Cambodia (and back to Thailand)

A couple of days rest in Pakse had been good for me, and I felt better by the time I left and started riding towards Cambodia.

Along the way, I saw some touring cyclists. The first I saw were a French couple, and I stopped to chat to them for a a while. I saw a other cyclist shortly after and waved, but he didn’t see me. This was the beginning of a particularly cyclist-dense section: I saw 10 cyclists over the course of the next two days.

Apart from that the riding was quite uneventful and I reached the border late in the afternoon. There were a few other people at the Laos side but I was quickly stamped out of the country. There was a barrier at the border, and a few vehicles were stopped there. I ducked underneath (one of the advantages of travelling by bicycle!) and made my way to Cambodian immigration.

The Cambodian border guard was snoring away when I arrived. Once I’d woken him up, he checked my visa, stamped my passport, and off I rode into Cambodia. It was getting late so I only rode for an hour or so before it started to get dark. I made my way off the road and slept by some trees.

The next morning I reached the town of Stung Treng. This town sits at the junction of two large rivers, the Sekong and the Mekong. I crossed both of these and turned west.

Sekong
Mekong

The Cambodian countryside seemed a lot emptier and drier than what I’d been seeing for the last few weeks. The people here are also significantly poorer, and live in quite basic houses.

Most of the villages I passed through were quite small, not large enough to provide adequate business for a street food vendor. Instead, I saw some people who had attached grills to a motorcycle sidecar, and rode from village to village selling baguettes and grilled meats. It seemed a great idea!

After riding for two days on quiet Cambodian roads, I reached a main road and turned toward the city of Siem Reap. Traffic immediately increased drastically, with a constant flow of vehicles in both directions. As is quite common in the region, many of the motorcyclists were driving on the wrong side of the road.

Traffic increased further as I entered the city. In each direction there would usually be a couple of cars and perhaps five motorcycles alongside each other. Despite this, there was no honking. I hadn’t experienced such congestion since India, and I’d almost forgotten it was possible to have a busy city without ear-splitting honking sounds.

I made my way to a hotel and checked in. I took a couple rest days there, then finally made my way to Angkor Wat.

Wandering down a corridor
The reliefs on the wall were remarkably intricate

The temple complex was reasonably busy, but not as packed as it usually would be. At this point China was in the early stages of a coronavirus outbreak. Chinese group tours had thus been cancelled. At this point it seemed likely the outbreak would be contained within China, so tourists from other countries were present in their usual numbers.

On the way up to the main pillars

From the main complex, I rode off to see another temple, Angkor Thom.

After leaving this temple, I rode a shirt circuit around the area, and saw a few more smaller sites.

I changed into my cycling clothes and set off in the direction of Thailand. The road became quieter as soon as I was away from Siem Reap, though it was more populated than the areas I’d been riding through before. The landscape was greener, with more rice paddies and fewer fields of dry grass.

The next day, I reached the Thai border. Getting stamped out of Cambodia was pretty quick, though they needed a hard copy of my e-visa. Since my first copy had been taken by immigration when I entered the country, I had to go and print out another. A policeman was handing out masks to everyone who went through immigration, though many didn’t use them.

I got stamped into Thailand and rode away from the border. After a few hours, it began to get dark. I followed a track away from the road and slept among some trees. There were no mosquitoes so I didn’t bother with the tent.The following afternoon, I approached Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. This was the largest city I’d been to for a few months – probably since Delhi, back in October. Though there were lots of vehicles around, everything kept moving reasonably well – and, crucially, there was no honking. I stopped at Decathlon on the way in to the city, then made my way to a hostel.

The next day, Jacob Ashton arrived. Jacob and I cycled together for a month or two about a year ago, in Europe. We’re now riding in the opposite direction – his next six months of riding are my last six months of riding, and vice versa. It was great to catch up with him and share stories and advice for the road ahead.We spent about five days in Bangkok. Although we did go and have a quick look at some of the sights one morning, we mostly hung out in the air-conditioned hostel.

We also spoke about COVID. A Chinese woman at the hostel had been forced to leave Vietnam because nowhere would let her stay – regardless of the fact that she hadn’t been in China for months. There were other people in Bangkok who’d been living in China for years but now couldn’t get back as the borders were closed.

Jacob had asked me a while ago what I thought about COVID and I honestly hadn’t considered it. By this point though, China had closed its borders. We were both still optimistic, and Jacob simply changed his plans to skip China. Since I was riding away from China, it didn’t seem likely to affect me.

My to-do list had been growing for some time, and I hoped to get a lot of things done in Bangkok. I was mostly successful. I replaced my jersey, bike shorts, sleeping mat, chain, cassette, saddle (with a Brooks, like the one that lasted me the first 80000km), and had my wheels rebuilt around new hubs and spokes. There were several other smaller things I replaced too. By the time I was ready to leave Bangkok, I had pretty much ticked off everything on my list.

Feb 7: 170 km

Feb 8: 186 km

Feb 9: 159 km

Feb 12: 79 km

Feb 13: 200 km

Feb 14: 140 km

5 thoughts on “Cambodia (and back to Thailand)

  1. Hi Sam, I try to retrace your travels from my armchair – from Europe to China – to SE Asia. Wondering where are you now with all the Corona problems…Planning a bike trip from Thailand to Laos to Vietnam next year.
    all the best, Simon

    1. I’ve just started touring again actually – that’s why I’m trying to get the blog up to date. I’m in Switzerland now, aiming for Africa.

      Good luck with your trip, feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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