Cheek muscle pain

Annika drings a Refreshing melon shake for sugar and power

Refreshing melon shake for sugar and power

Countries: Laos and Cambodia
From Don Det to Kratie
Lesson learned: 10-year old kids do not necessarily need to be bad drivers
Laughed about: The pyjama-culture
Most wonderful miracle: Cheek Muscle pain from smiling too much
Food we ate: Ovaltine, fruit shakes, noodle soup and fried rice
Greatest challenge: Finding food for the price the locals pay
Days on the bike: 4
Kilometers cycled: 245.39
Average Kilometers per day: 61.35
Total Kilometers cycled till Kratie 10821.38
Total days travelled till Kratie: 634

Siem Reap, Cambodia, June 2013: Cambodia by bike part 1

The fever was gone when we reached the Cambodian border, but the rashes stayed. Fortunately we were not crossing in a big tourist bus and the officer did not even think about taking my temperature or check my health status. In fact it was only him at the border and he had to go and call for somebody so we could get our visa on arrival done.

He was witing for his father. But his older siblings already drove their own motorbikes

He was waiting for his father. But his older siblings already drove their own motorbikes

I was still not feeling quite well and it was hot as usual so we stopped cycling in the first crossroad with a couple of houses after only 35 km. There was no guesthouse around and rain was coming up. A nice man offered us to rent his house for 5 $. There was no bathroom (and I still wonder where he does his business) but a water tube.

By the following morning we continued early. We had less than 60 kilometers to go but I was still feeling weak and needed plenty of breaks. When we finally made it to Stung Treng I fell straight into bed. It seemed that I had not quite overcome my illness completely.

A local decided to convert his spare room into a guesthouse for a night

A local decided to convert his spare room into a guesthouse for a night

We stayed in Stung Treng for an entire week. There was hardly anything to see or do and I did not feel too guilty for spending a few days with movies, e-mails and facebook. In order to recover I pampered myself with a daily calorie-bomb called Ovaltine (cocoa powder mixed with a sugar-cane-condensed-milk mix on ice) for about 0.30 €.

Delicious Ovaltine

Delicious Ovaltine

Every now and then we met Rebecca ad Axel who we got to know back in Don Det. They worked on a study and visited 20 different villages to make 600 surveys with the families who lived there. We joined Rebecca for a day and learned a lot about life in the Cambodian villages. We had visited many small towns on the way but we had never before had the chance to talk to those who did not speak any English.

Rebecca, Axel and their team

Rebecca, Axel and their team. Thanks Rebecca for the picture!

Stung Treng was not one of my favorite towns. Especially the market area was very dirty, food waste, flies and plastic were spread all over the streets and I even spotted a dog that ate a (full) diaper. At night rats, mice and cockroaches conquered the streets. We finally found spirit to cook with, but the prices for fresh vegetable in the market were easily doubled or tripled for foreign visitors. So we stuck with fried rice. After some days I even preferred noodle soup. I thought I was done with that after Laos.

Still Stung Treng had it charm. Thank to the people. Many women wore pyjamas all day. According to a theory I have heard a few times, the reason for this is, that during the time of the French colony, the Frenchmen used pyjamas at night. The Cambodians were surprised that they had money to buy fine clothes that they used only at night when nobody saw them. So they also bought pyjamas and wore them during the day as a status symbol. Nowadays women use pyjamas during the day because they are cozy, protect against the sun and have nice patterns as teddy bears, comic figures, polar bears and – probably the most popular one – angry birds.

A lady in her favorite pyjama

A lady in her favorite pyjama

When we got started again it was cloudy. We could not have picked a luckier day. I felt much stronger than just a week before and even though sun came out later I only needed two breaks within 72 Kilometers. The street was mostly paved but here and there we had to climb over sand and rocks. Since it had not been raining too much, that was not a problem. Actually it was quite good for us, because the few drivers, that used the street as if it was theirs and only theirs, had to slow down. We saw 10-year old children driving their siblings around on a motorbike. Surprisingly they drove much better than some of the adult drivers.

At night we finally reached a village. We asked for a place to sleep and got offered a room in a restaurant for 5 US-$. When we saw that the room contained nothing but a wooden bed without mattress, we bargained the price down on 4 US-$.

