Post # 35 Temples of Angkor

Day 41 1039 days to go. Distance: today 40km total 2142km. It’s 10.10am Tuesday the 10/1/1012 Angkor Thom. I’m sitting on top an Angkor structure known as the Baphuon watching a pigeon builds its nest in one of its facial dome structures. Pigeons are very cool. They are well travelled and always trying to get layed. I’ve watched pigeons do that mating dance at 5000m in the Indian Himilayas. Opps off track back to Baphuon. The temple is sometimes referred to as the worlds biggest jigsaw puzzle. As part of restoration early 1900s the structure was taken apart stone by stone but the records are destroyed during the Khmer rouge years leaving 300 000 pieces for experts to put back together. Given theres still a way to go it looks pretty impressive and your able to walk up the stairs to its height of 43m. Great views and nice place for a sit to share the morning. Angkor is a collection of temple skeletons restored to capture the power of the ancient Khmer empire from 9th to 13th century when it was overruled by the Siamese in 1400 and the capital moved eastwards. This lost city gained European attention mid 1800s and restoration by the french commenced 1908 and continues today. It was initially rescued from the jungle which still has a nostalgic strangling presence in temples such as Ta Prohm. I got up still very dark o’clock this morning and navigates my way out here for the sunrise at the king of temples Angkor watt. Angkor watt is enclosed in a 5mile square walled moat representing the four ages of Hindu thought . It represents the spatial universe in miniature. The central tower is Mt Meru, the lower courtyards the continents and the moat the oceans. a visitor who walks the causeway to the main entrance trough the courtyards do the central tower is metaphorically travelling back to she first age of the creation of the universe and all bedford breakfast. After that monumental offset pa possy away from the crowds and enjoyed a morning coffee as the sun came up over the domed towers. I revisit there late this afternoon as part of my cycle tour. Next was Angkor Thom with it multi angles and layers of sculptured smiling face domes. The face represents the Khmer king at the time built to show his power and humanity. Theres so much symbolism and mystery in the sculptured impressions and temple designs. As such there’s a nice twist of irony in his enigmatic smile like well never fully know the mystery of his history. Very cool I like this. It’s like despite our cleverness there are things that remain left to educated guess it’s that whole mystery of life thing that I find very cool. It’s like we know very little about the biggest animal on earth the blue whale. Oops butterflying again now ancient Khmer temples right! Ankor Thom is equally impressive in size an grandeur . Its enclosed by a 8m high 12km long square moated wall and 20m high gates on each of its four sides. Rube and I arrived via the causeway along with those arriving by elephants, tuk tuks, moped taxis, other bicycles, mini vans and hige tour buses. Crazy mixed traffic of tourists all enjoying the delights of this place. the causeway was lined with 54 demons and 54 gods representing the epic tug of war
Of life. Very yin yang I like it. Anyway onwards James lots of cool stuff still to see.
It’s 8.35pm and what an amazing day. I kbow I say that a fair bit beacuse of the amount of new stuff I’m getting to experience but really this place is incredible. Angkor Watt is one of the ancient wonders of the world. Its hand-on ancient history seeing places I know from books but seeing it real is something else. day ` has been taking in the closer temples all within about a 40km circuit. The day climaxed at a temple called Ta Prohm which is still strangled by huge old figs and famous for its use in the film Tomb Raider. It was such a great way to finish a 12 hour temple fix and I got watt fever and 2 days still to go yay. I still want to go through Angkor Watt and head out to a temple a bit further out called Banteay Srei. This ones apparently a jewel being cut from a pinkish stone with some amazing stone carvings and great in later afternoon light. So that’s me tomorrow. I’ll end it there as its a bit late and still to have dinner. Awesome day and looking forward to uploading the photos for you. This is a particularly awes inspiring and magical corner of the world. I just sat today so many times grinning at what I was looking at in amazement. Big time great! Talk soon x

Post # 34 Siem Reap

Day 40 1040 days to go. Distance: Today 12km 2102km. It’s 5.30pm an I’m sitting in front of Angkor Watt and I just had to say ‘oh bloody dear what an extraordinary sight. It’s pinch myself very cool stuff. If you buy your pass after 5pm then you can enter and Day 1 doesn’t start until tomorrow so basically I sneak in a freebie sunset and taste test. I just had to wet the taste buds and so glad I did. Finding a guesthouse can wait until later. Right now this is truly awesome and I’m really excited to be here and back at 5am in the morning when it opens for sunrise. Way too excited and had to share the moment. I keep smiling an idiot grin at people who just laugh. I think they get it. That’s one of the downside of traveling solo is when you want to share something really cool with someone who counts. The blogs the next best thing for me so thank you for wading through the ‘cools’ and ‘awesomes’ which are pretty much the extent of my vocab at these special times. By the way this is awesomely cool 🙂
It’s 8.30pm found a cool guesthouse for the next 4 nights $6 per night. So I have my photo ID pass and a rough idea what watts I want to see and when over the next days. I feel like a big kid with a new toy or in this case something totally new and different to check out that i have heard so much about. I don’t even mind that much that I have a sinus infection. It wasn’t unexpected and been coming on now for the last 3 weeks since all that dust in Laos. The body did it’s best but alas its time for drugs. I’m a bit achy with it ot that could just be the way I slept on the bus today so it’ll be good to take the edge of and give the immune system a bit of a hand. It’s been working so hard with not much relief each day. Thank you Travel Doctor. I’ve got a scarf onboard so Ill use that in the dusty parts to help out. My commiserations go out to those who suffer sinus related problems, horrible achy head, nose and teeth. Anyway enough about boring snot and back to cool stuff. The bus ride was a good time spent reading up on the ride options with little sleeps in between 🙂 It’s sort of a pinch myself moment that I’m here. I think that’s why I was so keen to get out this afternoon for a reality check. It’s been such full on days in Phenom Phen and a bit of an emotional roller coaster taking in some of the challenges Ive spoken previously about. So this afternoon sitting on the ancient wall looking out over the moat at Angkor was a perfect intro to where I’ll be exploring and indulging the lens over the next days. I’ll upload the photos when I return to Phenom Phen but have wifi access at the guesthouse to let you know how each day goes. For now its time for bed as an early rise in the morning. Talk soon. x

