Bangkok (Thailand) – Siem Reap (Cambodia):
About 20km before Cambodian border I passed another biker who had a lot of luggage on top of his bike. I waved him to stop to have a chat with other fellow traveller.
He was Igor from Bosnia and going to see an elephant fair in eastern Thailand. He lives south from BKK and asked me to contact him when I am in that area.
Yard of the house was deep gravel and somehow I let my front tire to slide. Result of this was stylish dive towards mother nature in front of several people.
Speed was close to zero, so no damage to the rider or bike, but darn my bike felt heavy when I started lifting it up!
I got help from few people and soon bike was up and parked away from this treacherous gravel surface. I got my visa in 15 minutes and cost was 25$ (later I read that correct price is 20$, so I got screwed up a bit).
Thailand border crossing went through quite easily after I found correct booths. Getting bike stamped out from the country was really easy, I did not need to fill any forms because they just copied my carnet and asked me to sign it. Totally Thailand border took around 1 hour to get through. Cambodian border crossing was extremely easy. I stopped to one booth, queued around 10 minutes, handed over my passport and got it back in one minute.
After this I was asked to stop at customs.
Needed to ask directions couple of times before I found customs office. At the customs office I handed over all my bike papers.
Guy behind the desk looked over the papers and asked me if I had any other papers. I told him that he has all the papers I have…
He grabbed some papers from the drawer and showed me a carnet slip. Oh, they want to stamp Carnet also in Cambodia! I quickly grabbed my carnet from the bike and 30 sec later it was stamped.
I was surprised that Cambodia wanted to stamp my carnet… I actually hoped that this would not be the case, because I wanted to leave my bike here for a month when I fly back to Germany for Christmas holiday). Well, there was nothing I could change anymore, just needed to see what happens at the airport.
Totally Cambodian border crossing took around 30 minutes.
Immediately I got flashed by cars and I realized that they are coming towards me on a same lane! I thought that Cambodia has also left side traffic as Thailand, but seemed I was wrong 🙂Soon after border I noticed that this place looks more “exotic” than Thailand. Houses were in poorer shape and landscape looked “wilder”.
Traffic was not so heavy as in Thailand, fewer cars, but more scooters.
It was only 150km to Siem Reap from the border. It took me couple of hours to ride this distance. Speedlimit was mainly 60km/h, but no-one seemed to care about the limit, so I also rode around 100km/h.Scenery was really nice, big fields everywhere, palm trees here and there in the middle of the fields and further away high humidity made everything look like a bit dreamy.
Got to Siem Reap and was surprised when I realized that sun starts to get down, checked the time and it was already around 5pm.
I was not sure which currency Cambodia is using, so first thing was to find ATM.
Got my money from the machine and was surprised when I got USD.
I found a nice looking hotel with a fenced yard (safe parking place for my bike), checked availability and got a clean room for 18$/night. Price was ok, because this was big touristic center.
After dinner and short walk around I noticed immediately that people were really nice and friendly here! Normally in a big touristic area locals are a bit bored for tourists and can be a bit cold, but this was not the case in here. Nice!At the hotel I asked personnel about the entrance to the Angkor Park -area. They said that I need to hire a tuktuk for a day, because I would not be allowed to enter temple area with my own bike. I had read from the Horizons Unlimited message board that people have been able to ride to the temple area with their own bike, so I wanted to give a try.
Now only question was if I take a ticket for 3 or 7 days, price difference was only $20.
Plan was to get up at six to avoid hottest time of the day, but pillow was too comfortable so I got at seven.
Had tiny breakfast and at eight I was on my way to the Angkor Park ticket counter.
Ticket counter had massive queues, but this was not a surprise to me because I had read that every year around two million tourists visit this place.
While I was queuing my turn one police came to ask me if I was there with a motorcycle. I answered to him “yes” (which was quite obvious because I was only guy with a motorcycle suit and helmet :)), he told me that it is not allowed to enter park area with own vehicle. Replied to him that if this is the case, then I need to go back to the hotel and rent a tuktuk.
Finally it was my turn to hand over money for exchange to a ticket. I decided to get 3 day ticket so I handed over $40 to the cashier.
Even the police said that I would not be allowed to enter temple area with my bike, I still decided to give it a try. Heck! I would not loose anything if they would turn me back 🙂
My plan for the day was to go quickly through the whole area and decide which areas I would put focus in the coming days.
I checked my map and headed clockwise around the moat.
