Cambodian Section At the border Immigration and customs were quick $2 and a further $1 as it was the weekend. 200metres further on was the Cambodian Immigration who were slow processing a taxi with Irish travellers heading into Laos. Apparently the taxi was cheaper than going by boat. Another $2 and we were made truly unwelcome by the customs who persistently wanted a carnet. Especially as he had apparently managed to retain the carnets from a Brit and a Belgian. As we were unable to show him such documents he then begrudgingly called his superior and then began filling out documents and checked my panniers. Oh and charged us a further $5 for the privilege and this rather scruffy and aparently irrelevent document. Good Road to Stung Treng Road south is partially metalled with alternate sides being compacted. After about 35kms the road ran out and became red dirt which was dicey in parts with rut, potholes and boggy patches. Especially riding on road tyres! Then the road runs out Look No Hands! We pass a Chinese construction base where not a sole stirred – either because it was the weekend or because of the season. Shortly afterwards the partially metalled road returned heading towards the new bridge. Signs direct us towards another potholed road which means slow riding. A monk stops on his scooter to ask where we are from but couldn’t direct us to the boat which was only a few hundred metres beyond him down a steep slippery riverbank. At the riverside a boat had just arrived disgorging passengers and fuel. Incredulously they said “no problem and proceeded to load SteveP’s Super Tenere onto the boat’s main deck. Of course the beamer could just go on the prow. So we crossed the Kong river with four boatmen holding the GS on with little more than their balance. $5 extortion certainly; but the alternative made it well spent. Manhandling these bikes out in itself is a hernia-inducing task, made light, by the boatmen’s desire for a quick turn-around. The immense Chinese bridge in the background spells an end to their labours. They tell us that the unworked on structure was definitely going to be finished in 2008. Yeah right we say. Oh no, Sure. Sure. Because there is a contract! Stung Treng has a menacing feeling, especially in spitting rain with its dirt strewn streets do not suggest we stop more than to get a bite to eat at the one restaurant, Sophakmukal near the market, that does not get “unfriendly” reviews in the Footprint Guide. It is still early 1030am and the owners are preparing food to take down to the main market. We park unknowingly in the forecourt of the adjoining house. The owner turns up and courteously asks where we are headed. Kratie we reply. He says that is a good choice and though Stung Treng is his home, he prefers it when he is away living in the south at work. This is not a good town he tells us. We eat the meal hurriedly which is surprisingly good and set off again heading south. At midday we reach a piece of RCAF recovered ordnance – so far this is the first tangible evidence of the Vietnam War – though its presence is an all-pervading one throughout both Laos & Cambodia. We set up the camera and take shots. A woman on a scooter quizzically whizzes by. Bloody tourists! The road again is partially dirt and metalled. At a roadside filling station SteveP fills up with more cherry aid. We head off down a potholed nasty side road heading for Sambor. Going thru the water filled potholes my foot slips off when I’m standing and hits the ground before hitting the centre stand. Aaargh! Remove the rubber foot inserts and carry on. Sambor is where the spectacular Wat Sarsor Myoy Roy and Pol Pot had his headquarters, after eliminating hundreds of the inhabitants before finally raising the Wat to the ground. It has since been rebuilt and is apparently the largest newly built post-war Wat in Cambodia. An elderly lady – the first I have seen in Cambodia – comes up to me and wants to show me the painted murals that have been faithfully restored. She tries to tell me about the terrors of Pol Pot – but I don’t fully understand her excited shrieks. She then makes it clear she needs money. I give her 120 baht. She’s not impressed. We head south following the riverside road to Kratie. There are many signs advertising trips to see the freshwater dolphins. These riverine mammals are in great danger of being made extinct. Some 10 of the 60-odd sized pod were killed earlier this year by dynamite fishing, prompting a high profile initiative to educate and encourage a change in local fishing practices. Few are optimistic. In Kratie we stay at the Santaheap Hotel which has been recommended to us by Hovis on this site. Cheers mate your advice was greatly appreciated. We get rooms overlooking the river, unload the bikes and then take them to a bike wash and refuel. Kratie has the style and buzz of a very rural provincial French town. Many escape to Kratie from those wanting a break from the capital. Afterwards we ride down Kratie’s corniche and find Chris and his Vietnamese wife and kid at their Dolphin Café. He is building on guest rooms above. I meet Dary the only female motodop and guide in town. [email [email protected][email protected] Having breakfasted and packed the bike, SteveP’s Tenere won’t start. Local motodop’s say there’s a mechanic around the corner and push him the 400 metres to the shop. It takes half-an-hour to change the plugs and we are back on the road. We were through Snoul and taking a break the other side before we remembered we wanted to check out the local delicacy, SPIDERS, in