Cambodia-cycling in a flat land

I spent the first night in Cambodia in a temple. I had asked a monk haphazardly and was allowed to settle down in the meeting hall. The next morning around half past six I woke up from the noise of a man setting up a big speaker. A minute later loud music started. From that moment on, the place was full of life. A group of old people brought some food for the monks, children on their way to school crossed the temple and cows were walking around in the area. I was invited for breakfast but before it started, the monk recited Buddhist sutras for about an hour. Meanwhile we offered him the dishes and some incense sticks. He took, after reciting, the first bite, but then we all ate together. I showed around my well-thumbed photos from home and we talked a bit via translation software. After breakfast I sat on the bike, said goodbye to everybody and went on. After a while the asphalt turned into dirt.

Cambodia is as flat as a pancake. If there were no trees on the roadside, you could look onto the land almost endlessly. The circumstances around the small secondary dirt roads that I mainly cycled on in the first days reminded me of Laos. No wealth but also no misery. It seemed like a society mainly living from farming and handicraft. Often it was not easy to find a place to sleep. As there were no trees and no hills, I was visible from everywhere and often people came to my tent just watching, or rather staring. This is of course understandable but the longer my trip lasted, the less nerves I had for situations like that. Being always the exotic brings a strong feeling of isolation.

n Southeast Asia old tires are a common material to construct bins. Or you fill them up with concrete, paint them red and white and you got a roadside-post. But this shop on my way to Angkor Wat and its creative tire-decorations where something unique.

Angkor Wat was a special topic for me. I heard again and again that I shouldn’t skip that place. But to see it, I had to skip the Cardamom Mountains and the coastline, because six months is no eternity and there was not enough time to see both. Since December I struggled to make a decision but finally I rode for Angkor Wat, just convinced around fifty-one percent. So I stayed in a Hostel in Seam Reap (the city near Angkor Wat) but my plans changed the first evening. I started to feel terribly sick. The last days I had always eaten noodle soup for lunch in one of the few shops on the roadside, and the meat always came raw into the broth. Was it still too bloody I didn’t eat it, but it seemed that the broth was enough… food intoxication in a twelve bed dorm. I forgot about the money and changed to a single-room and after I few days I felt better. Then I paid the 37$ for the one-day Angkor Wat ticket and went to the temples at forty degrees. Well, it was interesting, but I don’t know If you “have” to see it. Sadly, you don’t get much information without a payed guide and it is extremely crowded. But when you can get excited by old stones, it’s the right thing for sure. Later I found out that the Cardamom Mountains are the last intact rainforest in Southeast Asia with a unique flora and fauna and very few tourists. Afterwards, I think it would have been the better decision to go there instead.

A few kilometres behind Seam Reap I made a stop at a temple occupied by monkeys. To look around, I had to leave the bike alone for a while. Therefore I had packed everything as monkey-save as possible, yet one of them was stealing some instant noodles when I came back. A second one sat on the handlebar of my bike. I tried to drive him off, but he only hissed at me maliciously. A hit with my bag in his nasty visage turned him away. The first of the following photos shows what it looks like when you come too close to a monkey with a camera.

Then, after only five weeks, my time in Cambodia was over. From Seam Reap I cycled a few days more through flat lands, always on the shoulder of the highways, heading to the border of Thailand. I had given up camping. One reason was that it was impossible to stay undisturbed, the second was that the border area to Thailand is the part of the country with the biggest threat by contact mines.

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