Friday, May 30, 2014

Cambodia 2. PP to Siem Reap to Laos.

Feb 26. Phom Penh to Sen Monorom. 372 km.
Sen Monorom is in the mountains near the Vietnam border. Research showed it was a beautiful little town with some nice tracks. Tracks that would bring you into VN if you were not careful. Leaving PP was better this time because we went east across the Mekong river quickly. The 3 main roads leaving PP run north, south and west. The road we were on had construction and not much traffic. I find that freshly graded wet gravel is often better than the crappy old broken up pavement. Even if there are potholes, you can usually make a smooth ride by avoiding them. For a couple hundred km we were alternating between rice patties and small villages. My E light came on and I pulled into the next gas station. To our surprise there were people setting up a tent for a wedding in the lot. They signed us to go through so we rode under the tent between tables and chairs to the pump where an attendant filled us up. I wonder if we would have been able to get fuel if the wedding party was happening? The last 100 km into Sen Monorom brought a fun twisty road through some hilly terrain. In Cambodia it seems like logging is everywhere. When you hit the areas where the trees are gone there is no shade, it is dry and it is hot. When the road goes back into undisturbed forest, it seems the temperature drops 20 degrees (f). We were not sure what Sen Monorom would have for hospitality but we got a pretty nice room in a clean guest house for about $12. We ate dinner at another guest house/restaurant owned by a guy from Australia and his Cambodian girlfriend.

Some sort of large monument

Not much to see in the hills. Burned trees and dry farmland. 
Feb 27.Sen Monorom to Ban Lung. 231 km.
We ate breakfast at the same place we had dinner the night before. There were some other foreigners there with 2 white trucks marked “USAid” on the side. I asked them what it was. USAid is where the US tax dollars go to help in places like Cambodia. These guys were trying to help with conservation. I said “Here? Good luck!”. They laughed and said “yeah.. its hard.” About 35 km from town there was a waterfall. We soon realizes every chance to make money off a tourist is being done. This included charging you a couple bucks at each and every waterfall in the whole country. The locals get in free of course. They bath and have there picnics. The waterfall was beautiful but there is trash everywhere. You can watch the locals drop a bag or bottle and not think twice. Event though 10 meters away is a trash bin. This is how most of south east Asia is. They look at me funny when I pick up trash. My favorite thing to do is to hand it back to them when I see someone drop trash. “Excuse me sir, you dropped this” The road from Sen Monorom to Ban Lung used to be called “the death road”. It was just a basic track and if something happened to you, you would probably die. Now there is construction most of the way linking the 2 towns. The road varied from amazing graded 100 km/h gravel to shit silt beds hiding rocks the size of my head. The whole road only took us about 3 ½ hours which was pretty good considering how often we stopped to rest our butts. Lalo had a $10 room reserved for us at a nice hotel on a lake outside of town. When we got there, he was out on his XR250 exploring. Lalo bought basically every beer brewed in Cambodia and we had a sampling while we talked about the road and got caught up. He told us about a few places to go in Laos and and we shared some Cambodia tips. Later we went to eat next to a lake.


This bridge was caving in.. so it was blocked.. but we were still able to go past. 

We thought we would have to ferry across this river. The sign said "this bridge is building do not use". We figured it was safe.. enough. 

Nearly every Cambodian beer. I liked ABC the best. 


Not a frog. it used to have a tail :(
Feb 28. Waterfall chasing in Ban Lung. 39 km.
Lalo left in the morning and we decided to stay another day. We chased down 2 waterfalls in the area and again it was kind of the same think. Beautiful waterfall but easy to find trash everywhere. I've been thinking a lot how you could change peoples minds in countries like these. The visibility is usually always shit because they are burning brush, garbage, grass and trees. People throw trash on the street, the ditch or the river. They cut down ALL the trees. There is no selective harvest when logging. I think it will get worse before it gets any better.

No incense? Cigs will work. 

Jan. 1. Ban Lung to Siem Reap. 470 km.
Before we left town, we found a scooter shop that had a new seat foam for a honda scooter with a single seat. It cost us $4 and now her butt would be happy. It also sat her up about 4 inches off the seat so she could see a little better. We didn't bother to cover it and try to modify my seat. Mostly because I wasn't about to cut my leather Renezco Racing seat and let a scooter mechanic in BFC sew it back together. It was quick 100 km from Ban Lung to Stueng Traeng where we arrived just in time to catch a ferry across the Mekong river. By this point I have lost track of how many times I've crossed the Mekong. This was the first time on a ferry though. You only have to pay on one side so if you are going west, you pay when you get off. The gravel road for the next hundred or so km was nicely graded and fast. We stopped a place called Koh Ker. This was briefly the capital of the Khmer empire from 928–944 AD. There are quite a few temples but you can only see about a dozen of them. Once you see a few of the smaller ones though, they all look the same. The main temple is a 36 meter high pyramid which you can climb to the top. When we climbed to the top, 2 Khmer kids climbed up with us. They didn't ask for money, candy or anything. They were just kid having fun.The view from the top was impressive but again, the visibility was horrible. We only saw 2 other tourist the whole time we were there so that was quite nice. This would defiantly change in Angkor. We hit the main road Cambodia #6 about 30 km south of South of Siem Reap just as the sun was setting. It was horrible getting into town. Crazy buses and traffic. We found a hotel and had a nice dinner close to the hotel. Siem Reap made Phnom Penh look quite. We were no longer in a sleepy village in the jungle.