 

Post # 33 Phenom Phen

Day 39 1041 days to go. Distance : today: 30km total 2090. It’s 3.40pm Sunday the 8/1/2012 Phenom Phen. My girl loves me again. I had made such a muddle of her gears when I high pressured her with good intent but it was an oppsy. Now in hindsight I think I knew not to do that but it seemed like a great idea at the time and I was so happy with myself that I had spotted the hose at the bus terminal. As taken from one of my favorite songs currently Tinpan Orange ‘Lovely’ …Ïf I ever break you I swear I’ll put you back together again.’ So that was me 1st job o’clock this morning, Barnett’s Manual, tools, no idea but determined to put my Rubes back together again. And now she sparkles and works and loves me. Likewise!!! My very authentic Oakley’s are Red just like her. The bond is back and stronger then ever in time for us to head to Siem Reap tomorrow to check out Ankor Watt and the temples for a few days – very excited. After that effort it was shower and pamper and off to check out the Russian markets. Actually they were a bit of a fizzer probably because what they offer I’m not interested in ie clothes, jewelry cheap brand names and the interesting stuff I felt like I had seen before. I found this place outside a bank to park Rubes and there were a couple of security guards sitting having a big laugh as I locked up my bike. I could feel my cranky shackles want to ruffle but instead I went over to them introduced myself and sat beside them while I drank my morning takeaway coffee (Thermos style). Soon we were chatting about beer and eating lychees which they offered to share. Lychees are called me hen in Cambodian. Delish and a really cool experience indeedy. I headed then back across the friendship bridge and to the market bakery I found yesterday to buy some more baguettes as apparently you can eat 10 in 24hrs. I quite like calorie-ing up and am so good at it J  Another 10 on board I headed for a tour around the city. Phenom Phen has very grand avenues with centre monuments and manicured gardens. They pretty much form the grid system for the other roads so it’s easy to navigate about. The city is building a huge manmade island off the dockside lots of bucks spent to help along its reputation as one of the new “in” cities in the world.  It was good to get a better feel for the place and its layout. I did have some cool encounters with some vender families along the way. One woman was selling peeled huge grapefruit. She had a baby and 3 other children under 5. Full on! Anyway a dollar well spent and I sat with them while I ate my grapefruit and amused the kids. I passed this other woman tying together and selling those stalks I saw the other day opposite the fields of pink lotus. So they are the lotus stalks that you break open and peal and eat the little pods inside. They’re a bland texture something like a water chestnut. Again I sat with her while I ate my share and I loved sitting on the street listening to her chatting away to me. Eating my lotus pods and watching the city move past from a street perspective I loved it. I think this was my most favorite Cambodian experience so far and worth every bit of the 50c. Yesterday I left out a few bits I had seen during the day. The boys of all ages and boys at heart play this game like badminton but with their feet and the shuttle cock is a bit bigger. God they’re so coordinated and clever. I watched them for ages on dusk yesterday playing in front of the fountain opposite the night markets. I also watched them playing outside the fluoro lit restaurant hence the photos.  I’ll attach them to this post so they make more sense. After I update the blog and upload the photos from Cambodia so far, it’s back to the guest house to pack up for tomorrow and head to the riverfront for dusk and dinner. It’s a nice way to end what’s been a full speed full on few days, very interesting both as a place to experience and personally manage. We have it so good at home and that’s always good for me to keep in the front of the brain. Hey I almost forgot I say my first monkey today climbing over a wall near a central park area how cool!!! Talk soon x

Post # 32 Phenom Phen

Day 38 1042 days to go. Distance: today 30km total 2060. As much as this place is one thing its just as much the opposite. And no I haven’t had a special vegetarian pizza for dinner. Phenom Phen is grand but grotesque with its polar standards of living. It’s huge with small pockets bustling with it’s own business and seemingly oblivious to the big city extravaganzas. it’s stimulating with its sensory overload whilst very confronting and personally challenging. It is truly beautiful in its locality and river front living but the live stock markets redefine cruelty. Here’s a story. I was in the night markets and stopped in the eating section where there were mats laid out to sit and have a meal. I thought it a great spot to blog but as soon as I sat I was approached by begging children. I told them no and they soon left but I saw their mother wave them back and they came and laid on the ground beside me displaying their desperate message. I left. Today has been an incredible day. Rube and I headed this morning to go find the supermarket and bakery I spotted on the way in yesterday. It turned out the bakery was this hub of bread products and local folk and vendors were buying bags of freshly baked loaves and bread sticks still warm. They were selling out of huge wooden crates and being topped up as quick as sold. I got amongst it and bought 10 for $1.00. The bag was so warm and the bread crusty yum. So I sat outside the bakery in my best asian squat position and ate one while it was hot. I must have sat there for an hour. It tuned out to be a bus stop or should I say a van stop for local folk traveling between cities. I have been seeing these vans on the road. The drivers are crazing one speed full throttle plowing the road with their horns. It turns out these vans are alternative intercity transport. So out front of the bakery was the van stop with vendors selling eggs and pork rolls and sugar cane drinks to the travelers. It was fascinating to watch. I dropped Rube back at the guest house and walked to the central market (old and new). On the way I found the bus stop and bought a return ticket for Rube and I for Siem Reap Monday morning leaving 10am 6 hour trip. The guest house will let me leave the trailer and most of the gear which is great. The central market is under this large yellow domed building that takes up a block. All around the base is food markets and inside mostly jewelry, silks and clothing. I of course found the sunglass stand and bought a genuine pair of Oakley’s for $4.00 :-). I haggled I shocked myself I so don’t do haggling but I got the price down from $7 to $4. Actually to tell you the truth it wasn’t the sunglasses (which are pretty cool) or the price it was the fact that she said please please buy and I did….sucker! My glasses had broken with a pair on order from home so they’ll do the trick in the meantime. Plus it was a really nice experience so had to have a photo with the sales girl she was so sweet. Outside in the food stalls this woman was squatted over a tray selling that vegetable Ive been seeing drying on the roadside. These had been steamed and I bought couple of pieces to try. She peeled and cut them up for me. It was a cross between a turnip and a sweet potato very starchy and gave me that sense of indigestion but tasted good. She was very shy for the camera but eventually agreed. I also saw a woman selling beehive pieces which smelt intoxicating and skinned frogs in a basket crazy variety. The block over was the new central market in a tall glass domes building. I checked it out for the view from the top. It was bazar on one side looking out to the river the apartment living was quite good standard most buildings 3-4 stories high with garden terraces. On the other side were dilapidated housing blocks. There was a roller blade rink at the top and I watched these guys for ages doing their tricks and having the best s stacks. The next market was called Orussie. It was totally mad. there were no tourists just locals and lots of them congregating and shopping and eating. This market was raw I loved it allot more interesting and the right side of dirty stinky intrigue. Heaps of dried meats and fish which had an overbearing smell being indoors and in such concentration but looked incredible all crammed in different shapes and sizes hanging adhoc in every bit of shop space very cool I loved it. There were also lots of spices and herbs it was a really interesting market and fun to hang out. Tomorrow is the Russian market which reads as the best one for getting lost in so i’m doing that first up in the morn with a fresh head to get into it. At the bus stop I saw a high pressure hose being used to clean the buses so I took Rube their this arv for a clean. Unfortunately she’s spotless but i’ve mucked up the alignment of her gears bugga so that’s also a job for tomorrow. Thank goodness for Barnets Bike manual. It’s come to the rescue a couple of times now so money well spent already. I hope to end the day doing a walking tour I read in a book which finishes on the river front and I may be able to find a picnic posie over dusk. Tomorrow evening will be uploading photos I found a cafe not too far up the street so a good job before heading to Siem Reap Monday. Talk soon x

