Cambodia – Day 1

21 02 2011

‘Fill in this .. quarantine regulations’ we were handed yet another piece of paper by yet another languid Cambodian border official ‘let me guess, $2?’ Liz muttered under her breath ‘$2’ the official demanded. At the Laos-Cambodian border of Dong Kralor we had to weave though a small paddy field of paperwork; every form, every stamp costing another $2, another $2. So far on this trip we have cycled across 11 land boarders and this certainly tops the bill for nefarious overcharging.  A German cycling couple (of course) who we have been cycling with for the past few days refused to pay for the final stamp and after a limp insistence effort by the official they were waved through anyway.

After the genocide of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge social experiment Cambodia has a significantly depleted population. During Pol Pot’s rule approximately a quarter of the population was either killed outright or died of starvation.  His murderous legacy extended beyond his Ubu-esq rule as hundreds of thousands more died of starvation in the subsequent years as Cambodia struggled to relocate all it’s displaced people and to re-plant rice fields abandoned as those forced to work them during his reign left them to try and locate scattered family members.  Not to mention the thousands of Cambodians who have since died as a result of land mine explosions or the thousands who fled the country to take refuge in other countries around the world.  Thus, on our first day in Cambodia we were unsurprised at how few villages we came across.  The brittle dusky landscape runs right up to the road, interrupted only by the occasional landmine warning sign.  The first town we came across was the Mekong hugging Strong Treng. A busy little hub, we landed a room in the Riverside guesthouse (see the LP).

If there is one thing we love as much as cycling along next to a river it is riding a boat on a river; the mighty Mekong has been singing along next to us for the past 500km’s and we have been itching to ride it. It was in Strong Treng that we caught up with our German cycling buddies and set to discussing a cycling blip looming on the morrow. The section of road between Strong Treng and Kratie is a corking 140 km. A big day. Do able if a) we were travelling south to north as the wind would be behind us and b) we didn’t mind cycling in the dark- which we do. We have cycled 140km days before but with temperatures rising to 40C, the humidity chaffingly high, and the hot wind running into us, thus we (gleefully) settled our chances on catching a boat instead.  The Lonely Plant recommended an agent based at the Riverside guesthouse (Mr T) who we approached to try and help; but unfortunately he turned out to be a bit of a scally and so we wasted much of the remains of the day trying to weave round yet another set of Cambodian miscreants. At the end of which we didn’t get a boat and we didn’t get any good advice either.  We grumpily settled on a bus lift to take us part of the way and sadly let go of our Mekong boating dreams L. First impressions of Cambodia? … hmmm.



2 responses

22 02 2011

I rode through Laos last year and ran into 25 Dutch cyclists plus many more ,now if you get to Seim Reap Cambodia find Pub Street and have a feed there also if you go South Thailand there is a place which is Prachap Khiri Khan worth a visit take care and keep smiling.

25 02 2011

It surely is cycling maddness!!! 🙂

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