So, to finish off Phnom Penh, this time around at least, I guess I should explain a bit more of why I didn't get out to the Killing Fields.
I've seen enough death and destruction over the years.... and I don't think a second visit is going to inform me any more than the first.
Here's a couple of shots from my first Asian ride, a bit over two years ago. I came through here with a friend, we went down the Mekong and bought scooters and headed north on that trip.
The Killing Fields
There were signs there asking people to not walk on the mass graves... but this next shot is the pathway. That's human bones coming through everywhere and bits of clothing.
The Khmer Rouge were absolute scum... and there's plenty of them still breathing, unfortunately.
I guess the hangover of that and the impending end of the trip slowed me down a bit in PP.
Its a funny feeling. After 15 months, 10 of them on the road, and I've finally reached the end point of this trip. Sort of, and almost. There's a month to go in Thailand and I'll have the "new" bike here for a ride or two more up here. That'll be the Cardamoms in Cambodia and back to Laos.... in the dry, maybe. Then, it looks like Burma may be a possibility in a year or two. I'd like to set up a Cardamom trip with another rider or two along. Try the old smuggler's track maybe. Definitely not a ride to do alone.
I made it to Siem Reap after two dusty days on the road from Phomh Penh.... not in a straight line, of course. I stopped at Kampong Thom so that I could take a morning stroll through the three Sambor Prei Kuk compounds.
These particular temples are the start of it all in relation to the temples and monuments that would eventually include Angkor Wat some 800 years later. Sambor Prei Kuk is pre-Angkorian, started in 609 AD and we are very lucky it survives. The US Air Force dropped 200 bombs on it in 1971-72, destroying a lot of the temples. In the central compound, only one of the original 42 survives. What's left is still amazing.
Latest route map. Last two days is dark grey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
I took some back roads from there and eventually rejoined the main highway for the last 100km or so. Lots of water out there on the plains... most people in it one way or the other... with fishing nets, scoops or whatever... chasing protein.
I've caught up with my mate, who's flat out with work at the moment, but we've had dinner a couple of times and I've been out to see his family. He's still got his old tuk tuk from when I met him a couple of years ago, but its his new van that's bringing home the money now. There's 10,000 drivers in this town now... mostly in tuk tuks. He's a good bloke and I was happy to help him get the van. Most days he's got both on the road.
It was good to catch up with Jeat. He's a guy with the right attitude.... and he's as crappy a subject for a photo as me...
Its also been good to stop in the one place for a few days, get some laundry done properly... starting to get the red dust out,,, and to recover from whatever bit of nasty food it was that churned my guts something fierce. I'm blaming this lady... she took me to a quality restaurant in PP... food was great going in, but, sheesh.....
Maybe it was her way of stopping me coming out to have a look at her NGO setup. She's got 2,500 kids and young adults that she (and 500 staff) are educating. All from families earning under 50 cents a day. Fascinating talking to her about it and some of the issues that I've been looking at on this trip. She cleared up a few of my questions.
Speaking of dining out, I saw an interesting side of things when I went out for dinner the other night with Jeat and friends. Four of us went to a "local" restaurant as he called it. When the bill came... four dishes, two buckets of beer (12 small bottles)... it was 180,000 kip.... $45. I commented that it was a bit much... he asked for it, looked at it, said something slightly heated to the waitress, who took it away. I asked what he said... "writing not clear". The bill came back... 80,000 kip. $20. The difference was "local prices". If anyone is coming here... and its well worth seeing... and wants a guide who will look after them, let me know.
Here's Jeat and Chin Chin
She's 8 weeks old.
and is giving him a bit of a hard time at night.
Here's the whole crew. I'm not sure whether to say this is in the kitchen or the garage... because its both
Jeat's settled down to married life since I was here June two years ago... during his last throes as a single man. Mei Mei was on the way and he wasn't too keen on settling down, but he's well there now. That's his original tuk tuk in the background. We went out the other night in his van, one of the many Ssanyong vans around here now. He's keeping it and the tuk tuk busy.
Its not an easy life though... he moved here because Mei Mei was too active around the main road he lived on before. This place is one room... and he was insisting my bike go in there, with the four of them. Um, no mate... the bike will go outside thanks.. I'll buy a big chain and a drop cloth. He's got a long way to go before he's what any of us would call set. Its well water there too, which I managed to avoid. His mum isn't too well either "her blood is very old". I reckon she might be around my age (he's coming up to 33, his wife 23).
We went to a live music venue the other night, one aimed at Cambodians, not tourists and were having a nice dinner, watching the singers when there was a scream and a crashing noise. A half dozen or so guys left and security put a human wall around a private room that was only about 5 metres from Jeat and I... and a cleaning team went to work. Turns out a cop smacked one of the hostesses in the mouth.... knocking a table flying in the process. Nice chap. Nothing came of it... and I doubt the cop(s) paid their bill.
Among all the singing, there was a middle aged woman come on... not dressed well, but when she started to sing.... her voice and songs were chillingly beautiful. We and many others tipped her.. the only singer to get money btw. She was a landmine victim.. no feet, on crutches.... singing to support her family. There's one new landmine victim every day in this country...
