One small thing that we forgot to include in the last blog was that just coming into Phnom Penh we passed 25,000km on our journey!
We have noticed that some of our equipment and clothing is looking a bit worn and our bikes are in need of a service, a new back tyre each and a few other bits and bobs. We hope to get this all done in Bangkok in about a weeks time. However, all-in-all, we’re rather pleased with our progress!
Friday 30 August 19 – Phnom Penh to Skun – 75km
We are on our way to Siem Reap where Angkor Wat, the home of the most visited archeological site in South East Asia, is. It’ll take a few days to get there and if today was anything to go by it won’t be the most exciting ride and we will get wet! Just to proved that not all of our pictures come with blue skies, this is what today was like….
The dry dust, sand and gravel which was blasting our legs every time a truck went past on the way into Phnom Penh was now a muddy mess at the side of the road. It still managed to stick to our legs and feet, which meant having a shower later on was pure bliss!
Now that we know a bit more about Cambodia’s recent past it was thought-provoking to pass fields that 40-45 years ago would likely have had townspeople working in them. In his bid to construct an agricultural based society Pol Pot emptied the cities of people and sent them to work in the country. These were people who had no idea how to farm, which is why, sadly, much of the crop failed and people starved or died of disease.
As if to prove that our kit is getting worn at the end of the day I had to change the rear brake pads on my bike!
Saturday 31 August 19 – Skun to Krong Stueng Saen – 94km
Though the cycling today couldn’t be described as the most exciting or scenic it turned out to be a rather enjoyable ‘hello-a-thon’! Just about every person we saw at the side of the road waved excitedly and said hello – it was great! We had permanent smiles on our faces the whole time. Quite often we couldn’t even see the person shouting at us but we still replied and waved in their general direction!
We did pass this magnificent elephant statue in the centre of Skun first thing in the morning our way out of town …..
Last night we were looking online for accommodation in the Krong Stueng Saen area and noticed a few reviews which mentioned the nearby Prasat Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site. We’d never heard of it so after a bit of research we found that it was a temple complex to the north east of the town. It looked interesting so we planned to have a look if we got to destination early enough. As it was we made excellent time and arrived at our accommodation at 11:30am (after cycling 94km!), booked in, showered, ate lunch then ordered a tuk-tuk to take us the 30km to the site.
For something that we didn’t even know existed until 18 hours prior to getting there it turned out to be a bit of a find. 1200-1400 years ago Prasat Sambor Prei Kuk was the regional capital and the seat of numerous kings. It’s a big temple complex dedicated mainly to the Hindu god Shiva, though there are local tribal religious and later Buddhist influences…
Though we didn’t see them all there are apparently 200+ temples on the site, which is set within luscious woodland…
It’s a UNESCO world heritage site though it does look a bit dilapidated and Mother Nature is doing rather well at taking back what is rightfully hers, making it all look a bit ‘Indiana Jones’ in the process…
This temple, in particular, was fantastic as there was a tree growing right over the top of it…
The whole place was all quite magical and we spent a really enjoyable couple of hours looking at it all before getting the tuk tuk back into town. Even the ride to and from the site was well worth it as it took us through some rural areas – really interesting to have a brief taste of country folks’ way of life here.
We were lucky that there was a suitable eating establishment right next door to our accommodation as later there was a massive thunderstorm that went on for the entire evening.
Sunday 1 September 19 – Krong Stueng Saen to Kampong Kdei – 90km
The weather forecast had been for more rain today, but it appeared that the thunderstorm from last night had done a very good job of clearing the air. We were on the road in bright sunshine and though the cycling wasn’t spectacular it certainly wasn’t unpleasant. The ‘hellos’ continued and at one point was it like the sound equivalent of a Mexican Wave as we passed a row of shops and houses at the side of the road.
Though the rain held off the wind certainly didn’t and we battled into it for the best part of 4 hours. I wasn’t on best form in the morning for whatever reason, possible a poor nights sleep, so could really have done without the wind!