Having a wedding? just block 1/2 the road.. No problem :)

Riding a ferry across the Mekong.

So that's how they do it.

Just a little sweaty. 

Jan 2 and 3. Siem Reap.
Durring breakfast we were trying to decide how to get to the different temples. She suggested we rent bikes so we got a couple of decent Giant mountain bikes for $5 for the day. We went around the outer loop and looked at some of the small temples. I was having a good time on the bike but our butts were getting sore and it was quite hot. The dude selling coconut ice cream bars was a life saver. That might have been the best ice cream of my life. I'll let the pictures speak. These places are pretty crazy. We would leave Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom for the next day.

Fishing or something

No fishing with electricity

Some say the holes were large jewels back in the day. 

Dirty, dirty feet. 

Our iron steeds for the day
5:00 alarm knocked us from slumber. We had the bright idea to see Angkor Wat during sunrise. So did about 5000 other people. We rode up on the 690 to see dozens of buses dropping off groups of tourist. We are not special. A motorcycle does not give you an advantage here. After the sunrise, much of the people left. We explored Angkor Wat and we were back at the hotel by 9:30 to get the complementary breakfast. We had a lazy day inside until about 3:30 when we got a tuktuk to the Bayon temple. This one is probably my favorite and should be saved for last. Most of the temples are Hindu but this one is one of the few that is Budist. There are a couple hundred faces on about 40 towers. No mater where it goes, you feel like you are being watched. In the evening we went to a show/dinner with Khmer traditional dance. This is the type of thing I normally wound not have gone to.. but I could see she wanted to. After going, I can say I am glad I did. It was interesting. That evening we talked and decided we were both ready to leave Cambodia behind.

Jan 4. Siem Reap to Sra Aem. 243 km.
There is a landmine museum about 20 km north of Seam Reap. It is a must go in Cambodia. We had the pleasure of a guided tour by an American guy who has known Aki Ra for about 10 years or so. The story is that Aki Ra was taken as a child by the Khamer Rouge army. He and other children were forced to lay thousands of landmines thourghout the country. He was later captured by the Vietnam army and he defected to them. He layed more mines for the VN army until the end of the fighting. He went back to his home village and started clearing land mines with a stick and a pair of pliers. He had about 20,000 disarmed landmines in his house in Siem Reap when the Cambodian Government went in and said he needed to stop. With the help of some forien donations, they made an official museum, school and housing for children in the current location. Aki Ra went to UN mine removal training and when he was done, the teachers said Aki should be teaching the class. He recognized as a CNN HERO. To this day he has cleared over 50,000 landmines. Aki's team is now 30 strong and they are all Cambodian. The school has about 20 kids right now, some of them are disfigured from landmine explosions and some are kids who wouldn't have any other opourtunity.
Landmime Museum Website here.
About Aki Ra here.
Donate here.

I donated $20 when I was at the museum. If any of you were wondering how to help me because you like my thread, please donate to this cause. This is one organisation I can acutally get behind.

We went north toward the Priah Vihear temple. It sits high on a mountain on the Thai boarder. Its a fun ride to get to it. Up on top you are met with gun bunkers and many Cambodian troops. They are all looking across the border at Thailand. On the other side you see bunkers hidden among the trees looking back. It was about 5 in the evening and we wanted to see the sunset from up on top but the military police/troops/guys with guns said we couldn't. White people are not allowed after 5. Maybe we are to easy to see? We went back down and road into town to find a hotel.

Our awesome tour guide. 

A leg made from a recoiless artillery shell, wood and a tire. 

Some sort of root. They dry this on the side of the road for eating later. 

Don't go there.

Doesn't look friendly.

Jan 5. Sra Aem to Stung Treng. 284 km.
Since we didn't get to see the temple, we went back to Priah Vihear. After seeing all the temples in Angkor, we were not so impressed. However, if this is the first Khmer temple you have ever set eyes on, it would be very impressive. Its funny how quick you take things for granted. After the temple we rode pretty quickly to the Mekong river and crossed the same ferry as we did 5 days earlier. We spend about an hour looking for a hotel with AC. It was worth it.
Someone needs to help this guy :(

That road is Thailand. They have bunkers and guns pointing back at the Cambodians. 

A bunker in the cliff near the temple. 

A shrine made from an old gun turret made with stones from an accent temple. 

Got wood?

Nice truck.

Jan 6. Resting in Stung Treng
When we woke up in the morning, we decided to hang out another day. Her Cambodian Visa still had a few days so we weren't in a huge rush. I got my hair cut and we did a whole lot of nothing. In the morning we would leave Cambodia behind.

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