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 !!!!

National Museum 18th Jan Phnom Penh

300km approx. 4.5 hours riding. Average speed – 64kmh.

For the past four nights our bike has been parked out the front of our dingy hotel, sheltered amongst a throng of scooters and motorbikes, all chained together and under the watchful eyes of the 24 hour security guards who are sometimes there and sometimes not. With these parking arrangements in mind I was up early this morning so I could move the bike out a bit before it got blocked in by any other bikes arriving for work today, and around 6:30am I was squeezing the bike out past its newfound scooter friends.

We loaded the bike quickly and Karen walked down to the Paddy Rice’s pub on the riverfront whilst I rode down. I parked on the riverfront road but that was a mistake as the morning traffic built up and a car that was parked and diverting traffic away from our bike moved off, exposing the bike to all the manic early morning bikes and trucks, so we pushed the bike back around the corner into 136 Street and relocated outdoor tables at Paddy’s so we could keep our watchful eyes on the bike. No one here in Cambodia has touched or interfered with the bike or our equipment but we still like to watch it when we’re out in public with it.

Breakfast was our standard fare at Paddy’s – eggs, bacon, sausages & toast – Karen gets my bacon and I get her sausage. On the bike we didn’t have too much trouble crossing the busy riverfront road to start our ride out of Phnom Penh, but shortly afterwards the GPS wanted us to turn the wrong way down a one-way street so we had to improvise for a while before we got into the right road, immediately bogging down in the stationery morning traffic.

It was a long, slow ride through the morning traffic and whilst usually I quite enjoy the cut and thrust of crazy riding in close traffic today I just wasn’t really in the mood for it and struggled to get a good rhythm going. Being passed by an old woman on a push bike whilst I sat stuck behind a big 4×4 going nowhere did nothing to improve my humour.

Motorbikes, scooters and tuk-tuks gravitate to the extreme right hand lane, cars travel in the centre lane, except when vehicles doing a u-turn (which is permitted at all the gaps in the central road divider) have stopped in advance of completing their turn – and at these points the cars spill into the motorbike lane and it all turns into a bit of a shitmix.

Eventually however the traffic started to thin out and we were able to chip away at our 300km target for the day, bound for Koh Kong, just 10km short of the southernmost Cambodian-Thai border crossing and last chance of accommodation before the border.

The countryside was rural and flat, cultivated land stretching out, occasionally interrupted by trees or little villages. A lot of trucks were heading in both directions and these were holding up the traffic a bit, breaking our rhythm and bringing on some nice overtaking moves – the bike howls like a banshee when it’s given a bit of throttle.

Around the halfway mark we pulled into a servo for some fuel, a cold Coke each and a chance to stretch our legs. At the nearby junction the road south headed to Sihanoukville, but we needed to head north from here, up into the Cardamom Mountains. The traffic dropped off immediately and the riding became more diverse and interesting as we climbed up the ‘mountains’ – peaking around 2,200m above sea level. We saw a few road signs warning about elephants, but we didn’t spot any unfortunately.

I’d guesstimated a 2:00pm arrival in Koh Kong and at 1:54pm we arrived at our pre-arranged accommodation – the Champ Koh Kong Guesthouse. The guesthouse was built in a large U shape, and was a bit south or the main intersection in town, just over the little bridge.

Neither the lady running the place nor her grandmother could speak English, so Karen needed to grab the iPad and show them our booking details, and chat with someone on the phone who relayed instructions to the first lady. We moved our gear into our log-cabin style room and covered the bike up – parked just outside – before walking into town for lunch.

The sun was scorching as we walked into town, and we were happy to find a place looking out across the river that served food, even if little birds were hopping around the counter and dogs were walking in and out of the kitchen. The beer was cold and the fried noodles with chicken tasty, and that’s all I needed.

The afternoon was spent doing chores at our guesthouse before we walked back into town on sunset to get some photos of the sunset behind the fishing boats tied up, and then had dinner again overlooking the river before I snapped some photos of the two old merry-go-rounds creaking and groaning on the foreshore.

Back at the guesthouse we were in bed early as I was knackered, but all sleep was interrupted about 9:30pm when a car pulled up in the car park outside, with the engine left running whilst the four occupants came to our door and started banging on it incessantly. I jumped out of bed and threw the door open and the four guys tried to barge into our room. Karen says one of them gave me a shove but I don’t recall that – I do however recall giving one of them a good shove back. Tit for tat really.

