rainy season ride 1


Jan 3, 2004
took this ride on an africa twin that a buddy let me borrow. pretty sweet. also this story is repeated in july bayon pearnik with some pics. www.bayonpearnik.com

A Rainy Season Ride, but No Rain. Kampong Cham – Memot – Prey Veng
I’ve got a list of places to see in this country that is less than complete and plenty more I am interested in returning to. With every road trip, I meet interesting and friendly people, and am constantly reminded that paradise still exist in this remarkably diverse country. This trip would be a chance to get the camera out at a few spots I visited in the past and an attempt of locating an unvisited ruin in the Memot countryside that someone had told me about before.
Suffering from boredom or routine and the lack of bike rides in my recent past, I had been test driving a few motorbikes around town, and when a friend of mine offered to let me test ride his Africa Twin 750 touring bike, I jumped on the opportunity. There is a lot of tarmac on the way to Memot. I had a plan of getting out of the city but execution is never easy as I am on a night schedule. Kampong Cham is perfectly situated for a late start and well suited for breaking the night routine.
The road to Kampong Cham has really deteriorated and after hitting a pot hole pretty hard I backed off on the accelerator. I set out around 1:30PM and made it to Phnom Proh and Phnom Srey outside of Kampong Cham in a couple of hours, just the same as on my 250 cc. I had been here once before about 3 years ago but it was one of those places I passed many times and wanted to return to. I drove up the hill and pulled around to the back side of the two massive structures on the hill. Vendors with their tables straddled the edge of the hill and a group of monkeys ran wild. The vendors wanted to sell me bananas to feed the monkeys, but all I could think about was these were rabid rats in disguise and I didn’t want to get close to them. They were fun to watch but I could see they get out of line from time to time. The vendor who sat with me would cock her un-loaded sling shot and the monkeys would respond like Pavlov’s dog who had taken a few shots in the past.
Below the hill was a well manicured garden with colorfully painted statues of Buddha and old folklore that surrounded a library adorned with a massive Bayon Head sculpture. I finished walking the grounds and shared a little small talk with one of the grounds financiers. Actually he was an old man in a thatched shack outside the park with a donation pot and a microphone which I can imagine is used at distortion levels during prime time. I got into Kampong Cham and checked into the Mekong Hotel on the riverfront.
One thing about making return journeys is you witness change. The colonial tower on the other side of the Kizuna Bridge is being restored, and according to the local Khmers a French guy kicked down about 8 grand to have it done. It will be nice when complete but somehow I think the previous state of the tower had more character. All I could think about was how the tower was looking like the finishing touches in a California strip mall and how I could photo shop one in to get a glimpse of the future. Ah progress.
The next morning I set out for the Memot countryside. I stopped at the coconut stand where I first got a tip on the Prasat Boran, old temple and ran into the guy that originally gave me the tip. He assured me 8K short of Memot, make a left and head for Koki then to Phnom Penh and it would be there. It would be another 22K up the road. I made the appropriate left and the road took me through a village that looked as if it was government housing from an era gone by and possibly military. The province has been getting some rain and the forest was lush. Traveling quite a ways in I missed the turn to Koki, stopped at a drink stand to enquire. A guy showed me the phnom I was looking for but said I had to go back to Koki as the road I was on didn’t go there. I went back to the highway and traveled the 8 K to Memot looking for turn outs and figured a smaller dirt trail was the way in. An old field worker was headed that way and I gave him a ride to his work location. The trail twisted and turned and eventually let me out in someone’s back yard where I saw a much larger navigable road. I was pleased that I wouldn’t be returning the same way I came in. Koki was just down the road. Stopping at a general store I chatted with a man and a couple of girls. They told me Phnom Penh was up the road behind the Koki School across the street. Loading up on water I headed through the school yard and found the main track.
The road was decent but eventually turned into a pond with a small trail to circumnavigate the water. I stopped short and contemplated continuing. Phnom Penh was in view but the 750 cc was big, I was alone and didn’t think I wanted to deal with mud or getting stuck in the country side this late in the afternoon. A farm girl stopped her hoeing to come inquire about my presence. Some other girls hoeing about 50 meters away began yelling at the girl giving her a hard time, so I ventured through the field to talk to them as well. I took advantage of the light conditions, green surroundings and the red dirt they were tilling to snap off a few photos. They got a kick out of seeing their images on the digital camera. One of the girls with a hoe joked and said well if you are taking pics I’d better strike a pose and I captured her air guitar moment. I went back to the general store and told them plauv bibah, (muddy difficult road) that I couldn’t continue on then headed back to National Route 7. The ride back…déjà vu of my journey earlier in the day, this time the sun cast spotted shadows through the canopy of rubber trees.
