Riding Solo Through Cambodia

sgBikerBoy

sgBikerBoy.com
May 30, 2016
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The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 32
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 32
Cambodia.jpg


22 July 2016, Friday. I made it into Cambodia! After hearing all the horror stories of travellers getting turned back into Laos, or worse, getting stuck between borders in no-man’s land, I was a little worried about crossing this one. But then again, it wasn’t an easy experience, and I was almost turned back into Laos.

As I only had 100,000kips (approx SGD17 or USD12) left on me, I decided to head to the little town of Nakasong to get some more Kips. The border officials at the Laos-Cambodia border are notoriously corrupt, and I needed to make sure I had enough cash for their “service fee” or “donation” to make things move along.

But before all that, I needed to get some stuff done on my bike. I asked the 2 motorcycle servicing shops in Nakasong if they sell motorcycle chains, as my current chain is showing some signs of uneven wear. No joy. It was also about 2,000km from my last oil change, and was about time to replace the oil (new engine EO change routine). The first shop refused totouch my bike, and even seem to tell me that he will sell me the engine oil, but I’ll have to replace it myself. Needless to say, I walked away. The 2nd shop was willing to do the engine oil change for me at no additional cost – other than the cost of the oil itself, which was 30,000kips per 0.8L bottle. So I got myself some new oil for the Pulsar.

Over breakfast, I chatted with a local who took interest in my bike. And when I shared with him that I intended to go into Cambodia this morning, he shook his head and said, “No motorcycles into Cambodia.”

“Cambodia no allow motorcycle in. Can park in Laos, and walk in Cambodia. Then come back to Laos for your motorbike.”

Oh oh. Not the news I’d like to hear. A local who lives so near the border seem to be confirming the reports I read online – crossing this border with a motorcycle will be problematic.

So I went back to my room to pack my stuff, and was deciding if I should trod ahead or turn back around and head into Thailand at Pakse. I decided to give it a try anyway.

