Everyday Randomness: a street stall trying to keep raw meat cool with a fan in 32° heat…
Cambodian fact of the day (FOD): in 2012 over half the population was below the age of 22.
We were on the bikes by 06:30 this morning eager to get going and also aware that the border crossing could take an unknown amount of time. We went through the Ban Pakard border crossing which is a quiet one as has a good reputation compared to Poipet which is well known for being both busy and dodgy to get through.
The first 20km or so was pretty uninspiring. The only thing to look at was stalls selling deep fried everything/anything dotted along the road. Once we turned off that particular road the landscape became more rural and pleasant. We stopped for a coffee when we recognised tins of condensed milk outside someone’s house and had the first coffee of the trip. It’s worth noting that I only really drink coffee in Asia so my knowledge is quite lacking. It must be their generous addition of sweeten condensed milk that has me hooked!!
Once it gets past about half ten is usually time to start looking for lunch! Not because you are ravenous at this point but because places serving food can be very scare so it’s best to eat whenever you see a suitable spot!
Today, this occured at about 10:50, thankfully we didn’t actually start eating until about half an hour after that because the first 5 minutes was taken up by the locals having a good ole laugh at two comical westerns and then a man with one tooth took a picture of the whole occasion. Most of the rest of the time was taken up by communicating what food we wanted: we weren’t particularly keen on having an entire whole crab with our meal no matter how “soft” it was, and we (thankfully) went for one chilli over two even though we’d typically be keen on chillies, however over here they’re in a different league when it comes to heat!! After the exchange of pointing to various things we had a great meal of chicken wings and fresh vegetables and we were on our way.
As we approached the border we become more and more grateful that we had stopped for food when we had because there were no real options for the rest of the day.
On the Thai side of the border we encountered the “Good Guys in Bad Guys out” sign, which sounds like the title of a low budget western. The immigration officers were very helpful and there were no issues. On the Cambodian side we wanted to get a multi entry visa on arrival but could only get a single entry. I’m not entirely sure why not but the officer said you can only get that in Pnomh Penh so it is therefore it’s probably worth getting a visa online if you want the multi entry option. There were no issues other than that we both paid $5 more (so $35 each) but this seems to be completely standard and unavoidable. The whole border crossing process took about 45 minutes. You will need your departure card that you will get from Bangkok airport and one passport photo (bring a few in case they get damaged).
I must do some reading on it but Cambodia has quite a strong casino scene. This might explain the signs before the border stating that one cannot bring any more than 104 playing cards into the country. Once we crossed the border line (and changed from the left to the right side of the road!!!) the first four buildings were casinos so I guess the rumours are true for this spot anyway! The town itself was about as classy as the comically named “Super Rich Casino”.
I’m delighted to report that this scene ended quite abruptly and we cycled into the beautiful Cambodian countryside. The immediate increase in hammocks was a particularly welcome sight as it is a fantastic way to relax after a day in the saddle.
We took one of the Garmin recommended route which was of course a bit of a bumpy ride, however, great from an authenticity and enjoyment viewpoint.
Our destination was Pailin, specifically the Bamboo Guesthouse which offered little bungalows ($15 for a bungalow) a pool and a restaurant. All sounds ideal until you start reading about there being a 10% chance of malaria in the area and suddenly you’re staying inside and wearing long pants! Of course the risk in reality was no where near as high as 10% but it just plays on your mind especially so early on into the trip! The construction of mosquito nets using curtain rails did however provide some great entertainment:
So we had a chilled evening in the bungalow, I read the “Rules of Eating” which is an suitably short book for holiday reading. Well written and an easy read, something that everyone can get something from. Better for your sleep than reading about malaria anyway!