I said I'd "sort of" reached the end of the trip. I'm going to potter around here for a few more days, store the bike (petrol out, new oil, bit of oil in the cylinder, up on blocks if I can organise it) and then fly back to Chiang Mai on Nov 1. I've got a couple more rides to do up there... including finishing the Mai Hong Son loop... with its 1864 corners... and I've got to figure out how to get the big bike home. There's some bureaucracy involved and in the end it may be easier to fly it out, depending on how long my import approval takes to get. I went to fill the form in a while back, but I need to include a photo of the compliance plate, so I might be cutting it fine. Many guys in the past can't even get shipping agents to return a phone call. Time will tell.
Back to the ride. How's this for a load on a bike?
That was on the main highway... and I saw a couple of them like that. Its a Cambodian semi-trailer.
Then, there's this. If its sunny, you need a hat. Just grab a branch from the nearest tree.
That most certainly wasn't on the highway. Well off it in fact. It was back to kids looking up, seeing me and fleeing into the paddy fields. Sometimes, not always.
When I came back to the highway, I found this...
The load, including people, extended a couple of metres out the back of the van. There were 4 motorbikes out there... three of them bouncing along the road, a couple with people sitting on them. More on the roof. Maybe 30 or more people in a 12 seater van.
One of the earliest of the temples I mentioned (northeast of Kampong Thom by about 25km, half of it up a chewed out dirt road). Sambor Prei Kuk.
This damage inside one isn't from the USAF... its been raided for the gold under the floor... the stonework destoyed by a bomb
That's the female representative part of the show. The male part, umm, plugs in above ... like this (a photo I took in a museum in Vietnam, but its the same sort of thing)
One of heaps of bomb craters there
That's the clearance sign at the temple I visited today. They cleared 1.5 million square metres there, which isn't much, pulling over 400 mines and over 800 UXO items. There's an awful lot of mines and UXO in the wider area.
Nice temple. Beng Melea. It was built in the 14th century by the same king who built Angkor Wat. Its 63km from Siem Reap, so its less visited than most. Its sprawling... covering one square kilometre and quite heavily impacted by vegetation. Reminiscent of Ta Prohm (Tomb Raiders).
I'll sneak in s few more photos while I'm holed up in this restaurant, but most of them will have to wait.
This is the jungle track I backed out of a couple of days ago. Shoes and cotton trousers wasn't the gear to be riding in up 8' rock shelves... with 20km to go to the destination.
That, and the buggered sprocket on the bike convinced me to back down this trail.
The bike is still OK around town, but I'm taking it easy. I pulled up next to some traffic cops the other day. They weren't the slightest bit interested in checking out a bike with no rego plate.
This is the outside moat at Beng Melea (spelt at least 3 different ways in things I've seen)
I've seen heaps of old boats semi-submerged or abandoned as I've gone around.
Another typical warning sign. A branch on the road. In this case, go to the left... you die.... its a big, big hole.
some more from the Boang Melea temple. This was built in the 14th Century.
A Buddha or two among the rubble
I wasn't over enthused at walking on carvings.. there were obvious signs of wear... but it was an official guide who took me through. He was damn good too, pointing out some decent angles
Crocodile in the centre
Hey Hey, We're the Monkeys
I'm loading from the thumbnails, but I'm pretty sure this is the rhinocerous. There were also elephants, tortoises, etc
This one of a pair of the small libraries. Also two large ones
There's lots of Chinese tourists in town. Not lots of anyone out at this temple, but the Chinese made up the bulk. This guy was from Nanjing, where my daughter completed her TCM degree... spending 4 months there. She loved Nanjing.
Some of the blocks could use some re-aligning.
Some Roundup would help too.
.... and for something totally different... this lady was trying to earn a few cents selling waterlilly buds at a service station.
I was out on Tonle Sap ysterday - and got a couple of hundred shots of various boats and pier houses. I got to drive the tourist boat (did that last time I was here too)... I was quite surprised that they let me bring it up the channel... albeit with lots of piloting instructions.
Here's the road heading out of Siem Reap yesterday. It gets a lot worse than this.
I rode out to a small town east of Siem Reap, near Tonle Sap, the big lake that dominates a map of Cambodia.
This lake is 26 times more productive than the North Sea apparently... one of the most fertile fishing grounds on the planet. Those upstream will stuff it eventually. I read yesterday of another 3 dams being built in Laos... despite not having approvals. Big hydro stuff.
Here's a boat being repaired
On the water again...
This kid pushed off the side of out boat... about a 40'er, jumped up onto the fixed rat tail of the boat... with its exposed, spinning 14" prop.... and dived back in, while we were moving.
Local secondary school
Local seafood. Luckily the owner's daughter sat down and peeled most of my prawns for me.
The other daughter, our waitress, is 5 days older than my youngest.
21 in two months
Apparently I was a good customer.
That guy surrounded by our evidence is from someone else's boat.... carrying a couple of American women. They didn't buy his lunch (nor did I), but I did at least give him a beer or two... along with my driver and crew. Saw the same thing last time I was here. Not good folks. Buy your guides lunch and a beer or four... they'll love it and they'll look after you like a long lost brother.
... and when you ask "Can I have a drive"...
No worries, not even in the traffic.
Our skipper actually hit another boat on the way out btw.... just a glancing blow. You sure wouldn't want to have had your fingers on the gunwale.
I'll be back later with more. We had a thunderstorm here a few hours ago and its thrown my planning (ha ha) out. I need to get an oil change on the bike. I don't want to leave it for 4-6 months with old oil in it. I'm planning on taking in the sunset from Angkor Wat too... before heading out for dinner with Jeat.