Cambodia: Bicycles and Borders
Earlier this year (in the hottest part in fact), Tim, Ray & I went on a bicycle trip from the Chong Chom border in Surin Province to Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia, quite a trip! (*)
Afterwards we discussed another potential cycling trip to Preah Vihaer temple as people can't access that anymore from the Thai side of the border. (**)
We finally decided to give it a try during 24 - 29 November and began with gathering information which turned out to be rather frustrating due to lack of proper maps...
Google Maps wasn't very helpful either, especially as it doesn't differentiate between roads and dirt tracks...
As for Satellite view in remote areas such as these, very limited zooming possible!
The western spelling of Khmer names didn't help much either: Otdar Meanchey, Otddar Mean Chey, Oddar, etc.
Other places were visible on paper and digital maps, but not shown on Google Maps, great...
Despite all that on the evening of November 23rd I folded my Dahon bike, managed to squeeze it in a taxi and set off for Hualamphong Railway Station.
After arrival at the station I went straight to the Surin bound night train, ignoring all the diesel fumes around the platform....
More than a few passengers were just sitting out there, apparently not bothered by those dreadful smells, weird to say the least.
Once aboard I made sure to secure my bike as I know from experience that those train rides can be quite bumpy and shaky...
As expected I didn't sleep much but at least could relax horizontally which helped a bit.
The next early morning the train arrived at Surin Railway Station a little after 5 AM and about 20 minutes later Ray and Tim arrived to pick me up.
After a good breakfast at Ray's we started packing, my little Dahon fitted nicely in the back of the car and their mountain bikes ended up on the roof rack.
Once everything was securely tied and fastened, Ray's brother in law drove us to the Choam Sa-Ngam border crossing...
Off loaded our bicycles and packs, said goodbye and went to the Thai Immigration.
Despite the not particularly friendly looking razor-wire the Cambodian officials were friendly enough!
Getting the visa was easy, this time passport size photographs weren't even asked!
The first tourist attraction was just a few 100 meters further on but we ignored Pol Pot's Cremation Site as the combination with a Hotel Spa / Massage / Gym seemed a bit odd.
Besides that he was a murderous evil prick!
The first few kilometers consisted more of braking than biking as going down hill from the Dangrek Mountain range was quite steep at places, views were awesome though.
14 kilometers later we'd arrived in Anlong Veng, checked into Monorom Guest House and dumped our main luggage in our rooms.
Not much cycling really, but we decided to cruise around a bit more.
Anlong Veng has a quite beautiful lake nearby (although during the Khmer Rouge period it had a rather different reputation...) and it seemed like a nice idea to find a restaurant overlooking the lake.
This didn't really work out as planned but instead we scored a decent lunch and Tim had opportunity to indulge in his beer labels hobby!
Underneath is Anlong Veng's dusty main roundabout...
Following lunch we decided to have a look at Tamok House, the place of former Khmer Rouge Commander Ta Mok, from 1979 until late 1997.
The guard at the entrance asked us directly for one two dollar(?!) and never bothered to give us an entrance ticket in return, in hindsight a good indication of what was to come.
Apparently the idea was to make this place into a museum with great intentions from the Anlong Veng Peace Center (***), but without any supervision and upkeep afterwards the present condition of it made me feel sad and nauseous....
Virtually all photos and info boards are damaged by weather and slowly but steadily rotting away....
The lake views were fantastic and more than a few locals come here to have picnics or use it as a pleasant place to relax.
However the historical importance of this place won't last long if no one makes an effort at maintaining it...
After this depressing visit we cycled a bit around the town, discovered the fresh market and wandered around there for a while.
I must have been at countless markets similar to these in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam over the years, but always find them fascinating.
And for anyone interested in photography these markets are great!
Afterwards we headed back to our hotel for a shower and a snooze.
Our final trip of the day was finding a dinner place which wasn't too difficult.
By 8 PM we were back at our guest house as Anlong Veng was getting ready for the night, not much of any night life to be found! (****)
The above MapMyRide screenshot of that day's ride gives some idea of the elevation!
(****) To be honest, local after hours karaoke bars usually can be found in small towns like these but I can't stand those ;-)