DANIELLE MURDOCH TRIP. 14 january - 7 october 2008. 26900km!!! RUS - ENG
THAILAND - LAOS - CAMBODIA - VIETNAM - CAMBODIA - KOREA - RUSSIA - MONGOLIA - RUSSIA
So I finally left Laos, after being there for 6-7 weeks. Heading south to the Cambodian boarder. After driving on a long straight road - getting past by a van full of people also heading for Cambodia - half of them I had meet at my guest house were all hanging out the window waving madly. I past a half closed barrier - then realize that is customs office in the middle of nowhere! - I had to turn around and I handed in my paper work (one green form and I was on my way). I reach the Laos immigration and get stamped out. I also manage to change the last of my kip into us dollars. Now I'm in no-mans land. There is nothing about but one brand new road that is straight and boring as anything. I head down to the Cambodian immigration and customs. Once I get there I sit down with the customs guy he asked me to fill out the form. He only wanted the brand (Honda) and how much. Nothing else - he asked me to sign it... and pay 5$ and I was on my way. The easiest border crossing so far! I got back on my bike and rode to Stung Treng. I've come into Cambodia with very little preparation - no map no guide book and not much money. So I need to find these things before I can really go anywhere. I met a nice Cambodian girl at the market, who I arranged to meet up later to have dinner with. I went back to my guess house to sort out my money, since I couldn't find a guide book or a map in this town I'm going to keep heading south until I can find one. I got out my money to discover that someone somewhere had stolen over 150$ of my back up money and had only left me with 30$ in baht. So I have 70$ in total to get me to a town with a bank and see me through a weekend. It shouldn't be too bad. I just feel really uncomfortable - and pissed off that I left my self get ripped off. - Just so you know I've found a better hiding place and really I'm glad that all that they stole it could have been worst.
I head south finding the cost of petrol really high - about the same as Australia. and the roads very very boring.... but its not just the roads here - it is also the crazy drivers... they are just nuts. Out to kill them self is a better way of describing it. Has anyone been in a car with peter?? Well I think his style of driving would suit Cambodia! Here is one example of Cambodian driving. I'm coming around a sweeping corner - you can see completely round it -it's not sharp at all.... suddenly a car veers onto my side of the road and heads straight for me. I look around deciding on where I could possible go - I move over to the far right (they drive on the right here) and I'm on the last of the tar when the car screams past nearly hitting me. Mean while the rest of the road is completely empty.
Another example is in town you have a market and on the roads surrounding the market is thousands of scooters. Some parked some rushing around here and there all criss crossing each other.... no order, no rules.... or that's what it seams like - now after I've been here I know the system. If you want to turn left you start cutting the corner 10m before the corner and you go around the corner on the left side of the road... then you merge over to the right. If you're heading straight you just toot... and keep tooting.....until you have gone completely through the intersection. When I first got here I was completely overwhelmed. Now I think I'm a pro. Well as pro as I'm going to get.
So I'm heading down to Kampong Chum in seek of a bank. I did manage to get a map so instead of taking the normal main highway with the crazy drivers I followed the Mekong. The road twined it self around villages until it got smaller and smaller until I found my self riding on a small sandy path going through peoples front yards, backyards - I had to stop ad ask for directions, but because I've only been in Cambodia for a few days I do not know how things are pronounced. Another reason for a guide book. After a few hours lost in the sandy villages - I make it to my destination. Which is again a crazy town based around a market. I get talking to a restaurant owner ad he suggests a great ride around the mountains. Which I will do after some well needed care on my bike. I cleaned the air filter, change the oil, grease clutch and break cable. Sad a bit of my disk break that is sticking out and is causing my pads to ware unevenly.
I sit down for some late lunch and who should I start talking too. - Another motorcyclist who lives in Peon Penh. He is just finishing up a trip around Cambodia with 4 other guys. They did it in 11 days on some crazy roads sleeping in hammocks. I got some great tips of him and got his number so that when I'm in Peon Penh I can look him up.