Post # 31 Phenom Phen

Day 37 1043 days to go. Distance: today 125km total 2030kms. It’s 8.14pm Friday the 6/1/2012 Phenom Phen. hey I cracked the 2000km mark today yay. I’m sitting in the foyer in the guesthouse I found here actually it was one of the first I came across that just so happens to be awesome right price right wifi access so it was a bit of a fluke. It was good to get off the road this afternoon. After 125km to get here and the last 30km travelling with full on inbound and outbound traffic I was a bit fried, concentration gone and happy to stop somewhere that works. Just so happens I’m pretty much in the centre of places I want to check 0out which is again a good fluke yay. Mostly its the handful of very cool markets here that I want to spend the next couple of days getting lost in. I have a few have tos and will need to get my supermarket fettish hit and already found the area for supermarkets which I passed on the way in 🙂 typical junkie always one eye on their next hit x I cleaned up, did my washing and headed out at dusk to check out the river front goings on an the night market. It’s such a huge city and got a taste just how big and chaotically asian it is on the way in. i’m certainly glad I’m arriving now after settling in a bit and it also reminds me it was a good decision to arrive Chiang Mai and not Bangkok at the start. Road rules and dividing lines are totally irrelevant here – it’s get there as best and as fast a you can using your horn to clear a path and keep a sense of damage control. It’s so full on. You cant think about it otherwise it’d be overwhelming-you just goto go with them and spider it with all 8 eyes open. I kinda like it to be honest its so extreme – it was just a bit full on at the end of a long hall here – but I’m here and safely and very happy to be checking out the capital for a couple of days or as long as I can hold out. I generally don’t do big cities very well but there’s a few really cool markets here that have got my attention and look forward to posting you about it over the next days. The waterfront was this hub of activity and fluro and noise and action – heaps of police about heaps of people, spotted lots of tourists amongst the numbers. I’m literally 3 streets in from the central river front where the royal palace is – it s the main feature on the river front very grand and ornate asian architecture. The river also was a hive of activity boats , cruises. There’s a boardwalk that runs both directions as far as I could see with folk playing sports and huge aerobic sessions with music blaring, of course food stalls everywhere and fluro lit bars and restaurants and massage places and shops of all sorts and happy pizza places lol x There are allot of beggars: amputees, mothers with children. I had only pulled up at the guesthouse and a man approached me one leg on a crutch. It’s really confronting even after being warned about the volume of the people in this desperate state. There was this man however both legs missing but instead of begging he had a set of scales and was charging people to weigh themselves. Awesome I was so happy to hand over the 1USD (4000p). he was also happy to have his photo taken with me and it was a good experience I hope for both of us. A bit skinny but so I’ll feed up over the next days. I found the night markets they look really great right on the river front and all under white tents still open air. I’ll go back tomorrow night to check them out proper cause I need not to have Rube and you can’t walk through with your bike – she’s not impressed. Actually she’s not really talking to me at the moment. I called her ‘Urv’ today it slipped out (Urv’s my last car now retired). It’s like calling your current partner a name of an ex. She’s also a virgo so I’ll give her space and lots of loving and she’ll come around in her own good time lol 🙂 The ride here today was really interesting. It’s is such a fishing agriculture most of the way here so heaps of fish farms and drying fish of all sorts and fish road stalls and fish being cleaned and fish scraps and remains everywhere. You can kind of imagine the general smell that was there for most the day. It was overwhelming at first but you just get used to it. It wasn’t pungent it straight out stunk like spilt fish sauce left to ferment on the carpet mat in a hot car – i’ve had this pleasure previously not pretty. There were heaps of small towns most of the way and the only other farming I saw was ducks and fields and fields of pink lotus that covered an area of wetlands. They were flowering and beautiful. You may know I have a pink lotus as part of a tattoo and very partial to the asian meaning of lifelong learning, growth and spirituality that’s associated with its symbol. Anyway had to stop for a picky. There were also roadside vendors along here that were selling the stem and seed pods from the flower I assume for eating the way they were package. In the same area was lots of duck farms and of course people selling plucked and prepared ducks strung out for cooking. I stopped to take a photo at this lad who got my attention and he charged me. And fair enough too worth every bit of the 2000 r (50 cents). I went through a town that i read was famous for its deep fried spiders but what i found was this total commercial tented area with a huge model spider out front like the big pineapple back home. It was hilarious and obviously lost some of its authenticity since the lonely planets last publication in 2009. Actually that reminds me that was the other produce today and loads of it- pineapples and stalls selling peeled and chilled skewered slices. Anyway I’m a bit weary and looking forward to a huge night sleep and big day of it exploring Phenom Phen tomorrow. I’ll upload the posts from the last days before bed now with the wifi and will attach the photos when I find some decent internet shouldn’t be a problem here. talk soon x

