The road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reep - home to the legendary temples of Angkor was horrid. OK, I only knew they were legendary after watching a trailer on Discovery Channel, but they might have added a parental advisory note about that road. For the first 100kms or so, no problems, but then the beastly thing deteriorates into a sandy, pot-holed, gravelly mess. I never knew that so many different types of awful road surface existed. And lord only knows what it's like in the rainy season, but the red dust penetrates everything (and everywhere) as you spend 8 hours in 1st gear bouncing from one crater to the next. But I did have a good laugh with the passengers of an overloaded pickup truck after it snapped clean in half crossing one of the many small wooden bridges. Wish I could post that photo! And here it is...
Some temple monks bear an uncanny family resemblance.
Three days at Angkor mooching around temples sound a little extravagant? It took that long just to get a feel for the place and to drive around some of the more important monuments. Whilst the massive principle temple, Angkor Wat, is in great condition others such as untouched Ta Prohm are being consumed gently by the surrounding forest. Sunrises, sunsets, such peace and tranquility. Yet I am strangely reminded of the monkey's palace in Disney's Jungle Book and keep humming that infernal tune. It's no suprise to find that many visitors spend a week and still fail to discover all that this wonderful place has to offer.
I never intended to ride 'that road' back to Phnom Penh, preferring to take the fast boat down the Mekong River. Yeh that's it!, I'm Martin Sheen going up river in Apocalypse Now. The reality: "Excuse me sir, but how the hell do you think you're going to load my motorcycle on to your sorry excuse for a pedalo that hasn't even got room for all the passengers who bothered to show up?" Problem solved after removing all the luggage and paying a bunch of local guys $5 to fetch a plank and manhandle the thing over the rail and on to the front of the boat (bow?). Only thing is now the driver can't see where he's going and I have to take the seat off so's he can peer over the top. If getting the bike onboard was tricky, unloading it at the other end was horrendous. And cost $7. This time the hired hands almost tipped it into the river and then nearly dropped it off the side of a steep wooden ramp. In the end I was happy just to suffer a scratched petrol tank for the whole experience.
And what about Vietnam I hear you ask. Well, I'd (almost) rather not talk about it - but as you asked it went something like this.
The ride to the Vietnamese border at Bavet was virtually a repeat of the road to Angkor and took twice as long as I had estimated. This left only an hour or so to persuade the Vietnamese border officials to let the bike in. Basically, nobody has got a bike in lately as there's a 175cc capacity limit in force, but it doesn't hurt to try and many overlanders give it a shot. After being first refused and then completely ignored (so rude!), a plan was hatched to take an excrutiatingly expensive taxi to Saigon and plead the case with the customs officials at head office. So, the next day I was repeatedly and politely informed by VC customs officers that "you should have done more research before turning up uninvited and knocking on the door of our country with something as blatantly decadent as an 800cc motorcycle". In the end, they relented to a certain extent and said I could bring the bike in as long as it stayed in the back of a truck. Thankyou so much and goodbye.
Time to invoke plan B which was a not-so-gentle ride up through the North of Cambodia and into the South of Laos. Or not. As a rather timely text message from Cliff and Jenny Batley pointed out that, contrary to all of our information, the border was now closed to Johnny Foreigner. Oh dear. There was no plan C, so we lurched our way back to Phnom Penh (yet again) for a little bit of a rethink.
Really nothing for it but to double back into Thailand and loop around into Laos from the North of the country. The road from Phnom Penh to the Thai border town of Poipet is, of course, another beauty and, after a late start, I realise that I'm not going to complete the journey in one day. Darkness falls with no sign of accomodation for at least the next 100kms. As it's riskier than a sandwhich from Steve's butty bar, one of the golden rules of overland motorcycling is not to ride in the dark, but I don't fancy sleeping at the side of the road and press on.
A couple of kms outside one Khmer village there has been a nasty looking accident. A young girl on a scooter has hit a road sign and is unconscious in the road, bleeding from a cut on the side of her head. A couple of guys are trying to use another scooter as an ambulance but I think they may be a little drunk and then their bike won't start. So, one of the guys hops on the back of the BMW, we wedge the limp and moaning girl between us and drive back to the village. There's been a wedding that day, so quite a few of the locals have had one or two over their measure, which probably contributed to the crash in the first place. Of course there are no obvious medical facilities in the village and I leave the girl to be tended by her friends and family.
Outside, there's a small group of friendly young local guys who are keen to chat despite their involvement in the ongoing wedding celebrations. The issue of accomodation is quickly solved when they volunteer a room in one of their family homes. The house is a lovely, traditional Khmer wooden affair, built on stilts with pigs, chickens and children running around underneath. The youngest son prepares a room complete with mossy net and, after eating in the village, sleep comes easily listening to the noises of the night.
Early (very) next morning, we find that the girl has recovered from her ordeal with no obvious after effects. I can't help wondering if she should see a doctor, but medical care is expensive and these things are treated differently here. Before setting off, a lengthy series of farewells incorporates an educational visit to the local rice factory to bid farewell to the lady of the house. And a few hours later the Thai border is breached, for the second time on this journey.
