Cambodia (part 2) 22 April to 07 May-2024

Cambodia.

Spent an exhausting day exploring just 5 temples. My original plan was to get a 3 day pass for Angkor Wat and spend 3 days going around the temples in the whole area. When I experienced the heat and the humidity that plan changed. I just had a one day pass and just done the mega temples. Instead I spent a day in the Angkor Wat national museum and this was brilliant. Here they have collected as many statues and artifacts from the old ruins as possible and have them on display in airconditioned rooms. They also have different film shows explaining the history of the area. I took the audio guide and got a lot of background info. Unfortunately a lot of treasures was lost to looters and also a lot have found their way into French museums. Also a lot of private collectors the world over have relics belonging to Cambodia.

Angkor Wat museum

Angkor Wat Museum

Angkor Wat Museum

The town of Siem Reap seems to live from the tourist industry. It is totally geared to tourists, hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs it’s all there. One whole street is called Pub street. I stayed 3 days and 4 nights in Siem Reap. I also had to change my route. I was originally gonna head up to the jungle around the Vietnamese border to explore some really old ruins in the jungle and some other temples. But the weather was hitting 40c so decided against it. So a new plan was forged.

Pub street

Siem reep night life

Whilst in Siem Reap I also visit a old Pagoda called Wat Bo. It is one of the oldest known Buddhist temples in Siem Reap itself and dates from the 18th century. It is a working monastery where monks live and pray. It also houses a lot of old artifacts that were dug up around the area. It is a really nice tranquil place to visit.

Wat Bo

Wat Bo

Headed to a place called Krong Kracheh instead. Krong Kracheh or just Kratie is a river town on the Mekong river. It is just 430 km from Siem Reap and travel time of 7 hours according to Google Maps. This is an accurate estimation. For me that was two day journey. Riding in the heat on small roads running through villages demands a lot of concentration, so I get tired quickly. I stopped in a town called Kampong Thom for the night. Stayed in a local hotel that turned out to be a fantastic experience.

Road side stand

Kampong Thom

Kampong Thom

Kampong Thom

Then on to Krachen. I never prebook hotels, I can’t handle commitments plus I love the freedom to stop wherever I want. But I make a list of possible places that fit my wishes. So I rode straight up to the first on my list and got a room. This is a training hotel. That means it helps young underprivileged local people by training them in English and work in hotels. Most of them will have some type of social, physical or mental handicap. I always try to support these places when possible. This hotel was on the Mekong river and offered some fantastic sunset views.

Sunset on the Mekong river

There was also a pod of Irawaddy dolphins living in the river, so I went to see them. You can either take a tour by canoe or just go to the place on the river and rent a boat with boatman. Mekong’s Irrawaddy dolphins were living throughout the lower Mekong river from Southern Lao through to the Mekong delta in Vietnam and in the many tributaries. But today it is estimated that there are only 85 left, all living in a stretch of the Mekong  river between Cambodia and Lao. This means that they are facing extinction. The location of the pod of dolphins was in a place called Kampi about 15km from the hotel. I rented a boat with boatman and went to have a look. Unfortunately it was impossible to get any decent photos, so I just spent the time watching them swimming and jumping. Google them they are interesting. But the weather was hot 40c that felt like 47c because of Humidity. So I changed plans again….. I needed a beach!!

Dolphin spotting on the Mekong river

The road to the dolphins

A beach….. we need a beach so the nearest beach was Preah Sihanouk about 6 hours and 30 minutes away…. The son of a beach jumped on efftee and off we went. Couldn’t make it in one day so a stopover for a night was needed. The best place was on the outskirts of Phom Penh so stopped at a guest house just off the main road. After I parked the bike I was walking, rushing back to my chalet when I bumped my head onto a concrete beam holding the ceiling up…. Asians are small. I kinda hit it hard and cut the forehead. I carry two essential oils with me in my first aid kit. One of them is tea tree oil. It disinfects and closes open wounds fast. It was painful but there was nothing to do about it. That night I slept like a log, really deep. There was blood on the pillow in the morning so it had bled again. The truth was I had a concussion. Still a beach was calling so some more tea tree oil, coffee and painkillers and the son of a beach and efftee were off, life is a beach. I may be many things but when a beach calls the son of a beach is loyal.

