March 27, 2006 GMT

The reputation of the Laos-Cambodia border is brutal. We’re talking remoteness, robberies, landmines, bribes, and a road where even 4x4’s get stuck during rainy season. Now, it is still a good idea to start with a full tank and plenty of water. It is also recommended to avoid toilet brakes off road unless you wish to have the crap blown out of you. But a single dollar was all needed to lubricate the border guys, and Chinese contractors have greatly improved the road beyond. Their plan is to finish sometime in 2007, thus the bridge across the Mekong River north of Stung Treng is yet to be completed. So, in the absence of a bridge we had to improvise.

These riverboat boys clung on to the bike as if it was a suicidal girlfriend, so keeping it from drowning in the Mekong River

It might be of comfort to the next biker knowing that we did the ride from the border via Stung Treng to Kratie in five lazy hours. That includes the river crossing. I’m sure those in a hurry could do it in four. The Laos to Cambodia drive is no longer as challenging as it was just a few years back. What’s more? Stung Treng and Kratie were OK but not extraordinary. The locals were helpful but not bursting with friendliness. The good things were not fantastic, and the bad things were not as bad as we were told. Hence Cambodia entered our minds as a mediocre attraction. The only real awakening was the awareness of the horrific scenes that had taken place on the soil we drove on. The Khmer Rouge terror is history, but the majority of the 40.000 who survived stepping on a mine are still there. That is, what is left of them.

When the Chinese contractors complete this road it will be fit for Harleys

Kompong Cham is a name that must not be confused with “c’mon charm”. The town is a plain bore. You’d better try Skuon (known as Spidertown) where big, hairy spiders are barbequed and served with knife, fork and a toothpick to remove the legs that get stuck between your teeth. Skuon is also where the road split, one lane going to the capital Phnom Penh, and the other north to Siem Reap. It is a choice between big-city hullabaloo and tranquil days at the temples of Angkor. It took approximately one second for us to reach a decision. And the temples were OK. And the road to the next border was not as bad as we were told.

Why the restoration of Angkor Wat never finishes

What about colonel Kurtz? We had followed the Mekong down south without finding him. Of course an Internet search would have saved us the trouble. The story is that Kurtz returned to the US being his previous self - Marlon Brando. There he retired from the public eye and cherished his radio amateur hobby until call sign FO5CJ suddenly disconnected in July 2004.


Posted by Erik Saue at March 27, 2006 06:46 AM GMT

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