Cambodia 2010 Ride Report

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by kaipara, May 22, 2010.

  1. kaipara

    kaipara Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Last year my wife and I rode Vietnam for 3 weeks. This year, we were joined by our son for another ride which started off in Cambodia and ended up in the parts of North Vietnam that we never saw last time.
    It was good having a family ride.

    I could have started this report telling you about our great hotel, or the shopping at the night market. But I am not going to. I am starting this report with a sad and more serious beginning.
    My interest in Cambodia is:
    #1 The riding.
    #2 The people
    #3 The history
    I didn’t have any intention of following this train of thought but while having a beer along the waterfront of Phnom Penh, people watching, as you do. I couldn’t help but notice how industrious and smiling everyone seemed to be, real go-getters, rather than begging, even the poorest were at least trying to sell something, lighters, books etc.
    What a wonderful resilient people they seemed to be.

    Cambodia's recent history reads something like “hell on earth”. A small, peaceful nation was taken to the brink of human suffering. Even still, talking to people, they just want to get on with things, forget, forgive, whatever works for them.
    First, there was the bombing, secret only to the outside world. For the Cambodians it must have been sheer terror. Four years of bombing, killing around 600,000.
    Then in the aftermath, came the Khmer Rouge, with Pol Pot and his henchmen killing around another two million over a 4 year period. Just to try and achieve a “pure form” of Communism . Ya, right. This tiny country suffered so much for some maniac's warped ideals.
    After discussing this with my wife and son, we decided to visit some of the sites that were connected to the genocide by the Khmer Rouge. Make no mistake, this turned out to be very hard. My wife stayed outside a lot of the time.
    None of us liked it, but we all agree that by doing so it gave us a better understanding of things before just heading out on the bikes. At 58 I am not so impressionable anymore, yet this did leave an impression on me and that is why I am including it in my report.
    I hope this first part is OK to post, it was part of our ride.

    Tuol Sleng (S-21) was once a High School.
    17,000 +prisoners went through this converted school.
    Only 7 survived.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Security Notices (translated) found in most blocks.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    There were 189 other prisons like this around Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge was so sure in themselves that they recorded their atrocities by photographing their victims.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Many were sent to the Killing Fields, which were also spread all over the countryside.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Choeung Ek, a monument dedicated to the many that perished. This site is just one of the 20,000 mass grave sites found.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    A killer's grave.
    We were riding along the North west border area and this was pointed out to us. Pol Pot died in 1998 before he could be arrested. By 1999 most of the Khmer Rouge had been captured or had surrendered. Most of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders live in the Pailin area or are hidden in Phnom Penh.
    It looks like only family members care for this, surrounding area is a mess, lots of rubbish around.
    [​IMG]

    The rest of the report is more about now and ancient history. 7th to 12th century temples.
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    67,743
    :thumb
    :lurk
    #2
  3. superkram

    superkram Church parking lot rider

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    192
    Location:
    StL area
    What was the riding like? I was in Siem Reap 9 years ago visiting Angkor Wat on a short trip from Bangkok & wished my friend and I had more time/freedom to explore the rest of Cambodia.

    Did you have the happy pizza? =)

    One night we encountered a couple local guys on mopeds, one had an AK slung over his shoulder. I talked him into letting me shoot a few rounds from his AK, and he only old me to shoot upward at a 45-angle... Not directly up because the bullets might hit us coming down, not downward due to possible hidden unexploded land mines, and not horizontally for fear of hitting unseen people (it was dark.) Apparently shooting off rounds at 45-degrees gives you freedom from culpability!

    It was fun, and they ended up giving us rides back to our hotel on the backs of their 100cc bikes. Lots of other interesting stories and experiences too, but this thread is about your ride!
    #3
  4. kaipara

    kaipara Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    New Zealand
    [​IMG]
    Phnom Penh – the capital city is where we picked up our bikes. I had a 250 Honda and my wife and son each had a 230 Honda. These were excellent machines and well cared for, you have to love Hondas!

