March 17, 2002 GMT
Vietnam

Cau Treo (10-02-2002) till Moc Bai (17-03-2002)

The last time Vietnam approached us with an hair-raising attitude, so we were wondered how they would approach us this second time. At least we all could park our bikes in front of the building but then we were told to wait. Although it was only 10.30 am., the Customs people had already left for lunch and were supposed to be back at 1.30 pm.. This was not really nice of them and to make it worse it started to drizzle as well.

Route through Vietnam; 10-02-2002 / 17-03-2002
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Route through Vietnam; 10-02-2002 / 17-03-2002


Fortunately we were with the 7 of us so we still had lot of stories to exchange. So we were hanging around the building gently pushing the people to get the Customs back to work. Because it's officially not allowed to enter Vietnam on motorbikes (over 175 cc) we didn't want to push too hard.

In the meantime backpackers on busses passed by without problems as they hadn't to deal with Customs. But they had to pay Immigration to get their stamped passport back. Although it was bribe money they preferred to call it 'Handling fee'. But no receipt were given and in 4 months time the 'fee' increased from USD 1 to USD 3. When Customs returned, at 12.30 'already', we were allowed start our the Immigration procedure and had to pay USD 3 as well. Of course we refused and we left the building without our passports to clear Customs first. This wasn't any problem except that Erik couldn't find the place where his bikes serial-numbers were stamped and Marks ones weren't clear to read. Then we returned to Immigration for our passports and to cut a very long story short, it was returned to us for USD 1 (each). A sign outside the building was saying that on Sundays 1 USD had to be paid as a kind of weekend fee. And in the end it was a Sunday.

It was still drizzling when we left the border post driving into Vietnam, finally! We drove through the rain down to the junction with Highway 1. Everybody told us the most horrible stories about this Highway. It's basically THE highway in Vietnam as it's connecting Hanoi with Saigon and is over 1700 km's. long, basically following the coastline.

Philip, our Belgian friend, was the only one who had been in Vietnam before (on his bike) and he knew a place where we could change some money. We decided to spent the night there as well. It was a little village, which we found out in the hotel as they had only three room and also when we went out for diner. There was nothing to eat except for noodlesoup and rice. Not everybody liked this food and the only alternative was buying a pack of biscuits.


Pig transport
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Pig transport


Five of the seven of us had plans to skip the North of Vietnam and slowly driving south from Vinh. Philip wanted to meet friends in Hanoi and also Simon wanted to go north. As Hanoi was only 300 km's. away and we were really looking forward to a more comfortable place to stay for a couple of days we decided to join them as well. The next morning everybody had decided to go to Hanoi so we were driving north... following Highway 1.

Vietnam is the country with the billion motorbikes, small ones (around 100 cc). Driving between them is dangerous. I thought that after being driving through India I had had the worst but Vietnam showed that it could get worse. As in India people don't look around them before they act. They just go their own way!!! Mirrors you don't use so all bikes have them removed as they only increase the width of your bike and get damaged. Here everybody is blowing their horns almost continuously but the real difference with India is that everybody ignores this honking. It's only purpose is to notify others that you're directly behind them but it's not influencing their course at all. People don't respect you at all, not even on a big motorbike! Not knowing this difference I hit a man on a bicycle in Vinh directly. He fell but stood up and picked up his bicycle as I was not stopping to avoid lots of problems.

Traffic however was poor according to Philip so we drove easily into Hanoi. The next problem was to find a hotel with a parking. Philip knew some hotel where a bike could get parked but to park 6 bikes was a totally different thing. But after some asking around we found a nice hotel were we all could park our bikes for the next couple of days.

That night we were walking through the city centre and we saw that there was an enormous amount of people around gathered here and some parts along the lake were sealed of by the military. We asked around and learned that tonight was the Chinese New Year celebration so there was a big fireworks show coming up. The only one, as people are not allowed to have fire works themselves. At midnight the show was huge and impressive and went on for over 20 minutes.


Jeannette on a an old side-car motorbike
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Jeannette on a an old side-car motorbike


The next morning we got up late but it seemed that we were the first ones in the streets. One place was already open for breakfast and together with the locals we had a lazy couple of days. We strolled through the old quarters of the city, visited the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, which was like a big showcase and we visited the prison also known as "The Hanoi Hilton".