Here’s what happened:
  • Reached Laos’ Vuen Kham immigration. Asked the immigration officer if I could enter Cambodia. He instructed me to go over to Cambodia and asked them. If they allowed, then come back to Vuen Kham immigration to process the exit.
  • Rode up to the Lao’s Vuen Kham border control barrier (approx 20m ahead). Told the Laos officer there that I’m going to ask the Cambodia’s officials if I could enter Cambodia. I stressed that I have not stamped my passport for exit at Laos’ immigration. If so, I will then turn back to exit Laos. He said okay, and allowed me through.
  • Rode up to Cambodia’s border control (approx 50m or so ahead). There is a tent on the left side for “Health and Quarantine Control”. I spoke to the guy there and he pointed me to the immigration box just across the road.
  • Crossed the road, walked over to Cambodia’s immigration control, and asked them if I could come into Cambodia with my motorcycle. Again, I stressed that I’m enquiring and have NOT stamped out at Laos’ immigration. They asked me to check with customs first.
  • Left my bike at the immigration / health and quarantine area, and walked over to customs (approx 50m ahead). This is the part where it gets a little tricky.
  • Customs asked for my bike registration forms (they referred to it as the “green form” – possibly referring to the Thailand registration papers). I gave them a printout of my vehicle registration details and explained to them that in Singapore, the records are all kept electronically with the Land Transport Authority, and this is a printout of the electronic record.
  • The customs guy was a young chap. He said that he needed to consult his boss, and handed the registration printout to him. His boss (the very much older chap) took a look at it and frowned. He said that to come into Cambodia, I needed to get prior permission from Phnom Penh.
  • I cooked up some excuse, saying that Singapore and Cambodia are part of ASEAN, and that Singapore-Cambodia ties are very strong. In fact, IIRC, apart from Cambodia passport holders, only Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore passport holders do NOT need a visa when entering Cambodia. So I told him that “Singapore and Cambodia are good friends.”
  • The customs officer then replied, saying that that may be the case for passport visa, but Singapore and Cambodia doesn’t have a land transport agreement. He said he could “make secret” with me, but was afraid that I might have trouble when I’m inside Cambodia.
  • At this point, I was ready to turn back. I told him I was here as a tourist, and shared with him the route that I’ve travelled so far (Singapore – Malaysia – Thailand – Laos). I told him that while I would very much love to visit Cambodia, I didn’t want any troubles as a tourist and if it was gong to be difficult for him, I would had back to Laos, and then turn into Thailand and give Cambodia a miss.
  • He then asked me which border I intended to exit from. I showed him a map on my mobile phone GPS, and told him the route I intended to take (Stung Treng – Phnom Penh – Siam Reap) and planned to exit at Poi Pet towards Thailand.
  • Surprisingly, he then said, “okay.””No, no, no. I don’t want you to say okay just for me. I don’t want to get into any trouble if the police stops me.”
    “Police only check passport. Not check motorbike.”
    “What about exiting Cambodia? Will I have trouble?”
    “Exit Cambodia no problem. Only come in need customs papers. You exit Poi Pet okay.”
  • So with that final “go ahead” from Cambodia customs, I went back to Laos’ immigration, and started the process all over again.
  • Cleared Laos’ immigration at the official immigration counter and got my passport exit stamp. Was asked a $2 / 20,000kip fee. Here, a tout stations himself with a table set up just in front of the immigration counter and claim to be able to assist with the passport paperwork. I’ve read that this is a scam. He’s neither immigration nor customs officer. Not even in uniform. But he speaks good english and seem to project himself as an official immigration representative. I saw several tourists handing their passports (and some money) to him.
  • After immigration, I was directed to Customs just across the road. Handed the green form (customs temporary import of motorcycle form) to the officer there. That’s it! Wasn’t asked for any fee.
  • Rode over to Cambodia side. Immigration officer asked me to head to Customs to get customs form and chop.
  • Walked over to Cambodian Customs. The boss said no need for any forms, and called up the Immigration guy from his cellphone. He then said, “okay” and wished me luck. No fees asked! I was surprised! At this point, after all the walking about, I was extremely thirsty. So I bought 3 cans of drinks – 1 for myself and gave the 2 to the Customs officer and his boss.
  • Walked back to Immigration and tried to get my passport stamped. By then the “Health and Quarantine” guy came up to me and asked me to head over to his tent. I’ve read that this “health check” is also a scam and not all necessary. But I complied anyway.
  • While filling up the “health and quarantine” questionnaire, the “quarantine officer” noticed I had a helmet cam and asked me if it was a video camera. I told him that it was for recording of my travels. I think he got scared and didn’t ask me for a fee, gave me a “health advisory” slip and sent me off. I heard from some of the other tourists that they were asked for USD1.
  • Walked back to immigration again. As I had a Singapore passport, I didn’t need a visa. So, thankfully, no visa fees. But I was asked for USD1 for the stamp on my passport. I should have given him USD1 or 10,000kips. Unfortunately, I didn’t have either, and ended up giving him 20,000kips (approx USD2.50). No change. Obviously.
  • Approximate time to clear the border – just over 1hr. Partly due to the fact that 2 busloads of tourists arrived just as I was returning to Laos’ side to go through the exit procedures.
Phew! I’m in Cambodia!

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…and I thought that Laos’ roads were bad. It’s worse in Cambodia.

Headed to the town of Stung Treng – the nearest Cambodian town from the Laos-Cambodia border. It was slightly below an hour ride to town. Bought some Riel at the bank, got myself a room for the night, and new sim card with data plan – the usual drill when entering a new country. Oh, USD is accepted directly at most places, although I changed it to Riel’s at a slightly better than typical rate of 4,000R to 1USD. But my Laotian Kips were practically worthless here. They would sell Kips for 0.504 and buy them at 0.384. That’s a freaking wide spread!! Probably the 2 most useful currencies here (apart from Riel) would be USD and THB. Expect super lousy spreads for most other currencies.

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With a thick wad of notes, I feel quite rich. Until I realise each 10,000R piece is worth approx SGD3,31 or USD2.44 only.

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Fired up my trusty TripAdvisor app to search for things to do in Stung Treng, and this is what it tells me. =(

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View from the 2nd level balcony of the hotel.

Parked my bike in the hotel and went walking along the streets. I spotted almost no tourists. Although buzzing with locals, Stung Treng is very much untouched by tourism.

Had dinner at a local restaurant – which was really difficult to find. It seem that the concept of eating out is not very popular here. And just after I finished me meal and paid up…. pop! The ENTIRE TOWN went black. Yup! Electrical blackout. THE WHOLE FREAKING TOWN! I think this is probably a typical experience, as I spotted some random spots of battery-powered lights in some of the more well-prepared shops.