Stopped on the road to take a drink of water and these kids went crazy laughing and waving at me shouting hallo…. Really neat, friendly kids.

Recycling at it’s best. A roadside restaurant

I was staying in the suburbs and it should have been easy and quick to get out. It wasn’t. I am using Google maps as my primary means of navigation. I have a Bluetooth headset in my helmet so I can hear the instructions. Up until now it worked good. This time it led me straight to the expressway. Motorcycles are not allowed on these roads. Try as much as I could I just couldn’t get google to avoid it. The maps are all programmed in motorbike mode, avoid motorways and avoid tolls. Up until now it had worked. This coupled with the fact that my phone was overheating and had gone into dark mode and that I had a slight concussion. I Anyway I could hardly see the screen so choosing another road was difficult, left on a detour route that ended up taking longer. It also had 100km of gravel. It was a bad ride really. The Honda ftr had really wide tyres they just were a pain in gravel. It just wouldn’t handle good. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. Plus I wasn’t in the best of condition, I couldn’t eat and I was nauseated. It was a crappy ride.

This was a crappy ride, hot and dusty…. over 100kms of gravel and crappy roads and me with a concussion….

Once again I had two guesthouses on my list, both beside each other. I choose one and it was a good choice. I had a nice little chalet in a garden just across the road from the beach. It was run by a fantastic German couple.

Efftee my little Honda parked up at my chalet on he beach.

The next day I was bad…. Definitely a concussion, so rest was called for. Preah Sihanouk was a harbour town. It was a stopover for tourists on their way to the islands. It was also a major Chinese investment town. It was full of casinos and sky scrapers. A lot of them unfinished and looked to be abandoned. Locals say money laundering. I don’t know really. I just stayed on the beach. Spent a few days recovering.

The beach

The beach

The beach

Sunset on the beach

Headed back up to Phnom Penh. But this time I used another navigation app called Maps.me It is an on or offline navigation app and guess what it worked…. It led me on a parallel road, the old NH4 and it was in good condition. Brought the bike back and everything went really smoothly. It was a good company. 

Now it was time to do the tourist bit in PP. I had put this off as I was dreading going to the killing fields and the prison. But I knew that I had to. First chill and administration time. I needed to get to Bangkok so had to arrange transport. I also needed to work on the blogs, I was way behind. Went to the central market. This a really nice building with a large dome on the roof. It keeps the interior cool.

Central Market Phnom Penh

Working on the blogs and arranging transport…. the hub.

Also visited the royal palace. This is the actual palace where the King and his family live. So it is restricted access. The silver pagoda is in the grounds of the palace. This Pagoda houses many treasures, most notable being a small green emerald crystal Buddha…. “the Emerald Buddha of Cambodia”. A life size solid gold statue of the Maitreya Buddha that is encrusted with 9,584 diamonds, the largest weighing 25 carat. Most of the diamonds were looted during the civil war years. The statue weighs 90 kg. The floor of the Pagoda is inlaid with 5,329 sterling silver tiles and some of the outer walls are made from Italian marble. BUT unfortunately you can only view all this as photography is strictly forbidden. There are security guards everywhere watching.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

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Next day it was time to go to the killing fields. Met Alice, an Italian girl, at breakfast who also advised me to do it.

First stop was S21. This was an old secondary school that was used as a prison and torture center by the Khmer Rouge. I took the audio tour, what a story, what an experience, the sights the photos. The Khmer Rouge had kept meticulous files and documented everything. Theyb tried to destroy as much as possible when the Vietnamese liberation army moved into Phnom Penh, including killing the last prisoners before they fled. The Khmer Rouge had banned all forms of free press and no one knew about this place. It was kept secret. The Liberating army were horrified at what they found. I will spare the details and I will also not share a lot of the photos, actually I didn’t take many.