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'Hanoi Hilton'


First the rebellious Vietnamese were imprisoned by the French and later the Americans by the Vietnamese. The exhibition gave an extremely single sided point of view. The Vietnamese were the good guys and the French the bad ones. And the Americans... of course they were also bad guys but they were treated according to international regulations and were for instance not tortured. Sweet dreams Vietnam!!!

On Valentines Day we celebrated Jeannettes birthday. First we went to the Water puppets show. This was a real piece of art and the performance was nice to see. From there we took a cycle riksha to a nice restaurant for some diner and had some drinks in a bar. Ennio was the only one who missed the birthday as he has left that morning. Erik, Mark, Jeannette and me decided to leave the next morning. Together with Philip and Simon we had breakfast together before we headed south.

Erik was travelling now with us for three months and he decided that he had a great time here but it wasn't the way he wanted to life for a longer period anymore. So he decided to return to Bangkok and continue to Kuala Lumpur and ship there his bike back to Holland. Another reason was that before he left he had a romance with a Ukrainian girl and he decided now to continue seeing her. So on his way to KL he stopped only for some days in Saigon, Phnom Penh, Pataya, Bangkok, Phuket and KL.

As Mark joined Erik over Highway 1 we drove alone as we decided to avoid this busy highway if we could so we headed south-west through the mountains. We liked it here very much and we were tempted to keep driving through the mountains in the North but we decided to take Highway 14 going South. This road was magnificent! The scenery was so nice and peaceful as we haven't seen before. We enjoyed the trip the whole day. Problems only started when we were looking for a hotel. We found one, the room was ok, the price too but we needed to take 2 rooms. When we refused we couldn't get a room here and had to drive another 50 km to Highway 1. There people tried to rip us off as well and when we went to a restaurant that night they were vague about the prices (like that much per kilo) so we left. We had enough of Vietnamese and we wanted to leave the country as soon as possible. The only problem we had was that we wanted to leave the country into Cambodia, so we had to drive to the south first.

The next day we drove the 50 km back to Highway 14 only to find out that the road ended in a small villages and rice fields. So we returned to Highway 1 and drove the whole way towards Hue. We wanted to spent the night along the road but it was very difficult to find a place to stay and most people were unwillingly to help. When we finally found a place there was nothing to eat around except for noodles(oup). So it was a proper end of the day after driving a long day over Highway 1 and being cut by a bus just because I was on its path and he was in a bigger hurry.

On the way to Hue we passed Vinh Moc, close to the former border between North and South Vietnam. Here visited some tunnels dug out in the hills. People lived here for over 3 years after the Americans bombed their village. That they were smuggling weapons to the Vietcong was no excuse to bomb their village.

In Hue we found a quiet place and decided to spent a relaxing day here. We stayed in our hotel, read a lot and updated our diaries and had a nice meal in a French restaurant. The next day we wanted to visit the forbidden city but it was raining the whole day so we continued our lazy day from yesterday. In the late afternoon we walked to the forbidden city in raincoats. We walked around the city walls and had diner together with Mark. We decided to leave the next day but first we visited the forbidden city. The itself city wasn't very interesting as it was bombed in the war as well. They renovated some buildings but apart from that we only saw a big snake in the grass, the real highlight to us.


Picking waterplants
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Picking waterplants


When we left I already felt something strange on the bike. After checking out we found out that the rear brakedisc was touching the shaftdrive slightly. Something I could drive another 100 kms. with to Hoi An and check it out thoroughly over there. We found a nice hotel and strolled around in the city centre and found it a lovely place. The next morning Mark knocked on our door and told us that our bike was losing oil. It turned out that the rearwheel bearing (outer) was broken although I replaced this bearing only 17000 km ago. While we were finding this out Ennio drove by and confirmed our diagnoses. This was the easy part, getting the new bearing was another thing. At the hotel they were really friendly and bought us to a shop with lots of bearings. They hadn't the size I needed but at least we were able to remove the bearing from the shaft. I left the bearing with them as they tried to get a new one in Da Nang 30 kms. away. It didn't work out so they tried in Saigon and finally in Hanoi. Through the email I received from Grant, of Horizons Unlimited, the address of SKF in Saigon. When I phoned them Monday morning they told me they had the bearing... but not on stock in Vietnam. Delivery time: 2 weeks. So I contacted the Dutch Touring Association (ANWB) and asked them to send the new bearing as quickly as possible and send a new rear tyre with it as well, as they have an emergency shipping: I pay the parts and they pay the shipping! After a couple of additional questions by email they sent the parts to Da Nang so we could pick them up in a week.

