feeling the SEA!!! Ooooh, now we realized how much we missed it ;-) This was the right place with a chilling atmosphere, white fine sand and nice people to relax! We met another guy, Harry, riding his BMW around and the third day our “old friends” Chantal and Patrick arrived on their velos. We spend a lovely time together and that did not make it easier for us leaving the place after four days.

Along the coast road with the Cardamom Mountains on the right hand side we head direction Koh Kong, border to Thailand. No issues again to cross, except we could not convince the Thai Customs to give us two month permit for our motorbike as we do have for ourselves… so we will have to prolong it somewhere on the road.

In Trat we had a stop for the night in a Thai Boxing School with a snooker bar – where could you feel more save. Night market in Thailand again! FOOD!!! Lovely sea food for a little money – oooh, we ENJOYED! Following the coast road we had one more stop on the way to Bangkok in Ban Phen, opposite Ko Samet where they had a music festival. People were more interested in food gambling and watching the snake charmer than in the music and again we gormandized while having a taste here and there… Phat Thai, spicy sausage with salad, fruits and sweet sticky rice with beans and nuts which is cooked and served in a big “bamboo pipe” – all together for about 2,50 €.

Two days ago we reached Bangkok again – to be honest, it felt a bit like coming home. As we do not pass places more than once that often we liked to come back to place we know already. Our Guesthouse was like waiting for us the lady around the corner prepared an extra-large portion of Phat Thai with sea food when she recognized us from the last time, yummy!

Yesterday we got managed a lot already. We applied for our Indonesian Visa which we can pick up on Monday; we found a nice knowledgeable place where we got a new back tire for a fair price including the balancing of both tires and accepting our “old” (the street tire which we used for 600km) tire partially as payment; we got a new oil filter and oil, so we could make the oil change ourselves. Not so bad taking in account driving through Bangkok costs always a LOT of time!

Like you can see, today is our “office day” Working on the up-date, collecting information about our upcoming destinations and border crossings… cleaning and sorting things. The weekend in Bangkok is waiting for us and for sure we will not get bored here! And if our friends, Chantal and Patrick, hurry up perhaps we can meet them here again – at least for another good bye beer.

Soon we will meet another old friend of ours in his new home. Excited about that we are, my little Jedi! ;)

It would be nice to get some feedback from all of you out there. I can see that a lot of people are actually reading what we write but we get only little comments, or feedback. Feedback is always good even if it is “bad” feedback ;( It can be in any Language.) Any idea how to make the blog more interesting for our readers is highly appreciated. Something like: “Your photos are boring”, “We want to know more about the bike”, “Forget the blogging and travel more”, “More Photos”, “Less Photos”, “Better Photos”, “Sascha should not have always this crazy smile in his face”… anything you like.

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Hope you are all fine out there – see you on the road somewhere!

 

 

 

Cambodia – From the north via Siam Reap (Angkor) down to the Capital Phnom Penh

Entering Cambodia after an easy border crossing we drove first to the north, Ban Lung. The countryside looked immediately very different to us… more flat, dry and dusty; no forest as far as you can look and all along the street where signs not to leave the road because of mines. In Ban Lung we spend the morning on the market, exploring the local food and habits… and learning our first words in Khmer. Actually it was very surprising how many people do speak view words of English!

When we left for a daytrip around Ban Lung we recognized quite quick what we heard already before: the roads on the map or displayed at the GPS are there somewhere but keep on changing and mostly they do end somewhere in the middle of nowhere… just disappearing into many little tiny trails where you can just choose which direction could fit best with the compass and after the next corner you end up into a banana plantation, a forest, a river or a field full of tree stumps. Asking people for the direction to the next village about 4 km away we mostly looked into surprised friendly looking faces, shrugging shoulders or starting internal discussions ;-) After 7 hours completely sweated and close to dawn we decided to skip our planned route. We went back most of the part to reach the main road again. We enjoyed the sunset at the volcano lake, had the first taste of Khmer Amok (a delicious curry pot) and had a gooooood sleep at the end of the day ;-)

Our next destination was Kratie at the Khong River once again. About 90% of the road was boring highway which is partially still under construction. The scenery changed as soon as we reached the Khong and the road became narrower through little villages. Once more we were facing the problem with our panel holder when we took them off: broken. We found a place to get it welded. Next morning just when we put on the panels it broke down at the other side: Bravo!!! A little bit frustrated we went back to the shop, got it welded and asked them to stabilize as well the last corner which was not broken yet. This we got as a sign to stay one day longer to get a rest and relax.