S21

The Graves of the last prisoners’ at S21

Then onto the killing fields just outside of town. Once again I took the audio tour. This place is a tranquil place now. A place for meditation and reflection. There is a large monumental stupa built, with inside the bones of the victims. A lot of the victim’s remains couldn’t be identified. There was a button on the audio guide that played tranquil music and told you to sit by the lake or walk around it if you were feeling emotional. These atrocities happened because of a number of reasons. Cambodia was on it’s knees financially after the French pulled out. Then a massive bombardment for years by the American forces to disrupt the supply routes for the north Vietnamese. They targeted the rice fields forcing the people to move to the cities. There was extreme poverty. Pol Pot was studying in France where he became fascinated by communism. He returned to Cambodia and preached a doctrine of a better life to the people, a life where everyone would be equal. No rich and no poverty. The starving population believed him and supported by China he overthrew the government. Vietnam and Russia opposed the Khmer rouge and when word got out as to what was really happening, Vietnam supported by any Cambodians who had managed to escape moved in and liberated the country after a bloody struggle. The rest is history.

The killing fields

Stupa containing the bones of some of the unidentified remains of the victims.

Memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge

Sitting in the killing fields I reflected on how we can do these type of things, I mean we as the human race. The atrocities were just to unbelievable, 1.5 to 2 million people tortured and murdered or forced to work in the rice fields whilst they were starving and were dying of starvation. But then, in a way I thought that I am proud to be a human being. Proud because, yes, we have a dark side but we also have a bright side and the means to learn from this. The means to forgive and rebuild. But the means to live in peace and harmony if we just tune into our lighter side. But most importantly the ability to read and question news and what people say. Also most important of all that we have a free press that publishes the truth. It was a heavy experience but I am glad that I did it.

Then it was administration days again. Posted a blog, bought a ticket to Bangkok and rearranged a packed my rucksack. Also visited two monasteries, Wat Ounalom and Wat Phnom Daun Penh monasteries. 

Wat Ounalom is a Buddhist temple located in the center of Phnom Penh and is the center of  Cambodian Buddhism. It’s stupa is said to contain an eyebrow hair of The Buddha. It was built in 1443. It was heavily damaged during the reign of the Khmer rouge but was recently restored.

Wat Ounalom

Wat Phnom Daun Penh, the mountain Pagoda is a Buddhist Pagoda. It symbolizes the name of Phnom Penh and is a historical site that symbolizes the national identity of Cambodia. It is named after its founder Lady Penh, a wealthy old lady. Legend tells that, in the year 1372, she found 3 statues of Buddha and one of Lord Vishnu encased in a tree floating down the river, whilst she was bathing. She retrieved the statues and built a wooden temple on a hill that she had asked the villagers to make. She invited the monks to bless the statues and the Monks named the hermitage Wat Phnom. Anyway it is a pretty impressive place.

Wat Phnom Daun Penh, the mountain Pagoda

Wat Phnom Daun Penh, the mountain Pagoda.

Then I went to a place called the factory. My first attempt to go there failed miserably as I had put “the Factory” into google maps and it showed me that it was quite close to where I was staying. So I walked there… Yep…. “the Factory” was a night club and girly bar. Wrong factory. This place is called Factory Phnom Penh and is an old 3.4 hectare Levi’s garment factory about 2 km out of town. It was transformed in 2018 into a graffiti painted hub of entertainment, office space and shared working space. There are free bicycles so you can bicycle around from one place to another. There are 4 art galleries, cinema and a skating rink. But it is a maze of little alleyways leading from one place to another. It was well worth the visit.

Factory Phnom Penh

Graffiti covered walls Factory Phnom Penh

Then it was time to depart Cambodia. We had done just over 1,600 km in 3 weeks. Seen some amazing sights and had some fantastic experiences. Unfortunately the weather was just getting too hot and the rain was coming. But also the Lady was calling again. Time to listen to the Lady and yes the Lady is a Beach and it was time to get moving. Beachward bound….. life’s a beach and I just gotta live it because I am a son of a beach.

The heat getting to the rickshaw riders…. Phnom Penh

Once again everyone thank you for reading the blogs and looking at the photos, liking and commenting. Thank you all for being a part of this journey. We done a lot in South East Asia and we done it together. But we barely just scratched the surface. There is a lot more. I may spend some more time out here in the future. I am winding the trip down now and getting ready to return to Europe and my adopted city of Amsterdam. There I will plan my next trip, at the moment it’s just an idea that I have to work out.

Meanwhile I am relaxing on a beach in Thailand and loving it.

If you would like to see some more photos then visit my Facebook travel page Ride Live Explore or click on the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100067756124491

លាហើយទៅពេលក្រោយ…. Khmer for Bye bye until next time.

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