The next day I had breakfast and I got talking to another guy how has a motorbike, he works for the NGO getting power into the villages. He told me he has room under his house to keep my bike while I'm in Vietnam. That's such a big relief - He also gave me a number of a mechanic that speaks English if anything should go wrong.
That day I finally head off to Mondikiri, to get there I have to ride along the main road for a couple of hours, it would normally take that long but I'm still scared about the traffic and only go 60km. just so you know I was passing people.... As I turn off the main road, the road becomes dust. It is evident that it has been raining in the last few days. There are puddles, but I manage to avoid them all. I come up behind a pick up truck which is over loaded with stuff ranging from rice to motos. Then the people all crowd on top of the roof. As the truck passes under a tree one of the branches swipe the people on top and they look like they are about to fall off. I decided that is better for me to pass the truck or I may end up running someone over!
I get to Mondikiri and find the most amazing guest house which is a bit out of town. You have your own bungalow and you share a bathroom. But the bathroom is fantastic - it's a garden bathroom which is open to the weather. The shower rose is attached to a tree and the squat toilet is surrounded in plants. I stayed here of a few days going for ride around the mountains and meeting some great people here at the guest house. What I was really doing was trying to put off riding the DEATH HIGHWAY..... Now it's only called that in the wet season, but it had been raining at night here. So I set of mid morning knowing ill stay half way in a little village. The road was smooth beautiful road within couple of hours I was at the half way point. And it was only lunch time. I had lunch at a small road side stall and asked about a guest house. They told me to wait and within a few minutes a young boy gestured to follow him. Which I did to his family home. For $5 I got to sleep there and have dinner with the family. I played with the children all afternoon. They were fascinated by me and my things. Specially my guide book. Everyone in the family ha there turn to look at the pictures very carefully, while I waited and tried to explain anything that they didn't know. The other thing they were fascinated by was my drawings. I sat down to draw a few funny things I had seen on the trip. Like a scooter with a pile of wood on the back, being held up by an axe when the driver was in the bush having a pee! They watch with huge interest as I drew the horse that carries the water to every house, and fills up there water supply.
I left early the next day. The road quickly turned into an ox cart track and I weaved in and out of the deep sand all morning. Stopping to eat oranges and drink water. At one point I got bedded down in deep sand and was thrown off my bike. I quickly found my feet and picked my bike up. It's funny how good a feeling is when you fall off and you're OK! It took three hours to travel 60km. that's how fast you can't go. I crossed a river by a boat (this is the river that was in acropolis now) and headed into Ban Lung.
I stayed in Ban Lung for a couple of days, while I checked out the tourist stuff - there are a couple of crater lakes, that you can walk around or swim in and a few waterfalls. I'm pretty bored of waterfalls now, so I only visited one. Ban Lung is the dustiest town in history. Just riding to the waterfall, I got my clean clothes completely covered in red dust!
As I left Ban Lung I was following a van, every now and then you would here a strange noise. I thought it was going over a bridge that was covered in dust. But when I got to that point, there was no bridge. Suddenly it made a terrible noise, and I was forced to dodge bit and pieces flying off from under the van. I came to a stop and pointed out to them all the pieces I had seen. This situation isn't unusual in Cambodia; you quite often see cars and trucks on the side of the road with no axle. The road back to stung Treng was straight and boring... there were only two instances where I thought this was it. Once where a truck moved onto my side of the road and I was forced into a game of chicken, and the other time I thought I could go around the tree branch that was in the middle of the road, but was forced into the ditch! I quickly looked around to make sure no one had seen my stupidly... I was lucky. No one had.
In Stung Treng, I go back to the same hotel. And visit my friend at the market. That night I met some cyclist, who weren't really cyclist - just hobby ones. They seem to take the bus everywhere and they hate hills.