We ate a lot in restaurants because food was cheap, fast and good. Outside the big towns we even paid the usual prices for food and not the crazily high tourist prices. Rice and cold tea come for free with every meal, but bottled water was still quite expensive.

At night we reached a village where I was finally able to find the missing screw for the front rack. I bought two (just in case) only to find out that I had carried the exactly same screws around for months! They connected the rest of the broken kickstand with the bike and I had always been too lazy to dismantle it.

We asked the locals for a place to sleep and found a restaurant with an empty room. The owner wanted 5 $ for a night but when we saw that the room contained nothing but a wooden bed frame we bargained them down on 4 $. I asked if they had a fan that I could borrow, but there would not be any electricity in the village until 6.30 pm. In fact we did not even have a socket in the room.

Annika in the sun

Puh, it was really hot. Thanks Rebecca for the picture!

The owner spontaneously upgraded our amenities and inserted a light bulb for the night. I was happy to spot a real bathroom with door and water. I Southeast Asia people traditionally shower differently than back home. There is no shower head at the wall but a big tub full of water with a ladle that floats on the water. To take a shower you need to stand next to the tub (do not get inside) and pour water on yourself. The dirty water should not touch the tub but run straight on the floor. We have not had warm water in weeks, but seriously – what for? The air was warm enough.

At 6.30 pm sharp all the family gathered around the TV. They watched a half finished version of The Wolverine with black and white drawings where the computer animations were supposed to be and with half cut action scenes. The Thai voices were spoken by two persons only, but the family did not mind at all. They all stared at the screen with eyes wide open.

At 7 am we were back on the bikes. Only 16 kilometers later a car stopped in front of us. The road was in a bad condition and we jolted towards them on the sand and dirt. It was Axel, Rebecca and their team. They had finished their survey and now were on the way back home.

On the road.

On the road. Thanks Rebecca for the picture!

Soon we arrived at the crossroad where we took a right and only 15 kilometers later we would be right next to the Mekong again. But we could not go fast – Roberto urgently needed a bathroom. He asked in shops and private houses but nobody wanted to help him. It took a while until we understood that they did not own a toilet and were too ashamed to offer Roberto to go to the woods for his business.

Soon after we reached the Mekong and cycled through plenty of villages. The kids screamed “Helloooo” and “Bye bye” when they saw us. We needed to answer immediately, otherwise they yelled even louder and more vigorous. We waved, laughed and shouted for hours and at night I had muscle pain in my cheeks of all the smiling.

Roberto cycles the Mekong Road

Roberto cycles the Mekong Road

We reached Kratie in the afternoon. The town was much cleaner than Stund Treng and even the market was all tidy. They sold fruit to normal prices (a small watermelon for 0.50 $) and we even found bottled water for normal prices. Great! No need to squeeze water through the water filter anymore. But somehow the only payable water came in 0.5 Liters bottles. I will never understand why bigger bottles came more expensive.

Dog Meat Restaurant

Special food sold in Kratie. I personally prefer Noodle Soup.

We stayed in Kratie to write and work. After some days we packed our things again and headed towards Siem Reap.


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  1. Carolyn in Nashville, TN says:

    Annika, I’m glad you are feeling better. It seems like good food is the fuel for biking, so it is very important. Of course you know this. I wish you did not need to skip the good food when it is more expensive. Can your sponsors give a little more $ ? It would not be a lot more. Or can we send you some $ ?

    • admin says:

      Hello Carolyn, thanks for the poem that you send us! It was interesting, hope you can send more about life, love and travel by bike! As we have already mentioned it before we don’t make public requests for donations but if you want to help us you can always contact us by e-mail in the contact form. What can we say we will not deny any help if granted! je je your friend Roberto!

  2. Carolyn in Nashville, TN says:

    Hello again,
    I thought you might like this poem … it’s about death, but more, I think, about enjoying and appreciating our body.

    by My Swenson

    Body my house
    my horse my hound
    what will I do
    when you are fallen

    Where will I sleep
    How will I ride
    What will I hunt

    Where can I go
    without my mount
    all eager and quick

    How will I know
    in thicket ahead
    is danger or treasure
    when Body my good
    bright dog is dead

    How will it be
    to lie in the sky
    without roof or door
    and wind for an eye

    With cloud for shift
    how will I hide?

    • admin says:

      It is nice you have the chance to explore this topics through your creative writing or reading. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I followed a lot of your post. Your work is so great.

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