    Our plan was to follow a trail of temples by going north then northwest to the Thai border area and finally ending up at Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat temple complex. It was only 15 years ago that some of these temple areas were being made aware of by western travelers and I was really keen to have a look at them.
    Our bikes:
    [​IMG]


    Phnom Penh is actually quite a nice city, most westerners stay along the waterfront district which has many shops, restaurants and bars. Some good markets along the side roads and interesting enterprises like the street foot massage places. These are small plastic wading pools filled with tiny fish that eat the dead skin from your feet. I watched but didn't try it (just in case it was a trick and they were really piranhas)
    There was plenty to look at, a palace, temples, elephants, monkeys, people and motorbikes.
    The waterfront:
    [​IMG]
    Market outside of our hotel:
    [​IMG]
    Taxi:
    [​IMG]
    Our Tuk Tuk driver - these are bikes with a tow bar on the back, pulling a trailer.
    [​IMG]

    The only gripe I have with Phnom Penh are old white guys. Yep, even though I am an old white guy I started to get really hacked off with some other old white guys. They strut around with really young girls, kids really. These bast..ds are your sex tourist that plague Asian cities that don't enforce their child protection laws.

    Anyway – A few more photos...

    The Bug Take-Away bar..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    LOL My son was determined to try these so he had a feed of the different bugs.....then went on to drown them with the next photo.
    [​IMG]

    Hot weather - self explanatory.
    [​IMG]

    Police had some cool toys:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Time to ride. Son and wife ready to go,
    [​IMG]

    The company we used for our bikes was Dancing Roads.
    I had first heard of them on this forum and all the positive reviews about them were very true. They are a great outfit to deal with and would recommend them if you are visiting Cambodia. Friendly, well organized and fun to be with.
    Actually, with a site like AV Rider it really gives you a heads up on what companies are both good or bad when travelling around. Helps with doing your homework before leaving.
    #4
  5. undersea4x2

    undersea4x2 Big Bore wanna' be

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    280
    Location:
    Croydon Victoria Australia
    :slurp :lurk
    Cheers
    Under:thumb
    #5
  6. kaipara

    kaipara Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Temples, red dirt and heat.
    Pretty well sums up our riding days. But it sure was fun.

    We headed north along the Mekong River, passing through pleasant villages, taking the bikes on different ferries and staying in interesting towns.
    A wonderful Buddhist monastery was our first taste of temples, this was an active place with a welcoming English sign that said “Welcome all travelers.”
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Still heading north we went to the town of Kompong Cham, the capital of a province with the same name. After finding a hotel we visited our first ruins. although it was getting a bit late it turned out to be perfect for exploring these temples. Our only other company was a few monkeys.
    11th century Vat Nokor temple, with a pagoda built inside. It is also surrounded by a multitude of small sanctuaries.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Traveling through the Kampong Province we also came to this really interesting bamboo bridge. It was the largest I had ever seen, connecting the mainland to a large island.
    Now, the most interesting part about this bridge is that it is taken down every year when the rainy season comes. At this time, small ferries are used in place of the bridge. At the end of the wet, it is built again.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Sambor Prei Kuk was the next temple stop. WOW.
    Built in the 7th century this group of 8 temples and I think around 52 monuments are totally awe inspiring. Again, no one around.
    I should mention these temple areas cover large areas 20 acres, 100 acres, just depends on the size of the complex.
    This one had a double wall surrounding the whole area. There is an unreal feeling looking around, you just ride your bikes to wherever you want, pull up in front of a temple or monument and go inside. No caretakers, no one. These are wonders of the world.
    The only other time I have had this feeling is when I made my way, in the early 70's to Pagan, a deserted temple city in Burma.
    Eat your heart out Indiana Jones!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Inside of this one.
    [​IMG]

    Riding was nearly all on red dirt roads, some not to bad, others were just a maze of huge pot holes. I couldn't use my helmet cam much on these roads, after only a few minutes riding the dust covered everything. Some of our clothes, even now, have a reddish tint to them. At some places where there were other tourists, even they commented on how we looked, and not in a complimentary way. We may have looked a mess but we were having a ball.
    [​IMG]

    Ancient civilization is everywhere, even riding you pass over Angkor period bridges.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer Empire for a brief period between 928 to 944 AD
    Left to the jungle for nearly 1000 years, and mostly un-restored , this site has been rarely visited until very recently. The great pyramid of Prasat Thom is located here along with about 100 other ruined temples. You have to let your imagination picture this city when people lived and worked here.
    Again, crawling around inside, going into alleys and rooms is mind blowing.
    There is now a road which has been built to this complex, a few food stalls at the entrance but still, when we were there, no one else around.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Mines – I have to explain a bit about this.
    Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries. Great progress has been made over the years, yearly fatalities are now down to around 150. Many countries assist with funds and expertise but there may be as many as 4 million mines left to clear. The new target for this is 2020. Most of the temple sites were mined by the Khymer Rouge and when going to these sites you will see signs erected stating which country has cleared this area.
    At the sign they leave a marker stone on a coordinate, then erect a sign, showing from that point where they cleared too.
    [​IMG]