I took my time to walk back to my hotel. About a 5-10min walk. And just as I reached my hotel. Lights started coming back on.

Welcome to Cambodia!
 

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sgBikerBoy

sgBikerBoy.com
May 30, 2016
103
29
28
Singapore
www.sgBikerBoy.com
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 33 to 34
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 33 to 34
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23 July 2016, Saturday. With nothing much to do in Stung Treng, I woke up early today and set off for Phnom Penh. The journey from Stung Treng to the capital city is a mix of fantastic, okay, and really horrible roads. There were stretches of fantastic paved, smooth roads which rivals the Malaysian North-South Highway. But it sometimes turn into really bad, almost dirt-road quality stretches without warning. So that 6hr-odd, 400+km journey, see me doing triple-digit speeds and sometimes as slow at 30-40kmh at the potholes-filled, uneven, loose-gravelled dirt tracks (which I even hesitate to call it a “road”.)

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Day 33’s route – Stung Treng to Phnom Penh. Approximately 400km.

From my online research, I knew that Phnom Penh has a Bajaj dealership. So I was really looking forward to drop by to get my chain and sprocket set replaced. It’s about 37,000km on my odometer, and as I’m the 2nd owner without the previous owner’s maintenance records, I honestly do not know if this was the original chain that came with the bike new, or if it’s ever been replaced. But of late, I’ve been needing more frequent chain tension adjustments and did notice that the chain was beginning to wear unevenly.

Riding in Phnom Penh was a very different experience – and something that reminded me why I tend to avoid the capital cities in these developing nations. There are only 2 rules here – do not hit anyone and do not let anyone hit you. Everything else, are just guidelines – including traffic lights. Green light means go, but look out for anything that might come from your left, your right, or even directly in front of you. Red light merely means recommended to stop, but if you see a path in front of you, just move along. Motorcycles outnumber any other types of vehicles here, and not a minute goes by without hearing the sound of a horn of a vehicle. But unlike in Singapore – where the horn has somewhat evolved into a “scolding mechanism”, the horn sounds here stay true to their intended nature of a “warning mechanism” – warning others of your presence on the road. It’s simply road madness here!

And just when I arrived in Phnom Penh, while searching for a place to stay, I spotted the Bajaj dealership! As it’s a Sunday the next day, I was afraid that they might not be opened – so, with all my luggage in tow, I turned in immediately.

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The Bajaj Phon Penh dealership.

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The servicing area of Bajaj Phom Penh. Clean and neat. Very professional indeed!

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My 200NS getting some love.

Since I was here, I had the following done:
  1. Chain and sprocket set replacement. USD45
  2. Rear brake pads. USD7.50
  3. RH Engine guard. USD4.00
  4. Front indicator assemblies – LH & RH. USD6.00 ea.
The chain, sprockets and rear brake pads were necessary. The rear pads were almost gone due to the brake binding issue. The rest were merely cosmetic replacements due to the drop in Luang Prabang – since it’s generally cheaper to replace them here than back in Singapore.

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The Bajaj sales team.

And while the bike was being serviced, I got myself a room in the hotel just above the Bajaj dealership, and started moving some of my stuff to the hotel room.

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USD35 a night – the most I’ve spent on a room in this trip so far. I thought I should give myself a treat after so many days on the road. Also, they accept credit cards, which after spending at the Bajaj dealership, saved me from having to withdraw more cash.

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Street food for dinner. I loved the skewered satay / kebab with baguette.

24 July 2016, Sunday. As I lived at the hotel just above the Bajaj dealership, the Bajaj staff left a message at the hotel concierge to invite me over to the Bajaj showroom the next morning as they wanted to give me a gift.

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They gave me a free Pulsar t-shirt! I’m one of them now! Hahah.

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The pretty sales ladies at the Bajaj Phom Penh dealership.

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We took a group shot with my Pulsar 200NS.

After the royal treatment at the Bajaj dealership, I headed to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre to learn about the history of the Khmer Rouge regime and the atrocities they did on their own people. The site (one of the many mass killing fields) wasn’t too large, and honestly have not much to see too. But the complimentary audio guide was amazing – which takes the visitor through the mass burial site and the stories behind it. I was transported back in time for about an hour or so.

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One of the many mass burial sites in Choeung Ek. You can still spot bone fragments and cloth – possibly from the clothing of the buried – here.

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Remembrance bands left by visitors around one of the mass burial sites.