Soon I saw long bridge, a parking area full of cars, lot of tourists and locals selling all kind of stuff.
I parked my bike next to one booth which was selling soda and water. Immediately bike was surrounded with locals who were asking all kind of questions (where I was coming, where I was going, how much bike costs etc).
Couple minutes later an American or Canadian tourist approached me and I chatted with him few minutes. He asked me to send an email to him when I would reach north-east corner of US.
I started to feel the heat already when I was walking across the moat. Air was really humid and sun was climbing higher in the morning sky, I started wondering how hot the day would going to be during the midday…
Angkor Wat –temple area was huge and this was only one temple in this massive park area! It took few hours to quickly walk around this temple…
I had seen several pictures of the Angkor Wat, but no words can describe how gorgeous it was in reality. Lot of small details, stone carvings, small pathways and 5 high towers in the middle… This was just unreal!
Next on my list was to ride to Angkor Thom and have a look at the Bayon. Bayon is one of the most famous temple (together with Angkor Wat) in Angkor Park. It has 37 towers with huge number of stone faces carved to the towers.
Tower was breathtaking, but unfortunately sky was cloudy, so I did not get good photos of the faces (not enough contrast). This temple would definitely be one of the sites I would need to visit better in coming days.After this I still quickly visited several temples and just rode around the park area (I used normal parking areas all the time and did not ride to the paths).
Around 2pm I returned to the hotel, took a nap and had early dinner.
Weather forecast showed rain for the Sunday, so I decided to spent next day in museums.
First he took me to a War Museum which was few kilometers outside of the town. This was outdoor museum with lot of tanks, helicopter, old ammunition and lot of photos.
Even the machinery was interesting, the most impressing thing were the photos. Khmer Rouge has stained Cambodian near history with blood and torture. It is good to see these museums to understand the past of this beautiful country. It amazes me to see how well locals have got over this horrible near history. People over here are extremely friendly, definitely one of my favorite places which comes to a people.
I saw a lot of photos of child soldiers, how people lived in the jungle during the war and what mines will do to the people.
Still Cambodia has a major problem with the active mines. Every year these mines are causing lot of sorrow by killing and wounding people.
There was also sample of a minefield. I have to say that in reality, it is impossible to see tripwires, even when grass is short. How impossible it is to see them when grass is taller? Impossible…
After an hour in the War Museum I headed to Cambodian National Museum.
Oh it felt really good to get inside to air-conditioned room!
Entrance fee was $12, which was expensive, but I still agreed to pay it.
I spent over two hours inside the museum looking many different kind of Buddha statues and old stone sculptures. Museum was interesting, but I have to admit that at the end these statues started to get a bit boring…
Later in the evening I had really tasty Khmer food for a dinner.
My eyes screamed more sleep, but somehow I was able to get up and met the tuktuk driver in the lobby at 05:00am.
Reason for such an early wake-up was my desire to see Angkor Wat during the sunrise.
On my way towards the Angkor Wat I realized that I had forgotten to pack my head torch. Luckily I was not going to be alone (sunrise at Angkor Wat is extremely famous), so I thought that I just follow the path of lights in the temple area.Once I got the closer to the temple area I saw tens of lights slowly moving towards temple, so I knew that I was saved :).
Crossed the moat and walked towards the main temple area. On the left side of the stoned walkway, there is big artificial lake and this is the place where most of the sunrise photos are taken, so this was the place where I was also heading.
Even there was lot of people already, I was able to find a good position with unrestricted view towards the temple.
Put up my tripod and just started to wait sun to color the eastern sky.
At the gate to Angkor Thom I quickly stopped to take few photos of the gate itself (which looks gorgeous in the morning light) and big heads on top of the gate.
Stopped again in Bayon, plan was to take a lot of photos there, but unfortunately sky was covered again with the clouds. So, needed to come here again some other morning when the sky would be clearer.From here I continued my journey towards north to Elephant Terrace, but this area was not so interesting as previous temples.
Next temple was one of the “must see” temples, Ta Prohm. Part of the Tomb Raider has been filmed in this temple. Here you can see how big trees have grown on top of the stone structures and wrapped them around their roots. Really unreal looking place!
I was trying to find a specific location where I could see Buddha face under the roots, but could manage to find only one (not the one I was looking for).
This temple area was full of tourists, so some times I had to wait quite a long time to get my photos.
