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.
This is one of the main roads in Sihanoukville. It looks like it will start raining soon.
Those fellows are going to fix my bike.
The huge statue of two tigers is one of the landmarks in Sihanoukville.
Those guys seem to know what they are going and after ten minutes the bike starts properly again. They charge me three bucks and I give them five.
I met a local student the other day in the market, Keang, who is willing to serve as a guide and show me around. Keang speaks excellent English and Chinese, too. I pick him up and then we head to Ream National Park. I read in the guide books that one can hike in the park or else take a boat. As Keang does not have an opinion we go to find out on the ground what the best options are.
After we ride for about 15 minutes I can see that there is strong rain right in front of me while there is nothing to cover and wait until the rain is over. In fact it looks like there has been a lot of rain recently, very much unlike in the provinces around Phnom Penh, where there are is serious drought in some areas.
So we turn around and ride back to a pagoda we have just passed.
Three elderly ladies who live on the compound of the pagoda …
… and some junior monks.
I spend about five minutes but it does not rain. So I try again. The sky looks just like before and it still seems to rain in the very same place. Not surprisingly, I get into strong rains after very few minutes. I can barely see the road but manage to take the turn to the national road. The rain stops suddenly only a few hundred meters later.
I follow the road for about twenty minutes, pass the airport which however is not in use and the road winds through rural and very green scenery with the sea in the background, easy and pleasant to ride.
At some point the road meets the beach and then follows just along the sea. As we have plenty of time we decide to explore the area in the other direction before following the road to the park. There is some sort of dirt road along the beach in this direction, but it is in a terrible state and difficult to ride. Much better is a ride on the beach and this is what we do. Tracks in the sand show that we are not the first ones to have this idea.
After not even one kilometer we pass a fisherman village and reach this bridge, which is not in good condition.
After only a few kilometer we reach another river but this time there is no bridge at all. The road seems to end here.
So I turn around and head back. This is how the land looks like along the beach.
Some fisherman return from their work when we pass the bridge.
After we get back to the road I follow it for a number of kilometers. Food stalls with hammocks and deckchairs line the beach. There are few customers and those I see are virtually all Cambodian.
I follow the road until we reach a gate behind which there is the Ream Navy Base. The guard indicates that we are not supposed to enter. So I follow a road that leads uphill from here away from the coast and around the Navy Base.
We pass some villages and one pagoda. Occasionally we come across compounds of military facilities, with some huge canons parked outside. Access to those compounds seems free and nobody appears to be around.
This is in one of the barracks. Nobody is around.
I continue following the road along the coastline which initially is paved but later turns into a dirt road with mostly unpopulated, green areas on both sides of it. We follow the road for some time but as we do not know where it is leading I turn around after some kilometers and head back.
The beach is not far from here and I head there, lock the moto and we hike for some time along the shore. Opposite are some islands and once in a while a boat passes but other than that, nobody seems to be around.
We walk for some time but nothing suggests that it is going to become more interesting so we walk back and I go for a short swim. The water is clean and nice but too warm to be refreshing. Then we head back to one of the stretches along the beach where there are food stalls and hammocks.
We order some water and make ourselves comfortable in those hammocks. Not many people are around and most of them appear to be Cambodian tourists.
I spend some time reading. The owner of the shop tells me that it is possible to take a boat and spent the night on the island to be picked up again in the morning. I ask her about the national park but she says it is not possible to access it here, and she does not know where I can do it.
Once in a while a boat leaves or arrives.
I check the tourist guide and find that the headquarters of the park rangers is located close to the airport, only one kilometer after one leaves the national road. So we head back.
Coming from Sihanoukville, this is the intersection where you turn left, leaving the national road and get on the road along the coastline, and to the national park headquarters.
This is the sign on the right hand.
We find the headquarters with a number of park rangers. I learn that boat trips leave only in the morning. There are guided hiking trips of 2 or 4 hours which we can start immediately. Entrance to the park is $4. I opt for the 2 hour trip.
I go with Keang and one of the rangers, who is just about 18 years old. He tells me that he had just finished school and started working for the rangers. His major task is cooking and he is happy with it.
It is pretty hot at this time of the day and the guy walks quite fast, even uphill.
At first we walk through dry land with some bushes and trees and not much that seems to deserve special attention.
We come across this ‘water fall’, nice but also not very impressive. The guide tells me that there is another water fall of about the same size which however is not part of the 2 hour tour.
Then we climb one of the hills.
Over there is the coastline with some island close to it.
The road over there is national road 2 to Sihanoukville.
This is the national park, on the other side of the hill.
We walk down the hill on the other side of it where we find a small pagoda. There is a rock in front of it, with a wooden construction around it. I learn that people are in the process of working this natural rock into a statue of Buddha.
This is the statue of a tiger, also made of natural rock, but much smaller than the Buddha one.
In a long bend we walk back to the headquarters. At one point we come across those kids.
There is also a village and there are some dirt roads which are easy to ride with a moto bike, but I assume this is not the idea of creating a national park.
This is a newly built school, with a Chinese grave in front of it.
This is the airport. The ranger’s headquarter is located just opposite this building.
I spent some time in the headquarters, where there are maps of the park and all kinds of posters with pictures and information about endangered species in the park and other aspects of it. I also agree with them to come here tomorrow morning at eight, to go together to another ranger post at the river to go on the boat trip through the national park.
Then I head back to Sihanoukville.
On the way we pass the junction where a dirt road leads from the national road to Kbal Chhay water falls. As there is still plenty of daylight I decide to visit it.
This is the junction. When you come from Sihanoukville on the national road, you turn left here and follow the red dust road.
Watch out for this sign at the roadside.
This is on the dirt road along the way. It is easy to ride with any means of transportation and there is not much traffic.
We pass the entrance gate, where I am charged 3000 Riel ($0.75) without receiving a ticket before I reach the parking spot. There are some food stalls and a good number of local tourists.
I explore the waterfall for some time. There are very significant amounts of water involved which I learn will increase substantially during the rainy season. This is an attractive place and not least for this reason on the cover page of the ‘Adventure Cambodia’ guide book.
People enjoy taking pictures in front of the fall and some kids are swimming in the small pond at its bottom.
After some time we head back to Sihanoukville. Once we arrive there we ride up one of the mountains, hoping to find a place with a good overview to enjoy sunset. There is some sort of hotel or casino on top, but the view is not as nice as I was hoping.
This is the port.
There is a concrete replica of Angkor Wat. I have seen a similar model on the compound of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
After some time we ride down to the beach, to a place called Snake Island which is however not an island. I hear that there are no snakes but monkeys.
I do not see monkeys either.
Fishing boats are leaving at this time of the day.
I leave and ride to one of two pagodas in town, located on a hill and for this reason called Wat Loeh, or ‘the upper’.
A ceremony with traditional music is taking place inside, but none of the people around can explain to me what it is about.
This monument on the compounds looks in large part similar to the Angkor-style Independence in Phnom Penh, smaller copies of which can be found in various places in Cambodia.
I ride back to the guesthouse and do some reading before going to bed.