Stung Treng - Tbeng Meanchey

Discussion in 'Cambodia Road Trip Reports' started by andy_bkk, Jan 3, 2008.

  1. andy_bkk

    andy_bkk Member

    I was back in Cambodia for a week recently and had a few ideas for a ride this time out. I was considering koh kong and cardamoms but was unable to find a riding partner or a good looking 250 for rent so went with Plan B Stung Treng - Tbeng Meanchey. I checked out a few shops after arriving in PP and came up empty. The next morning I got a moto to the Bike Shop on St. 302 where Bernard had 1 250 that had just been returned. It seemed ok and he checked it over while I went back to my hotel to grab my stuff and check out.

    Day 1: Phnom Penh – Kratie (325km, 6 hours)
    Got on the road around noon and took highway 5 30km to the ferry crossing to link up with highway 6. Being a Saturday it was crowded but probably still a better option than the carnage over the Japanese bridge on highway 6.

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    Stopped for fuel and a bite in Kampong Cham and continued on to kratie on highway 7. The road is perfect and traffic is light after Kampong Cham. Took my time and enjoyed the scenery. I ended up doing the last 20km into Kratie in the dark and had near misses with an oxcart and a daelim with no lights.

    Day 2: Kratie – Stung Treng via Sre Khasang
    The gecko map and my gps showed a river road to Stung Treng so I drove about 35km to Sambor and asked a few of the locals about it. Got a few different opinions, one said there was no road, another said there was a road but it wasn’t passable because one of the streams off the Mekong was still too high. I snapped a couple of pics of the 100 column temple and decided to head back to highway 7.

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    Back on the highway I did a few more km out of kratie and then hit the new highway to Stung Treng which has to be one of the best roads in Cambodia now. Just inside Stung Treng province I decided to try out a trail heading west back to the Mekong. A nice 15km or so on hard dirt through thick forest and I was at the Mekong in a village called sre khasang.

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    Still curious about the river road, I asked an old guy if it went south and rattled off the names of a few of the villages on the gecko map. He didn’t seem to think there was a road to those villages but did say the road went north all the way to Stung Treng.
    It was a nice ride to Stung Treng from there with no traffic, lots of trees and views of the Mekong. There are a couple of bridges out along the way but it was easy to follow the detours the locals had cut in down the riverbeds. Got to this bridge but didn’t see a detour. What to do?

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    Waited a couple of minutes and a few locals on daelims just went straight over the far left section of the bridge. I did the same and it held up the baja just fine. The road eventually turns into the stung treng river road.

    Day 3: Stung Treng – Tbeng Meanchey
    I had a long wait at the pier for the boat over to Thala. A few Khmers were busy selling their pigs.

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    There’s a small temple ruin on the other side of the Mekong. Probably worth a quick stop but I wasn’t all that impressed.

    From here the road to Chaeb (about halfway) is awesome. Forest, river crossings, big trees, rickety bridges and a minimal amount of sand.

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    I lost about an hour just before Chaeb because of a broken down truck blocking the entire road. Soon I was joined by several locals who decided to whack out a path into the forest rather than wait for the truck to get going. They went to work with their machetes and soon we were on our way.
    A few kms after Chaeb is the village of MuPrey. I don’t know if I took a wrong turn here or what but I crossed a wooden bridge and ended up in a village where the road just stopped. I was off the trail to Pou on the gps by a little but didn’t see any other road heading west. Finally one of the villagers led me through the backyard of one of the houses to an overgrown single track that he said went to Pou. A few minutes on this and I hit a big clearing with a 4 way intersection, headed west and checked the gps. I was back on the track to Pou.

    I tried to pick up the pace here to get to Tbeng Meanchey before dark but after a ton of river crossings, sand, 2 plank bridges and multiple paths I was exhausted.

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    I hit a big river crossing about 10km before Pou. It looked too deep to ride through but the only other path was a scary looking uneven log bridge 5 meters above the river. Ended up walking the bike over the bridge and took a rest. It was dark now but I was able to make pretty good time from there until about 2km from Pou. Saw a nice flat part of the trail and headed over it only to have my front wheel sink down all the way into a mudhole. I got off and tried pushing and pulling from all sorts of angles but could not get the front wheel out. At this point I figured I was going to spend a night in the forest. An hour or 2 passed and I was just about ready to break out my hammock when a daelim with 2 khmers passed by. I waved them over and it took all 3 of us to get my front wheel out the muck. Loaded up the bike and was on my way to Pou.