Once we arrived at Kampong Kdei, instead of going to find accommodation straight away, which we usually do, we went to look at a bridge. Apparently Spean Praptos bridge was, once upon a time, the longest corbeled stone arch (an architectural term for this type of arch apparently) bridge in the world. It’s also about 900 years old and is one of only a few Khmer era bridges to still be in tact. What is nice is that it’s still being used, for scooters, bikes and pedestrians.
Whilst we were looking around a chap called Pisith started chatting to us and was interested in our journey. Turns out he’s part of the Siem Reap tourist board and wants us to do an interview for their journal when we get there. We had a load of pictures taken and it felt like Pisith almost did an interview there and then. Although we exchanged phone numbers we were unsure whether we’d get to meet up in Siem Reap, but wouldn’t surprise us if we’re in the journal anyway with the photos and the information he got from our short meeting!
Monday 2 September 19 – Kampong Kdei to Siem Reap – 63km
Once again our cycling day wasn’t spectacular, however, that didn’t bother us as the continued cheery support from the people we passed along our route was more than enough to keep us in good spirits! We have passed literally hundred of houses on stilts like the ones below – built like this apparently to not only keep them dry when it floods, but also to keep the snakes, scorpions and other nasty critters out…
We had planned to stay with a WarmShowers host in Siem Reap, but due to a communications faff we ended up booking a guesthouse. We unloaded our bikes and settled in, including our normal routine of soaking our dirty clothes. Not long after, Pisith, the chap we met yesterday, got in touch and said he was coming over.
It was then that a wondrous thing started to happen…after meeting with him near the bridge at Kampong Kdei he had put our pictures and story on Facebook and asked his friends how they might welcome us to Siem Reap. One of his friends agreed to put us up in his hotel (for as long as we liked!) and another to pay for a 3-day ticket each to see Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, which is unbelievably generous! Though we’d already settled into our hotel when Pisith turned up we checked out and followed him to his friends, much superior, hotel a short distance away – and boy was it nice!! It was only just slightly embarrassing to have Pisith put our filthy bags in the back of his car including a black bag with our, still wet, washing in it..!!
We got a great welcome from the staff at the new posh hotel, checked in and made ourselves at home! It is by far the best place we’ve stayed at since Mount Popa back in Myanmar and we feel thoroughly spoilt! We had only initially planned to stay in Siem Reap for 2 nights, but as the hotel had offered us to let us stay as long as we wanted, we decided to make the most of their amazing generosity and make it a 3-night stay.
Pisith then took it upon himself to take us on a private tour of Angkor Wat in his car. This was after the gates had closed and all the tourists had been kicked out! It was was the coolest thing to be behind the barriers in Angkor Wat (probably the most famous monument in South East Asia) where no one else was allowed! Unfortunately the weather Gods weren’t playing ball and it chucked it down with rain…
But it was still an amazing experience.
Pisith wasn’t finished there either as he then took us for a typical Cambodian dinner – rice porridge (rather like Chao in Vietnam) with fish and fermented egg. This was our first experience of fermented egg and we were both a bit worried. However, it turned out to taste a bit like a salty boiled egg with a rather strange, flakey, texture. We both enjoyed it and the rest of the meal.
In other news….
Cake watch is back! Finding decent cakes in South East Asia has been a bit hit and miss to say the least, but Cambodia, rather surprisingly, has plenty of bakeries and so we’ve tasted some local cakes recently. This one has some unidentifiable paste in the centre, which is very nice and our current favourite…
Unfortunately as well as cakes, mozzies are back! Rather bizarrely we have noticed that we go through periods of either being bitten or not. Up until a few days ago we hadn’t been bitten for ages, in fact we can’t remember when we were nibbled last. Now, however, we’ve both been bitten to pieces just in the past few days. Definitely one of the worse parts of travelling.
Comment by flo
flo 6 September 2019 at 1:17 am
I should think you are pleased with your 25000 km effort,well done you two,we are pleased for you two,we are exhausted!
Comment by Nigel
Nigel 8 September 2019 at 1:42 am
Hello Flo, every time we pass a landmark distance we still say ‘how did that happen’! Not far to go now though, perhaps 7-8k km I’m guessing.