Oct
16
2009
0

Day 8 – Border to Ubon

We set off in the early morning from our place just 10 km into Thailand from the ช่องสะงำ border crossing. I had the great idea of trying to take a shortcut we had heard tell of. I don’t know if I picked the wrong road, or if the shortness of the route got lost in the potholes, hills, and rain. Rather muddy and wet we finally found a place for breakfast. Shortly after breakfast more rain drove us under the roof of a supply store. The owners were friendly, made conversation, and brought us water. We moved on.

We made good time along 24, stopping for a late lunch of ลาบ and ต้มปลา. After lunch we continued to move along. About the time we might have considered stopping for the day, Ubon was tantalizingly close (40km). We couldn’t stop.

My hands were quite tired of gripping the handle bars so I was riding without holding them when a large truck went by close and fast. The wind rocked me and I went for the handle bars and the brakes. I locked up my front wheel and despite all the extra weight of my bag on the back wheel I became aware of being a good deal higher than my handle bars. Before I could correct anything I was on the ground with my bike behind me. I’m not entirely sure of all the details. I do know by the time I went down I had slowed down considerably so there was very little sliding and scraping. Just a jarring of the wrists and a skinning up of the palms. Far less serious than it could have been. After a minute or two of settling we were back on the road, I with a pair of Mark’s clean socks between my hands and the handlebars.

As darkness was settling we pulled into the Warin Big C. We consumed a medium pizza, a pan of baked rice, fries, and wings. Refreshed we finished the journey in the dark (with both head and tail lights).

The extra push at the end put blisters on my seat and a tingling in my hands. Hopefully they’ll clear up quickly.

Written by Micah in: Uncategorized | Tags: ,
Oct
14
2009
0

Day 7 – Siem Reap to Thailand

This morning we left Siem Reap at about 6:00. We stopped after 13 km for breakfast. We reached Srei Noi around 10:00. It was a little too early to call it quits, so we had second breakfast and moved on We ate a late lunch in Anlong Veng. Where we stopped the proprietors were eating their meal between serving lunch and starting dinner, so they ordered for us from the restaurant next door.

Still not ready to call it a day, we pushed on to the border crossing. The last 5 km of the road in Cambodia are quite steep. We walked our bikes. At the top of the hill I saw a much wanted sign for a restroom and made for it. In my haste to find the restroom I was delighted to find that the proprietor spoke Thai. After taking care of necessities, I had a nice talk with her. She was very nice. She was from Thailand and was very proud of her piece of civilization on the Cambodian side of the mountain.

After she had allowed us the use of her restrooms and served us free clean ice water, I thought it good to buy something (not considering the early hour of sunset). After eating some well-prepared food we proceeded through the border. Everything went smoothly.

Once in Thailand it looked like we were going to have just enough light to make it to a room 10 km in. Having gone about a kilometer, Mark, while taking a picture, veered off course into my bike. Some part of my bike (left pedal?) took off the top of his front tube’s valve, quickly flattening the tire. Darkness fell as we replaced the tube. We realized that it was good Mark hadn’t been able to bring his patch kit and so had brought a spare.

As we resumed our decent, Mark noticed that his front rim was a bit bent up as well. Between the rim and the gathering dark, we were not able to take full pleasure in the long steep downhills, We arrived safely at our lodging for the night. The toilet is a squatter, and there is no hot water. We do, however, have both a fan and an air conditioner. The beds are quite doable.

Written by Micah in: Uncategorized | Tags: ,
Oct
12
2009
0

Day 5 – Around Angkor

Today we traveled by bike past Angkor Wat in through the South Gate of Ankor Thom and out through the West Gate. The road out to the West Gate was unpaved. It felt good to be on the proverbial road less traveled. We continued past the West Gate in search of the West Baray (reservoir). We found a corner of Cambodia far less touched by the waves of tourists. After journeying for a while without encountering the Baray, we stopped and asked directions by pointing to a map. A grandfather with a bare tattooed chest showed us the way through some backyards to the Baray. I’m still not sure how one would go about constructing a reservoir of those proportions (8 km x 2.1 km) a thousand years ago.

Having had a nice break from touristville and rock ruins, we made our way to Preah Khan, another old stone dazzler. The bigness of stones, the intricacies of carvings, and romance of ruins again conspired to take my breath away.

Next we made our way to Neak Pean. These five grand pools used to sit in the cneter of a reservoir that bordered Preah Khan.

This is as fitting a time as any to say that throughout our journeys we bumpedinto folks from all around the globe. At Neak Pean I identified one of the languages being spoken—Spanish—and was embarrassed by how long it took me to remember how to ask “de dónde eran ustedes?” It tooke me so long to unbury the Spanish files in my brain from under the Thai files, that I didn’t even have a chance to use any Spanish.

Next we struck East Mebon and Pre Rup. Both majestic, both similar, neither taking my fancy. I should mentions that as we were approaching Pre Rup we were flagged down by a tour van carrying two women from Florida we had met the day before. They were delighted to see us and told us to find them on facebook.