It only took them a couple of seconds to figure out that I wasn’t the person they were looking for – I guess standing in the doorway completely naked left nothing to the imagination, and they sheepishly apologised and backed off.

In the time it took me to grab a towel and go outside to make it clear I was pissed with them the guys had checked an adjacent room without success and were moving down the courtyard, apologising again as they walked past. I went back inside and the guys sat down at an outdoor table just outside our room.

Karen and I were completely perplexed regarding their motives and objectives. Initially I thought we were being robbed but that train of thought was quickly despatched. At least two of them had mag-light style torches on them, but none of them were wearing any kind of uniform and their utility vehicle had no official markings on it. Every now and then we could see from the torch beams sweeping across our window that they were patrolling the courtyard.

For the next ninety minutes or so we waited to see what happened as the guys chatted outside. Once or twice I thought I could hear a walkie-talkie being used, and eventually we could clearly hear a conversation (in Cambodian mind you so we couldn’t understand a word) over a radio, and shortly afterwards they all got back into their ute and drove off.

A very strange evening and not pleasant at all, but it could have gone much worse so we’re thankful that nothing else happened.

Footnote: the following morning as we rode out of town there was a large police presence cordoning off a government building as if they were expecting some big-wigs. Perhaps our late-night callers were police sent to ‘check on’ known agitators or trouble-makers before the big-wigs arrived – that may explain the mag-lights and walkie-talkies, the disciplined approach and their repeated apologies.

We started with a quiet morning, breakfast at our new find Paddy Rice (Irish Pub), picking up my laundry from a local business and then waiting for pick up at the Lance Court Hotel (No42-44, Street 136, Sangkat Phsar Kandal I, Khan Duan Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ph (+855) 23 22 99 61 ) to go on our half-day Silk Island Lunch Cruise and Tour departing the wharf.

For US$22 each we got an all-you-can-eat lunch prepared fresh on board in stainless steel kitchens…including drinks, as we cruised the mighty Mekong River. We also sailed through the Tonle Sap.

Our English speaking tour guide took us to visit Silk Farms to see silk production from larvae to finished products, a modern temple (pagoda) that is a working monastery, and stroll by plantations.

We were collected by tuk tuk at 11.40am and once on board we were given a special cocktail for free. After departure, at 12:10pm, lunch was made from fresh, local, organic food prepare and served directly from the boats stainless steel kitchens…….never on land hours before, and definitely not on a rusty charcoal grill. No food is frozen or foreign. No fish from the river is served, ever! Safety and hygiene are paramount……lunch was delicious…..fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce and salad, followed by BBQ chicken and pork with fried rice and kebabs! They also provided a full bar service to Western Standards…so Vince had a beers and I had a cocktail!

Cruising along the Phnom Penh riverfront we enjoyed the view from the upper deck passing the Royal Palace, we saw the junction of the Tonle Sap, Mekong, and Bassac rivers. Up the Mekong River we saw floating villages and fishing families living on their boats.

It took us about an hour to get to Silk Island and it was just a short ride (we were hoping for Ox cart but had to settle for a tuk tuk) to the silk farms. Along the way we took in the views of plantations and village life. We also passed through a modern pagoda which is also an active monastery. Our tour was very basic but we did get a good overview from silk worm to finished product….we had seen similar in Myanmar…so I guess some of the impact was lost.

On the 1 hour ride back to Phnom Penh we were served fresh fruit and we ordered some drinks. There were only 5 passengers…Ken (an Indian who lives in Chicargo), Manu (also Indian who lives in Laos) and Claudette (French Canadian living in Quebec)…..everyone was very friendly…it was like we were on a private boat.

The Cambo Cruise boat has 75 seats with a wooden Traditional Cambodian design with modern touches. With two commercial quality kitchens, men’s and women’s toilets, running water from fresh water tanks, and a water filtration system for clean, purified drinking water. Hygiene, safety, and guest satisfaction are their priority. We felt safe knowing that the boat is licensed, inspected, and has staff that are well trained in safety and first-aid procedures, with flotation devices, safety equipment, and fire extinguishers onboard.

We had a lovely, relaxing day. In the evening we walked to the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace Gardens to see the sunset…..lots of people were out and about enjoying the evening. Walking back to our hotel we stopped in at the Pizza Company for dinner.

