Making our way through Cambodia
Feb 7, 2011
|306 days of travel
162 days on the bike
9600KM: Total riden as of Feb 9th
800km: Cambodia (so far)
We had ridden 1200km since exiting China and time was running out on our 30 day Laos visa. We had three days to ride the 400km to the border OR we could hop a bus. Since leaving the hills of northern Laos, the riding days had become long and hot with scenery remaining the same day after day. After nearly 6 months of riding in the mountains and hills of northern India, Southern China and northern Laos, we thought we were ready for some flat riding. It turns out that the hard days of climbing, scenery from above it all and the people and villages of higher areas are what attract us to bike travel. Though the terrain has become flatter and less dynamic, the people never fail to intrigue us. To break up the long days of the flat roads in southern Laos and northern Cambodia, we’ve been taking as many side roads as possible which lead us through amazing villages and waterways along the Mekong River, down impossibly dusty roads that coated us from head to toe each day and allow us to meet people who amaze us at water stops in the middle of nowhere. Tough days of being lost on bad roads in the heat are redeemed by a break in a small village where Jen, the local people and I can sit, stare, smile and laugh at/with each other. These interactions are what energizes us and keeps us looking for what we consider a genuine experience; one that’s not specifically created for visitors. It’s a great moment when the tiny old woman from the village stands very close, stares you in the eye and says something while cracking a huge smile. It’s a time when it’s ok and comfortable for both sides to be close, open and not know what is being said with words. The crowd gathers, we all interact for a time and we leave feeling like our day’s been made. As we travel through these different cultures I feel like the people we meet are enjoying the interactions as much as we are- both sides are looking and being looked at…. perfect.
Since it’s always easier to throw a leg over the bike than hassle with the bus, we spent the last three days in Laos riding an average of 140km/7 ½ hours a day with our longest clocking in at 176km which brought us to the Cambodian border on Jan 23rd.
Cambodia is on fire. Not as in a booming economy or great karaoke joints but literally on fire. We crossed the border and were met by grass/woodland fires that would smoke us out and dampen the scenery for weeks to come. The scenery is dry, charred and flat but the people are incredible. We rode along the Mekong River as much as possible and stopped in tiny villages for deep fried bananas, pressed sugar cane drinks, iced coffee (yum) and sticky rice and beans cooked in bamboo. There is an elaborately decorated Wat/temple for each small village so we’d ride by one every 2-4km and to top it off there are great Muslim communities sprinkled in between filled with friendly “hellos”. After 800km or riding and a few days visit to the temples of Angkor around Siem Reap, we are planning our route to Thailand. Hmmm, south along the beaches of Cambodia or directly to the beaches of Thailand??? Need to decide in the next few hours so that’s all for now.