I’ve been keeping some hurriedly written narrative about our tour progress, with the intention of cleaning them up before posting. Rather than just keeping good intentions on my mind and notepad text files on my netbook forever, I’ve decided to post these instead.
* 12/6 Bangkok to Sisophon (bike route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5221292 ; total distance: 57.2km)
We took the train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (48 baht ticket + 90 baht cargo fee) bright and early at 5:30am. The third class wooden seats were adequate, but I got a bit stiff sitting there for six hours. Once we got off the train, we got our gear on and biked from to the border, about 6 km away.
It was nice that I had done the border crossing before – everything went smoothly (visa on arrival cost $20 and 100 baht standard ‘tea money’ for the officials). I had been warned before that Poipet, the border town on the Cambodian side of the border, was a dangerous, scummy place, but it seemed fine as we rolled through on the main highway.
We sat down at some seats at a street-side restaurant, and at first we wondered if the place was still open – the staff didn’t seem to understand why we were there. It took them a while to get someone over to serve us, but the food was great. It was a kind of spicy and sweet greasy soup with pork, served with some really good baguette-style bread.
We biked straight along the nearly completely flat, smooth highway. My rig, a rather heavy (for an aluminum frame) Merida 24-speed mountain bike with front suspension fork and Schwalbe Sammy Slick tires (26 x 2.1), was working out quite well. As we neared the halfway mark between Poipet and Sisophon, we were passed by a tractor full of bags of what I assume is rice. Carissa slid in behind the tractor to draft off of it – it was going about 25 km/h, compared to the 18-22 km/h we were doing. We managed to draft for most of our way to Sisophon, going significantly faster than we could manage without and putting in much less effort.
At Sisophon, the owner of the first guesthouse we tried came out with such a comical caricature of an angry/refusal face that no one needed to speak a word before we left – we understood. The next place was very clean and they asked for 250 bahts, although they accepted 200 bahts rather than having to make change from three 100 baht bills.
We had a nice sit-down dinner with a kind of Khmer crepe with bean sprouts and chicken, washed down with some Angkor beers. We called it an early night after washing up.
* 12/7 Sisophon to Siem Reap (bike route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5221294 ; total distance: 108km)
Breakfast consisted of some meat over broken rice. We broke for first lunch at a small market and had some noodle soup and bananas. As we were eating, the rain had started, so we waited a while for that to clear up. Second lunch was much more substantial. After 100km of smooth, rather boring road (in fact, we commented about how the flat roads through repetitive farmland reminded us of the American midwest), we made it into Siem Reap. The boulevard of giant luxury hotels and Korean restaurants on the outskirts of town greeted us first, but we pushed on into town and biked to the Old Market area. We stayed at a clean A/C room at Shadow of Angkor 1 ($16).
* 12/8 Siem Reap (bike route and distance not recorded)
Carissa went to Angkor Wat and nearby temples, while I went to the Roluos Group, as I had already been to Angkor Wat. I toured Preah Ko, Bakong, Prei Monei first. Preah Ko and Bakong were impressive, but not as off the beaten path as I was told – there were legions of tourists there, even tour-group tourists. Prei Monei was much less impressive, but on reachable by a sandy path barely passable by a tuk-tuk – a Japanese couple, their tuk-tuk driver and I were the only people there.
I tried to find a few more temples on the map that I got from the guesthouse, but I mostly ended up wandering around villages completely lost. My GPS had a few roads indicated, but it was mostly unhelpful. Eventually, I gave up and made my way back to the highway and headed home.
Carissa and I both returned to the guesthouse after our morning adventures and had lunch. I walked over to the post office to send Kimberly the kramas (Khmer scarves) she wanted – 22 in all. I had planned on going out again to the West Baray temples, but I got sidetracked by the sweet glow of internet. It was a good thing, too, because it started pouring about 15 minutes later. After the rain let up, Carissa and I went down to the Night Market area for a massage, had dinner and a few drinks out on Pub Street before calling it a night.