I was guided through the temple area by a local old man. He pointed me a few nice places which made my life much easier. He did not speak English, but still we were able to communicate without bigger problems. At the end of his “tour” I gave few dollars to him.It started to be too hot and humid for me, so I decided to return to the hotel for few hours and return few hours later. On my way back to the hotel I quickly walked through Banteay Kdei temple, but there was nothing special to see.
At the hotel I uploaded around 400 photos to my computer! I was surprised how many photos I had taken during the morning :).
Now it was also time to take one hour nap (tough life) :D.
If you came here, try to avoid hottest time of the day which is between noon and 2-3pm. Hot sun together with high humidity can make you feel really uncomfortable here.
On my way to town one car drove straight in front of me, luckily I was going quite slowly, so it was easy to avoid collision.
Few hundred meters from here one scooter appeared from nowhere (in between the cars) and rode straight to my pannier (I was doing maybe around 40km/h at this point)! I heard loud bang and felt that something had hit my bike.
Looked back and noticed that young girl on a scooter had hit my bike, luckily she had not fallen either.
In next traffic lights I stopped and asked if she was ok. She said she was fine but seemed to be more worried about my bike…
Stomach full of Mexican food I rode to the gas station to fill the tank for Wednesday when I planned to continue my ride.
At the hotel I met one guy from Switzerland who had been travelling already five years. He had no plans to return back to Europe, his plan was to travel as long as he would be alive :).
A bit before ten I got up and went for a breakfast. I ordered fried eggs, but instead I got extremely salty scrambled eggs. Could not finish them even I gave a decent try.Stayed at the hotel going through my photos till 3pm. After this I packed my camera stuff and headed towards Bayon.
Got in to the park area again without any problems. Shot few photos from Angkor Thom south gate and then continued further.
Few hundred meters later police waved me to stop, I was wondering what they want from me.
Stopped my bike and then police asked me to take off my helmet. He told me that tourists are not allowed to ride in the area because earlier they have caused some problems…
I would return back to the area after sunset.
I insisted that I would ride only to Bayon, take few photos and then return back the same way, I also told him that it would not make any sense at this time to go back to town to get a tuktuk.
Finally he asked his boss´s opinion and I was allowed to continue to the temple :). This time sky was partly cloudy, so I got some decent photos.
Around 45 minutes later I returned the same way, but police was already gone (would have stopped and told him that I returned back as I promised).
Rode again straight to the town for a dinner. This time I decided to have spring rolls for an appetizer and a pizza for main course. Got 4 huge spring rolls (enough for main course) and finished only two of them. Food was again excellent and my stomach was ready to crack.
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh:
I had pre-booked room from Sunday Guesthouse because I would meet Annaleen and Uli (http://www.alser-on-tour.de) again.
Left the hotel around 10am. I was surprised how far to the east Siem Reap town spread, it was bigger town than I expected. Western part of it is touristic area with huge number of hotels, hostels and restaurants. Eastern parts was more for locals, houses, companies and markets.
Traffic was surprisingly heavy but I got pass them easily with my bike.
After the town traffic got much lighter, only few cars, scooters, tuktuks, cycles and waterbuffalo carts were on the road. Speedlimit was again 60km/h, but cars and busses were passing me when I followed the speedlimit, so I decided to keep my speed around 100km/h. I guess this 60km/h is just a minimum limit or max limit for waterbuffalo carts :).
Road surface was in a good shape, so I was able to safely look around. Road went through flat farmlands. Some fields were covered with water, so I guess there was some rice growing.
I do not know why, but most of the houses in small villages were constructed on top of the pillars. Is it because of the humidity, insects or something else, I do not know?
Next hundred kilometers I had to focus more for the riding, because road surface got a bit worse. Now I stayed awake while trying to avoid holes and bumps on a road, well, at least it kept me awake :).
Day got also quite much warmer the further I rode, so next stop was hundred kilometers after the previous one.
I waved my hand to the cars and continued a bit further.
On my second stop I waited if these cars would pass the place where I was having a drink so that I could have another look of these cars. Unfortunately I did not see them, so I decided to continue.
About 40km before Phnom Penh road got really bad. Rest of the way road was sandy gravel due to road construction and dust made riding quite difficult.
Dust stuck to my sweaty skin and face but the hardest part was lack of visibility due to heavy traffic. I tried my best to avoid deep holes, but few times I hit them quite hard.
Every time possible I passed these cars, because they were going really slowly.
Traffic got quite wild in the town, because there was millions of scooters everywhere! For me it looked like whole city was on the road at the same time!