the market. We press on, as the road is so good. Though there is other wheeled traffic trucks, busses and NGOs 4WDs the main hazard is four-footed. Coming around a sweeping corner at quite a lick, only to put the anchors full-on and avoid a biltong moment was quite frequent as cattle are quite oblivious of hurtling doom as they take a stroll down the road. Chasing the Bacon Fill up at the Caltex garage in Kompong Chom. The bike responds to the good fuel and enjoys the higher octane. Traffic builds as we get closer to Phnom Penh. Judicious overtaking avoids the tailback and we get in at 1415. SteveP has had a close encounter with a taxi – who doesn’t stop. We have friends out from BKK waiting for us at the Hope & Anchor. Hope & Anchor http://www.hopeandanchor-cambodia.com/index.html Again rooms overlooking the river this time the Tonle Sap which was flowing north – the only river that changes direction with the rainy season. Tonle Sap meets Mekong This is a very friendly place run by Brit Peter Spencelayh and his Cambodian wife. The grub is good and the waitresses very easy o the eye. At night they allowed us to park our bikes in the adjoining bar. During the day their unformed security guard ensured not too many people put their sticky hands on the bikes – they even cleaned them for us! We had initially hoped to stay at Hovis’ hotel. http://www.scandinavia-hotel-cambodia.com/ It would have been a better place as far as the bikes are concerned parking off-street and fully- enclosed. But we got word that he has just sold it and new owner was redecorating. Hovis is one of the really good guys so I wish him well in the northeast. Phnom Penh for those visiting for the first time is quite anarchic. The traffic is manic, the roads are sometimes unpaved, incredibly seedy and yet with some French style. I wasn’t quite sure whether to love it or loathe it. Yet things appear to be thriving – the crime that was prevalent only a few years ago has largely been brought under control. There is an air expectancy about town. The large bunker of a new US Embassy portends of further renewed regional interest. SteveP and his missus Khun Jay head south the next morning for Sihanoukville then they head back on the southern route, which we were strongly advised against attempting in the rainy season. He promises to post their adventures. After a few days doing the sites, Palace Victory Monument Wat Phnom checking out a shooting range run by disaffected airborne soldiers near the airport – rusty weapons and a NFI/TUBMIN attitude to accompany them. S21 - Tol Sleng bed Skulls at Killing Fields Memorial The other, privately run, by a surly Chinese looking dude out near Choeung Ek Killing Fields, at least has oiled weapons, sov cartridges but probably has someone else’s name on them. [Not recommended] Evening commuter boat crossing the Mekong I am up at dawn and head back to the Big Mango via Battambang. It takes three hours and the road is good. Do not believe the PP café’s when they say they open for business at 6am. They do not and it was only with a too hot microwaved Nescafe that I left PP finally at 7am. Good Road to Battambang I am in Battambang at 10 am. The enchanting Riverside Balcony café was not open until the evening so I checked out the new La Villa hotel a beautifully restored 30’s colonial style with bits of art deco thrown in for nostalgic echoes of eras past. E-mail: [email [email protected][email protected] I leave and head out southwest for Pailin. The road is an absolute bitch. The corrugated surface appears “ribbed for extra pain” – if that’s your pleasure! I found that to negotiate the potholes or the ruts etc. I had to go at 15kph – slow enough to make the loaded GS a burden to handle. At 40-60kph it was manageable, providing I did not hit a deep rut or hole. 20 km out and I pass the killing caves at Phnom Sampeau. Giveway to Tractors Then on down to Treng. One of the bridges is out Not far beyond was an all-female de-mining team from MAG, clearing Svay Sor village, whilst the villagers went about their daily business. http://www.mag.org.uk/page.php?s=4&p=676 It is a race against time to clear the mined areas. People are living in the middle of a minefield. Already 11 people have been killed or injured by landmines in the village. This area was so heavily mined that it could still harbour UXOs and still needs to be systematically cleared. I finally reach Pailin, which is still really run by the Khmer Rouge who delight in the tortuous road in order to keep the prying eyes of Phnom Penh off their backs whilst they make hay with gems, casinos, smuggling and brothels. For a provincial capital it has a sleezy prosperity about it. Again head out of town. The border is not clearly marked and you need to turn right after this gaudy hotel at a “cherry aid” filling station on the next corner, and proceed north west by west. If you have inadvertently come to a stream with a village beyond you have gone too far. Eventually you will arrive at this circle. Keep heading west, past some casino hotels and you will reach the border. Not a lot happens here, so it is quick to get processed. That is if you can find some customs officers to wave you through – they were uncertain if there was a procedure. They were also unsure if they had ever heard of the Veun Kham crossing post in the north. In Thailand they were more interested in the value of the bike. The road back to town via Chanthaburi Chon Buri and the Bang Na road took five hours. 2500 kms all round. It could be done in half the time we took but much less fun.