To start to understand Cambodia and appreciate the delicacy of the situation, you have to look at its history. Pol Pot (Saloth Sar), a former school teacher, led what was then called Democratic Kampuchea. The majority of people in the world recognise Cambodia as an underdeveloped country just like any other, what they often don’t realise are the atrocities that Cambodians experienced in the 70s, when the Khmer Rouge was at it’s height of savagery.

Tuol Sleng (S-21), was a high school that was turned into a secret prison for torturing, interrogating, and depriving those who were accused of illegal activities and accused of being traitors…..most of whom were completely innocent …..but made confessions because they wanted the torture to stop….and it did…by being sent for execution! The Khmer Rouge acted like savage animals with no conscience…..most of the soldiers were children under 15…..incomprehensible. The Khmer Rouge had turned the peaceful and beautiful Cheung Ek village into the infamous killing fields….we’re men, women and children were killed in the most abhorrent ways.

In the years that the Khmer Rouge was in power (around 5 years), almost 1/3 of the country’s men, women, children were killed. Many were tortured for long periods of time, sometimes for more than 3 years. For years there was mass-murder in progress and the world didn’t even know about it until it was almost too late. Much of what happened was depicted in the movie “The Killing Fields.” (Vince and I saw this at the local cinema, The Empire, run by Kevin, a Yorkshireman on the evening of 15th Jan)

The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which an estimated 1.7 million people lost their lives (approximately 21% of the country’s population), was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. The Khmer Rouge, combined extremist ideology, ethnic animosity, and a disregard for human life to carry murder on a massive scale.

Vince and I visited S21, Toul Sleng on 15th Jan, we had an English speaking guide who took us through and it was very confronting. Of over 20,000 prisoners only 7 men and 4 children survived on the day the Vietnamese Army over through the Khmer Rouge on Phnom Penh….we got to meet one of the survivors ….Mr Chum Mey, a mechanic, who was singled out to repair the typewriters that his torturers used to record their forced confessions. We bought his book and DVD, both of which he signed and offered to pose for a photo. We had seen his cell on the tour and we felt quite humble and honoured to meet a man who had survived against such odds.

We visited the Killing Fields on 16th Jan….and although sad and somber….it didn’t have the same shock impact upon me that S21 had….there were no frills….Block A cells still have torture implements in them along with the basic bed and a toilet box with a photo on the wall of a victim in the room. Block B had classrooms that were divided up into smaller cells….brick on ground level, wood on the second level and the top floor was one big room housing up to 50 prisoners who were all kept silent.

There are several rooms in block C with displays of photos of victims when they first arrived and were counted and then after they were tortured or died. This was very sad viewing and included women and children….even babies!

D block houses a museum of torture implements along with very graphic paintings of how these were used. The paintings were done by a survivor, Bou Meng, who has wriiten a book about his experience.

Both experiences were very moving, and although not pleasant, I think Westerners should see the horror of what Cambodians had to endure. A warning though it’s not for the faint hearted….I had nightmares about it!

308km. 14th January.

Aad had spoken to Steve King, the owner of Panda Guesthouse in Siem Reap where we were staying and he had told Aad that the road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh was in very bad condition with lots of roadworks, forcing oncoming traffic to share a single lane and had suggested that people should take the longer route via Battambang, but Karen and I had already booked our accommodation in Phnom Penh and needed to get there today, so we just prepared ourselves for a long day and whatever may arise, and had an early departure from our guesthouse.

Aad waved us off as we rode out, heading initially for breakfast in Siem Reap and stopping out the front of a Mexican restaurant, one of the few places open early enough to serve up food and coffee in time for us. The coffee was so nice I had two cups, whilst we enjoyed our cooked breakfast.

I tried to get some fuel before leaving town but couldn’t make any sense of what the servo we’d stopped at was pumping, so we pushed on – with about 305km to ride and 260km of fuel I’d need to find something down the road. The early morning traffic was getting thicker and more congested, but we made careful progress on the way out of town, eventually coming across a slow moving convoy of cars and open trucks following a couple of trucks full of people wearing white clothes and headbands, and a police vehicle in front with its red lights flashing. Once we had scooted past this convoy we were able to get up to a decent speed, enjoying the open road.

