The flight to Bangkok went without big problems. I was immediately greeted by the tropical heat. This hit me with full force as I walked out of the airport. The traffic here in Bangkok is still as bad as it was 5 years ago on my last visit.
Just outside the city center, in Bang Kapi, I found a hostel especially for cyclists. It is run by a young couple who are also ambitious cyclists (www.spinningbearhostel.com). I liked the hostel so much that I spent 10 days there.
With fresh energy, I drove heavily laden after these days off to the Cambodian border. I consciously chosed a route away from the busy main roads. The infrastructure here in Thailand has definitely improved in recent years.
After 4 days I reached the border crossing Prom to Cambodia. There I immediately experienced a positive surprise: Anne and Pierre with their 9 month old daughter Maely arrived at the border post at the same time as I did.
Anne and Pierre started their journey from France in April 2015 with their tandem. Maely was born in Nepal in early 2017 (www.curieuses-echappees.blogspot.com). Since then, three of them travel as a small family by bicycle through the world.
We cycled together for 1.5 days to Treng. I wanted to try to organize a Vietnam visa in Battambang while the little family moved on directly into the Cardamom Mountains.
However, I did not like Battambang at all and so I buried my visa plans as soon as I got there. Most of the time here in Cambodia I slept in a Buddhist temple. Landmines are still prevalent in Cambodia and there are not many places to stay in the countryside.
Traffic on National Highway Number 5 almost reminded me of India. Therefore, I was quite happy when I was finally able to branch off into the Cardamom Mountains at Pursat.
Until Veal Veaeng the road was still paved. After that, the road turned into a mud track. Fortunately, in Africa i was already able to gain enough experience with such slopes.
These relatively isolated mountains are one of the largest and still mostly unexplored forests in Southeast Asia. Most of Southeast Asia is densely populated. That’s why I really enjoyed being out and about in nature again.
Threats to the biological diversity of the region include habitat loss due to illegal logging, wildlife poaching, and forest fires caused by slash-and-burn agriculture. These drastic interventions can be seen everywhere along the way.
About a third of the ecoregion has been designated as protected areas,but the level of active protection in all parks in the mountains has been criticized. On the 120 kilometer long stretch from Osoam to Koh Kong, I passed 4 newly built dams that were built with Chinese help
To find these concrete monsters in one of the last intact rainforests of Southeast Asia is extremely depressing.
In Koh Kong, I was able to replenish my supplies, which I urgently needed for the route to Phnom Penh. Until Sre Ambel the road was pretty mountainous. The high humidity mixed with the heat did not make it any easier.
On the way I met some other cyclists, which I found extremely reassuring. In Sre Ambel I made the mistake to cycle on National Highway 4 to Phnom Penh.
Virtually all the heavy traffic between Shianoukville and Phnom Penh goes through here and the asphalt strip offers just enough space for two trucks to cross. I would not recommend this route for cyclists at all.
In Phnom Penh I had time to extend my visa, apply for a new one for Vietnam and prepare for the visit of my mother. Exactly on December 25, she landed in Phnom Penh. We had not seen each other for almost half a year.
First we visited the Tuol Sleng prison and the Choeung Ek memorial. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime.
The prisoners were transported to Choeung Ek for killing if they survived the torture in the S21. Mass graves containing 8,895 bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The Khmer Rouge regime executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979. Almost a third of the total population. A visit to the two places I find tremendously important if you want to understand the history of Cambodia.
On the third day we took the plane from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to visit the temple complexes of Angkor. There we bought a 3-day ticket and visited the temples with the Tuk Tuk.
Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire and flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010-1220.
The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture.
Angkor is considered to be a „hydraulic city“ because it had a complicated water management network, which was used for systematically stabilizing, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area.
The popularity of the site among tourists presents multiple challenges to the preservation of the ruins. In recent years, especially the mass tourism from China has increased enormously. In 2017, more than 1 million Chinese visited the temple complexes.
It shocked me to see the increase in tourists who flock to the facility daily. Tourists as far as the eye can see. It is also shocking how fast whole hotel resorts have been pounded out of the ground in recent years.
From enjoyment can be no more in such masses. We decided to do the tour in reverse order and were able to dodge the main currents a bit.
On the second day we decided to rent the same Tuk Tuk driver again, which should prove a fatal mistake. First we drove to the far away Banteay Srey Temple.
Banteay Srei is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today and have led to its being widely praised as a <jewel of Khmer art>.
On the way to the Roluos group we made a stopover in the landmine museum of Aki Ra. Aki Ra, an ex-child soldier returned after years of fighting to the villages in which he planted thousands of mines and began removing them, by hand, and defusing them with homemade tools.
He displayed some of the items he had made safe. Cambodia is one of the most heavily landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) affected countries in the world (besides Afghanistan, Syria, Laos and Iraq). There is an estimated 4-6 million landmines left in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, our Tuk Tuk driver was almost palpable in the evening when we did not want to pay him more than the agreed price. The situation almost ended in a disaster.
If you visit Angkor with the Tuk Tuk you should definitely agree the price before the tour and do not choose the same driver for several days.
Our last day in Angkor was also the last one of the year. First, we visited the heart of the entire facility: Angkor Wat. It’s the largest religious monument in the world.
It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. By the end of the third day, we had slowly seen enough temples.
After a long New Year’s Eve with little sleep, we flew back to Phnom Penh. The next day I had to say goodbye to my mother again. I really enjoyed the time with her.
One day later, I got on my bicycle again. After only 2 days I reached the border in Phnom Den. The border guard there was extremely rude and threw my passport at the end through the area.
Now it’s time to go to the Mekong Delta. I’m really looking forward to a return visit to this country. Akuun jaan Kampuchea!