Short 3 day trip to and through Cambodia January 2010

Bert on the bike

Oct 5, 2007
It was almost 2 years ago that we were last time in Cambodia, so it was more than time to go there again. Muzza and myself had a day or 2 to spare so we decided to make a short trip to see some of the places and temples we hadn’t seen yet.

First day (402 km)

We left Bangkok at first light (06:15 hours) on our way to the border.


Muzza had his Dtracker with him on which he had just fitted Pirelli’s MT-60s rather than the stock street IRCs, My 800 GS comes standard with Pirelli scorpions trail tires which were rated as a 70/30 tyre so it would be interesting to see how they did.


After a smooth drive with breakfast and fuel stops we reached the border at 10:15 with Muzza thrashing the tits of his D tracker while I leisurely sat on the GS. What a difference the extra 550cc and 60 hp difference makes.


The Thai side of the border went smoothly with the border officers trying to help, after this getting the visa’s which took around 15 minutes and then through the Cambodian immigration. This took some time since the officers were busy with a lot of things besides stamping passports.

With reference to another posting in this section we were told after immigration to go to customs with our Thai bikes. We said off course “yes sir” and did the same as 3 times before, just drive past the customs office and do not bother. This time like all previous we did not have any problems. Suggestion would be not even to try to get the customs papers since nobody cares.

Then it is on our way to Siem Reap over what was before an unpaved road. What used to be a challenging road at best and a right out struggle depending on the season, is now a nice 2 lane wide tarmac road, all the way from the border until Siem Reap. Although it is better for Cambodian tourism it is not good for the dirt bike drivers. The road is now simply boring however any street bike rider should have no concerns about a quick run to Siem Reap now.




After lunch in Sisophon and with the road being too easy we started to make pictures of the bikes and other road users to entertain ourselves. The fields were all yellow and dry with the rice being harvested already. As you can see from the pictures there is a wide variety of road users.








Old bridge at Sisophon


Chicken wings (still alive but not for long)


Local pick up taxi


Halfway there are the stone carving shops. There used to be only 3 or 4, now with the increase in tourism there are 12 or 14.




15 km before Siem Reap we decide that we had to see some dirt road that day and in Puok we took a left turn on to a dirt road which ends up with a 25 km loop at Angkor Wat. This was a much more interesting way to arrive at Angkor via some nice dirt roads which we drove at high speed and some area’s with sand and pot holes.




We ended up at Siem Reap and found a place at the old center in the Golden Temple Hotel (single room 15 dollar). After visiting our usual restaurant (Red Piano) we both agreed that is was nice to be back and the last part of the driving on the dirt made us look forward to tomorrow when more dirt would follow.

Second day (339 km)

After a good night sleep we left at 08:00. The first destination was Trapeang Thmar reservoir which was dug by during the Khmer empire and which was once more dug out during the Khmer Rouge rule. The last time it was dug out by hand by all the political prisoners and thousands died in the process.

The route took back westwards 67 km out of Siem Reap where there is a statue of a weaving woman on the crossing.


From there it is around 30 km to the north over dirt roads. The road had a lot of potholes and patches of soft white sand, causing a lot of dust. Since we were looking for dirt road it was very enjoyable (more so on the GS and less soon the D tracker with its limited suspension).



This is a place where it appears almost no tourist ever visits and we had a lot attention from the local population. The reservoir is huge and it is not hard to imagine that many have died while digging it out by hand.




Here is a local boat


And the local bridge


After visiting the reservoir we made a dash back to the main road and on the Sisophon. From there it was northwards 65 km from Sisophon you can find the Banteay Chhmar temple complex. The Bayon is one of the most well known temples in Siem Reap with the famous faces carved on 4 sides of the pagoda’s. Not many people know that there are actually 3 temples which have these faces. The bayon is the most famous. There is a temple in Phrea Kahn (east of Siem reap in the middle of the jungle, see previous trip reports) and finally there is the Ta Prohm Temple next to Banteay Chhmar which also has these faces. Muzza and myself already visited the Bayon and Phrea Khan so this was the last on the list.

As for the road from Sispohon to there, well after reaching Sisophon we went north on the road number 56 and some 5 km from the main road the road became dirt road.



However this was not a nice dirt road with sand and pothole but it was a wash board with a 25 cm sand strip on the side where the local population drove their bicycle, motorcycle, donkey car, walked, etc. So to make some speed you could not really use that. 65 kilometer of wash board was not easy. It was so bad that one of my panniers came off and ended in a ditch.


But after 65 kilometer and some directions of the local population we reached our target, the third and final khmer temple which have faces carved on 4 sides, Ta Phrom.



By visiting this temple we have seen all three. After walking around the temple some local lads volunteered themselves to be our guides around Banteay Chhmar (after studying our guide book).


It is a bit like Beang Melea in that there is still a lot of trees growing up between the stones . We were the only tourists there at the time although I think there had been about 5 people before us that day, a bit different from Angor Wat.



The advantage of it being remote and not developed yet is that you can take your motorbike into the complex and save your legs.



We were met by a local monk who spoke Thai and was very interested in showing us around together with some local youth who wanted to speak English. They first showed us around the outside where beautiful wall carvings can be seen.



This is the temple which is famous for the fact that some years ago heavy lifting equipment and big trucks from Thailand came in to the temple complex and took away large amounts of carvings including whole wall segments some of it recovered at the border and some of it not as can be seen from the missing part on the picture below.


Within the walls the ruins are covered with vegetation. Also here we were given a tour by the monk and his friends. Some galleries are still standing and when wandering around you know it must have been very impressive by any human being when all of this was in full glory.





We had to leave about 16:00 since we wanted to spend the night in Battambang. We took the washboard at high speed and left Sisophong just after 17:00. The road to Batambang was very busy with anything that moves. Trucks and cars wanted to proof that they were the strongest and tried to annoy you, frighten you or drive you off the road. That combined with people and animals running over the road just in front of you and motorcycles, kubota’s and donkey cars cutting in just in front of you made this one of the craziest drives I ever did (and I am used to bkk traffic). Madness, pure madness. We arrived in Battambang save and found a place at the Golden Land hotel on the east side of the river which had good parking round the back for the bikes (13 US$ per night, room with aircon).

Dinner was not much and being too tired to visit one of the many watering holes with and without ladies we called it an early night.

Day3, 342 km

The third day was the day to return to Bangkok. We left at eight and the traffic was quieter then the day before, although there were enough drives and vehicles playing chicken , which appears to be the main Cambodian pass time, to make the drive interesting.



When coming in to Sisophon we saw a (repair) shop with 12-15 XR’s and Baja’s, so if you need to get your XR repaired in Sisophon that might be a good location (approx 300 meter before reaching Vishnu status coming in to Sisophon from Battambang)


Vishnu statue

Ate breakfast in Sisophon and then on the way to the border, passing the sausage sales places.


Border was easy and in 30 minutes we were through and back in Thailand. We took a final stop some 70 km inside Thailand at a coffee shop


and then it was 150 km to BKK. At 14:15 we were back home. Short but nice trip with some new things we have seen again. We are already talking about the route for the next trip to Cambodia and its very friendly people.


Oct 14, 2005
Thanks for a glimpse of Cambodia. The first set of photos really reminded me of Issan. That sure changed with the temples