The fight for a piece of the road

Mit dem Rad durch die Tempel um Angkor Wat

By bike through the temples of Angkor Wat

Country: Cambodia
From Kampong Cham to Siem Reap
Lesson learned: Close your window while it is raining. Unless you camp and there is no window.
Laughed about: The women’s faces on the market when I bought a raw chicken
Most wonderful miracle: The temples around Angkor Wat
Food we ate: Chicken soup, rice with chicken, watermelon, coconut and probably a couple of bugs while we were asleep
Greatest challenge: The “cleaner”
Days on the bike: 3 1/2
Kilometers cycled: 283.51
Average Kilometers per day: 81
Total Kilometers cycled till Siem Reap: 11235.42
Total days travelled till Siem Reap: 643

Cambodia by bike part 3: July 2013

It was noon when we crossed Kampong Cham. It was hot, dusty and loud and we only stopped shortly to get some ice cream. Once we found ourselves in a bigger town we needed to calm our cravings. Back on the main road we found ourselves on a well paved road with plenty of traffic. Most of them were headed to the capital Phnom Penh. Fortunately we were not. Only 15 kilometers later we reached the crossroad where we left the packed route 7 and continued on a smaller one. The sun had no mercy with us and squeezed the last drop of sweat out of the pores while we bumped up and down on road works and around potholes. We passed one dusty village after the other until finally in the late afternoon we reached what we had not expected at all: shade. The path led us through rubber tree plantations and the trees were tall enough to protect us from the harsh sun.

Gummibaumplantage in Kambodscha

Through rubber trees

Just before sunset we found a pagoda to ask for shelter for the night. The monks were mostly adults and once they understood our question they offered us a space to hang the mosquito net. We washed our sweaty clothes and ourselves before we climbed under the mosquito net.

Roberto spielt mit den Kindern in der Anlage des Tempels

Roberto played with the kids around the temple

Since we were in a temple and even in the monk’s sleeping room, I dressed up with long sleeves and trousers. There was no fan in the room and as much as I enjoyed such a remote place I have to say that I hardly slept that night.

Übernachtung im Tempel

No sleep in our cozy “bedroom”

The heat was just too much. In addition to the long sleeves I even had to put on some long socks at night to protect myself from all the mosquitoes that had managed to climb into our net.

Kambodschanische Mönche

Our shorttime roommates did not speak any English. Unfortunately our Khmer was horrible and we were not able to say anything but Hello, Thank You, Delicious, yes and rice

We got up early to avoid the heat but we had no success. At 6.30 am I felt like a cake in the oven. We cycled as quickly as possible to refresh us with our own airstream.

Wir ignorieren die Sprachbarriere und kommunizieren ohne Worte

We ignored the language problems and communicated without words

It did not take long until we reached the end of our small street and got onto the main street number 6. We had a breakfast in the town with the crossroad and I observed the traffic.

Kampong Thom

Breakfast in Kampong Thom. Fortunately there are only two big main roads in Cambodia so we could ignore the confusing street signs

Most fascinating for me were the vans. Usually the back door was open to squeeze even more motorbikes, bicycles, vegetables and animals into the van. Human cargo was seated on top of all that.

Gütertransport in Kambodscha Version Kleinbus

Cargo Transport

They were squeezed in like in the game Tetris to take advantage of each single cubic centimeter of space. I had no idea how many hours the passengers had to stay seated like that. One man even sat on a motorbike that was strapped onto the back door of the van. Hopefully they strapped it properly.

Pferdekutschen in Kambodscha

Horse transport

Apart from the vans the street was filled with many carriages pulled by ponies and oxen heavily loaded bikes and motorbikes, tractor motors with two wheels and a trailer and many trucks.

Schwer beladen rasen sie an uns vorbei. Wie lange die Passagiere wohl schon oben auf dem LKW sitzen?

Cargo transporters made some extra money with passengers

The VIP tourist buses’ drivers usually had a tight schedule and rushed through the streets yelling “Get out of the way, I’m in a hurry!”.

Kistentransport in Kambodscha

In Cambodia they love to squeeze as many things as possible on a vehicle

The Oscar for bad driving in Cambodia goes to the drivers of “usual” cars. Those who have finally saved enough money to change their family motorbike into a car apparently thought that a car automatically came with the sole right to use the streets.

