After crossing the border, the last two days of cycling were in Thailand along the gulf coast. –Krong Pailin to Chantaburi, 26 miles, mostly flat, cloudy, 80s and humid –Chantaburi to Laem Mae Phim, 50 miles, hills, drizzle, windy, 80s
I’ve not had good luck with water transportation on this trip. It all started out innocently enough.
Once out of the river and into the huge lake, I quickly became concerned about our small boat in the high winds and huge waves, with no other boats visible. As water crashed over the bow, we surged up the waves and then banged down into the troughs, our unaffixed chairs sliding all over the deck. I strapped on my purse and wiggled into a life jacket while our guide Nak scrambled astern to help with the rudder. Two and a half tense hours later, we reached the lee of the far shore, completing the roughest crossing the captain had ever experienced.
And then the engine died.
Battambang to Krong Pailin, 58 miles, hilly, rainy, 70s
Skip this post if you don’t want to know about some of the harsher realities of bike travel in southeast Asia. Like any tourist, I’ve only shown you the best photos of the prettiest things. But if you’re curious about the full experience, here it is.
I don’t have photos of every unpleasant aspect I encountered, so here’s a sampling of what you might expect if you cycle or visit here.
There are Khmer temples that predate Angkor. The Chenla empire was headquartered at Sambor Prei Kuk near Phnom Penh from the late 500s through the 700s. Hundreds of temples remain.
Angkor (near Siem Reap) was the capital city of the Khmer empire from 802 to 1431. All that is left of the approximately one million people and their hundreds of square miles of urban sprawl are more than one thousand stone temples in various states of ruin. Angkor Thom is the name of the walled, 3.5 square miles at the empire’s center that contain many, but not all, of the Angkor period remains. Temples were constructed either as Buddhist or Hindu shrines, then re-purposed and switched around according to the current king’s preference.
Cycling has to be the best way to visit Angkor, since you can get into the forest and visit ruins most visitors never experience. Our guide Nak is not only an excellent cyclist, he is very knowledgeable and proud of Angkor, sharing with us the best views, interesting details, and fun routes.
Angkor Wat is just one temple complex out of the Angkor region’s approximately one thousand temples. The largest religious monument in the world, it was built in the early 1100s.
Cycling: Siem Reap and Angkor, 26 miles, warm and sunny Siem Reap and Banteay Srei, 40 miles, rainy/muddy/70s
Cambodia should be viewed through the lens of the Khmer Rouge (Cambodian Communist) regime led by Pol Pot, 1975-79. An estimated two to three million people (about a quarter of the population) were killed, the currency eradicated, religion outlawed, hospitals shuttered, and schools closed, setting the country back hundreds of years. Genocide targets included professionals, intellectuals, artists, foreigners, diplomats, and any other suspected political enemies. A slower death faced urbanites who were forced out of the cities and onto collective farms. Cambodia has managed an incredible recovery in only 40 years, yet the after-affects are still visible, and it is considered an LDC (least developed country). Currently described as a constitutional monarchy, it has a single party and the second-longest serving prime minister in the world, so you can drawn your own conclusions.
Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom, 20 flat miles, overcast with occasional light rain, mid-80s Kampong Thom to Siem Reap, 40 flat and fast miles, partly cloudy, mid-80s