Preah Vihear Ninth Day: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: Kampong Thom

The plan for today is to travel back to Phnom Penh, which is about 310 km from here on national road via Kampong Thom. I get up at eight, have a shower and leave the guesthouse. I walk along the river for a bit and pass the market before I find a charming place at the river for breakfast.

In many ways Siem Reap is different from the rest of the country. Everybody appears to be busy, there are many tourists, most people understand English, and the city appears to be more Western and more affluent then any other place in the country. Siem Reap has a lot of appeal for Cambodians in many provinces, as it holds the promise of rapid economic and social development and immense individual opportunities that are not easily available elsewhere. There are countless luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, internet places and souvenir shops. As well as hospitals and schools. Other than Phnom Penh this is the only other truly urban place I know of in Cambodia.

This is in the morning at the market.

I spend about one hour with breakfast. Countless tourists pass by, most of them Westerners, many backpackers and young and not so young couples and even families. Later I walk a bit through this part of the town and back to the guesthouse. At about 10:30 I get ready and leave.

This is on the way.

Although much of the road to Kampong Thom is paved it does not allow for higher speed. There are construction sides all over the place, mostly small bridges and an awkward and bumpy way around it. There are at least two dozens of them.

This is one out of so many construction sides close to Siem Reap.

After more than three hours I am somewhat disappointed that I still did not reach Kampong Thom. I have a short break at this stall and get some bananas and water.

The women working here tell me Kampong Thom is just about 20 km from here. When I reach it I look out whether I can find Vothear and Sokhom. And in fact after only about two minutes I find Sokhom. I am glad to see him again and we go to a food place to hang out together. We call Vothear as well and then have food together, reflecting on the past days. I particularly enjoy talking to Sokhom, who is just 38 years old but close to be a wise man. He knows a lot and speaks excellent English. So we talk a lot about Cambodian history and contemporary politics. It is getting later and later and I still have to go back all the way to Phnom Penh.

From right to left: Vothea, Sokhom, me.

It is only by about 3:30 pm when I leave those guys, after many kind words. I have been riding this road for several times right now and it does not hold much surprises. Yet it remains challenging to deal with all the traffic and dust. At this point I feel somewhat tired from riding dirt bike and hurry to get this done and arrive at home safely.

Shortly before I arrive in Skun it is getting dark. I still have about 90 km to go. For some time I do not have the courage to turn my headlines on, since I know this is blinding the traffic on the other side of the road. This is not a nice thing to do, particularly on this busy road. However, when I want to give it a try I find that the headlights don’t work anymore. I switch on and off but it remains dark. I am annoyed by my self because again I did not manage to avoid riding at night. Without the headlight there is obviously additional risk. I can hardly overtake any vehicle. After all, cars coming at me cannot see me without light. Moreover, as long as I ride behind somebody with a headlight I have at least an idea of how the road looks like. However, after I overtake somebody and without another car in front of my I simply cannot see anything. In addition the traffic on the other lane is blinding me badly.

It takes me another 90 minutes to reach Phnom Penh in the dark. I really feel uncomfortable riding without headlight and all I do is keeping behind cars with reasonable speed and driving behavior and strong headlights.

When I arrive in Phnom Penh it is too late to bring the bike back to lucky! lucky! So I ride directly to my place, keep the bike on the parking spot of the insurance company close by and am glad to arrive at home safely.

One thought on “Preah Vihear Ninth Day: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: Kampong Thom”

  1. Stefan,
    You have done awonderful job – with description and figures.
    This reply is for this entire 9 days’ journey as well as the 5-day trip SE of Phnom Penh including Ny’s wedding.
    What I like best, apart from the interesting way you have described it, is the fact that I can identify exactly where these ancient places are located.
    Most of these ruins that I am planning on visiting in 2006 are diffficult to find on a map sitting 10,000 miles from Cambodia.
    Congratulations and thank you.
    Joy Sen

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