Kampong Cham: Wat Hanchey and Ny’s wedding

The plan for today is to visit Wat Hanchey (Han Chey) in the morning, attend my friend Ny’s wedding in the afternoon and ride back to Phnom Penh before it gets dark. Yesterday I agreed with the guesthouse guy that we would meet at 7:30am and that he would show me the way to Wat Hanchey. The guide books say that Wat Hanchey is a beautifully located hill top pagoda that was an important religious centre during the Chenla period. They also suggest it is easy to visit Wat Hanchey, which is about 25 km from Kampong Cham town, by boat. Anyway, I take the bike for convenience and time efficiency.

We start at the agreed time without any breakfast and head north along the Mekong. After very few kilometres we are riding on a narrow and bumpy dirt road. The road leads along the Mekong through a couple of villages in a nice and rural setting. We are not the only ones on the roads. There are all kinds of vehicles, like oxcarts, minibuses and bicycles.

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Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham, Wat Nokor

My friend Sok Ny gets married this weekend in Kampong Cham and invited me on the occasion of this event to join in the celebration. I decide to attend on Sunday and visit a number of places in around Kampong Cham town on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Today I just want to travel to Kampong Cham, which is about 129km from Phnom Penh, check in at some accommodation and visit Wat Nokor (Angkor Bahjay) before it is dark.

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Phnom Udong, Silversmith village

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.

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By Motorbike from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh via Kampot

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.

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Sihanoukville: Boat Trip in Ream National Park, Snake Island, Independence Hotel Viewpoint

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.

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Sihanoukville: Ream National Park, Kbal Chhay Waterfalls and more

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.

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From Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville by Motorbike

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.

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Bike trip to Angkor Borei and Phnom Da in Takeo Province

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.

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Bike Trip: Kirirom National Park, Kampong Speu

Today is Sunday. I have spent a busy week in the office. The schedule does not look like workload will be lower next week, so I use the chance for a bike trip to Kampong Speu (Kampong Spueu). Yesterday I took it easy, met some colleagues in private and some Cambodian friends in the evening. I go to find the Phnom Penh Bike Shop but find that it is no longer. I find the previous owner in his brother Darah’s bike repair shop and talk to both for some time. Good to meet those guys again, after more than one year.

The plan for today is to get a motorbike from Lucky Lucky and go on a trip to Kirirom National Park in Kampong Speu province. Oddly, none of my guide books has a section on Kampong Speu. Only the Lonely Planet has a paragraph on Kirirom. It says that Kirirom Mountain is 675m above sea level and about 112 km southwest of Phnom Penh. It also says that Kirirom “is not the most interesting of Cambodia’s national parks, but it is the most accessible from the capital and the scenery is notably different from the flat agricultural land that surrounds Phnom Penh, and the climate is also noticeably cooler”. While this does not sound particularly promising, at least the ‘noticeably cooler’ appeals to me. It is very hot in Phnom Penh these days, which makes working and sleeping a major problem in times.

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From Bangkok to Phnom Penh and a few hours Happy New Year in Phnom Penh

My flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh is in the early evening of Sunday. I proceed smoothly and I arrive in Phnom Penh in the evening. I spend the rest of the day along the river side, oberving the somewhat muted New Year celebrations.

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Caves in Kampot, Sunset in Kep, Swimming at Toek Chhou

The following post describes a trip which took place already some month ago. More precisely, it was on the first and second of January, if I am not mistaken. It took place after I spend New Year on Bokor Mountain. It reports a tour that covers various caves in Kampot, the town of Kep and a visit to Toek Chhou, a place close to Kampot town which is popular with the locals for picnic.

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Kampot Second Day: New Year at Bokor

I get up by 7:30 and have breakfast at 8 am. I meet Gabriel, a 22 years old American guy and a couple from France. We spend the noon talking in the guesthouses restaurant on the roof again. And we enjoy the sight of the surrounding mountains. Later the French people leave and I hang out with Gabe for some time. Both of us want to go to Bokor Mountain to joint the party. Ye we are both not sure how we want to get there and how we can spend the night. Gabe manages to persuade me to take him on my bike. So we assume we won’t be able to sleep at night anyway. So we leave our sleeping bags and stuff in the guesthouse. And we reserve a room for the next day.

People and guide books alike suggest that the road up the mountain is difficult to ride. Most people go by truck. So I am not very comfortable with traveling with two persons on the bike. Moreover, it is usually much more fun to do the bumpy stretches alone.

It is already 1:30 pm when we go to the market. We buy some food and water and have lunch. We leave at about 2:30 pm to Bokor, which is just about 35 km from here. The first part is paved road and easy traveling. We cross the river and follow National Road 3 through the picturesque landscape, following the coastline on one and the mountain range on the other side of the road. Then we turn right and get onto a rough, unpaved road up the mountain. After we pay $5 each to enter Bokor National Park. The road is mostly unpaved and sandy, covered with small and medium sized stones which make it a bumpy ride. I cannot pay much attention to the environment. We pass mostly through dense forest, while climbing up the road with many turns. While we get higher we recognize the beautiful surroundings, the coastline with a number of mountainous islands and the wooded mountain range along the mainland. Many birds make the forest a noisy place. Generally, it seems the road was improved on its worst stretches, making it relatively easy to ride. There is significant traffic in both directions, mostly motos and trucks. I use the horn a lot in the turns. Sometimes we get stuck in the dust behind slowly traveling trucks, frequently with soldiers on its back.
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Kampot First Day: Phnom Penh to Kampot

Some weeks ago Dara and Vuth had told me there would be a massive yew year party at the casino on top of Bokor Mountain in Kampot province. They told me they would go and asked whether I would join. I agreed and reserved a bike at Phnom Penh Bike Shop for December 29. I just gave back the (pretty used up) Honda Baja yesterday to lucky! lucky! Today I find at the Phnom Penh Shop that only one bike is left, which is a Honda Degree. Those bikes are the most common, cheapest and in many cases oldest dirt bikes available in Phnom Penh. Yet at this point it is not likely that I get a better bike anywhere else and I take it.

Furthermore I learn that Dara, Vuth and the owner of this shop have left already to hit Kirirom National Park on the way to Bokor. I have been to Kampot but never saw Bokor before. And I do not mind having a special New Year party. After I get the bike I decide to leave the next day, to go the 150 km to Kampot. This gives me more time to spend in Kampot and I assume there are fewer crazy people on the road heading to this party. Kampot is a three hour trip from Phnom Penh, mostly on National Road 3. The plan is to go some time the next day the remaining way to the top of Bokor Mountain. The road up to the summit of the mountain is said to be difficult.
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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.
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Preah Vihear Eighths Days: Anlong Veng to Siem Reap. Otdar Mean Chey, Anlong Veng, Pol Pot’s grave and former residence, Ta Mok’s 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 don’t 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 tourism’s 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.
Continue reading Preah Vihear Eighths Days: Anlong Veng to Siem Reap. Otdar Mean Chey, Anlong Veng, Pol Pot’s grave and former residence, Ta Mok’s former residence, Banteay Srey