I had only few kilometers to the town, so I needed to keep focusing to the traffic so that I could get to the guesthouse without a problem.
Found this little guesthouse and got my bike away from the street (which was the main thing).
I had booked $8 room, but at the guesthouse I realized that at this price room had only fan. More expensive room $12 had A/C, so I decided to pay this higher price.
Twenty minutes later also Uli and Annaleen arrived to the guesthouse. It was nice to see them again! Last time I saw them was in Bangkok.
We decided to ride our own bikes to the Killing Fields, which was around 11km from the guesthouse. Thanks to our GPSs, it was easy to find. Other option to get there is to hire a tuktuk.
Entrance fee to this place was $5, which included entrance and also audio guide.
This place is one of the 300 mass graves in Cambodia and here Khmer Rouge killed around 20000 people, mostly their own people!
Audio guide gave good explanation around the area, what happened and where.
It is amazing to think about that all these things happened here only 30-35 years ago!
Biggest landmark in the area is high Stupa where you can see lot of skulls and bigger bones from the massgraves.
After the Killing Fields, we returned to the guesthouse for few hours before we continued to S21 (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum).
S-21 was only 10 minutes walk away from the guesthouse and quite easy to find.
Entrance fee was $2.
S-21 used to be a school before Khmer Rouge turned it to a prison and torturing facility.
There was a lot of photos of the prisoners. Men, women and children were held in this place. Age or gender did not have any effect if a person was seen as a threat to the system… Crazy…
Market was quite a disappointment, because it was mainly filled with cheap Chinese copy material, so we got away from there really fast. We expected to see Cambodian style real market, but this was nothing even close.
Close to the river Mekong I saw few temples, but I was not interested of them anymore, because all the temples look exactly the same. I was more interested to see Royal Palace. Close to the Royal Palace one tuktuk driver came to talk to me and he said that we were too late, because Palace would be closed for few hours.
We also heard that basically only thing what you can see there is a silver Pagoda, so we would not miss anything big.
From the outside this Royal Palace did not look anything extraordinary, so we kept on walking.
We passed Independence Monument on our way back to the guesthouse. It is big dark colored monument in the middle of the big roundabout and seemed to be offlimits for pedestrians, of course we did not know it ;).
Our plan was to have few hour rest at the hotel and then go and shoot few rounds with AK-47s. Our plan changed when we heard that 25 rounds would cost $40!At the guesthouse I was searching information about the bike clubs in Phnom Penh. I was able to find one and the gathering point was in a nearby restaurant.
We decided to visit this place and have a dinner there. I was also hoping to find someone who could help me to find a place where I could leave my bike for a month.
Again we took a tuktuk to get us to the restaurant. It was actually much closer than we thought, so the driver made a quite good deal with us.
Once we got in to the restaurant, it looked like there was a birthday party ongoing. I asked someone what is this celebration for and got answer that restaurant is closing and owner wanted to organize a party for their customers.
Few beers later we decided to find some food close to our guesthouse.
This time I got some really good fried noodles and my belly was happy again :).
Got up early in the morning to have a breakfast and to say farewells to Annaleen and Uli. They will continue their trip to Siem Reap and from there to Bangkok.
I do not know when we will see next time, but not on this trip anymore, because their trip start to be close to the end.
They have been travelling close to two years and they will return to Germany to the “normal” life on May.
After they left, I took a small nap :).
My plan was to stay in Phnom Penh till Tuesday and then try to get to Vietnam.
I do not need Vietnam visa, if my trip is less than 15 days. This way I can save $40.
Only question is if they let me through from the landborder, because normally they want to see airline ticket (proof that a person stays less than 15 days in the country).
My near future plans started to get shape; stay couple week in Vietnam and then fly to Germany for one month before staying another two weeks in Vietnam.
Only open question still is if I can leave my bike to Cambodia when I leave to Germany.
Rest of the day I spent going through the photos and working with last Nepal update.
Slept 15 hours and I was still tired after that! Do not know what is going on…
Spent the whole day at the guesthouse, doing absolutely nothing.
Finally got last week of Nepal story published! Wow, this took some time and effort…
Rest of the day I spent going through my stuff and packing for the Vietnam trip. I was going to take my camera and yellow bag with me, all the other stuff would be on top of the bike under the tarp.
I was really happy that I could leave the bike to the guesthouse free of charge! It would be safe in the covered parking and guard watching the covered parking during the night.
Cambodia wrap-up will came later, because I will still return to this country few times 🙂