Month 8: More Cambodia by bicycle and the south with a mustache

For the 2nd half and month of the cycling trip my friend and cycling partner Leila and I set our sights on the eastern side of Cambodia. More precisely Sen Monoroum, in the heart of Mondulkiri  (a region famous for its beauty and lush mountains and forests that make it a popular destination for trekking, etc.) which is around 350km away from Phnom Penh.

We were a bit concerned that the eastern side of Cambodia is way more mountainous than the western side where we had done all our cycling in, up to that point. However, I convinced Leila (without really knowing myself that it would be OK and that it wouldn’t be too bad).

We left Phnom Penh one morning and stopped that night in in Kampong Cham,  a beautiful and quiet town on the Mekong river and liked it so much we decided to stay a few days taking it easy there. From there we went to Snuol and didn’t find it too special so we only spent one day there. Then we made the final ascent to Sen Monoroum. We had been enjoying the new challenge and change of pace of facing hills and going uphill, but this final day would be different. The distance was 124km and just about all of those were uphill. We started early and made great progress, but then a series of factors came into play to make that final day so challenging that it wasn’t fun anymore. Those factors were a blazing sun with no clouds in the sky, which in turn made it really hot that day to go with the bite of the sun, AND the endless up-hills, and lack of available things to drink!

Leila was wise and 2 hours into the suffering said she was ready to get on a bus and we’d meet at our destination. I kept on going and kept progressing well, but after a few more hours it got much harder and I went 4 hours without finding a single shop on the road (people later told me no one likes to live in that area because the terrain is steep and not desirable for farming)…

So I had run out of water and was battling the mountain and after taking many breaks and even in desperation began trying to flag down cars for water. After a few passed I was delighted to have a car stop and give me a bottle of water that I tried to make last, but was so dehydrated I couldn’t help drink it all in minutes. Then came my least proud moment of the trip. I threw in the towel after around 9 hours and 100 of the 124km. Some people might say I had done most of it and should have finished it, but the lack of liquids killed me. I flagged down a van and got on and those last 24km took the van 45 minutes so I can’t imagine how many hours more of suffering it would have been for me.

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I liked this little man’s style on the bike….I invited him to join our gang but no luck…

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Out of 800 and something kms only one flat tire! The bad news is that this delay had us pedaling in the dark for a while
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An image of some beautiful night pedaling. The next night we also did some night pedaling, but that time under a torrential downpour where the road became a river and we couldn’t see the lines on the road anymore. I actually really enjoyed these times.
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Enjoying a waterfall in Mondulkiri with our friend Mo, from Palestine and Ireland!
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Fully loaded bike with bag of chips I was able to reach back and grab and eat while pedaling that night when fuel was needed
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This was my big birthday bash…a nice dinner and piña colada was enjoyed
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Some of the gorgeous yet eternal uphills that had no shops, no homes, “no nothin” just me pedaling and on occasion some cars and motorbikes going by …usually surprised to see me there!
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On that battle up the hills there were few spots of shade so I found a ditch on the side of the road and lay there contemplating my next move and my gesture indicates the energy levels…
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On my birthday we took our bicycles on a ferry across the river to explore an island with a few villages. At the end of the day I found a football field and invited some kids to play for a while and then shared some fried bananas I had bought and here are the kids enjoying theirs…
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Looking for waterfalls and to get lost we explored these beautiful roads on motorbike in Sen Monoroum


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An amazing breakfast sandwich creation
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Here you can see my tan lines from the sleeveless shirt I wore for the biking…the same shirt I wore during the day and wash at night.
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What else do you need!? Bliss
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During our homestay at the ethnic village the family had several kids, but it was this little man and I that hit it off…
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The well where the family we stayed with fetches their water…I “showered” with some water I retrieved from this well. Old school
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During our homestay we slept in their kitchen & cooking structure…very early in the morning they started cooking with firewood and the smoke and pigs and animals coming in helped us finally get up as I had to get out of there due to the smoke!
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The kind man whose house we spent the night in. He is a Mahout, or Elephant Tout. He has been working with elephants for the last 12 years and says he has had no problems with them because they are females. He also was drunk from 6pm when we met him and tried to feed us rice whiskey  (in the clear plastic bag) and was already drinking again at 6am the next morning with some friends when we got up. He had an amazing smile and we shared a few good hugs.
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A picture Leila took of me telling a story when we arrived at the village that I like
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Dragon fruit. I like the way it looks more than the taste.
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During our “jungle” hike this was the bridge across the river. I love practicing balancing over stuff, but it was scary crossing this thing!
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Playing on some chains…practicing some balance
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Nice picture Leila took…


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In Sen Monoroum we rented a motorbike (felt great not to pedal at this point), and explored some waterfalls and the mountains around. We also did a hike in the mountains which was beautiful and spent the night a nearby ethnic village with a local family which was a great experience.

After Mondulkiri Leila and I agreed to head back to Siem Reap to sell the bicycles there where we bought them and would probably get the most money back since the sellers knew how much we paid for them ($100 and $130 usd by the way) and also pick up our backpacks we had left at the hostel in Siem Reap.