Post # 30 Khompong Cham

Day 36 1044 days to go. Distance: today 92km total 1905km. It’s 6.30pm Thursday 5/1/2012
Khompong Cham. If there was any chance I was going to be nervous on gravel from my fall the other day that’s been long squashed from today’s 92km with 80kms on red gravel and rocky uneven surface. what a wicked day as in unforgiving and tough on me and rube. We certainly got our patience and parts stretched but it was so worth it. The people and experiences along the way were awesome and it’ll be one of my highlights of Cambodia for sure. I stocked up on baguettes and bananas this morning at the Chlong market and filled my belly with 2 minute noodles then headed about 8.00am. It was a full day arriving Kompong Cham 4.00pm this arv and a decent’s days work for us both. The first stretch followed the Mekong from Chlong to a small Musim village called Phum Trea. The road was unsealed and red dirt so the sinuses had a bit of a fit. I’ve got a mask I bought and it took the edge off and feeling too bad this evening. The area is mixed some villages very ragged some appeared quite lucrative and most with a strong fishing agriculture and muslim. It was really different to what I’ve seen – people were very busy emptying large tubs of small fish,sorting and laying it out for drying. The smell was pungent and the women very traditionally dressed. Funny but I stopped and had lunch by a group of woman working away and as hard as they were sorting they were chatting and giggling. It was cool to ears drop and flash them a smile if i caught their eyes. They were very shy of me so I kept a respectful distance and took some subtle shots. At one stage I somehow ended up on a back road of the backroad. It was all eroded from the wet season with a hard core single dirt track that weaved it’s way around the erosion. i couldn’t ride rube through it and we ended up walking for about 5kms. That was a testing time and I still have some serious growth with respect to my patience at times. boy i through a couple of wobblies but noone to hear me except Rube who was sweating with the terrain and trailer as well. ]\Then this man came along walking his small herd of cows and pointed me to a path that lead me back onto the main back road. Funny the experience of it made these roads now look like tarmac so all was good from that point on. Back in Kratie the girl I met also cycling gave me a map of the track today with ‘how far is the ferry between Stuang trang and Phum ‘ written in Cambodian. She said it may come in handy as the ferry crossing was hard to spot from the other side. Oh my goodness – what an amazing gift. I spent 10km literally stopping and asking and getting mixed distances but all the folk understanding what I was asking and doing their best to point me onwards. The Muslim call to prayer has just started. I love that sound. I perched myself on a wall that runs along the river front. There;s food vendors and heaps of goings on on the water front. Great atmosphere while I post and have dinner. Anyway I eventually found the ferry at the 55km mark 10km out on the map so that bit of paper was priceless. I wish i knew the girls name to email her my thank-you so if you’re reading this on the off chance “you are a jet and saved my butt today big time.’ I treated myself to a can of coke which went down very nicely on the ferry ride across. The morning was tough and I must admit that 4 hours of children yelling in chorus ‘hello’ at me repeatedly at the top of their lungs made it a bit hard to stay open and receptive to their ‘welcomes’ I know that sounds terrible. They weren’t begging or being aggressive or throwing unexploded land mines or machetes at me so there’s no rationality but I’d be missing a strong emotion from today if I left it out of my post. I was really aware of my growing lack of tolerance and it was really uncomfortable and interesting to see how I coped. What eventually worked was saying one hello, giving a quick wave as it was a two hands on handlebar day, then picking one child out and saying something nice to him or her. I needed a strategy because the alternative that wanted to come out of my mouth wasn’t very nice. You know i can’t even imagine the hardships these families live day to day and I am saturated with western and middle class filters to even respectfully come close. however i can be respectful and present myself respectfully to ensure the local folk are afforded the best of me as a representative of my country traveling on theres. So that was my debrief on AM today. On the other side of the river it was an entirely different area and people. The roads was still unsealed and red dirt but it was more even and improved as the next 45kms went on. I was actually quite spent from the morning so I had allot of stops, had another sugarcane drink and chatted to a handful of local folk and familes to regather a far more friendlier open self and shut evil impatient Maree up for the afternoon. It worked yay. It was a really interesting PM. The area became very fertile and agricultural with fields of green mixed crops. The last 20km was along a tree-lined road through this sort of country and it was such different experience and wonderful way to see out the day’s ride. I found a great guest house again for $5.00 right on the river front with great views out over the water and river front life. I sat out there when I first arrived to send the spot tracked and enjoy a coffee and really appreciated the day for all it’s ups and down times. It all blends now to an amazing day. Tomorrow is onto Phenom Phen 120kms and over 2000km total distance how cools that. I thought I’d spend a couple of days checking out the city before heading up to Siem Reap for a three day pass to take in the temples. That’s the plan. for now it’s a picnic dinner and bed. Talk soon x