Hühnertransport in Kambodscha

Chicken transport

Car owners did not need to wait behind an ox carriage until there was space to overtake it. No, in order to make their exclusive rights clear to everyone they had a little extra in their car called the “cleaner”. Back home it was known as the “car horn”.

Holztransport in Kambodscha

Wood transport

This is how a car owner uses the “cleaner”: Get in the car, start the engine, press the “cleaner” and drive as fast as possible. All other traffic can be ignored now because the “cleaner” will assure they will either make space as fast as they can or – if there is no space – jump off the street. The cleaner should be pressed nonstop to have the full affect until the driver reaches his goal. It is not necessary to use the break, not even in an emergency.

Typische Kambodschanische Landestracht

Children transport. Who needs a school bus?

That was how I ended up in the roadside ditch several times. In the end I did not even return to the street. The ditch was a lot bumpier but it was quite safe. Every two or three kilometers the road was “under construction” and all the traffic filled the air with sand and dust. There was only one possibility left: I had to stop breathing, narrow my eyes to microscopically small slits, hold the handlebar straight, hope for not too many potholes and pedal as fast as possible until the construction zone was over.

Freilaufende Kühe in kambodscha

Every now and then we met completely confused road users. And sometimes we met cows

I was completely annoyed when I spotted two young women who sold drinks on the side of the street. To my surprise we had stumbled into the perfect rest spot. The women sold Roberto’s favorite iced tea and fresh cold coconuts, there was a clean bathroom with a barrel full of water and some soap and there were hammocks behind the street stand where I got an hour of the sleep that I had missed in the night.

Entspannte Pause mit einer Kokosnuss

Relaxed coconut break

In the afternoon the traffic calmed down a bit and there were less and less road works. We pedaled fast because we wanted to reach a town with guesthouse in the night. I was in urgent need for some good night’s sleep. After nearly 111 kilometers we had made it: we reached the 11111 total kilometers, 1111 Facebookfans and Steung, the town with guest house.

11111 geradelte Gesamtkilometer

11111 total Kilometers with baggage since Bremen

Unfortunately we had to find out that there were even more mosquitoes in the room than we had had in the mosquito net the night before. And since there was no glass in the window, more and more kept flying in. But Roberto, my hero of the day, decided to clean up. He grabbed his shoe and killed most of the mosquitoes and bugs. One of the biggest cockroaches burst open and exhaled a horrible stench. It stank so bad that we had to open the door to let the smell out. In the meantime another eight mosquitoes, five bugs and two smaller cockroaches came inside.

Kambodschanische Garküche

Ready dishes with rice in a streetside cookshop

I decided to ignore the room’s creatures and to sleep. My plan worked out surprisingly well. More than 300 kilometers in 3 days – there’s no better sleeping pill.

By the next morning we ordered some rice with chicken in the guesthouse’s restaurant. Next to our table there was a cow. The owner’s daughter led it back outside. We had quite a good talk with her, because she was unable to hear or speak and perfectly understood our self made sign language.

Die Wassermelone schlägt Limonaden als Snack allemal.

Whenever there was a water melon I forgot my desire for a lemonade

As usual the sun shone hard. What had happened to the daily afternoon showers that we had back in Kratie? I had imagined the rainy season a bit wetter.

We decided to split up the last 108 kilometers in two days so we could reach Siem Reap early in the day and take some time to find a cheap and nice accommodation. We ate plenty of watermelons, said hello to the children and within the last hour of cycling we ended up with nearly perfect cycling conditions: well paved street, not too much traffic, flat countryside and a couple of clouds to protect us from the sun.

Während einer Pause trainieren wir den nächsten Weltumradler

Roberto trained a future world cyclist

It did not take long until we reached the first guesthouses. Traffic was still crazy but it moved slower and we had no problems to adopt to the rhythm of the street. Angkor Wat is the most visited place in Cambodia and in 2012 it was visited by 2.06 Million visitors, most of them from Korea, Vietnam, China, Japan and Thailand.

Wir mussten alles trocknen was sich in Fensternähe befand. Zum Glück gab es außer ein paar Passfotos keine nennbaren Schäden

Fortunately most things survived the shower and we just lost a few passport pictures.

It took us some hours until we found the perfect guesthouse. It should

be clean, quiet and cheap. The Sam So (crossroad between Wat Bo Street 0164 and Street 21) was made for us. We had just placed the last bag in the room when a big thunderstorm set the streets under water. We had been cycling through dust and sand for five long days and now it was raining? That was too much for me. We took a shower and headed straight to the Mexican restaurant. Roberto had been dreaming of their food for weeks. We also have our first beers since Laos. One beer costs 0.50 US-$. Same price for coke or water. We spent some days in town, learned where to buy food, water and fruit for normal prices (and where not). And we learned that the window should remain closed during a thunderstorm if we want to sleep on a dry bed.