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In between selling the bikes and some errands I got to enjoy some more rest and relaxation by the pool in Siem Reap
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Me saying my goodbye to my bike after selling it back to the shop that sold it to me. She was a good bike…she will be missed

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Leila being paid by the same man that sold us her bike about a month before. He is actually doing a gesture that people in Cambodia do of either handing or receiving things with either two hands or doing this gesture to indicate he is not handing things over with one hand, which is deemed impolite. They also do this for cheers, etc…
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Some stomach issues on the trip had me go and get a few tests done in Siem Reap and I got the green light
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A map of the 829 kilometer bicycle journey across Cambodia

 
From Siem Reap we took a bus down to the south of Cambodia to Sihanoukville and from there we took a boat to the island of Koh Ta Kiev, which we knew little about, but were delighted to find a beautiful and quiet island with only around 5 guesthouses on the island. After that we spent a night in Otres a beach not too far from Sihanoukville and then Leila and I parted ways as she had already been to Koh Rong and I hadn’t.

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In Sihanoukville, a city by the beach that I didn’t care for, I found this swimming pool with a slack line over it which I enjoyed a few hours playing on
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How about this view from a bungalow!? So calm and beautiful to wake up to
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Beautiful sunset in Koh Ta Kiev

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Getting my Movember on at the barber shop
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This is Joel, the owner of the hostel we stayed in Koh Ta Kiev and here he was telling us an amazing story of how he once fell out of a moving train in the middle of rural Vietnam. He and had to walk all night to get to a nearby village who instead of taking him to a hospital they invited everyone to come see him and got him drunk for 2 days until worried friends and authorities finally found him. Amazing story and great guy.
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I have seen this bug that looks like a branch before, but never THIS big!!

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It felt strange to leave my cycling partner who I had shared the experience with and be on my own again. Luckily a few hours after arriving in Koh Rong I met some nice Belgian guys on the beach while we played volleyball  and we went out for dinner and drinks and spent the next few days having a great time hiking, playing volleyball, kicking around the football and enjoying nice food and drinks with lots of nice people we met.

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We hiked to the other end of Koh Rong to get to Long Beach, but sadly they are building a big resort there…however I loved this image of the construction
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Long beach on Koh Rong
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One of the typical dishes of Cambodia is Amok. This is Shrimp Amok. Amok is thick soup cooked with a fish or meat, vegetables,eggs and coconut milk.
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One day I went on a boat trip and this was what the sunset looked like from the water…surreal
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Amazing Thai food from a guy named Sigi who is a one man show and cooks everything himself and has a long queue waiting for his fabled dishes. It was delicious!
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Some of the great people I met on Koh Rong
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This picture actually is an example of how easy it is to meet people when you travel alone. I met Andy, from Germany the night before because he complimented me on my mustache at a bar and when I greeted him the next day he said he was going to go hike to the other side of the island. I said, “cool.” He asked if I wanted to go and next thing you know we went with his friend Dikla and when we were there I heard two girls we passed speaking Spanish and asked them where they were from and next thing you know we all spent the afternoon on the beach playing with these kids and then all went for dinner and drinks that night.

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Argentina, Sicilia y Colombia presente

After almost a week on Koh Rong I went to Kampot, a town that is famous for its beauty and serene setting between the mountains on the river. I was lucky enough to meet up with Joey and Max who I had met on Koh Rong there and together we explored Bokor Mountain National Park one day and took a day trip to the beach town of Kep, to enjoy some of the famous seafood and pepper of the region.

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At Bokor National park and mountain Joey and Max and myself explored abandoned casinos and areas amongst the attractions and even met a nice Dutch girl in this abandoned building who took this picture
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I like to call this one faith under construction
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Kampot is famous for its pepper. I was told that once upon a time only the richest people in Europe could afford to buy Kampot Pepper. Here is the green pepper I enjoyed at our crab lunch in Kep.
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Fresh crab and beer next to the ocean…life is good
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Crab fishing in Kep…

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And here are some picture of the Angkor Wat temple complex that I took at the beginning of my trip in Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the worlds largest religious monument in the world and the famous Angkor Wat temple is only one of many many spectacular temples, as Angkor Wat actually means Temple City or City of Temples, and is a wonder of the world.
Here is more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat

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This was perhaps the most impressive part of Angkor Wat. In such a HUGE structure there were no walls without beautiful detail. Here are the famous relief bas, or sculpted walls.

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Amongst the temples I saw some amazing landscapes throughout the complex.

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One of the gates
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One of my favorites of the temples in the Bayon complex.

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And the famous Angkor Wat temple

As I write this, it is my last night in Cambodia as tomorrow I head over to Vietnam. I took a bicycle ride this afternoon back to my hostel along the river and saw the sunset and colors changing on the local people out and about and I got sad about leaving Cambodia. It has been such a beautiful experience for me with the bicycle trip and discovering a country in a way I had never done so before. It was 829 kilometers in total. On average 103 kilometers a day, and The highlights were the seeing so many rural parts of a country at a slow pace and connecting with the people by learning the language during our stops (I managed to learn basic Khmer enough to make pleasant conversation and the people loved this and were incredibly friendly, in part because of this).
Also the incredible sights these eyes saw while pedaling under hard sun, under downpours, and even at night a few times was also amazing. It was a beautiful experience.

Cambodia is always going to have a very special place in my heart after spending so many hours slowly advancing on the bicycle taking in so much beauty. The rice and many crop fields, the towns, the dogs, the buffalos, the farmers, the shop owners and their families. And in particular the incredible people of Cambodia. No other country I visited treated me to so many smiles, hellos! And genuine friendliness of the people.

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