Day 39 1041 days to go. Distance : today: 30km total #. It’s 3.40pm Sunday the 8/1/2012 Phenom Phen. My girl loves me again. I had made such a muddle of he

r gears when I high pressured her with good intent but it was an oppsy. Now in hindsight I think I knew not to do that but it seemed like a great idea at the time and I was so happy with myself that I had spotted the hose at the bus terminal. As taken from one of my favorite songs currently Tinpan Orange ‘Lovely’ …Ïf I ever break you I swear I’ll put you back together again.’ So that was me 1st job o’clock this morning, Barnett’s Manual, tools, no idea but determined to put my Rubes back together again. And now she sparkles and works and loves me. Likewise!!! My very authentic Oakley’s are Red just like her. The bond is back and stronger then ever in time for us to head to Siem Reap tomorrow to check out Ankor Watt and the temples for a few days – very excited. After that effort it was shower and pamper and off to check out the Russian markets. Actually they were a bit of a fizzer probably because what they offer I’m not interested in ie clothes, jewelry cheap brand names and the interesting stuff I felt like I had seen before. I found this place outside a bank to park Rubes and there were a couple of security guards sitting having a big laugh as I locked up my bike. I could feel my cranky shackles want to ruffle but instead I went over to them introduced myself and sat beside them while I drank my morning takeaway coffee (Thermos style). Soon we were chatting about beer and eating lychees which they offered to share. Lychees are called me hen in Cambodian. Delish and a really cool experience indeedy. I headed then back across the friendship bridge and to the market bakery I found yesterday to buy some more baguettes as apparently you can eat 10 in 24hrs. I quite like calorie-ing up and am so good at it J  Another 10 on board I headed for a tour around the city. Phenom Phen has very grand avenues with centre monuments and manicured gardens. They pretty much form the grid system for the other roads so it’s easy to navigate about. The city is building a huge manmade island off the dockside lots of bucks spent to help along its reputation as one of the new “in” cities in the world.  It was good to get a better feel for the place and its layout. I did have some cool encounters with some vender families along the way. One woman was selling peeled huge grapefruit. She had a baby and 3 other children under 5. Full on! Anyway a dollar well spent and I sat with them while I ate my grapefruit and amused the kids. I passed this other woman tying together and selling those stalks I saw the other day opposite the fields of pink lotus. So they are the lotus stalks that you break open and peal and eat the little pods inside. They’re a bland texture something like a water chestnut. Again I sat with her while I ate my share and I loved sitting on the street listening to her chatting away to me. Eating my lotus pods and watching the city move past from a street perspective I loved it. I think this was my most favorite Cambodian experience so far and worth every bit of the 50c. Yesterday I left out a few bits I had seen during the day. The boys of all ages and boys at heart play this game like badminton but with their feet and the shuttle cock is a bit bigger. God they’re so coordinated and clever. I watched them for ages on dusk yesterday playing in front of the fountain opposite the night markets. I also watched them playing outside the fluoro lit restaurant hence the photos.  I’ll attach them to this post so they make more sense. After I update the blog and upload the photos from Cambodia so far, it’s back to the guest house to pack up for tomorrow and head to the riverfront for dusk and dinner. It’s a nice way to end what’s been a full speed full on few days, very interesting both as a place to experience and personally manage. We have it so good at home and that’s always good for me to keep in the front of the brain. Talk soon x

Post # 29 Chlong

Day 35 1045 days to go. Distance: today 35km total 1813km. It’s 6.56pm Wednesday the 4/1/2012 Chlong. For a tiny place there’s been such contrast in sounds the last 30minutes while I read up on tomorrows ride to Kompong Cham. There’s a strong Muslim community in these parts and mosques are appearing in villages. At 6.00pm the muslim pryer call could be heard. Then for the next 15 minutes the Budhists at next doors watt were chanting. And now music from a wedding celebration in the middle of town is at volume too loud and perfect. The wedding is literally a marque set up one side of the street. I’ve seen about 6 marques similarly set up over the last days going through small towns/villages. It appears the towns’ folk come together to celebrate a local wedding. It’s a fancy affair ornate and asian colored bright, bold and very Bollywood Everyones dressed in their finest and in this instance the bride and groom are in lavender. It’s unusually cool I like the community sense in it. Todays cycle was really fun along the river road through muslim and Buddhists agricultural villages. It’s so apparent how the area changes in the wet season. The road is elevated and the homes highly stilted with planked walkways to the road. The homes mostly have concrete pillared foundations to their wooden stilts. Most homes have a number of these huge urns you could fit an adult man in. They appear to be water urns used to bath, do washing, and to store for general purpose. Then in the plains away from the homes were the fertile lowlands flooded in the wet season now perfect for growing grains like rice and corn. I’m seeing more cattle still being used to pull carts and plough fields as opposed to motorized tractors. I read this is a poorer area of Cambodia. The root vegetable is still ever present dry roasting wherever there’s a spare concrete or bitumen area. The villages all have one tall mud crusted silo not sure what its storing but seeing the volumes of this vegetable being dried maybe it’s that at a guess only. I’m not seeing it being sold in food stalls which makes me think its being stored for another season’s staple. Ive really loved seeing the smaller villages today and have stopped regularly on the short route to enjoy the locals. A common food here is the bamboo wrapped sticky rice but it’s mixed with coconut milk and a bean. I bought one of them today and ate half for lunch with some local kids at a village big fun. It still amazes me how many children there are and so little. I have seen more bare bottoms today as clothes for the under 2’s appears optional. I had my first crushed sugar cane juice drink today. Oh my goodness it was fabulous. The man mixed it with lime and its just straight juice. He wanted to serve it on ice but I said ‘give it to me straight baby’ well not quite but to protect my belly I thought it best. They have this machine Ive seen it also in everyday homes, that shreds and squashes the cane using a hand turned rolling pin action. This old man had a stall set up right on the river and it had my name all over it. Another local man came up and we sat on the stools provided and shared an otherwise quiet slurping moment. There was a watt across the road I wondered through after. It had this long boat in the front that was about 50 meters in length now that’s a extra long boat. By the way you have to remove your hat when you go into a watt opps. They were restoring the front entrance and like other building structures here the scaffolding is somehow engineered bamboo. Obviously it does the job but its so crazy adhoc crooked looking. Fish is of course on the menus in this area by the quantity all shapes and sizes, fresh and sun dried. The smell frying in their open air hotplates is exquisite. The lady who runs the guest house has a family living in the back area I think they are the family of the woman who services the guesthouse. She showed me to my room and they’re rougher and worn around the edges as opposed to the family living in the front house. I’ve noticed this also in Thailand and Loas that the lower class show far more signs of working hard but I think they’re smile lines are the best. I have experienced their personalities to be more colourful that’s for sure. Take today for instance I had to service Rube when I got here as her gears are slipping and the working family all got into it interested and laughing they are really spirited to be around. The lady who runs the place we exchanged enough details to know she’s 54 and I’m 44 and she was definitely friendly but there’s a difference without a zest and raw realness that exudes from the poor. I went for a ride around town this early evening to double check Rube was ok and came back to the family open air frying fish and setting up for their feast the family into it and coming together very social and a chatty vibe. The family in the front were siting in front of the TV, the mother was on the phone, the contrast was so loud and clear. The ride was great just to take in the place and a few subtle pickies along the way. I’m far more comfortable taking pictures overtly with local folk as part of meeting them. Just taking pictures at a distance makes me feel alien and ignorant and the folk on show. I found this great spot on the river sitting on front of an old boat deck. It was fabulous and would have done my blogging there but it was ‘mozzie’ o’clock eeek. Tomorrow’s a longer day 82km of more remote villages and the road is mostly dirt with a river crossing about half way. The road goes up a steep incline for about 2km to a watt on the other side of the Mekong then descends again along the river and into Kompng Cham. I’m going to try for an early start as it works well to enjoy most of the ride in the mornings before the afternoon heat. I’m looking forward to the day. The wrist has been a bit sore but the bruising is coming out already so its on the mend. The belgium ladies didn’t show this afternoon unless their hiding from me lol. Theres not too many places to hide here. In my cycle around this arv the sunset was amazing and really unusual. The sun just went red about an hour before sunset and got redder until it finally set. There was no other color just this vivid ball all the hues of red and those on either side. So tomorrows another day yay and my wrist isn’t broken yay and Rubes bits are hopefully still working yay. It’ll be interesting to see how she goes on the ascent tomorrow as it’s under load her gears are slipping. Worst case scenario we’ll enjoy the walk up together and can regain our fengshu at the watt at the top. 🙂 time for dinner. Last of the beugette, baked beans leftover from breaky and cheese triangles yum. I wanted to say an extra thank you to the Cambodian folk that helped me yesterday not just picking me up after the fall but for the gentle upper cut and kickstart to appreciate the unique qualities of the Kamer. talk soon. x