In the meantime we didn't mind this longer stay here as there was lots of things to see and do in the centre and lots of nice restaurants and pool tables. We even rented bicycle to discover the area and went to the beach,


We only had to cross on bicycles
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We only had to cross on bicycles


where we had a big argument as we were forced to leave the bicycle at a barrier although all the locals were allowed to go through. Finally we got through and cycled along the beach visiting villages were no tourists came (as it was too far to go without a bike). The people here were very friendly and open to you. We found out that most of the time people were only friendly to you as they wanted something from you. Here they were really friendly.


What's do you have there?
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What's do you have there?


Together with Dave, an American who lived here for 10 weeks we rented a small motorbike and visited Marble Mountains. Not the main (touristy) mountain one but a smaller one which was used during the war as a watchtower by the Americans against the Vietcong. Ironically inside this mountain there was a Vietcong hospital which the Americans only discovered when one of their own missiles hit accidentally this mountain. But by the time this all was explored all Vietnamese had already left it.


Sea-worthy boats at China beach
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Sea-worthy boats at China beach


Another day we went to My Son where there were really nice temples half overgrown by the surrounding jungle.


Temple at My Son
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Temple at My Son


Surrounding of My Son
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Surrounding of My Son


Overgrown temple at My Son
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Overgrown temple at My Son


One week later we rented a motorbike again to get to Da Nang airport to pick up our parts and we brought enough money with us to pay the (notorious) Custom duties. When we arrived at the airport at 11 am we got the AWB from the Thai office and we headed for the handling agent. The big advantage of a small airport is that there are only a couple of offices. So they can't send you around that much. They gave us all the papers quickly and sent us to Customs. But... Customs didn't open before 2 pm. (a disadvantage of a small airport) so we had to kill 3 hours. We went to a terrace and used the time updating our diary. A small kid named, Woo-ang, came to us and and he stayed with us the whole day.


Martin with Woo-ang
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Martin with Woo-ang


A man in a restaurant told us about his life and that he was an orphan. We had lunch together with Woo-ang and he felt very important having a meal with us while all his friends were looking.

At 2 pm. we went to the Customs office and we had to fill out some papers. Then we had to go back to the agent to get our parts. Next to a small Customs office for inspection. A very unsympathetic officer, who looked like General Noriega of Panama and he acted like him as well, inspect our parcel and got suspicious about the USD 85 total value which was written down on the papers. He wrote everything down and looked in a big book for the correct prizes. But of course there was nothing to find. We had to return to the Customs office... with our parcel! Now we had the parts we were not giving them away anymore. In the office they had to determine the duties and when they asked me about this. I reacted 'surprised' and told them I didn't really import the parts as they were for my motorbike and showed them my carnet so it was just a temporary import. A very long discussion was the result and fortunately the ANWB mentioned that the parts were for repair my bike (actually they mentioned 'car' which caused another problem) and the also mentioned my license plate (the solution to the 'car' problem). This all matched with the information in my carnet. So finally they agreed that I had to pay no duties at all. So all together it costs us 11000 Dong (USD 0.50) on papers and a whole day (mainly) waiting. But it was absolutely worth it.

Because of our unforeseen delay in Hoi An we had to extend our visa here which was easy as the hotel took care of this. The next day we spend installing the bearing which was in the end easier as expected. A test ride was successful, so we could finally leave the next day. The tyre wasn't directly necessary so we tied it on the back of the bike and tried to reach to Saigon with the old tyre.


We needed this tyre sooner as expected
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We needed this tyre sooner as expected


We drove down Highway 1 for a while and left it as soon as we could. Immediately we entered a completely different world: The roads were not busy at all anymore and people were much more relaxed and even friendly. We spent the night in An Khé, a small village with very friendly people. In the morning I saw someone hanging around our room and as soon as we got up they knocked on the door to bring us some tea!

