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