The feast

Our weird food cravings made us have this food as a dinner

Our weird food cravings made us have this food as a dinner

Countries: Cambodia and Thailand
From Siem Reap to Aranyaprathet
Lesson learned: In Cambodia the tip for licking the stamp is included in the price for the stamp.
Laughed about: The disguised brothel
Most wonderful miracle: A swimming pool
Food we ate: Kilos of sweets and junk food
Greatest challenge: Finding Shelter in the rain
Days on the bike: 3
Kilometers cycled: 171.98
Average Kilometers per day: 57.33
Total Kilometers cycled till Aranyaprathet: 11407.40
Total days travelled till Aranyaprathet: 656

By bike to Thailand, July 2013

We were in luck: the weather stayed rainy. The days of dust-yellow eyebrows were finally over. After 11 nights in Siem Reap Roberto still did not feel perfectly fit, but he was able to hop on the bike. Our visas were about to expire and we had to make our way towards the border of Thailand.

The lovely team in he Sam So guesthouse

The lovely team in he Sam So guesthouse

On the way out of town I wanted to send a few postcards to my family. The lady in the post office charged 1 US-$ (4000 Riel) for each stamp. But the price on the stamp was only 2800 Riel. I was confused and asked if there was a mistake. The lady explained that she also sold stamps for 3000 Riel, but they were less beautiful. She probably keeps the extra money as a tip for licking the stamp. I did not want to support that scam and put the postcards back into my pocket. I would try again somewhere else. My motivation to learn Malayan, Indonesian and Thai had just risen. I did not want to be forced to pay high tourist prices anymore.

The road surprised me with an extra lane for bikes and motorbikes. But as soon as we were out of the touristy area the lane came to an end and we had to cycle on the road again. After 23 Kilometers some clouds came up, two minutes later a strong headwind blew towards us and shortly after a downpour hit us. It felt as if it was the end of the world. I had trouble to keep the balance and hold the handlebar straight. The wind shot big raindrops onto the skin where they felt like thousands of bullets.

This time we found shelter. This poor guy hasn't.

This time we found shelter. This poor guy hasn’t.

The street was under construction and big rectangular holes were spread randomly on the shoulder and the lanes. Soon the street was flooded and the holes turned into hidden swimming pools. Our lights were nearly out of battery and I wanted to go off the street, but there was no shelter in sight. We had to cycle against the strong wind until we spotted a house where we waited until the worst wind and rain was over. After another 35 kilometers nonstop we reached a town with guesthouse. Roberto had not completely overcome his illness yet and we did not even search for a place to pitch the tent or the mosquito net. The guesthouse owner was not a lot into that entire tourism thing. She asked the same question in Khmer over and over again and stared at us with angry eyes when we tried to make her clear that we did not understand her language and wanted to spend the night. After a while she just decided to ignore us completely and it took quite some time until we managed to get the permission to rent a room for the night.

The daily afternoon shower began early by the following day. At noon we found a tiny empty hut with a corrugated iron rooftop. The wind lifted the rooftop so much that I was afraid it could just fly away. We shared the hut with four adolescents and one little snake. We continued as soon as the rain fell in an angle of less than 90°

Wet got soaked to the skin every day

Wet got soaked to the skin every day

When we reached the town Sisophon the wind and rain got worse again. We decided to seek for shelter again and followed the sign towards a restaurant. The building was big and since we did not want to eat anything we just gathered on the other side of the parking lot together with a nice family that sold soft drinks under a small rooftop. The oldest man borrowed us some towels and chairs, his daughter played with his granddaughter, his wife washed the dishes and his son smoked a cigarette. I sat down and had another look to the big restaurant. The music was very loud and through the window I saw young women running after drunken men. It was not until one of the men came out and talked to me that I understood that this was not a restaurant but a brothel. The old men’s son explained that we would find a guesthouse if we followed the road until the “stop”. A stop could be anything from a crossroad to a traffic light, a control or a real stop sign. We thanked the family for their help and continued.

