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By this Author: wwrobinson

Battambang to Phnom Phen

The good news is the trip from Battambang back to Phnom Phen was a few less kilometres than I anticipated. It was just over 300. I did it in 3 days. The trip is nice to do by bicycle. There are two major towns with excellent accommodation, each about 100kms apart to stay. In between there are several villages each with their own individual twist. It did have its challenges. Each day was in the mid 30's with a head wind. Staying hydrated was a challenge. I consumed about 4 liters of fluid each day and have got in the habit of having 2 beers with supper. Even at that still think I am slightly dehydrated. On the plus side I don't think there is a toxin left in my body. Some of the cramping in my legs that I experienced at the beginning of the trip is fixed.

So except for a bit of sight seeing over the next few days before I fly out to NZ the bike trip is basically over. A few statistics. The total amount biked was just over 1200 kms. The longest day was 120 kms. Most days were between 60 to 80 kms. There were several days when I did not bike at all. Between HCMC and all of the cycling in Cambodia it was flat. Anyone with average fitness could do it.

On this trip I did several touristy types of things along with the back packing crowd. What I observed is the difference in the experience is huge. When you are in the tourist mode the control shifts to the provider. The places you go and the interaction with locals is totally different. It often felt like the people were being opportunist in trying to just make money off of tourists. This isn't what the average person living here is like. When you are traveling by bicycle the way the locals interact is totally the opposite. They go out of their way to accommodate with no expectations.

This is probably my last posting for this trip. I started this blog mainly to provide an audit trail for my family and friends some of whom expressed a concern about me doing this on my own. It appears from the statistics that more people have been following this that may not know me. So I will provide a bit of background.

I am a 69 year old man with 3 sons and 7 grandchildren. My wife of over 40 years passed away last year. We were fortunate and bought a house by the ocean in Gibsons Canada many years ago and I still live there today. The yard has over an acre in grass. My neighbors who all have ride on lawn mowers sometimes question why I cut my grass with a push mower. My answer is "So I can ". I have traveled to many countries in the world by bicycle because I wanted to. I could have taken a more traditional approach but it wouldn't have been the same.

Posted by wwrobinson 02:18 Comments (0)

Boat??? to Battambang and around

If you look at Google Maps at least on my 8" tablet it looks like there is no waterway from Siem Reap to Battambang. But the tour companies in Siem Reap advertise and sell tickets for a boat and they said my bike is OK and they would pick me and my bike up at the hotel at 7am for the 7:30 boat.

Well I was up at 6 and waiting for whatever was going to pick me up by 7 and nobody showed up. At 7:20 I was starting to think I was going to miss the boat as I knew the dock was 15kms away as I rode it when I arrived a few days before. The hotel phoned the tour company and they said someone would be there shortly. Fifteen minutes later a tuk tuk arrived with four European women and all their gear. The Tuk Tuk driver says follow me. To make a long story short I followed the tuk tuk for about 6 blocks where I was instructed to wait with what appeared to be about 30 other people. It turned out we were all going to Battambang by boat. A tour bus arrived and all of us including my bike were loaded into the bus and driven to the dock.

The boat leaves when it is full, then it takes on cargo and more people along the way. My bike was loaded on the back of the boat next to the engine, then cargo including a few logs were added to the mix.

The trip was exceptionally interesting. The waterway was one floating village after another, fishermen and a whole population that is living and working on the river.

Now I can confirm that you can get to Battambang by boat, but not this time. As we got further up the river we kept getting stuck in the mud as the river shallowed. Eventually it was pretty obvious that we would not make it all the way by boat and the captain headed to shore and tied up to a tree.
I had a quick look at a map and we were approximately 35 kms from Battambang and where the road started. We were met by three pickup trucks and all of us including luggage and my bike were somehow loaded on and we were driven the rest of the way.

I think doing the whole trip by boat is probably the norm, but it is very hot and dry here right now so the river is low. I suspect the tour company knew this in advance but? Anyway it was an experience and I met a lot of nice people.

Battambang is an interesting city. The whole country was once controlled by France, and as I rode around the city today I got the feeling that at one point some Frenchman probably decided this city would be the Paris of the East. Last night I had dinner at La Casa Restaurant. Probably the best meal I have had in Cambodia and inexpensive.

I am getting myself psyched up to ride back to Phnom Phen starting tomorrow. It is about 350 kms with two bigger towns on the way. It is quite hot here now so think the strategy will be early starts and bring lots of water.