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Can you actually believe that the executioners of the Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime actually held children by their legs and slammed them against this tree? They were killed, of course. I actually shed a tear when I going through the audio commentary and saw this tree.

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The remembrance stupa which housed many of the retrieved skulls and bone fragments. Most of them had fractures in them – which suggested they used some very brutal force on the skull to kill the victim. Out of respect to the deceased, I didn’t take any photos of the skulls.

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Headed back to town and visited the Royal Palace.

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The Royal Guard at the Royal Palace ain’t like those in Buckingham. This guy was standing sloppily and texting on his mobile phone. His partner on the other side was watching a video on his mobile phone.

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One of the beautifully decorated halls within the Royal Palace compound.

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I loved the manicured plants within the Royal Palace compound.

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Another view of the neatly trimmed plants in the palace compound.

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Dinner at a restaurant called Romdeng. It was a recommendation from a hotel staff. I ordered the fish amok and a young coconut.
 

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sgBikerBoy

sgBikerBoy.com
May 30, 2016
103
29
28
Singapore
www.sgBikerBoy.com
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 35
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 35

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25 July 2016, Monday. The nice folks at the Bajaj Phnom Penh dealership requested and arrange for a reporter from Sabay to interview me. They were curious about my multi-country travel with my Bajaj Pulsar 200NS. And so I had a nice chat with the senior news reporter from Sabay in the morning. Not actually sure if my travel story is sufficiently newsworthy though. LOL!

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I’m heading to Kampot and the Bokor Mountains!

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sgBikerBoy is all geared up and ready to go!

I reached Kampot around 3pm. And by the time I got a room, it was kinda late for me to head to the Bokor Mountains. Probably tomorrow instead. So I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering around town.

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Some cities have monuments of great people. Some have architecturally beautiful monuments to mark the centre of the city or town. Kampot has a huge durian in the centre of a roundabout in the middle of the town. I think I like Kampot already!

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The old bridge of Kampot. Presently unused. But I saw people climbing through he barrier and walking across the closed bridge.

Kampot is known for their salt and salt fields. Water from the sea is let into the fields, and then blocked out. When the water evaporates, salt crystals remain and are harvested. Iodine is then added to the salt before being packaged and sold.

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My Pulsar 200NS against the salt fields of Kampot.

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The salt fields of Kampot.

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A salt storage facility overflowing with salt.

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A paddy field during sunset.

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Mud wading buffalos.

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Sunset in Kampot.

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Another sunset paddy field.

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Goodbye sun. See you tomorrow.
 

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sgBikerBoy

sgBikerBoy.com
May 30, 2016
103
29
28
Singapore
www.sgBikerBoy.com
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 36
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 36
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26 July 2016, Tuesday. At the recommendation from an anonymous Pulsarian, I headed to the Bokor Mountain in Kampot this morning. I left early, really early, as the plan was to head back into the town of Kampot before travelling back to Phnom Penh today. Because the only route to Siem Reap – my next destination – was really through Phnom Penh.

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Bokor Mountain in Kampot is somewhat out of the way. That’s why some travellers may choose to bypass it and head straight to the more famous cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

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Arriving Bokor Mountain Resort entrance before 7am. Entrance fee for motorcycles is 2,000 Riels, or about USD50cents.

The roads leading up to Bokor Mountain was excellent! Smooth rubberised asphalt with clear road markings. No potholes, no gravel, no sand, no mud. Pure pleasure! At about 1,000m above sea level, the air up in Bokor Mountain was refreshingly cool!

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Beautiful roads up to Bokor Mountain.

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As Cambodia is geographically very flat with few highlands, I think I can almost see the whole of Cambodia from up here! Oh, and for the first time in quite a while, I saw the sea!

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Abandoned dilapidated buildings like this pepper Bokor Mountains. They are not cordoned off and visitors are free to roam inside.

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This one looks like it was once a hut.

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I’m not sure if the buildings here were uncompleted, previously plundered, or just plain old. The walls looked like there was something on it previously and was simply torn down / apart.

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Abandoned buildings + free to roam = perfect canvass for the graffiti artists!

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…and some of the more amateurish works of graffiti art.

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This one looked like it’s got some interesting carvings on it’s roof.

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I’m not sure if this is a statue of Buddha. If so, it must be one of the most cartoonish depictions of him. I like the colours though!