In the first 20km since leaving Siem Reap we did encounter some roadworks that made the riding quite difficult with very thick dust being thrown up by the trucks and cars obscuring our vision, so here I flipped on our hazard lights, hoping we wouldn’t get squashed in the dust. Once we’d cleared this section we found the road in good to great condition for the next 130km, with only a few more small areas of roadworks we needed to watch out for.

The countryside was pancake flat and predominantly rural, with just a few small villages and towns to break up the monotony of the flat horizon. In some places the road was built up high above the wooden houses below us, and many of these houses had a pond in front of them, often with a water buffalo wallowing in the muddy water as it enjoyed a rest.

We stopped for fuel, and a little while later stopped for a drink and some chips and stale Orio cookies – standard morning tea on the road here.

At the halfway-point we passed through Kampong Thma where the road direction changes from East to South, and we then had 70km of graded gravel road to contend with – very smooth, very dusty, and very difficult to see ahead through the dust clouds, but manageable – we cruised at 80kmh through this section. Some parts had been narrowed to 1.0 or 1.5 lanes wide but mainly it’s very wide, and minimal road work construction work was currently taking place. The last 80km into Phnom Penh was mainly on a wide four lane road with a central divider and light traffic.It took us 5.5 hours but that included a refuelling stop and a morning tea stop, so maybe 4.5 hours riding time in total.

Arriving in Phnom Penh I was grateful for our GPS leading us quickly and easily to our hotel, as the traffic in town was quite hectic, with heaps of 125cc motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cars, tourist buses and trucks all competing with pedestrians on the narrow roads. Arriving at our hotel – the Lance Court Hotel – it was apparent that we would need to park the bike up on the sidewalk in front of the hotel for parking, but th hotel assured us they had 24 hour security staff watching the parking area, so we checked in, unloaded the bike completely and then covered it up quickly, making it disappear under the cover.

The inside of the hotel stank – a truck had been parked up against the front door and was pumping crap out of underground tanks beneath the hotel and the air was rank with the smell. We went for a walk to get a late lunch and ended up at Sury’s Guesthouse one street up, where we enjoyed a cheap and tasty lunch.

Later that afternoon we took the short walk from our hotel to the riverfront – looking over the Tonle Sap towards where it converges with the Mekong, and taking in all the sights and sounds of Phnom Penh. Our hotel is on 136 Street, and a guide book I’d picked up and flicked through said that 136 Street was renowned for the number of hostess bars that populated the street towards the riverfront. Hmmm – I think Karen has landed us in the middle of the red light district here – that’ll make for a story or two I’m sure !!!

We hired a Tuk Tuk and Driver for three days (11th – 13th Jan for US$76) to show the four of us (Aad, Mike, Vince and myself) around the temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park and Siem Reap Province. These represent the ruins of the ancient Angkorian capital cities of the Khmer Empire (9th – 13th Century AD) and included the most famous and well known Khemer temples, such as  Banteay Srey (11th Jan),  Angkor Wat (12th Jan) and Bayon (on 12th Jan).

Day one (11th Jan) we had breakfast at a nearby cafe….nothing special but cheap and cheerful! Our driver, Sovoeun, collected us at 9.00am for our full day out… starting by a stop off to purchase our three day pass (including photo) for US$40 each. We rode past Angkor Wat enroute (we will go there on day two)…we passed through the South Gate of Angkor Thom, which as very impressive and as we approached we saw elephants giving people a tour of the the area. We passed another temple with a large crane…I think it was Bayon, which we will stop off and see tomorrow. We were headed out of the North Gate on our way to Preah Khan Temple, this was an awesome place and at the entrance there were musicians performing, mostly land mind victims, so Vince and I contributed to the collection pot (an occurence that seemed to be regularly repeated at most of the temples). There were also some stall holders, trying to sell tourist stuff but we were not interested in books, postcards, t-shirts etc…..and although I would not have bought any, I did find the paintings by local artists interesting along with handmade musical instruments, including some drums with what I think was snake skin.

Back in our tut tuk we were taken to a smaller “hospital” temple….origianally called Rajasri, but now called Neak Pean (coiled serpents/nagas)…..showing the four elements within the 4 water pools…..Earth – Human, Wind – Horse, Fire – Lion and Water – Elephant. It was quite a long way out to the Island Temple in the middle of the last baray ( Preah Khan Baray) to be constructed by a Khmer King. The temple is on the axis of a lotus pattern of 8 pools and the water was thought to have healing properties. All four of us had the same thought as we travelled over the wooden bridge…..hope we don’t end up in the water like we did at Inle Lake in Myanmar!

