It is weekend again and I am planning to visit Phnom Udong (Phnum Odongk) with two of my colleagues, Maraille and Lydia. I have been to Udong before and will avoid repeating what I wrote in the other article and rather provide some more pictures.
We have an extensive and late breakfast in Phnom Penh before we leave. We arrange a car with a driver (a Toyota Camry with the steering wheel on the left hand) for $24 both ways. Then we start.
The road is quite busy at this time and there is a lot of traffic in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It is getting better while we are coming closer to Udong.
Today is Thursday and I want to ride back to Phnom Penh in the morning. In fact I want to be in the office in the afternoon. Now that I came to Sihanoukville on national road 4 I want to return via Kampot, which is along national road 3. The guide books suggest that this road is covered with bomb craters which make for a bumpy and time-consuming ride. However, people in the guesthouse told me that the road is ok, so I give it a try. It is the first time that I ride on national road 3 between Sihanoukville and Kampot.
The plan for today is to do the boat trip in Ream National Park (Preah Sihanouk National Park). I agreed yesterday with the park rangers to meet today at 8 in the morning and go together to the place where the boat leaves, which is where the river crosses national road 4, some kilometers outside Sihanoukville. We agreed also that I would pay $20 for the trip. The official price is $25, regardless of how many people go.
The plan for today is to visit Ream National Park and possibly the Kbal Chhay (K’bah Chai) Waterfall just outside town. First I sleep long. When I want to leave the moto does not start. Even with the assistance of several guesthouse staff the engine does not start. I go with a moto taxi to the local big bike mechanic and ask people to join me to fix my bike.
After the major part of my current assignment is done I decide to spend an extended holiday in Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville (Sihanouk Ville, Kampong Som) is where the white beaches and tropical islands are. Sihanoukville is also one of the few places in Cambodia with a high concentration of tourists and this has been among the major reason why I have never been there.
Sihanoukville is about 230km from Phnom Penh. My colleagues strongly advice me to go by bus. Yet I have been looking forward to do this trip by motor bike and decide not to take the bus. It may sound trivial, but during almost one year outside Cambodia, the idea of riding motorbikes in Cambodia became almost the essence of freedom to me. In practice I find it often tiring or boring, sometimes even painful, but in principle I still greatly enjoy riding the bike and opt for it whenever I can. I am also in the privileged situation of having Toby’s bike, so it is not a difficult choice. However, riding the bike gives me also a sense of vulnerability.
There are basically two options to ride to Sihanoukville: on national road 4, which is supposed to be the best road in the country, and on national road 3 through Kampot. I choose the first option, as it is the most time efficient, and because I have been riding on national road 3 to Kampot before, but not on national road 4 beyond Kirirom National Park.
Today is Sunday. I have recently moved and live now in the Apartment of Toby and Katrin, the second time that I have this privilege. In addition, Toby was kind enough to let me ride his motor bike. This has boosted my quality of live enormously and in particular my mobility. I greatly enjoy riding to work and all around in Phnom Penh.
After I was unwell yesterday I want to make up today. The plan is to travel to Takeo (Takaev) Province. All three of my guide books recommend visiting Phnom Da (Phnum Dai), Angkor Borei and the – partly ancient – ‘water canal highways’. The ‘Adventure Cambodia’ guide book in particular praises this trip and recommends visiting Angkor Borei by fast boat from Takeo town. It also says that Angkor Borei town (which is connected by water to Takeo town) may have been the heart of the Funan empire, which is called the “Cradle of Khmer Civilization” by Cambodians. The Funan empire is much older than Angkor and had its heyday between the 1st and 6th centuries and stretched across South Vietnam through Thailand, down through Malaysia and into Indonesia. This sounds all very interesting and I want to give it a try.