The following morning I head down to the wharf, as I have to take a boat to my next destination. For $3 they balance my bike on the front of the boat and take me across the Mekong. Where I start my next adventure. This road doesn't have a cool name like 'The Death Highway' but Ive heard it's a great ride. I make my way through villages which quickly disappear, I'm on my own for half and hour, then I see a dirt bike come my way. I stop to to talk to them, four bikes all stop. They turn out to be all Russians. They ask me if I'm scared and if I'm married. We swap road information and emails. Come and visit us in Moscow..... This is great... my first Russian friends. I carry on - the road quickly deteriorating. But the scenery was amazing. Every time I pass a puddle, hundreds of butterflies would fly into the air and for a second I would be riding through thousands of colors all different sizes. It was truly beautiful.
I got to the village where the Russians stayed the night. I stopped for a drink and biscuits. It was all I could find to eat. I kept going. Soon after the village the road became a track through rice fields. Back in a village, I was weaving in and out of peoples back/front yards. Until I came to a big puddle. I stopped my bike and walked through the puddle. It was deep and quickly filling up the insides of my boots. I see another one not to far away - I walk through that one too.... and the next. They were bad. Sloppy, deep and thick. I hummed and hared. I had been through deep mud before, but not like this. There was a few times where I nearly dropped my bike in those puddles. That thought was at the back of my head. A couple of Cambodian guys came out and it looked like they were heading in my direction. One said he could drive my bike through. I said OK. I was tired and I felt like I was in over my head. With a bit of trouble he got my bike through for me. Now I felt stupid. If I'm going to Russia I need to know how to do this....I gave this guy a ride to the next village. By the time we got to this village we were muddy. We had fallen off a few times. Nothing broken and everything was OK. I dropped him off and after a quick break in the village I was on my way. In this village the main road which runs up the centre becomes swamp. I rode through the front yards. Until someone points to go behind the houses where a new road is. I do so, cut through someones property. I'm now finding my self in the desert again... just scrappy bushes and sand. I'm getting tired and it looks like its going to rain. I am looking at the kms Ive done and Ive worked out I should be close now. I come across a village and stop to ask for directions. No one understands me. I thing this is strange. I'm sure I'm saying it right. I carry on... feeling a bit over my head. I pass a couple of white kids playing with the locals. I don't register the big house and the fancy car. A few meters down the road, I do. I turn around and head back to the house. As I walk in a typical American mum comes out to great me. Gives me a glass of water and tells me that I'm lucky, that I haven't gotten lost and I found my self in a bad town. I'm not sure if she's just being a mum or there is some truth behind those threats. She gets here son to show me through the jungle, which I'm grateful for. I had one fall following him. I almost couldn't pick my bike up I was so tired. He took me to a guest house and I lay down for a couple of days.
So after my crazy adventure, i was a bit hesitant to do anything as crazy as that for a while. I was kind of looking forward to some nice, smooth roads for a couple of days, and i guess to be around some people too. The town i was staying in was great, i got to be well known as i was the only balang (foreigner) there. I should tell you about my guest house - it was pretty good for $5, it had my own bathroom and a TV and a bug screen over the window. At night these bugs would come out of know where and fly around my room, every now and then they would hit me or crawl into bed with me - They don't bite, its just that they are prickly and when you roll over you can feel them. In the morning the floor was covered in bugs. In the hall way there were millions.... by the time i got back from my breakfast they had been all swept up. The next night i went on a rampage and kill them as they came out from their holes. That night none slept with me!
I left to head north up to the Thai boarder. I heard there was a great temple to visit. The roads were a lot better today, but i was really nervous, as there was a lot of police on every corner. I finally come across a convention that all these police had been at. I took a guess that there must of been someone important there.
I get to a small village, just after lunch and decide to stay there- I'm still really tired from the other day. My room only cost $2.5. the only word you need to describe it is - horse stable. Power turned on a 7pm and turned off at 9 or 10pm... i didn't was as the water in the washing room looked like it had some sort of bugs living on top. But everyone in the village was friendly and nice. I ended up playing chase in the markets with a group of kids.
I rose early and eat breakfast at the market. And then headed for the temple that's located on the Thai boarder. The road up to the temple was really steep and windy. i followed the scooter taxis up, so i knew exactly where to ride. When i got to the top i parked next to a drinks stand - to ensure that my bike and my luggage is going to be OK - you have to buy something off them when you get back, but its kind of safe.
