Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cambodia - Part 9

The road to Chong Khneas..


We've had enough sleep. Breakfast was excellent and our plan for the rest of our stay in Siem Reap; was to cycle to Tonle Sap.
This is one of the largest freshwater lake system in Cambodia.
The river system here flows all the way downstream to Phnom Penh, the country's capital.
So, having roughly plotted the route, we set out after a good fill from our hotel.
The road to Tonle Sap is straight-forward.
And as Cambodia develops, roads are being improved.
The laterite road that paved Siem Reap is slowly being replaced by concrete pavements and this is transforming much of Cambodia's road system.
When I said that our choice for bikes are clear, the Jetstreams held up to the rigorous conditions around Siem Reap.
We took on the bare earth, gravel and newly cast concrete towards Chong Khneas, a small village at the edge of Tonle Sap lake.

Cambodia's rural roads are transforming..

A farmer harvesting lotus roots and pods

Chong Khneas on Google Maps
Lotus seed pods

A Lotus flower in full-bloom

The Lotus-bud
A friendly Khmer boy waving to tourists..
The simple life..

There is a stark contrast between urban Malaysia and rural Cambodia.
Majority of the people around Chong Khneas are poor.
I see kids running around naked.
They play marbles on mud banks, have their dogs following them, and most of the time, left to do their own thing..
The kids in Kuala Lumpur throw tantrums if they don't get their smartphones, tablets, toys and a trip to Legoland. Their yuppie parents slog and whine about not earning enough, poverty is living without internet, branded goods and overseas holidays. A fact's a fact.
I see hardship everywhere in Cambodia.
It makes the people resilient and hardy. What's enough to them kept things going. And on a bicycle, you tend to see life up close and personal.

A child bathing near a public well
Enduring hardship from a tender age..
We rode past Chong Khneas and headed towards the edge of Tonle Sap Lake.
As the paved road ends, earth takes over.
Our wheels began to cake up with mud and we headed as far as the end of the path and found ourselves baking under the scorching sun.
I saw a father and his son, sorting out their catch on a cast net.
The man was removing small catfishes while his boy held up a pot.
That was probably their meal for the day.
It's a far cry from the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burgers that the Malaysian kids get for lunch and dinner.
Here in Chong Khneas, there are hardly any obese kids running around. Everyone's lean and mean.

The scenic Chong Khneas

Passenger boats ferrying tourists to Kampung Phluk and Kampung Khleang

Our bikes, survived the dirt and mud..
A view of the Tonle Sap lake..
Catching fish to feed the family
This is as far as we go..

Michelle, taking a snapshot
People of the lake..

The ferry terminal to Tonle Sap
A friendly kitten trailing our bike..
"Tventy doellar..."

From the mud trail, we rode back to the main road and detoured to a ferry terminal.
This is where tourists are taken to Kampung Phluk and Kampung Khleang at the other side of the lake.
I went to the ticketing counter and asked how much was a return fare to the floating villages.
"Tventy doellar," said one of the man who wore a uniform.
Well, that's about RM80 a pop and RM160 for the both of us. These people look rather unfriendly and I can see the dollar sign on their foreheads.
My instinct told me that we were about to get ripped off.
"Forget it!," said Michelle.
And so we did.
We bought a chilled bottle of water, hydrated and rode out towards Siem Reap.
I told Michelle that it would be cool to stay off the sun at one of the "Hammock Restaurants", which she had agreed unanimously.
We pulled over at one and were greeted by a friendly Khmer man who spoke only one world in English: "Hello!".

This little hammock can even tame a Godzilla-sized man!
Angkor beer for the soul..
Fried rice with fish cutlets
Amok with chicken meat

Worked out a good appetite..
We took off our muddy shoes as courtesy and found a nice spot to hangout.
A lady came up and gave us the menu.
The first thing in mind, was some Cambodian beers to cool off from the hot day.
We downed the beers and ordered seconds. This took some time as the restaurant had ran out of drinks.
A couple of "happy" guys who were drinking nearby had "polished" their supply. At 11:30am in the morning!
So, we waited and sat on the hammocks which was incredibly comfortable.
Soon, our food came.
We ordered fried rice and chicken Amok, a traditional "masak lemak" dish. The Cambodians are huge fans of coconut milk and this is apparent in their food where coconut gravy really tasted sweet and good.
Lunch was fantastic! Our fried rice was so large in terms of portions, Michelle and I shared it. The simple Chicken Amok dish goes down really well with the rice and since I am cycling, there's lots of calories burned and enough carbo to fuel my body. 
We had more beers and actually snoozed on the hammocks before riding back to Siem Reap.

A cockpit view of the road..
Riding on the right-hand side of the road in a left-hand drive country
Mud and dirt from two days of cycling
Cleaning up.. 

Packed-up and ready to roll..
Yeah, we're pretty much done...

Siem Reap is roughly about 8km away from Chong Khneas.
We've covered a short distance, but with the mud and bad road, it's truly an adventure.
Going back to the point of origin meant riding through the gravel and unpaved road.
I got my Sony AS-20 POV camera mounted on the cockpit to get some footages.
Traffic was kinda heavy, but with our eyes on the road, we slowly made our way back into town.
When we arrived at the hotel, one of the supervisors greeted us. I asked if he had a garden hose so that I could flush off the mud and dirt on the bikes.
They also gave us a brush which was very helpful in cleaning up the bikes before we disassemble and pack them.
Once the bikes got rolled back into our room, I worked on dismantling the Jetstream's front fork and handlebar. This is it should be packed.
In less than an hour, both bikes are snug in it's airporter luggage.
We stowed the bags aside and planned on what to do on our remaining night in Siem Reap.
So far, the simple rides were really fun and exciting!
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