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Bokor Highland Resort and the casino just beside it. At approximately 1,000m above sea level, this place is sometimes cloud covered and foggy. Kinda reminds me of Genting Highlands Resort in Malaysia.

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More ruins in Bokor Mountain. I suspect this one used to be a nice toilet or bath shed in its heyday.

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An old catholic church sits on the hilltop. The cloud was coming in and it was turning foggy. I didn’t get very good pictures.

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The old catholic church of Bokor Mountain.

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Unsurprisingly, like many seemingly-abandoned places of worship, the inside of the catholic church is still being minimally maintained.

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The abandoned old French casino. I walked in and it was eerie. In fact, the whole place in Bokor Mountain has an eerie chill to it and makes for the perfect site to shoot a horror film.

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An old colonial building. I actually turned around and came back here to take this shot. When I first arrived, it was so foggy that I couldn’t see 50m ahead of me. Thankfully, the fog cleared after awhile.

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The stream leading to Popokvil waterfall in Bokor Mountain. I’ve heard that this stream dries up during the dryer months.

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Me and the Popokvil stream. Interestingly, the waters here have a dark brown tint to it. I also noticed some foaming in the waters. I suspect it’s human activity contamination, and not naturally occurring.

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Popokvil waterfall in Bokor Mountain. Notice the water’s brown tint?

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Unlike many waterfalls I’ve visited with pathways that lead to the bottom of the fall, this one’s at the top of the fall. Careful, do not fall.

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Some interesting rock formations by the side of the road. They looked chiseled and very “modular” – Mother Nature’s lego blocks.

I headed back to Phnom Penh in the afternoon, and rode through a section of super duper heavy downpour. It wasn’t just the rain, but the crosswinds were so strong, I was almost sideswiped. So I took cover in a nearby gas station and waited for the rain to pass.

While waiting at the gas station, I was phone-surfing and learnt that my travel story has been published on one of Cambodia's leading online news portal, Sabay.com! Here's the link:


Got back into Phnom Penh and went to the Bajaj dealership. A plastic faceplate on my Pulsar 200NS was lightly scratched and I wanted it replaced. I would have either done it in Singapore or here. Knowing that I would have to return to Phnom Penh anyway, I ordered the part from them the day before and they had to bring it in from their warehouse. Coincidentally, some Bajaj corporate guys from HQ happen to be visiting Phnom Penh’s dealership outlet. I had a real good chat with Parth, the head of sales (and I think general manager) of the Phnom Penh’s Bajaj dealership – basically, the Big Boss there.

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The Bajaj HQ India team in Phnom Penh!

Curiously, a Malaysian-Cambodian contacted me when he read about my travels on Cambodia’s news portal Sabay.com. He works for an NGO in Cambodia and helps the villagers in the poorer regions out by building water wells. I’ve learnt that each village well costs somewhere in the region of USD2,500 to USD3,000 to build, and provides clean drinking water to the underprivileged areas. As the Cambodian government has very limited funding, the NGO’s are always looking for sponsors to help lift the rural regions. So if you’re keen to contribute, you can contact Amir here.

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Meeting with Amir who works for an NGO in Phnom Penh.

After some serious travelling so far, I went for a nice massage in the evening. Sorry. No pics. =P
 

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sgBikerBoy

sgBikerBoy.com
May 30, 2016
103
29
28
Singapore
www.sgBikerBoy.com
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 37 to 38
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 37 to 38
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27 July 2016, Wednesday. After breakfast, I set off towards Siem Reap, also known by tourists as the city of Angkor Wat.

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Day 37 route – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

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Except for the stretch between Laos-Cambodia border to Stung Treng, the roads in Cambodia are generally great to travel on. And Cambodia is really flat – you can almost see a 360 degree horizon.

En-route, somewhere near Siem Reap, it started raining heavily. Actually POURING. Thankfully, I managed to take shelter in a roadside eatery before the skies opened. So I was mostly dry.

But when I reached Siem Reap, parts of the city was covered in floodwater up to shin-level high. Seeing the locals driving and riding through the waters, I figured the Pulsar 200NS shouldn’t have any problems doing that too. I did try to stay a distance from the front vehicle, and hugged the right side of the road – when I have to stop, I don’t want to put my feet down INTO the water. The kerb came in very useful to keep my feet dry.

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An opportunist washing his tuk tuk with the rain water.

