Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear: Beng Mealea, Kor Ker, Kulen, Tbaeng Mean Chey by Motorbike

It is time for an extended weekend trip again. The plan is to ride from Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom today and meet up with Vothear and Sokhom, two friends of mine who are excellent guides for exploring the temples in Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear and Siem Reap.

The plan for tomorrow is to follow National Road 6 towards Siem Reap town for another 100 km or so, passing Stoung and Kouk Thlok Kraom on the way until we reach Dam Daek. From here, we follow the newly upgraded Road 66 to the north for about 30 km, until we reach Prasat Trapeang Noem, close to Beng Mealea (Boeng Mealea), an ancient temple. After visiting the temple we plan to proceed on what is a new road towards the northeast until via Svay Leu to Prasat Kor Ker (Kaoh Kerr, Chok Gargyar, Phnum Dai), another ancient temple, or rather, a complex of dozens of them. From here we continue on a more modest road and via an extensive detour through Trayang to Kulen (Koulen) and finally to Tbaeng Mean Chey (T’beng Meanchey), the provincial capital of Preah Vihear province, where we spend the night. The next day we return to Kampong Thom on Road 64 and from there I continue home to Phnom Penh.

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Preah Vihear Eighths Days: Anlong Veng to Siem Reap. Otdar Mean Chey, Anlong Veng, Pol Potís grave and former residence, Ta Mokís former residence, Banteay Srey

Next day I get up at seven and go to the restaurant again to have breakfast. The plan is to spend some hours around Anlong Veng, to visit the relevant Khmer Rouge places. In the afternoon I want to leave Anlong Veng and ride to Siem Reap provincial capital, which is about 200 km from here.

After breakfast I kick of with the owner of the restaurant. We go with my bike. By now I donít mind taking people on my bike. Everybody does. First we visit the local tourism office. The door is open but nobody is here. We find a name card and I call the guy. I learn that he is in the mountains right now, taking pictures for the provincial department of tourismís homepage. He suggests we ride up the mountain and meet him there.

And this is what we do. Maybe for about 10 km we follow the main road to the north, which is broad and easy to ride. This changes when we reach the bottom of the mountain. Some distances are pretty steep. Others are covered with rocks or sand. However, it is not too steep and I even enjoy the rough road.
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Preah Vihear Seventh Day: Preah Vihear Temples to Anlong Veng

The plan for today is to get up early, visit the temples again and leave to have breakfast at the bottom of the mountain. From here, I have the priviledge of Votheaís company for another hour, before we go separate ways. Vothear will continue to Tbaeng Mean Chey and Kampong Thom. I intend to travel to Anlong Veng, the very last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge. I hope to visit Pol Potís grave and other relevant places today and continue all the way to Siem Reap, before I travel back to Phnom Penh the tomorrow.

We get up at about 5:30, have coffee and get ready to leave. Some time later we leave, when it is still dark, and climb up all the steps to temples on top of the mountain.
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Preah Vihear Sixth Day (Christmas Day): Choam Khsant, another temple, Preah Vihear Temples

I am the last one to wake up this day and I ride with Paul to the local mechanic to have my exhaust pipe reattached. Later we go with Gerry, Vothea and Mr. Slim to a local food place and have coffee. Gerry and companion want to visit a temple close by since it is not too far to Prey Vihear I agree with Vothea to join them, before we head to Preah Vihear in the afternoon. He quickly finds a local guide to show us the way.

We leave the town to the north and after we pass some open land with sandy roads we are back on the oxcart trail. Vothea is traveling with the guide on his moto while Gerry is sitting on the back of Paulís bike and the equipment is on Mr. Slimís bike. When we have to pass an obstacle along this muddy water Votheaís bike gets stuck and he and the bike fall. This is the first time I see him dropping his bike. Moreover, he is the only one not traveling on a dirt bike and only because of him we recognize how difficult this passage is. So I feel sorry that it is here where he falls in front of everybody.
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Preah Vihear Fifth Day (Christmas Eve): Khvav, Sraryang Village, Prasat Kaoh Ker (Koh Ker), Choam Khsant

We get up at about 7 am and following some breakfast we head of. Vothear is convinced we can make it all the way to Choam Khsant but I remain skeptical. As soon as we leave Khvav to the north the dirt road turns into oxcart trails again.

We continue riding those trails. First we pass sandy stretches through open landscape. Later we ride through dense forest forcing us to duck from the branches of trees and follow the tight turns of the trail. We do not think of having breaks, as we want to catch up with the initial schedule.
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Preah Vihear Fourth Day: Prasat Domrei, Khvav Village, Kampong Kdei

It is at about 4 am when cocks start their noisy business. The village is getting busy when it is still dark. We get up at about 7 am and have breakfast, fish and rice, which is tasty.

Later we head out to see another temple of the Prasat Bakan complex, Prasat Domrei (temple of the elephants). Vanna and his friend give us company and the four of us ride on two motos. Vanna is traveling with Vothear and it is actually the first time I am not alone on my moto. I felt I do not want to risk other peopleís health or live. However, it turns out not to be too difficult, although the road is pretty rough and sandy. After about 20 minutes we arrive at the temple, which is located at a beautiful lake. This is the first pyramid shaped temple I see.
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Preah Vihear Third Day: Kampong Thom, Phnom Dek, Ta Seng, Prasat Bakan

I met Vothea at 8 am in front of the guesthouse. This is the plan for the next three days. We follow National Road 64 to the north, until we reach Phnom Dek (a village which is not in my map). This is about 75 km from Kampong Thom. From here we turn east, following the oxcart trail to Ta Seng Village and Prasat Bakan (both places are in my map). After we spend the night in Ta Seng we continue north to Kulen and then to Prasat Kaoh Ker. After spending the night in Kulen we attempt to go further north to Prasat Preah Vihear, the best known temple in the province with the same name, next to the Thai border. I should mention other than road 64 there are no roads in my map. I was told the other day this way is adventurous and many people failed to make it with a big moto. I am advised to go on somebody elseís moto scootersí back. And none of my guidebooks indicates that it is possible to go to those places on a road other than 64, or without hitting Tbaeng Mean Chey. Rather, most books suggest getting to those destinations on one or multiple day trips from the provincial capital. Yet Vothear and his friend Sokhom seem to be trustworthy and experienced. So I decide to try it.
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