The most interesting and lovely part of driving we had on the way from Kratie to Kampong Cham along the riverside mostly on a tiny narrow dirt road. All in all it is not so easy here to avoid the main roads or to reach more remote places. The infrastructure is not there yet and you always risk ending in dead ends or ending in mine areas. Therefor we did not enjoy that much driving through Cambodia compared to the other countries we went through.

Siam Reap (Angkor) was of course something like a must to go to. Again the ride up to there was more or less “boring”. Siam Reap is overloaded of tourists and has a completely different atmosphere to all other places we had seen before.  We decided to get a Tuktuk driving us through Angkor to the main sightseeing points. We got picked up at 5pm and were happy about this decision because you do walk a lot over there, getting up and down hundreds of stairs. So we were always glad to see our Tuktuk waiting for us at the agreed points where we could leave our stock of water bottles and fruits. Indeed it is an impressive place but in the end of the day after 13 hours we recognized a one day visit is enough for us. Actually we had seen so many temple in remote places where we could run around just by ourselves and not with hundreds of other tourists… chatting with the locals or the monks. This is more how we like it ;-)

We reached Phnom Penh and unfortunately we have to find a new back tire here. The one we have currently is not in a real good condition anymore, showing some strange fractures which are becoming wider and wider every day. We do not have a real good feeling with that continuing until Bangkok. So we spend nearly the whole day getting around in shops and on the Russian market… Perhaps we will not get exactly what we wanted but we met nice people and they will do their best to find something for us!

Tomorrow morning we will go to the Thai Embassy to request for our visas. We will see how fast we can get it and how long we will stay here… We will not get bored for sure but we are looking forward to see smaller villages again after Seam Reap and Phnom Penh.

Last days in Laos – magical “4000 Islands”

Taking over the Motorbike from Nakasang to Don Det was a special experience ;-) First we had to negotiate the price with the “Mama” of the family. After we checked the “boat” which is just built out of two little longboats with a plateau build from some plnks in between. We agreed on the price and we went down the sandy beach to get on it. So far so good! We went on even though there was not even place for a mouse anymore… The trip was exciting… passing the Khong with the low water, sharp stones and heavy currents made us feeling strange sometimes ;-) When we reached Don Det the boat landing was at a steep sandy beach which made us troubling bringing the bike up there – in between we just “parked” the bike in the middle of the way without putting it on the stand. It was just dug into the sand that deep. Finally we did it and realized the place is looking like a party town… Actually it was not at all what we were looking for. Completely sweated and full of sand we left south driving over the bridge to Don Khon and found a lovely little family place where we moved in our little bamboo. It`s already the fourth day here and we enjoyed every second. Exploring the tiny tracks around the islands, watching the waterfalls, going for a swim at sandy beaches into the Khong and floating with the currents, playing boule, going for boat trips to watch the Dolphins, sitting in our hammock or at our terrace… What is funny is that we meet people we met somewhere before again and again… sometimes a long time ago or at really remote places or in other countries. And it is always nice to exchange what was happening in between… Tomorrow or the day after we will go over to Cambodia and we are just wondering once more how fast the time is passing…

Central Laos – lovely friendly people mountain villages, sad relicts of war…

OK a bit late but here we go:

March, 2nd – Central Laos – lovely friendly people mountain villages, sad relicts of war…