On marvellous roads we drove towards Dalat. The last stretch was all dirt road with a lot of loose sand because of roadworks. 4WDs passed us with high speeds and immediately you couldn't see anything anymore. As the sand was white the landscape looked like a snow landscape as everything was covered with sand. Just before dark we reached the highway and drove the last 30 km to Dalat. Finding a hotel wasn't easy after a long and hard day and the first hotel Jeannette entered she got refused as we was too dirty (although officially they were fully booked). In the meantime a crowd gathered around our bike and one man gave us the card of a hotel. The guy looked nice so maybe the hotel was nice as well. They were nice indeed! We could stay, had a nice room and we could park the bike in the basement of their house, further down the street. Breakfast was included and the next morning it turned out to be a really extended breakfast. On top of that the use of internet at night was free.


Bulky transport on a bicycle
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Bulky transport on a bicycle


Dalat was a pleasant city, mainly because it was at 1500 metres altitude so it was nice and cool. The city itself was not too special so one day we drove down to Highway 1 and the coast. A marvellous road, as it dropped down to sea level. We had some coffee in a beach resort and drove the same way back. A mini-van tried to overtake us by pushing us from the road and I got so upset that I forced the van to stop and listen to my speech in Dutch. He didn't understand the words but he definitely understood the meaning of it. Back at the hotel I discovered that my rear tyre was completely gone. So we changed they tyre together and I was happy I had the spare one already with me as we weren't able to reach Saigon with it.

The drive to Saigon was easy although very hot. The road was quiet and even closer to Saigon it wasn't too bad as on a motorbike you can overtake the queues. From Steven Raucher we had some GPS-coordinates so this helped me enormously to find our way to the city centre. Also I had been here a couple of times before, for my work which helped as well. We found a hotel recommended by the people from our hotel in Dalat which wasn't even half as good as theirs. We spent there 2 nights and then we decided to treat ourselves and move to the Riverside Hotel, the hotel were I stayed for my work. This was a very good hotel and we could park the motorbike with the security guards.

It was nice to be back in a place where I knew my way around and we visited some 'must sees' like the Palace of Unification and the War museum. Here also there was a very single sided information about the Vietnam war. We also visited the Cu Chi tunnels outside Saigon. Here the people were very unfriendly and even rude to us. Also didn't we like these tunnels as they were not half as nice as the ones we visited in Vinh Moc which are original, as these tunnels were completely rebuild for tourism.

We left Saigon and getting out was a real nightmare. We were on a small road out of town and it was tremendous busy on the road and the way people were driving was a recklessly. Overtaking was virtually impossible so we stayed safely behind a truck. Suddenly something was hitting the bike from behind and the next thing I saw in the mirror was a small motorbike sliding over the street. Another guy tried to stop us but we weren't willing to get ourselves into trouble so we drove on. A couple of km further this same guy was talking to a police officer and was pointing towards us. Fortunately we already passed them before they were able to stop us. We still don't know what exactly happened (and if they did it on purpose to get money from us) as we were driving behind a truck, and I was driving much more predictable than most Vietnamese are driving.

With a bad taste we arrived at the border. We had lots of problems entering Vietnam, getting out was easy: a stamp in your passport and a stamp and signature in your carnet and we could continue to the Cambodian side of the border.

How we liked Vietnam? Well, to be honest not too good. The people are very greedy at your money and smile at you only for this reason.


Only for a dollar
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Only for a dollar


But for the rest they don't respect you at all. People we very unwillingly to help you and absolutely the worst of all was the traffic. This was absolutely the worst country we had visited in so far. Dave, an American, told us always to remember that we were only a guest in their country. But how can behave like a guest as they absolutely don't treat you as one? No, we were really happy having seen this country and form out own option about it but we were even more happy to leave it. Of course there were exceptions, we have good memories about Vietnam as well but all together end we wouldn't return to Vietnam again.

Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:06 AM GMT
March 30, 2002 GMT
Cambodia

Cambodia (Moc Bai, 17-03-2002) till (Poipet, 30-03-2002)

It's not to describe in a few words what a big relief we felt when we left Vietnam. The gate at the Cambodian site of the border looked like a copy of Angkor Wat and gave us a warm welcome feeling. The people at the border were friendly and the procedures were fast. Here they didn't had separate counters but separate huts and this made it easy. The officials were smiling and their attitude relaxed, this in sharp contradiction with their colleagues in Vietnam. Another huge advantage was that they didn't check the expiry date of my carnet. It was already 3 days expired and my new one was waiting for me in Bangkok. But "No problems" here.