Post #28 Kratie

Day 35 1045 days to go. Distance: last 2 days: 200km total 1778km. It’s 9.00am Wednesday the 4/1/2011 Kratie. Hi hi hi. It’s been yonks since Ive managed to update you and finally get a chance now this morning at a cafe I found with wifi. Last night I tried the internet cafes but the speed is is not worth trying to upload or update then I saw this place on the way back to the guesthouse. So for $ 1.50 (r 6000) I have firstly enjoyed a great skype with my partner and bow get to chat with you fine folk. Welcome to Cambodia or as my sister commented this morning – flying high in Cambodia, more about that in a moment. Thinking back to yesterday it was such a mix of events. Firstly logistics and what’s been happening the last days. I crossed the border Monday morning and the transit went smooth enough even had my temperature checked lol. It was another 55km cycle onto Stung Treng. The countryside was all agricultural with villages growing this long tubular white root vegetable like a turnip. They sit by the roadside peeling and cutting it up in like roasting sized pieces then lay it out in 1 meter wide lengths on the side of the road still on the tarmac to dry. With the humidity and heat its like a dry roasting and the smell coming off the road was amazing like a christmas roast yum. How resourceful. The village folk are all welcoming again sooooo many children saying ‘hello’ with me answering hello in kamer (Cambodian) Sau S’dei. Stung Treng was really cool and a great intro to Cambodia – much more high wired and intense. People are different still welcoming but there’s a change perhaps with more recent oppression the residual is still near and reflective in the psyche. Not sure. The markets were wild with stall people hanging in hammocks elevated behind a bench of what they were selling allot of cut up pig, exotic fruits, vegetables, sticky rice in bamboo, coconuts, watermelon/pineapple, mangos etc. It was good to have a wonder and get a first sense of the place. I met some really fun people at the guesthouse firstly a group from UK and Ireland who were heading up now to Loas so we were able to exchange some stories. They all gave me their contact details and invited me to stay when I’m in that part of the world which was so lovely and generous. I later met a couple of cyclist a Dutch guy living in Aukland and a girl from the states living and teaching English in Ho Chi Min. Again they were heading up to Loas and had just covered the area I do now following the Mekong from Kratie to Phenom Phen. It was awesome to exchange some cycling tips and really helpful. They gave me their travel books and maps/written out key phrases like ‘where’s the ferry’ really important at one stage tomorrow where the turnoffs easily missed. I headed off yesterday for a long haul between Stung Treng and Kratie (141km). This was such a twist of events for the day. Earlier I was feeling cranky of sorts about the touristed volume of ‘hellos’ being bellowed literally from children. I was making sure I answered in Kamer and waved but it was anoying me for some reason. Mostly the day was seeing much like I had on the road into Stung Treng and I was getting through the KMs which was going all good. Then at about the 90 km point Rube and I went through a patch of gravel that was really deep and her front tyre cut in and sent me flying over the handle bars. Impressive ‘A flying start to Cambodia’ I landed hard and bruised my left palm with a bit of bark off but otherwise we both are ok. The ironic thing is that the people from the few village huts about came out picked me up checked over my injuries and reassured me everything was ok. Now that’s a warm welcome to the Cambodian folk. As I was psyching up to get back on Rubes and do the last kms this truck came past and stopped to see if I was ok and offered to take me to the Kratie turnoff saving me some 30kms. So within 5 minutes I dais my sincere thankyous to the villagers and was sitting in the front of the truck Rube riding in the back (she loved it with all her very cool scratches) and we giggled and exchanged stories for the distance. The guys were lovely fun gave me a medicated oil for my scratches, water and an egg x Thankyou thankyou thankyou. at the junction I cycled the remaining `10km into Kratie found a guesthouse (5 USD), cleaned and iced my bruised bits and was sitting on the Mekong waterfront for sunset nice nice very nice. I felt a bit weird about what a mixed day it had been and I realized how very fortunate I am that it ended so well and today can be another day forward. It was also an extra reminder to stay vigilant on the road and how easily circumstances can change. Anyway all is good and today is another day. Started of beautifully with a skype with my partner and now off following more contry roads for 4 days into Phenom Phen. I apolgise for no photos but will upload later with better access. Meanwhile Ill be offline except for spot tracker over these days but very excited about following some quieter raods. I met a couple of Dutch ladies earlier who are doing the same cycle as me today so we have a dinner date later at Chong the small place on 40kms away nice. Until next time stay safe as we sill endeavor to do. Talk soon x