Angkor Wat

Either it was hot like inside an oven or it rained cats and dogs. The few hours in between were filled with thousands of other tourists

By the fourth day we finally made our way to the ruins of Angkor Wat. We bought a ticket for three days that we had to use within a week. It cost 40 US-$ for each. With tent and mosquito net we could have survived a week on the bikes for that money.

Affen auf den Fahrrädern in Angkor Wat

The hairy versions of Annika and Roberto on their bikes

I was surprised by the amount of tourists in the temple and it was only a rainy low season’s day. It was easy to reach the area by bike and we took our time.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Even though it was rainy the air was very hot and Roberto did not feel too good.

Angkor Wat zu Fuß

We parked the bikes and explored Angkor Wat by foot

A short shower kept some tourists and flies away and we were all by ourselves on two smaller ruins.

Die Kuh interessiert sich nicht besonders für die Touristen

The cow did not care for tourists, entry tickets or ruins

Nevertheless we returned in the afternoon because Roberto felt worse and worse and at night the fever rose.

Bayon Tempel

Roberto cycled around the Bayon Temple

I bought plenty of water, made leg compresses when the fever rose too high and cooked a chicken soup.

Irrsinnigerweise haben wir die Räder gegen einen Mülleimer gelehnt geparkt. Die Affen haben sie sofort als Küchentisch in Beschlag genommen

We were crazy enough to park the bikes against a rubbish bin. A monkey family used them as their kitchen table and had lunch on top of our bikes.

. The women on the market were quite surprised when they saw a foreigner who bought a raw chicken breast.

Ta Som Tempel

Ta Som Temple

Probably they wondered whether I knew that it was uneatable unless I cooked or fried it.

Ta Prohm Ruinen

Ta Prohm Ruins

By the third day the fever was gone and Roberto made his first careful steps out of the bed.

"Buy guide book? Buy post cards? Buy paintings? You want a coconut? Or pineapple? Or cold drink? I have a restaurant!" Wir werden erschlagen vom Angebot der Verkäufer.

“Buy guide book? Buy post cards? Buy paintings? You want a coconut? Or pineapple? Or cold drink? I have a restaurant!” plenty of salesmen filled the touristy spots

We went for a short and slow bike trip through some smaller streets of town before we had a German Schnitzel in the “Haus Bremen” (street 26, east of the river).

Werder Fan im Haus Bremen

Werder Fan at “Haus Bremen”

By the following day Roberto still did not feel too good but it was not possible to extend our 3-day temple pass.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

We had to go if we did not want to waste a day of our tickets.

Die Gesichter von Bayon

It was pouring down and we had the Bayon temple with its faces almost for ourselves

He got on the bike and we cycled slowly towards the ruins.

Ausnahmsweise zu Fuß

Discovering Angkor Wat

On the way we met Nimrod from Israel who wanted to take the most out of his one-day ticket and cycle the “big loop”.

Riesige Bäume nehmen die Ruinen in ihre Obhut. Sie müssen regelmäßig gestutzt, aber dürfen nicht entfernt werden, da in beiden Fällen die Ruinen zusammenzufallen drohen.

Giant trees grew in the ruins. They needed a cut every now and then but could not be removed because the ruins could fall into pieces.

We had no idea that we would end up cycling 40 kilometers. Not bad for the first day without fever.

Ruinen am Wegesrand

Some ruins on the side of the street

We barely made it to see all the highlights within the third and last day. But we took our time with everything, made some stops in the shade and once Roberto even took a nap on top of some rocks.

Mittagsschlaf in Angkor Wat

Somewhere between vendors and ruins Roberto found some “cozy rocks” for a nap

The rain had cooled down the air and we hoped that it would remain cool once we got back on the bikes and cycled east.

Tempel Phnom Bakheng

On our last day we enjoyed the view from the Phnom Bakheng temple.


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  1. Somehow I missed the first two but…really loved this one! I will share it with my readers in my next blog post!

  2. Pingback: July 12, 2013: Award Mapper, TSA PreCheck, Cambodia, United scare, wildlife, waves, Jeff Bauman | TravelBloggerBuzz

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