I still had more than enough time to make it to Kampong Cham before sunset and get some pictures of the work in progress at the tower, so I took a small detour at the pre Angkor site of Prey Nokor about 40K out of town. Here twin brick prasats sit adjacent to a wat. One more prasat that was damaged during the war sits in a field about 500 meters away. The locals said there were originally 5 but the other two were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Making my way once again on the rural dirt road to the seven, an ingeniously constructed wagon being pulled by some children caught my eye. I had to stop and check it out. The kids scattered in fear but reappeared when they saw I was harmless. Three wheels were carved out of wood, put together by a couple of nails, twine and woven sticks. These children were happy with this one primitive toy, but I couldn’t help but think of that Wal-Mart that will eventually go in at the base of the remodeled tower full of toys to confuse any selfish whining brat as to what he would rather play with.
I made it to the Kizuna Bridge in time to get my pictures of the tower before sunset. Heavy dark storm clouds hovered above the blue cloudy sky, and the whitewashed tower jutting out of the dark green thicket had a touch of pink from the setting sun. I had a good burger at Mekong Crossing, a beer at the drink stands along the river then called it an early night. The cable in Kampong Cham still has the full complement of channels on TV.
I still wasn’t up before the rooster crows but I was able to get up at a fairly reasonable hour and headed east on the Highway 7 over the bridge about 12K to the National Road 11 where I would head south towards Prey Veng and the Neak Luong Ferry. The 11 isn’t heavily trafficked and it’s a pretty new road. The road twisted and turned through rubber trees and at a large processing plant that looks to have had some history behind it, I continued straight into the forest of rubber trees. I was going to find a temple that I had visited 3 years ago with Jake when he was updating his second edition of Adventure Cambodia. The forest cleared and I was on a rural road. I stopped at the first village and some guys were having morning cocktails outside of their house. I declined the offer for moonshine in a plastic shot glass and trusted their assurances that I was headed in the right direction. One thing villagers in Cambodia have in common is that if there is something in their neighborhood that would warrant any attention, they are pretty sure the out of place foreigner is headed there and they point the way. Preah Theat Ba Srey was where I was headed and had no trouble getting directions along the way.
I want to say that this must have been a fantastic temple in its day, but that would be hard to determine when that was. It’s a fantastic place now and a few hundred years from now I can only hope that these times can make the same contribution as the past. Flanking the road at the entrance of the temple is an Angkor period Baray, and on the other side of the road is a mound of rocks that must have been the foundation of another structure. Remnants of an ancient wall surround the main temple site. One wat fenced off in the center of the grounds was built where a prasat once stood, and a stone pedestal sits dead center in the temple in front of the Buddha’s. The locals at the temple were keen to let me know that a lintel and a couple of vertical lathed door jams were t’mol (stone) and not concrete. A long ninety year old building which might have housed monks sat on the south side. To the back of the wat was a gateway flanked by two large snake sculptures. Outside of the gate there was another wat to the right, a newer structure that housed the monks, but most fascinating was another ninety year building. This building looked like it had seen a lot of history and survived the war. Its second story sat on a series of arches with a stairway up the center which split to the left and the right to symmetric trapezoid roofed facades. A painting of a monkey adorned the right side, and on the left the painted surface has faded and somewhat been erased by preservation efforts. The locals didn’t let me miss a trick either. The told me to go inside and check out some really fine craftsmanship. Inside the building a few square support columns were topped by carved eagle structures that supported the rooftop from the head, tail and wings of the eagles. These were living, functioning antiques. I thanked the people at the temple for showing me around and they told me that I didn’t have to back track to get back to NR 11.
The road from the temple to the 11 seemed to take longer than I expected but the presence of a few trucks told me I was headed in the right direction. I got into Prey Veng province and was saddened to see that these poor people haven’t had any rain in a long time. Parched rice fields as far as the eye could see bordered both sides of the road and to think last September these people were flooded out. These poor people lived in extremes. I stopped at a bridge over a dry bed of dirt and took some pictures of some passers by and the dry terrain. I made such good time to Prey Veng on the larger bike that I blew right through town. About halfway to Neak Luong a storm was getting ready to blow through. I could see a distinct line ahead where the dry pavement met the storm and figured I had better stop at a drink stand and put on the rain gear. This brought a lot of fascination from some other people that chose this spot to ditch the storm.
The storm however was short lived and I was back in the sun before hitting Neak Luong. I arrived just in time for the ferry and it looked like business was booming for the ferry operators. The total trip from Kampong Cham took about 5 hours including the temple stop.
I was pretty happy with the performance of the Africa Twin and for once I arrived home with out a sore ass. Unfortunately the temple in the Memot countryside will remain a mystery a little longer, but when I return to find out for sure, I’ll have some nice photos to deliver to the people I met along the way. Jim CA2