The Parasat Preah Vihear Temple was great. i was climbing around with jeans and boots on, were everyone else was in singlets and shorts. I also want to get to my next town pretty quickly, so i rushed around the temple. The view from the top was fantastic. On one side you have Cambodia - dirt roads, timber building... on the other side you have Thailand. Paved roads... solid houses....it screams money.
I carried on following the best road I've seen in Cambodia. it was dirt was its was smooth. I could sail over it. A storm was coming i could see, so i was trying to bet it. Until i got that flat tire... i stopped to fix it my self, when a Khmer guy came over to help me. I was back on the road again, when i got another one. My tube is rubbing on the side of the tire - i m guessing it happened when i was sand riding, you need to tire pressure quite low... so i pulled over into a tire guys house and got it fixed. I finally reached my destination -Analong Veng - its a small working town close to the Thai boarder, so there are a mixture of people. I didn't see a single Balang in the whole town. Tomorrow was Siem Reap...
Riding into Siem Reap was nice, you have to go through the Angkor Wat area, so i was riding past the temples i was going to see the next day. I got into Siem Reap with no traffic problems. I guess I'm getting use to the crazy traffic. I find a guest house and met a girl at lunch, we ended up going out for tea that night at the place that has a free Khmer dancing show - not that kind of show!! it was actually really good. I was expecting it to be shit since it was free.
The following day i move to a cheaper guest house and go out to see the temple. No words can explain the temple - you just have to go some day. You had to get use to the annoying young girls trying to sell things to you. I had on girl ask me if i want water - no book - no.... then she said well what do you want?? i said an ice cream... and walked over to the ice cream van....she couldn't help me with that one. I spent two days walking around these temples. On the third day, i went out quickly in the morning and looked at two smaller ones. I needed new break pads, air filter cleaned and i was confused about the amount of oil i seam to be getting through. So i found an ex pat, who was going to show me a motorbike shop. Sop i met up with him and he told me some good roads to do in the south and took me to the motorbike shop. I gasket was still leaking oil so i got him to do that too. all for 20 bucks i got new oil a gasket replace, a new tube and my air filter cleaned.
By now i was sick of the tourist, the hagglers and i was spending more money than i normally do. I think it was time to get going. I hit the road heading for Palin, but with and over night stop at Sisopan. The road between Sisopan and Siem Reap, was the pits for a main road. it took me three hours to complete 150kms. From Sisopan i couldn't find the turn off to Palin, so i took one. it turned into a rice paddy field and so i ended up driving down the field until i got to a road. I knew there was a back road that i was meant to be on, which i found. It was nice to follow a off nice clean road for a change, i only got lost towards Palin, where the road turned to nothing... and i had to ask for directions. I got to Palin late in the afternoon. That night i had dinner with two Khmer people who worked out my guest house. The cleaner said she use to get paid $59 a month now they have cut their wages down to $15. I was told that things got stolen in this guest house... now i know why.
Its the Khmer New Year tonight and I'm going to be in Batdambang. I arrived with no hassles, i go out for dinner and i see a girl eating by her self. I ask if i can join her, but she said she is about to go. But after going on the Internet she would like to meet up. So we do. But the Khmer new year, is something you don't need you party shoes on for, as it was all over at 9pm.
Riding down to Phnom Penh was uneventful... i stop for the night at Kampong Chnang where there are floating villages... i got into Phnom Penh quite early. Since it was the Khmer new year, the traffic was great! I settle into a guest house and meet some great people. Who i spent my birthday with.
I dropped my bike of at Erik's house, a guy i met earlier in my Cambodia travels. Hes going to look after it for me and a few of my things i don't need for Vietnam.
When i get back from Vietnam, i get my bike service and i found a bigger tank - a 14l one. which is fantastic.
THAILAND - LAOS - CAMBODIA - VIETNAM - CAMBODIA - KOREA - RUSSIA - MONGOLIA - RUSSIA
Web Design - Xaoc
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