Next we stopped at Ta Som, a small monastic complex like a miniature Ta Prohm, built in the late 12th Century AD by King Jayavarman VII in the Bayon style and it is the most distant temple on the Grand Circuit…lastly we headed 37km North of Siem Reap and visited Banteay Srey, Citadel of Women, from the late 10th Century AD under King Rajendravarman, with some of the most beautiful carvings in Angkor, stopping off on the way for some lunch.

On the return trip we stopped briefly at the Cambodian Landline Museum….which was very emotional….especially reading the stories of the child victims that live at the centre.

We completed our day with a climb up for sunset shots at Pre Rup (Temple Mountain) built by King Rajendravarman II in the late 10th Century AD…..a very busy day! I was very hot, in fact feeling like I was going to pass out by the end of the day……but after we got back to our hotel and freshened up I felt much better. Dinner with the boys was just some burgers at the nearby little place we had breakfast and dinner last night!

Day two (12th Jan) Up at 4.30am to get picked up at 5.00am our driver had us out to Angkor Wat in the dark so we could watch the sunrise over it. It was absolutely jam packed and although well worth the early start to see, I had trouble seeing over the crowds and Vince ended up taking photos over people’s heads and hoping for the best….we weren’t disappointed….you’ve got to love that Olympus TG4….BRILLIANT! We spent quite some time exploring the temple, including making friends with a pig down by the lake….Ankor Wat truly was beautiful. However, the line was so long to go into the inner sanctum that we decided to give that a miss.

Back in our tuk tuk we sped off for the South Gate of Angkor Thom, the Walled City of King Jayavarman VII from the 12th and 13th Century AD built in the Bayon Style. We saw the elephants again on the way through and briefly stopped to take some photos….we were shocked to see their tusks had been removed….they did not look very happy….you would not get me to part with any money (fee was US$20)      for a ride ….it seemed too cruel!

Bayon, the temple of faces at the centre of Angkor Thom, was absolutely fabulous to experience, but again packed with tourists and it was frustrating us to try to get photos because of the crowds. It was getting on to the middle of the day and the sun was unforgiving. I was overheating again and so was Vince, so we decided to just walk along the Terrace of the Leper King towards the parking area near the North Gate, and as we did so we walked past Baphuon (Central Angkor Thom) from the mid 11th Century AD under King Udayadityavarman II, but we didn’t go inside as we were melting, hungry and getting over the crowds. Walking past the Terraces of the Elephants was amazing and the detail was just fantastic.

We soon found ourselves in the parking area and made our way to some stalls to get some cool drinks and Vince poured a bottle of cold water all over me to cool me down….which made me feel like I’d wet myself but did work! Back in our tuk tuk we headed East out of the Victory Gate, past some smaller temples (e.g. Ta Keo), but to be honest we were all “templed” out and the heat had just zapped us….so we opted to just head for the Jungle temple, Ta Prohm, that had been filmed in “Tomb Raider”. No Lara Croft today, this Bayon Buddhist style temple built by King Jayavarman VII in the mid 12th – early 13th Century AD had been clearly reclaimed in parts by the jungle! Again, lots of tourists but well worth the visit….I had a little adventure of my own here …..but that’s another story!

We were finished by lunch time, so we got dropped off next to Pub Street, and we had lunch at The Red Tomatoe before walking back to our hotel to cool down and have a bit of a rest. Later in the evening, Vince and I took a walk to Pub Street and had a foot massage (US$7) for a hour in “Pure Vida” for our aching legs and feet….followed by dinner at the “Temple Bar” where we were treated to a display of Aspara Dancing…….very interesting and enjoyable.

Day Three (13th Jan). After a less than stellar breakfast we headed south today at 7.30am to avoid the heat….off to see the Roluos Group, the oldest Khmer Temples and it was the first Angkorian capital city.

First we stopped at Preah Ko, which was the first temple to be built in the 9th Century in the ancient, and now defunct, city of Hariharalaya, by King Indravarman I, some 15 kilometers south-east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia. It was a relatively small temple with three main buildings. Preach Ko was dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva, and was a funerary temple of the king’s parents, maternal grandparents and the previous King, Jayavarman II and his wife. It is in the Preah Ko style of construction.