    It was after 8 now but I decided to just do the 6 km to the sen river and Tbeng Meanchey in the dark rather than hang my hammock somewhere in Pou. This was the nastiest 6km of the trip. There’s a section where the forest completely blots out the sky that looks like something out of the Blair Witch Project at night. Reached the river after what seemed like hours but there was no one around. The river was way too deep to cross. A minute later a couple of Khmers stepped out of the shadows and asked me if I needed to cross. They went and retrieved their boat from the other side and I finally made it to Tbeng Meanchey and the Prom Tep guesthouse sometime after 9pm.

    Day 4 – 5: Tbeng Meachey – Kampong Thom – Phnom Penh.
    My ass was in bad shape from the previous day’s 12 hour run but I went ahead and did the bumpy dirt road 140 km to Kampong Thom the next day, yelping in pain everytime I hit a big bump.

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    The Arunes Hotel in Kampong Thom has huge rooms with bathtub, tv, and fridge for $7. Back to Phnom Penh the next day.

    Start early on the Stung Treng – Tbeng Meanchey trip, those trails are no fun in the dark.
     
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  3. Woody

    Woody Member

    Nice Report Andy.
    Recently, I also got caught out in the bush in the dark just south of TBY. Your right not much fun riding those tracks at night.
     
  4. gitchegumee

    gitchegumee Member

    Can anybody please give me an update on the Stung Treng-TBM trail? Trying to assess trails for a ride in three weeks. Thanks!
     
  5. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Great report Andy - Looks like you had a fun time and even better you did not have to sleep out there. The warm water of the guest house is always nice after a thrash thru the bush. I'm looking for some interesting tracks out of T'Beang Meachey heading north or west. Do you have any recommendations or GPX tracks?

    I remember on the stretch from Stung Treng-TBM trail that there being a variety of paths to choose from every so often, so some more exploration is needed there next time and maybe uncover some more gems. I enjoyed the Stung Treng-TBM trail because it had a bit of everything: sand, water, bridges, singletrack, etc to make it fun. How was the mud for you this year? There are always loads of dry mudholes and to hit them a bit earlier in the year looks a bit dicey. Were you plowing through loads of mud or was most of it dried up when you went? Yes that one log bridge by Pou is a bit nervewracking eh? Haha.

    Once again fantastic report.
     
  6. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    I'm told the Stung Treng to TBM track has recently been graded. Easy ride now.
     
  7. kanuck

    kanuck Member

    Yes, it's all brand new very smooth gravel highway. Slow down for the bridges though as a couple were not finished yet!
     
  8. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Just heard the old Death Highway between Sen Monorom and Banlung has been upgraded too
     
  9. harrythefinn

    harrythefinn Ol'Timer

    That's progress, less and less decent places to ride off road. Assume there is no new bridge across the Srepok River? Near Lumphat ? Always had to cross using small boats. Anyone GPS the new road?, does it follow the old tracks or cut out the remote sections? If it does then it means the old tracks will grow over with disuse if we don't ride through regularly.
     
  10. jerome

    jerome Active Member

    hi harry,
    maybe be hiring a local with his machete to look after the old nice track if it is still there!!!
    would like to do it again!
     
  11. gitchegumee

    gitchegumee Member

    Just did this trip a few weeks back. PP to Kampong Thom to TBMC to Stung Treng to Bang Lung to Kratie to Sen Monorom to Kampong Cham to Sihanoukville to Kampot to PP. Only the TBMC to Stung Treng was dirt, and that was newly slashed, burned, and graded as people plant new crops so that they may multiply and repeat. Amazing how much this country has changed (not all of it for the better) in the six years I've been gone. Sihanoukville in particular used to be a quiet place with few tourists. Even those were long-stay. Now it looks like Phuket or Pattaya. Very good, sealed roads almost all the way. Bull dust thick where they weren't. Wanted to do the death highway, but our mechanic said some parts south of the river were really thick dust and very hard going. Opted out of that. Bikes came from Angkor motorcycles. Web says $15/day, but we were charged $20 "because you wanted good tires". Fairly good repair, but not one of the six of us had a tach/odo/speedo console that worked. Nice enough foliks, though. And the mechanic at $60/day plus fuel was worth it. Most scenic part of the trip was coming into Kratie from the north at sunset. Spectacular views of the Mekong. The crater lake in Bang Lung is also a gem. Crystal clear, cool waters and mostly locals there. Very chill. Get there before the government takes it away from the locals and turns it into a private high-rent casino. Not kidding. Next time I'll do something in late October or early November as the dry, dead, brown terrain was not anything like it would have been after the rains. Of course, we had no slimy, greasy, red mud either.
     

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