    Bike riders still need to be aware, stay on signed tracks and if you come to this type of marker, then turn around. You can't be silly about this, it is no joke. This is when it is real good to have a guide with you!
    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. kaipara

    kaipara Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    New Zealand
    The last part of the ride took us to the far Northwest border area to the temple of Preah Vihear. It is located on a 550 m cliff right on the Thai border.
    [​IMG]
    It was also the stage for the 1998 final surrender with the Khmer Rouge.
    All Western countries have a travel advisory against visiting this area due to the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia. Away from the temple area it is very heavily mined also. The reality is, travelling with an outfit like Dancing Roads, who know the area well, this place is as safe as anywhere to go. It is really well worth the visit.
    There is a small town at the base of the hill that suffered a rocket attack from Thailand in 2009, where most of the accommodation was destroyed. While having lunch there we were told that the people only had two more months before the army was closing the town and re-locating it to a different site.
    The temple itself was built in 1037 AD, around 100 years before Angkor Wat. Preah Vihear is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture. It is very ‘pure’ both in plan and in the detail of its decoration, making it an important site and well worth the visit.
    [​IMG]

    Visiting the site was normally only done from the Thai side, up the steep stairs that lead to the temple. In 2004 the Cambodians built a road from their side to access the site. In 2008 it was declared World Heritage Site.
    The road up is really, really steep. The first 2/3 is concrete with the last bit rough dirt.
    [​IMG]
    Not a lot of people make the effort to see this place, but it really is beautiful.
    It is basically an Army camp at the moment. Riding up we passed only soldiers and gun emplacements. We thought three soldiers , who were all on the one bike, were going to be a problem for our guide. They were yelling something at him and one drew his pistol. It wasn't until we rode up beside them and they realized we were just tourists that things calmed down. It probably didn't help that all three appeared to be drunk also.
    I guess we really weren't supposed to take the bikes right up through their camp to get to the temple, once there, another few soldiers didn't seem to like the idea very much either. We met an English speaking Police Officer and ended up giving him $3 to give us a guided tour of the complex and when we left everyone was all smiles.
    [​IMG]
    Gun emplacements, all aiming towards Thailand.
    [​IMG]
    Ancient road leading to temple:
    [​IMG]

    After leaving the border areas we headed for Siem Reap, which is where Angkor Wat is located, and our last stop before heading to Vietnam. A few random shots along the way
    Tired crew.
    [​IMG]
    A sign on a building that I thought was funny:
    "I'll put my camera away" "Take my hat off, even take my shoes off BUT -
    I will be darned if you are getting my grenade!!
    [​IMG]
    Gassing up.
    [​IMG]

    This chap we named “Sleepy”. He thought he was our guide.
    [​IMG]


    Angkor Wat
    [​IMG]
    This is what brings people to Cambodia.
    Built in the 12th century, surrounded by a moat and covering a great area, over 400 km2 Not only Angkor Wat itself, but the many, many other temples that make up this huge ancient city probably make this one of the most visited archaeological sites of the world.
    [​IMG]
    Even the entrance was battle scared.
    [​IMG]
    We left this till last because we knew it would be a lot to take in and that we would also be back in a tourist area. Even with lots of other tourists around this would still have to be one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on the planet.
    It was a city, Kings, Queens, elephant armies, all the ingredients of a Lord of the Rings setting.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Hundres of meters of bas relief were carved inot the wall, basically months of "reading" for the scholars of the time. My ancestors were probably trying to stab things with spears around the same time.
    [​IMG]

    The Kings swimming pool - He had 300 wives.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I hope you enjoyed this report.
    If you have ever thought about visiting Cambodia then do it.
    You wont be dissapointed.
    #7
  8. Michhub

    Michhub Major Medical Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,241
    Location:
    San Tan Valley
    Very interesting, thanks for sharing :thumb
    #8
  9. ktm950se

    ktm950se Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,385
    Location:
    Southern Maine
    Great Report!
    #9
  10. steve_k

    steve_k Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,077
    Location:
    Snohomish County
    Great pics and history report.
    #10