Back in our personal tuk tuk we were whisked onwards to Bakong, the largest temple in the group from the early 9th Century AD which was part of the King Indravarman period and also in the style of Preah Ko. It was the first mountain temple, built of sandstone, it resembles a pyramid, guarded by lion guards and elephants….it was very impressive.

Our final visit was to the Lolei Temple….also from the late 9th century AD…it is the northernmost temple of the Roluos group of Hindu temples built as part of Hariharalava, King Yasovarman dedicated it to Shiva and the members of the royal family. Once an island temple, Lolei was located on an island slightly north of centre in the now dry Indratataka braay. Scholars believe that placing the temple on an island in the middle of a body of water served to identify it symbolically with Mt Meru, home of the Hindu Gods, surrounded by oceans.

At both Bakong and Lolei there are contemporary Theravada Buddhist monasteries. At Lolei, Vince spoke with one of the monks, Hun, and explained that his wife was a teacher interested in schools in Cambodia, and suddenly we found ourselves being invited into the school. The school caters for both boys and girls from the local community and is free (funded by donations). They have around 250 students from primary and secondary up to 18 years, including sending some off site to univerisity. We got to see an English class operating, as well as a computer class and the library…..Hun introduced me to the class and I really enjoyed interacting with them….I have never taught in a bilingual class before…..loved it! . We made a small donation and found it a very interesting experience….in fact more interesting than the temple itself which was under renovation.

We decided not to go on to the Floating Villages as Aad was feeling unwell and Vince was hot… we got dropped off in town at Swensen’s Ice-cream. After which we went our separate ways….Vince and I shopped for an Angkor Wat charm from my bracelet in the local market, and we were again tempted into a foot massage which was blissful! Lunch was at “Geneviev’s” ….we found out later it is recommended as one of the top 3 restaurants in Siem Reap! It employs people with disabilities and is linked to the Fair Trade Village, which we also popped into look at as they offer employment and skills training for people with disabilities and showcase their wares…I bought a pair of earrings recycled from bullets. Whilst we were there, we met Rick (Access Seim Reap) and he and Vince got to talking motorbikes….one thing led to another and it turns out he has a project in mind to provide cheap transport for people with disabilities, including landmine and UXO survivors who are in wheelchairs…which involves building a custom made sidecar. We would really like to try to help and I contacted our friends in the Perth Motorcycle and Sidecar Riders group (which Vince founded) to see what can be done to assist…..US$800 would buy the bike and make the sidecar….giving a degree of independence and dignity to people in wheelchairs……Craig and the gang are keen to get involved…….I’m very excited about it!

Back at the hotel we had a bit of a rest and then went out for dinner to Pub Street….again to the Temple Bar….this time with Aad and Mike, so they too could see the dancers. Afterwards we walked through the night markets and we tried “snake”…..well Vince and Mike actually ate it…..I tried to bit a bit off but it was rock hard and I was worried I might damage my dental work……so I just licked it a bit instead! They also had spiders….but I passed on those!


I could swear that I could hear it raining outside so I wasn’t in a rush to wake up or get out of bed, but when I did pull back the curtains the sun was shining and the ground dry so it was time to yet again pack the bike and clock up a few more miles – about 290km today that would take us all the way south from Surin to the Chong Chom – O’Smach border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia, and from there down to Siem Reap, home of the fabled Angkor Wat collection of temples.

Karen launched herself into packing our gear so whilst I bumbled around trying to wake up and retrieve the bike from the narrow corridor I’d slipped it down yesterday so it would be parked out of eyesight overnight, she had everything ready to throw on the bike. About 08:30am we got moving, looking for a place to get some breakfast.

Karen spotted a coffee place so we doubled back there, parked the bike, and cocked up our drinks order. We had intended to order a coffee and a tea – but presented with three columns of figures adjacent to each item on the drinks menu which suggested a sliding scale of cost as you up sized through small – medium – large – we ordered a large coffee and a medium tea but they came out as iced drinks served with a straw – only then did we notice that the column headings were hot – ice – something else that I can’t recall offhand. Duh !!!! We ordered hot drinks – and even then Karen wasn’t fussed on her Ceylon tea as it looked like carrot juice topped with frothy milk, so all-in-all it was a bit of a breakfast fail – even the 2 x ‘American Egg Breakfast’ we ordered would have been unrecognisable to any Americans ….