It was not far and we found it. We parked the bikes and walked back to a real restaurant where a Cambodian do-it-yourself barbeque was sold. We ordered raw meat, vegetables and noodles. The meat was grilled on a grid iron that was placed in the middle of the table. The juices dripped into broth where we cooked the vegetables and noodles. It was delicious and full of calories. That was exactly what we needed. After dinner we walked back to the guesthouse, out of the wet clothes, into the (cold) shower and under the sheets. I had not expected that I would ever be cold in Cambodia.

Khmer Barbeque

Khmer Barbeque

There was not a cloud visible when we got started again. I complained about the heat. When have I gotten so picky about the weather? For 48 boring kilometers we cycled through fields. To kill the time I gave Roberto a very detailed reproduction of the last two books I had read and in no time we had reached the border town Poipet. The street got wider and – I could not believe that that was possible – even dustier and filthier. Emissions, garbage and car horns drove me crazy. We just stopped shortly to buy one last Ovaltine and methylated spirit then we made our way towards Thailand.

The officers were very exact and we had to scan all our baggage. We had been a little spoiled from all those easy border crossings lately that we had completely forgotten that back in China we had to x-ray all our baggage every time we got into a bus or train. We left fingerprints here, got a stamp there, filled out a few forms, got our picture taken and soon after left to the Thai side of the border. I nearly forgot that we would have to cycle on the left side of the street from now on.

Swimming pool of the Market Motel

Most of the time we had the swimming pool all for ourselves. I could have stayed in there for days

We cycled for half a minute when the daily rain poured down on us. The street was wide, the asphalt in good condition and the shoulder mostly free. I had done some research beforehand and we found the Market Motel (105/30-32 Raduthit Road) surprisingly fast. We pay 7 € for a clean room with hot water (for the first time in nearly 2 months) and a swimming pool. How delighted was I! After a quick shower we went out to get dinner. We had been planning this dinner for weeks. It would be an eating orgy and I was drooling when I saw all the food. This day we had street sushi, crisps with seaweed flavor, chocolate donuts with chocolate filling, mixed fruit lemonade, fresh coconut poffertjes, plenty of different cookies and anis drops. What else could I have asked for? When we walked the market I had to laugh. I thought back to the touristy Khao San road in Bangkok. The strategies to sell trash to tourists differ a lot between the different Southeast Asian countries.

Only ten minutes later we both had guilty expressions in our faces and bellies round as footballs. But it was worth it.

Only ten minutes later we both had guilty expressions in our faces and bellies round as footballs. But it was worth it.

Laos: “No tourist in sight? Great. I just lay down here and wait. Maybe some costumers will come. If they want something they will find me. Probably. And if they really want to buy something they can wake me up.”

Cambodia: “Look, there comes a Foreigner. I should be absolutely polite but forcing at the same time. He wants to buy from me, even though he does not know it yet. And if he does not want today, then I’ll make him come again tomorrow. I’ll have the last word. I just want the best for him. And the best is my product!”

Thailand: “Look, a walking cash machine! Let’s see if he can bargain. What, he does not want my product? In other words he does want it, but the price is too high. I’ll make it cheaper. How much is his offer? I’ll let him think that he chooses the price and in the end he’ll believe that he made a great deal because I gave him more than 50% discount.”

 

Of course these examples are highly excessive, especially the one about the sleeping salesman from Laos. Actually we have seen sleeping salesmen everywhere in the country but never in a touristic shop. But I think those who have travelled in one of these countries already will recognize the spark of truth.

 

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  1. Carolyn in Nashville, TN says:

    If you google “khmer translate” or “khmer phrases” it lists common phrases that you could write in a notebook to take along …

    Happy to hear about the good restaurant & the motel with hot shower & swimming pool! Hope Roberto is feeling better & getting enough rest to get back to 100%.

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