In Phonsavan it is hard not to be reminded of the wars happened here. You find cafes called “crater” full of relicts out of the war, bombs, bullets, grants… even our guesthouse was fully equipped: Lamps out of bombs, key rings out of bullets etc. The USA were flying more than 580.000 missions over Laos and dropping more than 2 million tons of bombs worth two million dollars a day between 1964 and 1973. These are more bombs as in the whole of the 2nd World War! The “funny” thing is that they declared the war in 1974; so for 10 years it was “only” a CIA operation. Many failed to detonate and only a tiny percentage has been removed and it will take more than 100 years to make the country save. Therefore it is no good idea at all to leave the roads or tracks… We did a trip to a crater field in the sunset following the dirt roads and it was depressing but impressive and a bit scary to see the big wide holes on this hills. It makes you think a lot… In some villages the recycle bomb materials to knifes, spoons or jewelries – we think you should not buy any from them because this would make them go to look for more material. Still to many people die while walking over mines.

Another “attraction” of Phonsavan of course is the jars of Stone Age (Plain of Jars), which are possibly 2000 years (nobody really knows) old and their purpose remains a mystery. Some suggest they were used as stone coffins or maybe for storing Láo Láo (rice whisky)… it will be a mystery forever perhaps -which idea we like ;-)

The Road number 7 from Phonsavan to the west was a real pleasure! When we hit the road 13 direction south the traffic increased immediately but still nice with incredible views on the Karst Mountains until we reached Vang Vieng. It was a completely different impression compared to the rest of Laos when we entered this small city: shops everywhere and you can get everything you want. When we took of our gears in the guesthouse we recognized that one screw of our pannier holder was broken and on a different place as well the steal from the frame needed some little fixing. Luckily the owner of the guesthouse was a Kiwi and could lend us a driller. After fixing the screw Sascha found a place to get the rest welded. Early afternoon everything was fixed again and we had time to enjoy driving around the little side roads through the mountains nearby.

Vientiane was not really our cup of tea. Far too expensive and suddenly it was really hot again which we were not really used to anymore after the mountains. The original idea was to get our visa prepared here already for Thailand but unfortunately we forgot to check the weekday and of course it was Friday! For sure we did not want to stay here for 3 or 4 days. At least we found a nice local place out of the center where we enjoyed dinner with a view over the Khong River and live Lao music. The next morning we left very early.

Heading further south we left the main road and turned to road number 8 where we stayed in Khoun Kham. From here we explored the incredible cave “Kong Lor” which is worth a visit without a question!!! Watch the pictures… and it was even thousand times better live! And at the entrance you have a paradise lagoon where you can relax and having a swim. After the excursion through the cave we had a swim with all the locals in the lagoon. Further we continued east taking the 8s passing the dam lake to Thakhek. Partially the road was bad but all in all ok and interesting to see the dead trees in the floated areas.

From Thakhek we went south for a long distance; about 230km on the 13 until we left to the east again to Salavan. From there we did a great tour around the Bolavan Plateau over Thateng, Sekong Pakxong until Champasak. Shortly we were thinking of staying a night in the jungle in a little village, but the clouds coming up made us a bit afraid as we were driving on a real sandy dirt road. Luckily we decided to continue as we got catch by heavy rain thunder and lightning just when we reached the asphalt road in Pakxong!

In Champasak we found a place to sleep for very little money. We had a trip around over there and spending the night again at the river side of the Khong. Yesterday we reached the area of the 4000 islands, taking the ferry to Khong Island. It is the most north located island and the biggest one with a nice relaxed authentic atmosphere and not overloaded at all. Today we spent the morning exploring the island in each corner, watching the buffalos, the fishermen, visiting the temples, chatting with the villagers… The afternoon will be without riding the bike. Relaxing, updating the blog, reading, having probably fish for dinner… of course sitting directly at the riverside of the Khong ;-)

Tomorrow we will leave to explore some of the other Islands here around and getting closer to the Cambodian border – latest by the 12th of March we have to leave Laos…