Oh my oh my! Tarmac.
Posted by Sean Kelly at January 21, 2003 04:45 AM GMT
Thans for the comments and glad to hear that your preparations for the big trip are progressing well.
Best advice I could give on what to take? Well, as I sit here back in Bangkok waiting for my second stripped cylinder head stud to be repaired - take a Honda! Every Beemer we've come across has had some sort of problem whilst every Transalp or Africa Twin has had none. Only thing is I still love my GS.
From the list of gear I took (see the link), the only things I've sent home with Adrian are the stove, camping equipment and fleece (cos its hot everywhere from now on). We didn't plan on camping, and there are places to eat, guest houses, whatever absolutely everywhere on our route.
My kit all fits into two panniers and a large Ortlieb roll bag which means one lift off the bike into the guesthouse. We've met some people who carry so much gear it's incredible, I think we've done pretty well with the gear.
I'll be back end of March/early April - maybe meet for a beer before you head off. Are you still in Notts?
"We wedged the limp and moaning girl between us"!!!!!
"The next morning the girl had recovered from her ordeal"!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Glad she didn't suffer from being the meat in your perverted sandwich Sean. I think you've been away from home too long. Just because you haven't "had any" for a while there's no need for that sort of behaviour.
Still it's reassuring to know that you've not lost your knack for picking up virtually unconscious drunken women by the roadside after a night out! Are you sure it wasn't a ladyboy?
Keep the British end up. What!!
I always said that you were "king of the swingers and a Jungle VIP" There's been a lot in the news about what Gary Glitter's been up to in Cambodia recently. Hope he wasn't the guy on the back of your bike with the young girl. Still at least we'll be able to read about your next installment in the News of the World rather than logging into this computer thingy.
Seriously though, it was really interesting to hear about your recent exploits and picturing you in a place that I've only really ever seen on telly as war torn, famine struck, military ruled messes. It cheered me up no end to picture you there until you said how beautiful it is now!
As for you tips on suitable bikes, where's the fun in getting anywhere in something reliable. Half the fun is not knowing whether you will actually get there, let alone get back! Trust me I should know!! As a seasoned international traveller I would recommend a 1972 Triumph Bonneville. Sure bits will drop off from time to time, but they are unlikely to be critical.
On the subject of international travel, Liam & I will be travelling to Sawley in the 911's for Pete's birthday tomorrow, so wish us luck.
Ride with the wind.
Adrians application for asylum has been (thankfully) rejected by the U.K authotities so you can have him back now!! Interesting to note all your problems with german engineering - some kind of theme developing here - perhaps time to junk the 911 for a Nissan Skyline ?? As far as Tims comments go about Petes' b'day, he obviously hasn't seen the forecast for blizzards for tomorrow - any one for a skidoo??
Did manage to take the 911 on a track day at Donnington and came back in one piece - was good fun if a little unnerving.
Keep up the good work.
We are going to Gran Canaria in March. However, we will be taking a more conventional route (Thomsons'). We take onboard your comments about BMWs. Once there, if we hire any two wheeled vehicles to get about, we will stick to those of Japanese origin. Can't be too careful (or can you?).
Like you, we don't intend to camp and instead will stop in a hotel that provides breakfast and dinner. I think there's a pool and sun loungers too.
We will also be posting a travel-log. I think Jane will do most of the creative writing and hopefully the post cards will arrive before we get back.
Are you missing the cold, the snow, the rain, the wind, the short days and the long nights? Hope that didn't make you home sick.
See you in the Spring!
Well I heard that it rained somewhere in the South of Thailand last week, so thought about digging out the water proofs. But Pete Townshend lent me his plastic mac instead. Seems he won't be needing it for a while.
Funny how things work out, but two weeks after leaving Phnom Penh, a load of students burned down the Thai embassy. Some actress (misquoted) claimed that Angkor temples belonged to Thailand. The temples are at Siem Reap - which translates to "Thailand defeated". Some needle there then!
And whilst giggling at some of the high quality comments this week, I was going to suggest that the only critical part to fall off a Triumph would be the rider. But after some of the owner's club dos I've witnessed, this would of course be untrue.
Hey Mick, I'll give you my firm UK arrival dates ASAP so you can arrange your hols and miss the slide show.
I think the other comments pretty much cover evrything, so I wont bother taking the p**s.
I am glad to hear that you are still in one piece and having a good time.
When do you think you will be back ? Please drop me a line when you have minute.
P.S. Your phone charges continue to impress :-)
Well, I must admit that the @#$% taking is generally fairly comprehensive in these comments.
And as for my triumphant return? Well I've just arrived in Singapore and the bike is due to be shipped to Darwin on Tuesday 11th - it takes 8 days, so I shall be forced to wait for a week in Bali. Oh dear, hard life. The result of all of this is that, despite the bike hassles, I should be back on schedule and aiming to fly back last week March / 1st week April. 2004 of course....
We'll sort the phone out when I get back. On occasion, it has been a godsend!