Route through Cambodia; 17-03-2002 / 30-03-2002
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Route through Cambodia; 17-03-2002 / 30-03-2002


With the horror stories we heard from everyone in our mind we drove into Cambodia. So we roughly knew what to expect and that we had to drive slowly. The bad road made us much more alert for potholes and God knows what else. Yes, the road was not good, but after all we had heard we were expecting worse, so we had no complains and we are travelling slowly and not in a hurry. The road was much better as a dirt road than as an asphalt road with all the huge potholes, but when I saw the loose sand I started praying like I never prayed before. Gush, what do I hate sand. Martin, however, loved it (but he was in control) and his Rosie was twisting her back. Poor Jeannette, she was the only one who thought... I wished I could fly! I don't mind sand at all, but not when it's on the roads.


Cambodian desert landscape
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Cambodian desert landscape


The sun was shining brightly so we were very thirsty. Problem was that I only bought one bottle of water and Martin had told me before that it was better to buy two bottles. I wished now I bought the other one as well while the bottle was empty in no-time, but Jeannette was stubborn. Sweet dreams but next time I will listen. That's for sure.

Halfway towards Phnom Penh we had to take a ferry to cross the Mekong river and the road became better on the other side. Of course, still you had to pay attention, otherwise you had the feeling to be on a trampoline, especially with our overloaded bike. The best trick was to stay on a safe distance behind another vehicle as they perfectly show you if and where the potholes are. So without any problems we entered in Phnom Penh.


Cleaning the sewers at Phnom Penh

Cleaning the sewers at Phnom Penh


It was so bloody hot in the town. I thought we were used to the heat, but we found out it could always get worse. Our friends Poul & Pia had given us the address of a nice guest house where they stayed as well. So we met our Danish friends at the hotel and we had a smashing time together. They are travelling around the world by car, but they were back in Phnom Penh to hire 250 cc bikes for a fortnight to see some parts of Cambodia they couldn't get by car.


Poul & Pia temporary on motorbikes

Poul & Pia temporary on motorbikes


After spending some days together the they left on their bikes, but they were back sooner as we expected. The bikes appeared to be not that good and they both had a little accident. They tried to hire other bikes, but that was difficult.

Cambodia is equal to Pol Pot. This cruel dictator controlled the country only for three years but was during this time able to kill half of the Cambodian population.


S21 prisoners camp
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S21 prisoners camp


S21 was the most notorious camp were people were held imprisoned and questions. After a couple of months they were send to the Killing fields.


Piles of skulls at the 'Killing Fields'
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Piles of skulls at the 'Killing Fields'


On both these places they now have very impressing memorials which gave a good view about this part of history and the uselessness of this killing.

We were about to leave for Seam Reap. But we discovered that my new tyre was losing air already. After only 500 km!!! Fortunately it wasn't the tyre itself but the airnipple (to inflate). And luckily we had them spare with us. So this was easy.

We were a bit in a hurry as we heard that Marie Louise wanted to visit us in Bangkok, so we left the next day.


Departure from Phnom Penh

Departure from Phnom Penh


The road to Siem Reap was ek. Or better, the road was still bad but after all the (horror)stories we heard about this road it was better as expected. We had decided to divide the 160 km over two days as our bike was heavy loaded and we still had to reach Bangkok in time with it. The first day was not bad as we had asphalt the whole way. The only thing we continuously did was avoiding all the potholes. The second day the road was all dirt road but actually it was easier to drive than the day before as long as we drove slowly. What worried us the most was that the clouds became darker and the weather Gods were not on our side. As soon the thundering started we decided to hide for the rain. But it was already too late and we were soaking wet in no-time. The shelter was along the road and we were here only with cows around us and little children. The road... became like a swimming pool. My goodness, my imagination was running away with me. How could we ever reach in Siem Reap. The mud and the road were bringing me nightmares. Luckily it was the first rain since a long time so most water disappeared into the ground quickly, so the mud wasn't too bad and we could continue driving carefully. A second rain hit us and now we took shelter in time in a restaurant. We had lunch here and the lady who owns the place excused herself and climbed on the roof and was cleaning the gutter. We were hungry so I lifted the lids from the pots to have a look what was on the menu. Well, I could not find out exactly what it was so I chose a thing from which I thought it was beef... or was it dog? Ok, on hope of blessing!