Post # 27 Don Kong

Day 32 1048 days to go. Distance: today 20km total 1578km. It’s 7.17am Sunday 1/1/2012 Don Kong Island. I was so meant to see the sun rise today which is kind of special being a new day to a new year. The locals partied here until 3am ish. It was funny there were all these little gatherings but each with their music playing like it was the village event. Oddly enough it wasn’t too offensive even to this ‘in bed by eight is too late’ party Gal. Must be the authenticity of laos fun. Do you think I have a soft spot for them? I have heard music blaring from pretty much anywhere: homes, hairdressers, paddocks, trucks, mechanics and food vendors. Yesterday I passed a wedding with the bride and groom walking through a huge heart arbor adorned with paper flowers. The guests were cheering. The music was max. The paper flowers were vibrating off the arbor. Perfect. They don’t seem to mind their speakers can’t pump up the volumes. Max on the dials max on the smiles. Yet another example of the ‘don’t worry be happy’ laos psyche. Anyway I didn’t think I’d manage a 6am rise but woke right on 5.30am. Up check, pants on check, flask check, camera with batteries check. Rube winged all our way down to the water but then ooo’d ad ahhh’d with me. The atmosphere was beautiful with the 6am bells from the watt chiming. Initially it was quite clouded bar the growing light on the horizon which spot lighted a lone fisherman. Then the sunrise colors blushed pink through the clouds and this foreplay ended with a burst of brilliance. And there we have it ladies and gentlemen, the first sunrise to 2012 which reads pretty much like an orgasm. A perfect start to a new year 😉 On a more spiritual note it was about this time the orange robed monks passed in single file heads bowed in ritual procession. The experience was very cool. So today is super low key. I’m firstly doing the last of my washing then pampering rube. We’ll then head down to the waterfront to find a posse to plonk ourselves and read up on cambodia. Around 4pm we’ll head back to Muang saen for sunset via the southern tip for pickies of the rice fields I told you about yesterday. The passenger ferry leaves from Muang khong so it should be easy enough to grab a ferry in the morning and do the 30 odd kms to the Cambodian border town of dong kralor. I read there’s ATMs at most border crossings. I so hope so ’cause I’ll be close to my last kip by then depending on the cost of the ferry and immigration charges. Otherwise I’ll be chasing some of those chickens for their eggs. It should be ok. Internet has cost double here but the speed is good. I’ll do an update later tonight and be ready to head early tomorrow. On that note to all those Loas folk I have met over the last 3 weeks I say Kawp Jai to your happy hearts and souls. Cambodia here we come. Talk soon x
It’s 5.35 and I’m looking out at the last of the sunset in pretty much awe of what Laos has offered. My favorite the people. On my way here i wanted to stop at the ferry to find out about times for tomorrow morning. The ferry workers tried but had no idea what I wanted. I eventually shrugged and smiled an ‘oh well’ then spotted a woman in upmarket hotel watering the garden. It was worth a go. She ended up being from Laos but holidaying for christmas and usually lives in Melbourne of all places. Her name is Puton and went with me back to the ferry to sort out dept times. How awesome and random is that. Gorgeous woman who accepted my card and I hope will be in contact. She returns to Melbourne on the 15/1/12. Small small amazing world we live in. It was a bit later than planned but there were still workers in the rice fields who gave me a wave. I also passed a group of men in a village playing Petang. I stopped and asked if i could take a photo and they all flexed and wanted the next throw. You just got to love that x chromosome don’t you. There was a woman watching on and we had a joke about it. I ended up stopping short of Muang sueng at a village watt right on the river. Kids were swimming and playing and once they spotted me came over to check out the tourist. They were great, fun, naughty, loved having their pictures taken . Then this older woman came over and scurried them back to their pontoon. She then sat between them and me it was hilarious. Evil westerner.

It was such a chill day. After doing some washing and servicing the beautiful Ruby, I found a café on the river front which nobody seemed to mind me sitting at. It was empty and the seats were in the shade so perfect. I could set myself up with all my maps and books. This fellow appeared at some stage but must have had a big night as he just said hi and put his head on another table and slept. Yay. I spent 4 hours there looking at maps and guide books and itineries for Cambodia reading up on the main places I’ll go through. Tomorrow I hope to get to Stung Treng 65km into Cambodia about a 90km day in total. The ferries leave from 6am then it’s a 30km cycle to Don Krolor border. Basically I’ll follow the Mekong to Phnom Phen through Kratie and Kampong Cham. From there I hope to leave the trailer and majority of gear at a guest house and Rube and I will get a return bus to Siem Reap to check out the temples for three days. From Phnom Phen I’ll follow the Mekong again to the border Chau doc and into Vietnam to the Mekong Delta> I’m really excited about cambodia.