Posted by wwrobinson 23:13 Comments (0)

Phnom Phen to Siem Reap and Around

The boat to Siem Reap leaves at 7:30 AM. So up at 6:00, a quick cup of coffee and a short ride to the boat dock on the Tonle Sap River. The dock is just before the Tonle Sap joins the Mekong River. The trip to Siem Reap is around 300 kms and takes around 7 hours. Most of the trip is on the River with probably the last third on the lake. The boat is long and narrow, it sort of looks like a submarine. It is fully enclosed but it is possible to walk around the perimeter and sit on the roof. It is fast and noisy.

While on the river there is lots of boat traffic, people fishing and living on the water. The lake is huge and once on it there is no land in sight. When close to Siem Reap there are floating villages.

The boat dock is about 10kms from Siem Reap. The city is somewhat "glitsey " and quite a contrast to what I have seen in the rest of the country. There is a huge tourist presence due to its proximity to the Angkor archeology sites. I suspect this tourist destination is probably one of the main contributions to the Cambodian economy. There is an active night life that is hard to avoid. I stayed at the S Hotel which is one block from "Pub" street.

I bought a pass to visit Angkor Watt and the other sites and spent a few days riding around and looking at things. The area is nicely forested and what I enjoyed the most is the ride to and around the sites.It covers a large area and both days put on at least 30 kms just looking around. People watching was a big part of it, hoards of tourists. Having visited Bagan in Myanmar last year I did not find the actual structures that remarkable, but by the number of people here it apears a lot of folks have a different opinion.

I purchased a ticket to take the boat to Battambang tomorrow.

Posted by wwrobinson 23:40 Comments (0)

Kampot to Phnom Phen

Travelling by bicycle in Cambodia is different than Vietnam. There is way less motor bikes, perhaps more cars and way more different modes of transportation and contraptions on the road. It is nice not riding in the midst of a swarm of motor bikes. I am not sure if it is any safer though. The vehicles that can do seem to move faster here.

Cambodia is predominantly a Buddhist country. When you have a population that thinks when they do good, good things happen it creates a feeling that things are generally going to be ok. It is also quite poor so a lot of folks are just surviving.

The first day out of Kampot was the longest so far on the trip and it was hot with relatively strong headwinds. Navigating was easy, just followed road #3 then onto #2 to Doun Kaev in Takeo province. I stayed at the Alice Villa Hotel a sort of resort type facility in beautiful gardens at $13 can. per night. Lots of Watts everywhere and no tourists that I saw in this region.

I had a TV in my room with a few English channels so I got caught up on some of the world news. I found it somewhat amusing that in one day I saw a monk walking down the road looking at his cell phone and heard that the US president is using Twitter to share his feelings on US policy.

The second day was a straight run on road #2 right into Phnom Phen to the Cyclo hotel, the same place I stayed at with Brian and Gina the last time I was here. After I settled in I went out for supper and walked around. This is the first place on this trip that I have been to before and I was amazed at how fast it came back to me.

I am going to take a day here to regroup and hopefully book a boat to Siem Reap for tomorrow to start the last loop of the trip.

Posted by wwrobinson 17:51 Comments (0)

Good Bye Vietnam, Hello Cambodia

It was unclear whether a ferry to the mainland was running on the day after the Tet holiday but I decided I would ride across the Island and check it out. There was one running leaving at 12, so I bought a ticket for Ha Tien and left on the 12 sailing. The Tet holiday can last for several days and I knew accommodation was non existent in Ha Tien, so once on the mainland decided to boot it into Cambodia.

The border was relatively busy. The visa for Cambodia costs $30 US but I had heard if you pay $35. you get fast tracked. It was getting later in the day so I just told the guy charge me $35. It is a bribe of course but no point messing around. I was through there in no time, and interesting the folks off the tour bus in front of me who were actually being a bit obnoxious got sent to quarantine to get checked out.

So now I am in Cambodia with no cell coverage, no Cambodian money and no reservation for accommodation. The closest town is Kep. I made it to Kep just as it was getting dark and checked into the first place that looked OK. The next day I rode to Kampot. Kampot is a bit larger and touristy. Lots of backpackers and older expats. Checked into a place relatively close to downtown and proceeded to get a Cambodian sim card and exchange some money. So now I am good to go for the next couple of weeks here.

Just one last thing about Vietnam. There is a lot of talk about the Vietnamese gouging tourists. I decided before I came that I was not going to let that be an issue. The truth is it does happen. A lot of folks don't do it, but after awhile you get a sense of what the price should be and a lot of time I paid extra. Travelling in Vietnam is not expensive. As an accountant I can't help myself so I did keep a mental tab and it probably cost no more than $20. extra for almost three weeks. So for anyone else contemplating a trip to Vietnam I suggest expect it to happen and just smile and pay it. Remember one million Dong is about $60. Can.

Posted by wwrobinson 22:09 Comments (0)

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