300km approx. Five hours including the border crossing.
After last night’s little drama where four guys tried to barge into our hotel room about 9:30pm before they realised they had the wrong room, and then they were waiting just outside at a table for over an hour before someone called off the dogs, sleep didn’t come particularly easy last night and I was grateful to see the sky getting lighter through our flimsy curtains as that meant I could get up and start the day.
We packed the bike quickly and then rode the brief distance down to the ‘beachside’ restaurant overlooking the river where we had dined last night. I walked across to the river edge and snapped a few photos of the guys working on the fishing boats at rest in the water, loading supplies and sorting out fishing nets, whilst a woman and an old man fished from the boat ramp.
Breakfast concluded – crispy bacon, eggs and tea & coffee – we were on the bike and across the long bridge to the toll booth on the far side, 1,400 riel fee to cross. The Cambodian border town of Cham Yeam is 10km west of the bridge and Karen and I chatted on the intercom about our experiences in Cambodia as we rode through the lush countryside. We’ve only been in Cambodia for 10 nights but the experience has been quite profound and we’ll both miss this country, still struggling to get back on its feet and having to face a range of social issues and problems.
We rode past the Koh Kong Safari World entrance and the International Resort which seemed modelled with a French influence dating back to perhaps the 1930’s before arriving at the small Cambodian border crossing station. We quickly had our passports stamped out, departure cards removed and fingerprints scanned, and then across the road an officer from the Customs department waved us over, and started to query us about why we didn’t have any Customs paperwork for the bike – essential apparently if you want to ride inside Cambodia. Karen switched her charm onto ‘full’ and explained in her most endearing voice that despite her erstwhile request at O’Smach – our entry point into Cambodia – they had told us that no paperwork was required.
The risk at this stage was that we might be sent back to O’Smach to get the required paperwork, but Karen’s charm worked wonders on the Customs officer who emphasised that ‘next time’ we must get the paperwork, before shaking our hands and waving us across the border. Phew !!!!!!
The short section of road leading to the Thai border control passed the ocean – this is the first time we’ve seen the sea since Albania and it was great. We filled out our arrival and departure cards for Thailand and then mistakenly stood in the line for ‘Visas On Arrival’ I was told I needed to get our passports stamped and the Simplified Customs Declaration Form for the motorbike sorted out, so I went to another window and had the passports stamped and then trotted across the road to yet another window, got the form completed as required, and then went back to the VOA window where the girl checked our paperwork, completed our vehicle conveyancing form in duplicate, and then gave everything back to us.
Karen walked past the border gate and went to get some cold cokes whilst I moved the bike up – we had some Thai baht from our earlier visit and that came in handy today. Drinks drunk we were back on the road and I could immediately tell that we were back in Thailand as the road was in great condition and the road markings and signage is immaculate.
Yesterday evening I’d plotted a route from Koh Kong to Pattaya – our destination for the day – but when loaded into the GPS it just drew a straight line from A to B, so I could only guess that we had between 300km and 400km to ride today. The first part of the ride was absolutely blissful – twisting, scenic road that stretched between the coast on our left and the mountains on the right, with minimal traffic to distract us. We cruised along around 110kmh – 120kmh here, but after a while I throttled back as I was trying to conserve fuel and avoid a refuelling stop today, as I wasn’t sure we had enough THB on us to pay for a tank load. Dropping our speed to around 100kmh changed our fuel consumption for the better – from initially projecting that we’d run out 40km from Pattaya we finished the day with 65km left in the tank. I can always guarantee a good reaction from Karen when I tell here how close we’ve come to using a full tank but I don’t do that often to maintain the element of surprise.
Gradually the roads started to widen and carry more traffic, and occasional signs showed that bicycles and motorbikes should stay in the far left lane, but we slipped through the traffic as we wished, taking advantage of the far left lane only when faced with a red light ahead, as then we could sneak to the front of the waiting traffic and get a great start on the green, pulling far ahead of the cars and trucks and getting some open road for a while.
About 150km into the ride I spotted “Ben’s Cafe” on the roadside so we pulled over for a brownie each and a cup of tea & coffee, before scooting off again, this time into some light drizzle that made the road surface slippery in some places. We did get the tyres zinging in one spot when a silly car driver started to do a u-turn into our lane, but I caught it before the bike did so I was pleased with that.
Towards the end of the ride and with about 5km to go the GPS wanted us to take a 25km detour but I spotted that before we got sucked into it, so I just ignored the suggested route and instead we picked our way through the back roads before popping out a short distance from our hotel – the Ruenthip Pattaya. I’m guessing that a glitch in the Open Street Map I’m using for Thailand (thanks Aad !!) had a small gap in the roads near our hotel and hence felt obliged to look for a complete route.
Our hotel is a few blocks back from the beach and one of the tallest buildings in the area. Our top-floor room on the 12th floor overlooks the sea and the view is lovely. We unpacked, showered to cool down and then walked to a nearby restaurant for a cheap lunch of fried chicken and cashew nuts, and then chilled out back in our room before walking to the beach just before sunset to take some photos and enjoy the view.
We found ourselves in a large, covered dining area that opened out over the sea, which had receded on the tide to leave a mess of junk on the beach. Patrons were ordering food from attentive waiters, and when we walked out the back of this place we came across the large kitchen where the chefs were busy at work, and tanks full of dinnerplate-sized crabs, lobsters, sea bass, and various types of prawns.
We walked south – in the direction of Pattaya, stopping at a small restaurant that had a walkway stretching past a river mouth around to the sea front, and took some more photos of the setting sun and young boys trying their luck with a fishing net in the shallow river water before we enjoyed a wine & beer.
Now we’re catching up on our regular jobs – Karen is looking for accommodation in Bangkok and I’m blogging away to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. We have an off-bike day tomorrow and then will scoot up to Bangkok to go visit Olympus Cameras and explore the city a bit. Bring it on !!!!