It has been a month since we started our trip, so it’s about time for the first travel blog! After arriving in Bangkok we quickly headed down to the south to enjoy Thailand’s white beaches. Unfortunately, our stay in the south didn’t last as long as we’d have liked. I lost my passport on the third day… So, back to Bangkok to arrange a new passport at the Dutch Embassy.
While waiting for the new passport, and feeling deprived of the so longed for white beaches, we decided to go to an island closer to Bangkok: Koh Chang. Days flew by on this beautiful, relaxed island, and a week passed within the blink of an eye.
We returned back to Bangkok to pick up my crispy new passport, and continued our journey. Next on the list was Siem Reap, Cambodia. Here we were on the hunt for two motorbikes, to drive across Cambodia and Vietnam. After a little online research, we stumbled upon an ad from a fellow traveller who was selling his “Honda Win” (Any travel blog can tell you that you’re in fact dealing with a Chinese copy). A $7 tuk tuk ride has taken us to the place of the sale, about 15km east of the city. The seller was a French guy working as an English teacher at an afternoon school for the village children. He had to get rid of his bike quickly, since the UN has called him off to Kuala Lumpur. After riding down the dusty lane a few times, we got the gist of changing gears and felt confident enough to buy the bike and bring it back to the city. Motorbike #1 was in the pocket! Finding a second motorbike was a bit more of a challenge. After asking around for two days, we found a German couple who just moved to Cambodia to start a shop to fix and sell motorcycles, and this is where we purchased #2. This done, the bike adventure could begin!
On the first day we rode the bikes to Sisophon. In a stark contrast to the touristy Siem Reap, where everyone wants to sell you something, in Sisophon, we struggled to find a place to dine in the evening. We left this quiet city early in the morning the next day, and drove further to Battambang. Here we visited the “Killing caves”, situated on a hill 12km south. The cave earned this infamous name during the Khmer Rouge era, when more than 10.000 people were plunged to death.
Besides the caves, the hill is a home to several pagodas, and of course monkeys, eager to get a snack, or just steal it from the helpless tourist. Despite our careful preparation and a warning from the site wards, one monkey managed to snatch the water bottle from our bag. After realizing that it was just water and not a sugary drink, the monkey quickly lost its interest and we got our bottle back.
The next day we headed to Krong Pursat. One hundred km and about 3,5 hours later (Asian traffic), we arrive in the city. Just before we get off the main road I heard something cracking, and look behind me to find all my luggage on the road, the luggage rack broke off. Luckily Radek was driving behind me, and was able to reroute the traffic around the bags. I quickly put the bags back on my bike and we stopped at the first guesthouse we found.
The place looks like it hasn’t seen a living soul in the past 10 years, and the mosquitos were having a party to celebrate the fresh blood. But hey, for $5 we couldn’t really complain. After dropping our bags, we took the bikes again to fix the luggage rack. Both needed a touch of the welders. A half an hour work at the mechanic down the road, a little promotion of FLO-BRO, and $2,50 paid, the bike was good to go again!
The following day required some intense motor biking. We decided to drive as far as possible south, to get closer to Sihanoukville, where we wanted to spend a couple of days at the beach. We left early in the morning and drove through a beautiful landscape on the “national Highway 5”. After about 140km we took a break to energise ourselves for the remaining 100km. On Google maps we found a shortcut to the south. We quickly learned that only the “National Highways” in Cambodia are reliably asphalted and pothole free. Our shortcut, road 51 was actually a seemingly never ending streak of potholes, gravel and sand.
About two hours later we arrived to the immaculately asphalted “Highway 4”. It was super busy, since all the workers in the numerous factories situated along this road, seemed to have finished their shifts. They were going home to the city on overloaded buses, pick-ups and minivans, giggling at us every time we passed by. The majority of them earn about 140$ a month, as we have learned later on. We found a guesthouse right on the edge of Krong Chbar Mon, a city near the factories and finished our intense motorbike day with 240 km on the odometer. Our bike odometers don’t actually work, but we have Google Maps to keep track of the distance 😉
In the evening we had a nice dinner at a local place, where the owner’s brother, a student of Electrical Engineering in Phnom Penh, recommended us to visit Kirirom National Park. This was en route to Sihanoukville, so the next day we left early in the morning to see what we get for a 5$ entrance fee. It was a beautiful ride up the mountain. The cool breeze was a pleasant change from the hot and polluted air on the road. Because of the different climate in the mountain, we saw a totally different nature than in the flat lands, with pine trees and lakes dominating the view.
In the evening on the 15th we arrived in Sihanoukville after another 260 km. This is where we currently are, and will spend some days relaxing on the beach of Sihanoukville, and on the island Koh Rong Sanloem. A little recap of our experience on the motorbikes so far: in five days time, we rode about 650 kilometers. Whether it were mountains, rivers, rice fields, trucks massively overloaded with pigs or hanging live chickens, occasionally sprayed with water to keep them cool, a family-of-four sharing a single scooter, or parents carrying their child from the doctor, carrying an infusion on a bamboo stick, every time there’s another surprising thing to look at!