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Bajaj Pulsar 200NS underbelly exhaust – tested in flood waters almost shin level high! No problem! Power to ride ahead! I felt like riding a motorboat instead of a motorbike for a brief moment. Hahah! Oh man! The kind of road conditions I get to ride through here! Lol!

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Went for a bike wash. The 200NS was getting real filthy. USD1.

Found a nice room at Angkor Pearl hotel along Oum Khun Street for US$25 a night, and got decided to stay for 2 nights in Siem Reap. I went exploring around town in the evening, but was feeling a little exhausted after the long ride, so I decided to get an early night’s rest, and prepared for tomorrow’s long walks.

Nobody comes visiting Siem Reap without a visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park – home of the world-famous and mystical Angkor Wat.

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sgBikerBoy is in Angkor Wat!

Angkor Wat and the surrounding monuments have been heavily documented. And so I will not attempt to describe the ruined temples, monuments, and history of the place (which I probably have either very limited knowledge of, or worse, erroneous information!) What I WILL do, is to describe my experience GETTING THERE and RIDING within the archaeological park.

First, you need tickets to enter the temple grounds. Day passes are US$20, 3-day passes go for US$40 and 7-day passes are US$60. The old ticket office on the main road leading to Angkor Wat is permanently closed. The new ticket office (GPS 13.376592 103.879935) is a somewhat out-of-the-way 4km away. For US$20 a pop, I suspect that they’ve raised enough money very quickly to build a spanking new ticket office. The new office also has a huge parking area to accommodate the buses ferrying tourists to the Angkor park. I bought the 1-day pass – probably the most expensive attraction I’ve paid for in this trip. You need to have your photo taken by a webcam (they all seem to use the Logitech c920 here), and then you’ll get a ticket pass with the valid dates and your photograph printed on it.

As I’ve read conflicting reports about taking a foreign-registered motorcycle into the Angkor Archaeological Park grounds online – some say can, many say cannot; some say it needs to have a Cambodian registration plate; some say it needs to have a Cambodian driver, and even tourists on a Cambodian-registered rental cannot get in; and some say that “big bikes” cannot go in, only “small bikes” can. I tried asking the hotel staff about it, and they too mentioned about the “big bike cannot” and “foreigners cannot” ride inside the park. As there seem to be no consistency in information, I decided to go ahead and take my Pulsar 200NS in (hey! It’s not that strange a bike here – you can find the Pulsar 200NS in Cambodia!) And if I do get turned back, I’ll just hire a tuktuk to take me around.

The first place I searched for clues on the possibility of riding into the park was the ticket office. They seem to have the rules and regulations of park visitors printed on the wall. Proper attire, no spitting, no talking loudly, no destroying of monuments, blah blah blah. Nope! No mention about motorcycles. Okay, some hope there.

To maintain a smaller profile to get around the “only small bikes can enter rule”, I removed my side- and top-boxes. Just me, my Pulsar 200NS, and a haversack on my back to carry water, sunshades, sunscreen, a little snack, and some other essential stuff. Rode up to the archaeological park and hoped for the best.

I was expecting a border control of some sort. There didn’t seem to be any proper border control, except for some sentry posts along the way. All the locals seem to be riding through it without stopping and the border guard was sitting lazily, seemingly uninterested. I thought I heard a whistle blow, way AFTER I’ve crossed that “border”, so I just ignored it and rode on. Hey! If you wanted to stop me, stop me BEFORE the border, and not AFTER. I don’t have eyes behind my back.

First stop, Angkor Wat. Rode up to the parking area and before I could enter, I was stopped by a border guard. This time, he was waving frantically at me, seemingly concerned that I wouldn’t see him.

“Ticket please.”

I whipped out my valid ticket.

“Oh. Okay. You did not stop at the border in front, huh.”

“Well, nobody stopped me there and everyone was moving along.”

“Okay. No problem. Thank you. Please enjoy.” And he handed the ticket back to me. No mention about the bike.

Throughout the day, as I was visiting the various temple sites, I was stopped multiple times to check on my ticket. Trust me, the people here are extremely zealous with ensuring that you have a valid ticket. I think there is a US$100 fine should a foreigner not possess a valid ticket. Cambodians get to visit free.

It seem that as long as I hold a valid ticket, everything was okay. No mention of my bike, ever.

Well, except perhaps once.

As usual, I was stopped and asked for my ticket. After examining my valid ticket, he pointed to my motorcycle, and my heart skipped a beat.