We refuelled just down the road and that was a bit more successful, and then headed for the border, chipping away at a nice pace in the light traffic. Exiting Thailand was very simple – I just handed in our ‘Simplified Customs Form’ that had been issued for the bike and get that stamped, and then our departure cards were checked and our passports stamped out at another hut, and then we were on our way to Cambodia – about 50m away.

We didn’t have any US$ on us and I’d checked the Thai Baht – US$ exchange rate last night – approx 1,100 THB = US$30, but I wasn’t surprised when we were told we needed to pay 1,300 THB each for our Cambodian Visa On Arrival. I argued a bit with the two guys behind the window but wasn’t getting anywhere, so after voicing my disapproval I paid the money and got a stamp in my passport from one of the guys which showed his title – some senior police dude in charge of visa services. Hmmmm – I should have filled out one of their feedback forms that invited comments on their visa services.

From the Immigration Office building we could see a couple of resorts just a stone’s throw away – apparently a lot of Thai’s cross the border to try their luck at the casinos here, before heading home again.

Once we had the paper visa stamps glued in our passports we then went to the next window where another officer meticulously poured over our arrival cards and passports, comparing the various entries, before stamping and counter-stamping and stamping again in our passports and on the forms, before rechecking all of the stampings and all of the forms. Very diligent. This officer told us to ride down the hill a bit to look for the Customs place where we could register the bike, so we thanked him and raced down the hill to get in front of a line of trucks making their way slowly down to the same spot.

The Customs place wasn’t much more than a box with a window cut in it, and here we just filled out a simple register which I signed. No carnet, no importation forms, no fees – yippee!!!!

Only one more checkpoint to get through – the final passport check, which was nothing more than a cursory glance a chuckle or two from the officer – and then we were on our way into Cambodia, back to riding on the right hand side of the road.

As a special treat for Karen I decided to avoid the shorter main route down to Siem Reap and instead opted for the back roads way there, so we turned left (east) at Phong, just south of O’Smach, and headed to Anlong Veng, before turning south for Siem Reap. This road was marked as a minor road on the map but was in good condition (though bumpy in places) and we made good time towards Anlong Veng.

A lot of locals had spread out some vegetable thing on tarpaulins on the side of the road – we passed km after km of this thing drying out in the sun, occasionally seeing people raking it over or spreading it out by hand.

Originally I’d planned to slip past Anlong Veng and scoot straight for Siem Reap without stopping but Karen was feeling thirsty so we left the bypass and headed into the centre of town, which looked a bit like Shitsville to be bluntly honest. The first ATM we tried wasn’t working, but after a bit more riding and then watching Karen do battle with the next ATM we found, we were finally cashed up – but in US$. Just near the cross-roads in the middle of town we stopped to get some cokes and condensed milk (Karen plans to make rice something-or-other sometime), and we were then back on the plan and heading down to Seam Reap.

The road was sealed, wide, and carried few cars but enough scooters and farm trucks. Scooter riders here are manic – they don’t check before veering off the road in any direction. We pushed on at a pleasant pace, enjoying using 6th gear for a change as up until a few days ago we haven’t needed or used it for ages.

About 30km or so north of Seam Reap the road narrowed and started to get bogged down with lots of tuk-tuks carrying tourists out to see the temples scattered around Angkor Wat, so this slowed our progress, and then the road surface became very pot-holed so that was another obstacle, but not nearly as challenging as the shit-for-brains car drivers we encountered when we finally entered Siem Reap proper.

We had to ride from one end of town to the centre and a bit beyond before arriving at our guesthouse, and it was almost like being back in India I thought, with cars and trucks and buses and scooters all over the road – coming at us on our side of the road, doing u-turns into oncoming traffic, stupid stuff like that. I was relieved when we arrived at the Panda Guesthouse, and we saw that Aad and Mike had beaten us here as their bikes were already parked down the side of the building.

We unpacked, caught up with Aad and Mike briefly when they returned from lunch, and then we nipped outside for a late lunch ourselves, before seeing the guys again and collectively arranging three days of temple sight-seeing via tuk-tuk, starting 09:00am tomorrow. I can’t wait to go see the temples (again) – but for now I need to dash and go charge the GoPro.