Cambodia – Thailand
Arriving in the wealthier tourist trap of Siem Reap was a change from the dust and poverty of recent miles. We stayed for a few nights to rest and enjoy a pedal around Ankor Wot, an incredible place, even if the experience is shared with half of Japan. I would like to beat the inventor of the selfie-stick to death with a selfie-stick, but that would require me to own one which is not possible.
It only takes a few too-drunk travellers and overcrowded tourist sites to rush us back onto the bikes and off into the peace of rural unknown. A days cycle north through more barren Cambodia lowlands we reached the north-west border town of Paoy Paet. As with most border towns I’ve ever come across it’s a little strange. The town smelled terrible, wherever we tried to hunt down dinner it seemed impossible to shake the stench of rotting matter. We ended up finding buffet in no-mans-land between the borders, and ensured we left with our moneys worth and a clothes peg.
The next morning we made the crossing into Thailand which was particularly straightforward but the lasting memory will be the smell. Between the border points is a huge waste dump which both countries seem to add to but neither take responsibility. The only positive being that the queues move quickly as people fight to get away. If intentional it’s groundbreaking thinking.
The far wealthier Thailand gave us some lovely flat, well-maintained tarmac to fly off from the border.
As fast-ageing man I’ve got a disc problem in my neck and suffer lower back pain. Based on these ailments cycling would probably be towards the top of things to not do. To help ease the pain i live on a strict diet of painkillers and then dance about on the saddle trying to find a comfortable posture.
In the first few miles of Thailand i began stretching my neck by extending my head over the handlebars and trying to lengthen the back of my spine then springing back up again. I did this about 5 or 6 times over and over. On looking up from my self-physiotherapy i suddenly noticed a large group of women by the roadside and another coming towards me on a moped all bowing repeatedly in response to my unintentional greetings. I replied respectfully before pulling over to crease with laughter.
Spending the night in the small but vibrant market town of Kabin Buri just off the main highway we settled down to huge plates of noodles and some sleep. Rising early we’d decided to head due north into the Khao Yai national park to get us off the motorways, but mostly because we were keen to hunt down some elephants.
After recent weeks of delta country the climbs into the park were an extremely unwelcome result of this decision. But a nice walk to a waterfall and night under the stars soon eased the pain. There was no access to food and the staff were a bunch of monkeys (see below) but it was great to be off the beaten track again and out in the wilderness of the Thai mountains.
Unfortunately on the same afternoon my back wheel went out of true, on closer inspection it appeared my rim had snapped and split in a number of places. Stuck in a national park and on route to Myanmar, neither famous for their touring bike equipment supplies, this was not cause for celebration. At any moment the rim would break through rendering my bike un-rideable and a bus trip to Bangkok the necessary reward. To make matters worse we didn’t see any elephants.
Carefully descending from the park the next morning i slowly rolled 80 km into the next large town where the cycling Gods granted us a most magical and beautiful bike shop that were able to build me a new wheel. It was the last real bike shop we would pass in 1000 km. Phew.
A week lost off the end of my life in stress, but Eddie, my bike, was now looking strong, renewed and ready to take on rural Thailand.
Fingers remain crossed for elephants.
Hope it’s more comfortable for you.
Cambodian women at work. Finding Cambodian men at work is more challenging.
Your average town entrance.
Hold your nose.
Danger team selfie.
Paid peanuts for this campsite.
Eddie in trouble.