“Very nice motorbike. How much you buy?”

“Oh, a brand new one goes for around USD3,000 in Phnom Penh.” I replied.

He nodded approvingly, smiled, and waved me on as he continued admiring the bike. And for the rest of the day, I’ve always been asked for my ticket and absolutely no mention of the motorcycle.

And because of all the rumours and even DIFFERENT versions of stories of WHY a foreigner cannot ride a (big) motorcycle into the Angkor park, I theorised that these stories have been conjured by local tuktuk drivers to dissuade tourists from exploring the archaeological park on their own instead of using their services. Even my 2 of my hotel staff gave me 2 different stories on separate occasions – foreigners cannot drive or ride into the park, and big bikes cannot go in, only small motorcycles.

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Inside Angkor Wat

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One of the towers in Angkor Wat.

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The near vertical climb of the Bakan tower within Angkor Wat. They limit the number of visitors up there at a single time by issuing passes.

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The view at the top of the Bakan.

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Detail on a stone wall.

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Decorations like this fill the walls of Angkor Wat. Even with modern day laser printers, it would take a considerable amount of time to cover all the walls of Angkor Wat. I cannot imagine the amount of human labour expanded back in those days to achieve these results.

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Temple within the Angkor Wat compound.

There is a “big loop tour” and “small loop tour” around the archaeological park. With my very own transport, needless to say, I did the “big loop”. Over the next few pics, I’ll try to recall as much as possible which temples or sites they were taken from. Because quite honestly, after awhile, they all looked equally beautiful and I started to not keep track of the names of the places and just enjoyed myself.

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Me and some Angkor structure along the way.

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Entrance to Bayon Temple. Obvious restoration works going on to the right side.

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Inside the Bayon Temple, I think.
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I think the 3rd guy from the left has the nicest looking face. The rest are just old. Very, very, very old.

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Baphuon Temple

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Baphuon Temple from the main walkway.

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This place is so ancient that trees were growing around the stone walls.

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Oh, I met these sweet couple from Malta! Like Singapore, Malta is a tiny independent state / country / island – about half the size of Singapore, actually.

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These 3 trees seem like they were previously cut down but were really determined to live on! The three trees survivors – truly inspirational!

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A monument in Angkor Archaeological Park.

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Another stone wall-hugging tree.

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That’s me!

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Walkways like this with decreasingly smaller doorways leading into the centre of the temples are common here. They’re intentionally built this way to force visitors to bow as they approach.

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Not just a wall-hugger, but a ROOF-hugger tree!

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It just awes me to think that this tree started off as a tiny plant.

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This tree owns the entrance doorway. Pay toll please.

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This is not my first visit to the Angkor park. I was here in 2007 and remembered the place quite differently. There are certainly ALOT more tourists now. In fact, Angkor Wat itself was swarmed by tourists when I visited in the morning. And definitely alot more restoration works going on – which is a good thing. I recall that back in 2007, tourists were allowed to climb up most of the monuments (at their own risk, of course) via the original stone slabs steps. No hand rails. Today, many of these original stone slabs have been overlaid with wooden plank steps and metal handrails – possibly in attempt to preserve the original stone structures and also provide an additional layer of safety for the visiting tourists.

Hello again, and goodbye, Angkor Wat.
 

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sgBikerBoy

sgBikerBoy.com
May 30, 2016
103
29
28
Singapore
www.sgBikerBoy.com
The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 39 to 40
http://sgbikerboy.com/2016/07/30/the-sgbikerboy-2…rip-day-39-to-40/
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29 July 2016, Friday. After breakfast, I spent the morning in Siem Reap wandering around town. I’m not quite a shopping person, so last night’s walk along the night market didn’t quite excite me. I’ve been away for more than a month now, and it was about time I got myself a haircut, lest I start turning into Tarzan or Robinson Crusoe.

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Got myself a haircut at a nearby barber. USD2.

Rather reluctantly, I left Siem Reap and headed to Poipet – the Cambodian-side town of the Cambodia-Thailand border. My GPS tells me that I should reach Poipet at approximately 2pm, and I was still deciding if I should put up the night at Poipet or if I should just head over to the Thailand border town of Aranyaprathet. If you google the Poipet-Aranyaprathet or the Poipet-Klongluk border (same thing – Aranyaprathet being the nearest Thai town to the border, and Klongluk’s the name of the Thai border itself), you’d realise that it’s infamous for border corruption and basically a overland traveller’s nightmare.

