We started riding early enough to enjoy the morning's coolness. The road continued to be paved and rather boring. The traffic was minimal, and I occupied myself by counting greater than life images of the King that could be seen from the road. I counted 30 by the time we stopped for a quick breakfast of rice noodle soup, some grey balls and instant coffee with sweet soymilk. We watched a few dogs get up, scratch, roll in the dirt, check out food possibilities around the food stalls, and get into a territorial dispute with the new dog on the scene, teeth and all.
We continued riding until we hit the last town in Thailand, Aranyaprathet, and a mere 6 km from the Cambodian border. There, we enjoyed some lunch, and a sickly sweet local coffee. We took a side road to reach the border. The road ran alongside a local dump, and we passed rows of discarded Buddha shrines off to the side. There were several long lineups leading to the Thai immigration building. One of the lineups was full of people pulling large carts loaded with various goods. Some of them were children. We were told to head inside, and didn't have to stand in a lineup to get stamped out of Thailand. Outside a man lead us through a crowd of young Cambodian men waiting to enter Thailand. He literally pushed them out of the way to let us get through with our bikes. I got a very unpleasant feeling in my gut from it all. We ended up in 'no man's land' - a strip of land that rests between the Thai and Cambodian borders, full of nothing but casinos. Getting our visa was quick and easy, except we didn't like having to pay extra 100BHT charge straight into some corrupt little pocket. A couple hundred meters later we were stamped into Cambodia. The minute we found ourselves on the Cambodian side we could tell we just left Thailand. The road was dusty, mostly dirt and gravel, and there was an incredible amount of garbage and traffic everywhere. We decided to stop for some Vietnamese coffee - what else would you expect in Cambodia? We sat at a small table, and hung out with a little boy who was teaching us some Cambodian phrases. He had an awesome energy about him - our first contact in Cambodia.
As described by Mr. Pumpy, the road from Poipet to Sisophon was dusty and rutty, but all in all, we've seen worse. We did, however, resort to covering our faces with our bandanas as passing trucks made us feel as though we just ate a bowl of sand. Besides all the locals did so (it's strange to ride into a country for the first time and see masks instead of faces). We passed at least three wedding parties, and the music was played loud enough for us to hear it from miles away. In fact, it was somewhat painful to ride up within a short distance of the speakers, feeling as though we might blow an eardrum or two.
We stopped on the side of the dusty road a couple of times to cool down, and drink some lukewarm liquids sold roughly every 10km or so, along with petrol in 2L-plastic bottles. At one of these stops, a young boy in a school uniform chatted us up. He never got off his bicycle, as though he was hoping for a quick getaway in case a need should arise. We offered him some sesame crackers, and he took the entire bag of them (we somehow knew that would happen). A moment later 3 girls showed up on bicycles, and we had no more treats to share. The little boy wasn't about to pull out his sesame crackers regardless of how much we wanted him to. And then they were off. We sat there for a while, watching a dog in the distance not responding to our whistling, as all dogs do in these parts. Sometimes, we like seeing that form of canine independence. Reminded us of Blazee.
We passed many children on bicycles, they all gave us wholehearted smiles, especially when we answered to their questions: how are you? Or: what is your name? They were excited to speak English, and be understood. We rode into Sisophon feeling full of good energy. It was difficult to make out where the town itself began. There seemed to be no town centre, or even a small congregation of buildings that could pass as one. Most of Sisophon followed close to the main road. We were happy to get some food around the corner from where we were staying.