As soon the rain was gone we moved on for the last bit trying to arrive before dark in Siem Reap. 20 km before our destination there was a piece of road from which we say in Holland: "Je zou er je vingers bij aflikken", smooth brand-new asphalt. It was like a fata morgana so Martin was very cautious looking for the potholes which go together with asphalt in Cambodia. But there was none to find. So he opened the throttle and Mister Speedy was faster than the wind, and so we sailed into Siem Reap.

We found a very good hotel and it was just open for two months. The hotel was almost empty and they gave us a discount from USD 5. After we had a look to our room as well we thought it was time to be nice for ourselves. Two Swiss were running the hotel and it was so nice. We had airco, hot showers and most of all we had TV, so we could watch the BBC news. And not to mention the breakfast: they had nice breadrolls with real cheese and nice freshly brewed coffee. So a nice place to stay here a couple of days.

The first day we drove to Angkor and a friend had given us his map, so we had a look around and we could decide which temples we wanted to visit. Our first impression was that it was really nice.


Angkor Wat
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Angkor Wat


In the afternoon we went to a temple outside the Angkor complex. The temple itself, Phnom Kulen, turned out to be not worth a visit, but the road was amazing and was definitely worth driving.


Off-road through the narrow cliffs
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Off-road through the narrow cliffs


We bought a tree day permit (USD 60 each!!!) and in our opinion this was long enough. Of course first we went to Angkor Wat. This is the main temple of the area and it's an enormous building. If you consider the tools and transport which was available at that time, 8th till 13th century, then it's really amazing what those people could achieve. We spent hours here not only walking around but also sitting on the top of the temple and let the temple impress us.

The second and last temple we visited that day was Ta Prahm and that was also wonderful, but in a completely different way. Almost all temples were cleared from vegetation but this one not. So giant trees were growing on the temple walls. They were a part of Angkor as much as the stone temples themselves and no one could ever take them away.


Jeannette before a tree at Angkor Wat
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Jeannette before a tree at Angkor Wat


Trees are overgrowing Angkor Wat
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Trees are overgrowing Angkor Wat


Entry under the trees
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Entry under the trees


We were climbing on the rocks and the surrounding peace gave us the feeling that we were a part of its history. There was so much left for your imagination that you could let go on your fantasy.

The second day with our permit we visited the Bayon.


The Bayon Temple
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The Bayon Temple


This temple reminded us of the temples of the Inca's. We loved this temple very much and was over overwhelming. In the stones there were the holes made so elephants could bring the stones to their places. The faces and the little details made us sat there and dreaming away about how things must have been in those old days. I loved it and also Martin was speechless. Only a short look at the huge stones made us sweating. But to be honest it was also very hot in the sun and we were only looking at the temples and not even working!!! Imagine if we had to...


Face at the Bayon
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Face at the Bayon


The temperature was over the 40°C and we felt like dromedaries, the only thing we did (apart from enjoying the temples) was drinking water. We went to Baphuon but it was closed for restoration. With some imagination you could see there a laying Buddha, but my imagination left me at that moment. After walking around for some time you get tired and we took a break on a table were they normally sold souvenirs. I fell a sleep and people who were walking by saw the sleeping beauty. Who cares, they don't know me. When I opened my eyes the clouds above us were black but if it never rains in Southern California, why should it rain at Angkor?

At the moment we were walking at the elephant terraces the rain came down. The only place to hide was under a tree, but this helped only for a couple of minutes as it was raining cats and dogs. Soon we were soaked and there was nothing dry left. We stayed there for a half an hour, trying to keep our backpack with the cameras as dry as possible. After the rain stopped we continued our tour, but we got itchy, signs of an allergic reaction on our bodies. Martin had red spots and started scratching. It did not take long for my body was showing blisters. We hadn't medicines with us, so Martin decided to go to the hotel. We had a shower and after my medication it was gone as quickly as it came. The most likely reason was that the ants were eating the leaves of the tree we were hiding under and the rain flushed all the acid out of the tree.