And when I reached Poipet, I really didn’t have to decide. The skies opened, and started pouring. So I just got myself a room for USD11 and stayed for the night. Knowing that this would be the last day in Cambodia, I tried to expend the remaining Riel I had with me. Funny though, almost everything in this town is quoted either in Thai Baht or US Dollar. And when asked for the equivalent in Riel, most merchants have to take out a calculator to compute the amount. The Cambodians seem to hate their very own currency.

There’s really nothing much to do in Poipet. Kinda reminds me of Stung Treng, but even quieter. I don’t see any tourists around. And even if so, Poipet would likely just be a stopover before heading to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, or crossing into Thailand – definitely not a destination of choice in itself. I’ve read that Poipet is like the rest of Cambodia time-travelled back 20 years ago.

POIPET – KLONGLUK BORDER CROSSING (CAMBODIA – THAILAND)

30 July 2016, Saturday. The next morning, I headed to the Cambodia border control with trepidation. Is this border crossing gonna be smooth? Am I gonna run into any Customs issues? (Remember, I had a wee little trouble with Customs entering Cambodia.)

I arrived at the Poipet immigration control at around 0740h. The place seem crowded – not with tourists, but with locals. I think the immigration office is somewhat new, as I’ve read that it used to be a tiny hut. It’s now a proper building with multiple (I recall 2 or 3) counters opened. I joined the queue and didn’t have to wait long. Presented my passport, they took a picture of me (Logitech c920 webcam, again), and had all 10 of my fingerprints taken (electronically, not inked.) My passport was stamped, and swiftly returned to me. No fees asked.

Really? I smiled to myself.

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The Poipet immigration control. Roadworks is still going on.

After immigration, I proceeded towards the border control. The locals in their scooters were just zooming past the border control. I slowed down (as I always do at border controls), and was pulled to the side by the border control officer. He asked for my passport, and I showed it to him. He noted the exit stamp and waved me on. No fees asked.

As I moved on, I was looking out for the Cambodian customs control – hoping that I wouldn’t have any issues with my bike. I didn’t spot any customs control, and before I realised it, I was joining the immigration queue on the Thailand side.

Really?

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Leaving Cambodia. The distinct Khmer / Ankor styled gateway.

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Joining the Thailand immigration queue. Notice the border building has a very distinct Thai-style to it – lots of gold and the King’s picture on it.

When I reached the Thai immigration border, the immigration officer seem to be at a loss as to what to do. I suspect that the majority of the overland travellers on their own vehicles are either Thai or Cambodians. Very few international vehicle traffic. After scrambling for awhile (and I waited 20 minutes), they gave me the TM2 (Information of Conveyance) and TM4 (Crew List) forms to fill. I filled them up and returned it to the immigration officer. Got my passport stamped, and returned to me. 10 baht fee (USD0.30) – which I suspect is the official fee as I noticed every local on a scooter passing through the border also paid the same amount. Obviously, I didn’t ask for a receipt.

Next stop, Thailand customs control. I handed my vehicle log card to the customs officer. She took it and keyed something into her computer. I think the Thai customs have a computerised system, and since I’ve been through Thailand before, they seem to have my records. And before long, the customs temporary import permit was printed. I signed on it and a carbon copy was given to me. No fees asked.

Total cost of border crossing – 10 THB.

Really, really?

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Goodbye, Cambodia. Hello again, Thailand!

Immediately after crossing into Thailand, I noticed a pretty huge wealth disparity between the two sides. Thailand, being the richer neighbour, is so much more developed and has better roads.

Oh, and I’ve got to start getting used to riding on the LEFT side of the road again.

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Star Plaza in Aranyaprathet, Thailand. I haven’t seen malls like this in quite a long while!

After spending some weeks in Laos and Cambodia, where things are just a little less developed, I had a sudden yearn for some urban treatment. I didn’t want to head into Bangkok. First, I’ve been to Bangkok several times (always flew in though). And next, I’ve always hated riding into big cities of developing nations – the experience in Phnom Penh and Vientiane has been more than enough. So, instead, I headed to….

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Pattaya!

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Siem Reap – Poipet – Pattaya.

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Lunch and some urban treatment. Kinda reminds me that I’m a city boy after all.

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Strolling down Pattaya beach in the evening. Haven’t seen a beach in quite a while.

Sawadeekup.
 

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