We wrapped up the day’s tour by heading to Banteay Samré. Due to lack of signage we overshot it and went some distance before someone pointed us back in the right direction. When we arrived the guard told us it was closed. After a little dialogue he told us we could take a quick look. What struck me was how similar this restored temple was to ruins I have seen in Thailand. The primary difference being that this one was restored. I would have liked to say longer. It had a feel that was different from other places we had been.

At dinner our host, unable to communicate with us, brought a boy over from somewhere. He was a sharp fellow. His command of English was quite good. His comprehension of Thai was also good. Mark declared his French conversational. Spanish was also apparently at his command. He related to us both historical and political knowledge of South East Asia. I was a little sad to see him slip away when our food came.

Written by Micah in: Uncategorized | Tags: ,
Oct
10
2009
0

Day 3 – Anlong Veng to Siem Reap

Getting up at 4:50, we made our way out of the hotel. The hotel restaurant had lights on so we went in. To serve us food they had to wake up several people.

The whole day was more or less downhill so we made good time. At the halfway point, Srey Noi, we stopped for lunch and then found a place we can stay on our way back up. 137 km down hill is a very different thing from 137 km uphill.

In town we met several friendly people, three of whome spoke pretty good English. On the way out of town Mark picked up some fried roots and and fried bananas. After going a little way we had a little rain. We dove under some cover and started eating our fried snack. Some soldiers a little ways away motioned for us to come. We obeyed the summons. They sat us down at their table and tried to have a friendly chat with us. The lack of a common language made this difficult. Though we all laughed pretty good when the one soldier tried to mount Mark’s super tall bike. While we were there some school kids came over and we shared our snack with them.

After that we enjoyed a period of good weather. by the end of the day we had ducked out of rain a few more times, once for quite a while, while somebody dumped buckets from the sky. We ended up riding the last 15 km into Siem Reap in a light rain.

Highlights of the day included seeing cambodian houses with prettier paint jobs than Ubon houses; having hundreds of little kids yell ‘hello’ at us; seeing carts pulled by cattle; seeing piglets in baskets on the backs of motorcycles, seeing the glowing green of fields of young rice.

Written by Micah in: Uncategorized | Tags: ,
Oct
10
2009
0

Day 2 – Sisaket to Anglong Veng

We woke up at 5:10. Shortly after, we were on the road. We stopped for some fried bread and hot soy milk. The next stop was a second, more substantial breakfast at a 7-eleven. We each ate a spicy pork burger on a sticky rice bun, and a pastry style pie. We may or may not have stopped again before stopping for noodles in a bid to avoid threatening rain. We sat there for a while while the rain poured down. When the rain stopped, we started off, only to have our hostess chase us down because I had left my phone on the table.

We were not on the road long before rain started to fall again. We dove in under the roof of a small hardware store. We didn’t see the proprietor for a while. When he popped out, he was friendly and told us he’d been in the back eating.

The rain stopped. We got on the road again. The rain started and we stopped for a drink at what looked like a nice restaurant in the hinterland. The rain stopped we moved on. The rain started and we joined a gentleman under a roadside booth. We exchanged friendly chatter before he left in his truck telling us something about staying there under the booth. When the rain stopped, and he didn’t reappear, we moved on (we saw him again just a little further up the road).

We arrived at the Thai-Cambodia border, dodged out of the rain under a tarp behind a closed building that had a sign that said something about immigration. Under the tarp watching TV were two Thai soldiers watching TV. They told us that to cross into cambodia we had to back track a little and then head down a different road. They let us wait out the rain under the tarp watching boxing.

When the rain stopped, we went to the proper location for border crossings.

Now I need to back track a little to fill in a few things. From the noodle shop on there were regular signs telling us the distance to the border. What was not regular was the progression of the signs. It went something like 29km, 20km, 21km, 19km, 17km, 18km, 16km, 18km, . . .

Another thing of note were the hills we encountered as we approached the border. They added much to the scenery and much to the labour of pedaling.

At the border we exited out of Thailand easy enough, though we were charged 100 baht for I don’t know what. (It was particularly suspicious because the one official asked the other official what the cost was).

In Cambodia things got tense. We went to the visa purchase booth. The guy (wearing a black tank top) looked through my passport and then told me he could not give me a visa. I was out of blank visa pages. The empty pages at the back of my passport were for amendments and endorsements. Apperently the law forbids the use of these pages for visas. I asked if we could put it on those pages. I asked if we could put it on top of something else. He kept saying it could not be done. This moment that dragged into several (15?) minutes, was one of the most stressed of my life. There I was on a bicycle with a cousin who had flown from LA with the purpose of making this trip and I was being told that I could not enter the country.

He eventually asked us how we would be exiting Cambodia. We answered that we would be exiting the same way we were entering. After making us promise several times that we would exit at the same crossing, he let us fill out the visa application forms. He then had me write a waiver on the back of my application certifying that I was an idiot, and that the lack of visa pages were my fault not his.

After that things went pretty smoothly. After taking a little jog on a mud road we found ourselves back opposite the place where the guards were watching TV under a tarp. From the border on things were pretty much all down hill. We had one scary moment flying down a hill and discovering that water had washed out at least a half of the lane we were in. We decided that taking things a little slower on the wet pavement might not be a bad idea.

We nighted in Anlong Veng.

Written by Micah in: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

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