Freshly showered and freshly dressed we went back to see some more temples. Baksei Chamkrong and Phnom Bakheng were not that good as we thought they would be, but the stairs of Phnom Bakheng were so steep that "What goes up must go down" were the only things I could think of, and Martin? He was proud of his little Jane and gush, he must be Tarzan. My knees were shivering. No fear at all. His star was shining in my opinion. We thought that from this temple we could see a nice sunset, but there were too many trees around it. Actually, Angkor is like a huge Lunar Park to us. The temples are the attractions and they're all different and in between there are vendors of food and drinks everywhere.

One of the temples had a lot of concrete around it and every time we passed I had the idea that they still were working on this temple but I couldn't see anything. It had no spirit nor soul anymore. The answer came sooner as expected: One day during its renovation the temple was struck by lighting. To the Cambodians this was a clear signs of the Gods. Apparently they didn't like the renovation and since that day no Cambodian wanted to work on this temple anymore.


Martin on a temple
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Martin on a temple


On our last day we visit the temple Banteay Srei who was 17 km outside the Angkor complex. It was a beautiful temple and what surprised us were the little details from the door posts in this temple. The next temple, Kobal Spien, was another 12 km further away from Banteay Srei. The dirt road was going along little villages and the people were waving, friendly and very poor. When we arrived at the place from were we have to walk to the temple a lot of vendors wanted to sell us water or whatever else they could. But since Vietnam we do not like to buy anything! The walk was nice and sometimes you had the feeling you were in the jungle. The problem was that we weren't prepared for this 2 km walk at all. First of all we had not enough water with us and further more the walk was going uphill. This way up was full of surprises and when you like climbing it is so much fun. So we really loved it. Also we didn't know what to expect. When we came to the actual site there was no temple but only some stones in the river with nice sculptures carved into these stones. We also put our feet into the water and enjoyed the nature and the purity around here. A little down the track there was also a beautiful waterfall.


Waterfall in de jungle
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Waterfall in de jungle


The vegetation at the waterfall was so nice. We were happy we went to this site although it turned out to be totally different as expected.

In the afternoon we visited the Eastern Mebon but after 3 days we were getting enough of all the temples here. An exception was the Preah Khan. We visited this one as our last temple and felt sorry we did not spent more time at it. In this temple you will find a statue of a Queen hidden away so you need one of the local boys to show you. But we were lucky as someone showed it to us. In her forehead she had a diamond but the followers of Pol Pot stole the diamonds and rubies out of these sculptures. This wasn't the only damage as because of the fighting a lot was destroyed as well and this was more than pity.

Ending visiting Siem Reap also meant ending visiting Cambodia. Or almost as we still had a very nice dirt road ahead to the border. There was much more to explore in Cambodia but the sooner we arrived in Bangkok the better as my daughter was coming to Bangkok on April 3rd. Another reason to go to Bangkok was that my own bike was waiting there for me as well.

We left Siem Reap and we knew that the roads were not a thing to write home about, so we took our time. We knew now what to expect and that made things more easy. In Phnom Penh we had bought some children cloths which we gave away while we were riding to the border. We had a children blanket, soap and some cloths left. We were picky and chose a house from were we could see the people were poor. When I walked to the house the people were surprised as they didn't know what I wanted. I took all the things out of the bag smiled at the people and told them with my hands and feet they were for them. When I walked back to Martin (he was waiting with the bike) we could hear their laughter and we saw them touching the things we gave. This reminds me of the day we drove to Siem Reap when a child was waving at us with a smile that melt my heart. "Stop Martin!" was the only thing that went through the intercom and so the Captain stopped. The trouser of this child were no trouser anymore. We gave him a new one and we never saw a child more happy than this boy. Yes, we fell in love with the people and the children here in Cambodia. They are beautiful with their heart and with their smiles.

Early afternoon we arrived at the border. There were a lot people waiting for the counter but fortunately they were entering Cambodia so we had our exit-stamp very quickly. In the meantime it had started to rain. Clearing Customs was a different thing as we had to drive back into town... through the rain. But Customs was easy as they did exactly what we wanted them to do and they wished us a good journey. But that was too easy for us. We wanted to know more from them as we had time enough while it rained. When the rain stopped we said goodbye to them, left the airco room and crossed the border into Thailand again.


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