Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Life on the road (how corny!)

Another 60 hot kilometres covered. More tarmac, broken tarmac and red dust. It was a pleasant ride in the countryside. Just bimbling along gives us plenty of time to think. Time to think about western decadence and all the things we 'need' in our lives. Time to think about exactly why did that chicken cross the road? But mostly time to think about how I managed to convince myself that splashing the cash on a decent saddle before we came away was somehow not worth it!

We wonder what these rural cambodian people must think of us? Some smile and wave, some ignore us but never do we feel any bad vibes towards us. Are we just more rich westerners? Are we poor westerners cos we can't afford the bus or taxi and need to cycle?

We asked an owner of a guest house how many westerners pass through. "Some" he said. "1 a week, 1 a month, but always on a bicycle just like you". And we thought we were special...

When we see any person over the age of 40 we can't help but think of their experiences during the Pol Pot regime. What stories could they tell? Were they forced to work in the fields under terrible conditions or did they manage to run and hide, escaping the worst of the terror? 

Massive respect to these locals who use the traditional heavy single speed bicycles. We hired some and they are bloody useless on even the most tiny hill. These skinny little Cambodians schlep around with some serious loads on the back of their rusty bikes while we glide along with 27 gears at the ready....

We've only encountered a couple of not so nice people. A kid sniffing glue in Kampong Cham and a slightly aggressive guy who wanted me to buy him a pack of fags whilst we were stopped for a drink. Then there was the pissed, crazy but friendly bloke who accosted us at a grotty lunch stop cafe. Tasty eh?!

We ended up buying him a bowl of what we were eating, sod the 50p expense! He was way more drunk than me, honest!

We rolled into Kampong Cham in perfect time for 'elevensies'. There are 'whities' here and western comforts but don't get too excited. No fluffy white towels or chicken off the bone are available (yet). We did however treat ourselves to a nice bowl of fruit and muesli before visiting the famous bamboo bridge. It must be about 700m long and constructed completely of bamboo. Apparently it will take the weight of a truck but we only saw motorbikes crossing it.

So, what is the actual riding like? we hear you ask. Well, so far its been totally flat here but with the headwind its just constant pedalling. Hills are hard work to climb but at least you get the benefit on the way back down (we might well regret saying that once we get to Laos...)
Want to save yourself hundreds of pounds but get the same experience as we're getting?  OK, go to your local gym. Ask the manager to put one of the bike machines in the sauna, turn the pedalling strength level to low/medium and  get started. Go for an hour or so at 18km/h. Ask the manager to periodically bung a few dry leaves, cow pats and plastic bags onto the coals, it'll smoke up nicely. And then to really finish it off, get him to randomly tip the contents of the Hoover bag over your head. Yep, you're getting close now. Only 8 hours to go!
As we ride along, the flat long road would be kind of boring if it wasn't in Asia. The roads are the life blood of the country and there is so much going on to look at, right there at the roadside. In the distance, through the dust, a loaded bicycle approaches. Great! A fellow cyclist, panniers full of clothes and camping gear. We'll find a shady spot and stop for a chat. But no..... It's a local guy on his way to the market with a few chickens strapped to his rack.
Of course it's not the riding which makes this trip. It's the people and experiences along the way. We stopped at a small stall to buy a few drinks and get a sugar hit. It worked

It turned out we were in the grounds of another school. We were soon surrounded again by gorgeous, giggling kids asking us our names and impressing us with there counting skills.
Then there was the attempted lunch stop. We spied a roadside stall with all the usual trimmings of a 'noodle soup' stall. "Choom rep saw, geautiev?" Which apparently means "hello, noodle soup?". The ladies behind the stall just looked blankly at me. I tried again. Nothing. A guy walking past, heard our difficulty and asked in English what we wanted. "Geautiev" "what?" I showed him our phrase book with it written in it. He looked blankly. "Do they have rice?" I asked, changing tack. "No, but you want to eat? How about noodle soup?" "Yes please" he asked the ladies but would you believe it, they'd run out....

Eventually we arrived at the delightful rural hamlet of Stung Trong (?). Now don't mistake this for Stung Treng, that place is in the guide books. Right now we are definitely 'off piste'. We managed to find the best (only) guest house in town and asked where the chick-en was. Get it??? Tee hee

This award winning establishment (way the shittiest so far) set us back a princely $5. Have a look at this and remember it next time you say "you guys are living the dream". Yes, that is kate hanging out the washing....


  1. Love the room! Glad you managed to Chick-en! ;) You use to get a room with a tv for $5! Have you tried any tasty treats? You know the ones I mean...

  2. Hi Danielle. I tried a deep fried cricket but it was a bit soggy. Not really what I expected. It kind of put me off even more!

  3. With all that cycling and the squat toilets you two will have thighs like steel! You both look really good,lovely healthy glowxxxxxxx