Day 1 : Phnom Penh to Skun
Day 2 : Skun to Kampong Thom
Day 3 : Kampong Thom to Kampong Kdei
Day 4 : Kampong Kdei to Siem Reap
It would be a 4-day ride, covering a distance of under 400 km. Cycling in Cambodia would make a Malaysian feel very much at home. For a start, you would be cycling from "kampong" to "kampong". Though not as frequent, you will also have some rare sightings of ladies in their tudungs, signaling that you would be passing a Muslim community. And if you are lucky, just as we did, you could converse in Bahasa with some of those you would meet. These Bahasa speaking men or ladies have worked in Malaysia before, and they are found in the small villages as well.
On the road we traversed, the scenery reminded us of Malaysia about perhaps 30 - 40 years ago. The highways, as they would call their roads, are our present federal roads. Red dusty laterite tracks served the interior, feeding into the highways. All kinds of modified vehicles with loads we would never imagined to be carried are found almost everywhere and almost all the times. My regret was not to capture these overloaded vehicles as they zoom past. Amidst all that, do not be surprised to see spanking new (though dusty) Range Rovers, Toyota Harriers, Audis and BMW's overtaking you at highway speeds! In spite of that, we felt safe on our bicycles, as we have always felt in all our past cycling tours. Or else, we would not be here, two senior citizens cranking away the kilometers on pedal power.
We woke up early on this Day 1, excited to a certain degree to start what we have planned couple of months earlier. Noting the possible challenges for halal food, we carried instant Nasi Beriani, Nasi Goreng and Mee Maggis in several flavors, including my must have 3-in-one Nescafes. But this first morning, we need not worry about breakfast. D Nyonya Restaurant would be opened by 6:30 am as they had indicated last night and we checked out from the hotel at about 7 am after paying the US$16 for the night - clean room, air-conditioned and free Wi-Fi. What more can we ask for.
|START OF TOUR|
No point waiting. We followed my GPS towards the direction of Kampong Kilomet 9. We consoled ourselves that we would find Muslim food stalls there in the morning. We had promised Ustaz Daud we would cycle to the Madrasah since he had suggested us to take the new bypass towards Skun, which passed the madrasah. Skun was our destination for Day 1, roughly 80kms from Phnom Penh.
At the time of setting up my bike last evening, I realized that the front brakes did not sit properly. I decided to release the front brakes and hoped to get it repaired along the way. We came across a bike shop just as we neared Kilomet 9. It was not just the brakes, the front rim has to be trued too, a skill beyond my capability. Job well done and in sign language, I asked how much? Three fingers came up. Ah, US$3? When I took out US$3, the daughter of the owner spoke in English, "No, too much!" I laughed. Such honesty. It was 3000 Riels but we had no Riels, so I gave US$1. I was happy, so was the shop owner. (Note: 4,000 Riels = US$1)
|TRUING THE WHEEL|
|DAY 1 BREAKFAST - "DUCK RICE"|
|A POSE WITH THE TEACHERS AND STUDENTS|
|ON THE NEWLY BUILT BRIDGE|
|THE DELTA BELOW THE BRIDGE|
Traffic began to pick up when we reached the main Highway 4 towards Skun. Vehicles in Cambodia, just as in Vietnam moves on the right side of the road, a legacy of the French occupation. Cycling either side is never a problem but I do pay particular attention when crossing the road so that I looked in the right direction. While the road is not very wide, there is certainly enough room for a bicycle. There is also no distinct road shoulder, but the laterite side table provides adequate room should one need to give way to bigger vehicles to pass.
While the weather was hot, the wind was quite chilly and the chill helped to off-set the heat of the day. The ride was generally smooth. At one point, we detoured into a village when we saw a mosque. A Malay speaking lad approached us and pointed to a new mosque under construction. He said the funds came from abroad, mentioning donors from Trengganu. I was trying to get the Trengganu slang from the kid but obviously he did not learn it from any Pak Wan"g" from Trengganu.
|KIDS EAGER TO POSE WITH THE TWO "GRANDFATHERS"|
|FRESH FISH AT A SMALL MARKET IN THE VILLAGE|
|A TYPICAL HOUSE IN A VILLAGE|
After cycling for about 50kms, we chanced upon a RnR. The restaurant sat at a lake edge, and the continous breeze that blew across was just the right tonic for the tired muscles and droopy eyes. If only, if only ......
We knew getting lunch here would be impossible but we had Maggi Mee. So, we asked for hot water but also ordered coffee just in case the hot water was provided f..o.c. We "enjoyed" our Maggi perasa Tom Yam, while at the same time stealing glances at the food spread served to 5 customers behind our table. Hmm....
|LUNCH BREAK AT A RESTAURANT BY A LAKE|
At one point along the route, both sides of the road were lakes and instead of water fowls, the roadside peddlars were selling smoked fish.
|SMOKED SALMON ANYONE?|
With only Maggi Tom Yam for lunch, the stomach was longing for something more solid. The empty stomach caused our eyes to open wide for the Restoran Mukmin. It was Khailani who spotted it. He must be hungrier than I was !
It was about 5 pm when we got there. The lady owner spoke Malay! We ordered our drinks, contemplating whether to return to the Restaurant later for dinner after first getting a hotel. The lady pointed to a building next to her restaurant. That's a hotel! We looked at each other and we had no need for further discussion. So we had our drinks and reserved our stomach for a hearty meal later in the evening.
Distance: 81.8 km
Ride Time : 5hrs 24min
Hotel Rate : US$8