So to all those folk in Laos I have met over the last 3 weeks I say thank you for your help, generosity and fun. You are truly warm, resilient and positive people which I have learnt allot from. I will always remember to release a bird when my worries start to build. Talk soon. X

Post # 26 Don Kong

Day 31 1049 days to go. Distance: today 43km total 1558 km. It’s 4.34pm Saturday 31/12/2011 Don Kong. I woke this morning to see the sunrise looking at me though the window how beautiful. I’ll go check it out proper in the morning as the sun rises on the east side of island where I’m staying. Right now I’m sitting in a town called Muang saen on the western side and enjoying the last light and river front comings and goings and goings leading up to sunset. There are two islands offshore and the land between is Cambodia about 500 meters away. How cools that. Kind of ironic hey heading there in the new year and here on new years eve looking out at the prospects to come. But right now things are pretty good with the sunsetting on a day thats been big fun. Sunrise was all to much and I just had to pass out again waking at 8am awesome. Had the best sleep I think since I’ve started my brains been so turned on with everything new and unknown and its been a bit challenging turning it off at night. Anyway not last night. I’m joined now by a herd of cows also hanging out on the river front and why not. I just ran out of camera battery bugga. Oh well will just have to come back tomorrow afternoon how tragic. It’s only about a 20minute cycle to the other side of the island so easy enough to pop over. The islands about 40 km around and rube and I checked it out today a no brainer stopping and going where we liked its been great. We spent most of the time on the sandy track that seems to run along the river front where there’s tiny villages scattered. We got mixed welcomes. I don’t think some island folk in the tucked away villages have much to do with tourists and we got a few odd looks. I must say we do look a bit out of place and Im odd at the best of times :-). But hey we’re out there amongst it and most were happy after I said my hellos and introduced myself with a handshake. The kids of course love it and happy kids happy parents here in Loas that’s for sure. Their parental instincts are so strong and priority children so apparent.
It’s 9.35pm and I ran out of Ipod battery as well but back again now everyone charged up. I’ve dined on these thick sweet corn crisps and condensed milk that soaks into the crisp and was amazing yum. I hung out at the river from this arv the sunset was beautiful and I have to get pickies so Ill be back there tomorrow to capture it. We came back via the southern end of the island and its a different look again little villages again but agricultural with the families shins up in rice patty fields planting and sowing with their cone woven hats. It looked fabulous the afternoon lighting and the green fields with reflection coming off the shallows. The spots of color contrasts in the peoples clothing topped it off. Anyway like I said ill head back the same tomorrow afternoon and enjoy it all again with the camera. Got some good shots today but. Saw such cool everyday things. A ducks laughing at me. As you know it’s New Years and some of the river front restaurants are closed with the others putting on entertainment to draw the local crowds. Anyway I wanted to be amongst it but not in it so Ive found this restaurant that’s right on the river and next door to some cool music perfect. It’s all in darkness so I have my head torch on and the resident puppy has taken place at my feet. Nice space but I must look a bit odd to passerby’s. Clearly the ducks think its great. Their quacks makes me smile. The lights on the river boats putting along and the villages on the neighboring islands are beautiful. There’s this balmy breeze coming straight off the river and I think I got the best spot ever. anyway back to the stuff we saw today. The cycle around the northern end was quite dry and barren but once the road came out the western side the village life open up. each village would have a small watt and tracks leading down to the water through bamboo picket fenced gardens and moored long boats and fishing nets etc. Moored Boats are secured to bamboo poles diagonally staked in the sand. Villagers were busy using the river to wash themselves and their clothes with the naked kids playing and squealing alongside jumping off rocks and doing what kids do best having fun. At risk of sounding a bit devo it was fun to watch. I found this river landing opposite a watt and it had a hammock stretched out so I had my first lounge nice and read up further on the area. It wasn’t long before a small group of baby monks and their guardian of sorts visited the stranger in their hammocks. The kids all told me their names and laughed at my pronunciation and one wrote his name in charcoal on the floor which I wrote mine alongside. I really love this sort of stuff people communicating with that 90% non-verbals its really possible to share and enjoy the company adults and children alike. I went back to where I had parked Rube and she had found a red kindred long boat spirit and they were bonding also cracking red fast jokes. One of the watts I visited was all open with prayer flags tied across the room all blowing. The temple was decorated with painted stories and shrines it was beautiful full of light, color and movement with the flags. i enjoyed that space for ages. I tried to get some pickies of the different types of typical village homes ones where the family weren’t hanging out as I felt a bit intrusive photoing their homes. There goes the ducks again 🙂 Mostly the people hang out on the thatched layout tables under the homes or they could be weaving or preparing food, fixing nets just doing their thing in the shade and cool. I passed this puppy that had been given his dinner of sticky rice and loving it. He wasn’t quite sure about me and gave me the ‘are you checking out my sticky rice’ look. Sorry bud and moved right along. The people were cooking or baking in these mud ovens they were so primitive looking but must work a treat like a pizza oven I suppose. Next to it was a dug out mud hole and there were three vents. I couldn’t see what they were cooking but mostly they’re eating fish so it could have been like a fish smoker but thats just a guess. Anyway really interesting. I think one of my favorite sounds of the day was the slow clunk of buffalo bells. These creatures just wallow, eat, and hang out going nowhere fast. The babies are soooo cute and they’re always by mum leaning even, and covered in mud just the big buffalo do. I stopped at this shop where the woman was selling bags of red colored seeds and raw peanuts. I bought a bag of the nuts and ate them with the lady. She had no front teeth and the ones she had were all stained red I think it’s a herb they chew that gives them a bit of a high. Beedle nut or something like that. My partners mentioned seeing it used in the Solomons whether its the same type thing. She was certainly very friendly and happy as most Laos people are on face value. I came into the bigger village of Muang Saen and enjoyed the markets there and the riverside life. I passed a mother goat and her babies in the street and they were so up to no good – Bless their little bleats. After sunset I headed back to the guesthouse where Than’s having a few friends over for the ‘count down.’ He warned me it could get a bit noisy. I bailed and uploaded photos from today and now found this great spot. It’s 11.00pm so if Im to do sunrise I suppose Ill have to start thinking about heading back and tucking myself into my beautiful bed. A very cool day and again nice to share. Happy New Year to you and I hope you found a special way to welcome 2012 even if it was in your dreams. Talk soon x