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Trip List by Maneki-neko

Cambodia by Motorcycle

5 Jul 2010  A fan of adventure travel, I like to go at my own pace, and don't need marble-floored hotel lobbies and Egyptian linen to be comfortable.
4.0 of 5 stars based on 5 votes

After my 5th (6th?) visit to Phnom Penh, 2nd visit to Siem Reap, and several days in the beach areas of Sihanoukville, I decided to take a motorcycle trip with my Cambodian friend who lives in Siem Reap. We were hoping to explore some of the more remote temples, and also visit some towns as we headed back down around the Tonle Sap.

  • Category: Roadtrip
  • 1. Siem Reap

    After arriving from a week in Laos, I wanted a couple days of down time in Siem Reap to discuss the route with my friend and pick up a few necessities for the trip. Two of these were a really good road map, and a decent full-faced helmet, both available in downtown Siem Reap. We headed out in the early morning, two days later.

  • 2. Anlong Veng

    From Siem Reap to Anlogn Veng it is approximately 120 kilometers, the road condition is pretty good and my butt was still in pretty good shape when we stopped in the town for brunch.
    Anlong Veng is avery historical destination in that it contains the grave and former residence of Ta Mok, aka "Brother Number Five", the military commander of Pol Pot's regime. Ta Mok's lakeside house is located in a quiet area off a dirt road in a village (the signpost reads "Ta Mok's house historical attractive site"), and when we visited there were several groups of local people were visiting as well. My friend, who is Cambodian, said he felt a deep sadness being there, although he had not even been born when the Khmer Rouge were active killing their own people. A truck apparently used by Ta Mok and his cronies remains in the yard, and is in a state of disrepair.
    After leaving the house we decided to visit Ta Mok's grave, which was a bit of a drive in a different direction. This day happened to be "Ancestor Day" (September 19) and people were out in large numbers paying repects at pagodas. Half a dozen kids were hanging out at Ta Mok's grave, oblivious to the pain this single man inflicted on their nation. Ta Mok still has numerous supporters in the area, and people regularly go to pay their respects at his gravesite.

  • 3. Preah Vihear

    From Anlong Veng to Preah Vihear it was close to 200 kilometers. Needless to say, my bottom was pretty darn sore when we arrived, and I was jubilant that we were staying the night at the foot of the mountian. We had a look at a couple of guesthouses and then decided on one ($7 per room, and not worth it!), used the toilets and then immediately left to head up to Preah Vihear. A normal scooter will never make it to the top of the mountain (it is pretty steep!) so we hired guys with clutch-bikes to take us up ($5 per driver). We arrived around 3:30pm and told the moto guys we hired to give us enough time till the sunset and then take us back. The sights and views were outstanding, and there is a lot to see. Fascinating reliefs and portals, lots of ruins, and very few people. There were quite a lot of soldiers on the mountain that day and many were patrolling with their rifles, as there was a demonstration near the Thai border that day, with people threatening to storm into Cambodia. Nobody wanted this to happen, as the soldiers on the Cambodian side have orders to shoot. We returned after catching an amazing sunset (semi-enshrouded by mist) and at dinner in the village heard on the news that during that demonstration on the Thai side, some people had been killed and several others were injured. Luckily, the Thai army broke it up otherwise it would have resulted in more deaths had they stormed the Cambodian border.

  • 4. Kompong Thom

    After our usual breakfast of noodle soup and iced coffee, we hit the road, our next destination Kompong Thom. The first part of the journey was gorgeous- rubber plantations as far as the eye could see, but then the condition of the road began to deteriorate. Massive potholes, rocks, gravel, you name it. Parts of this route were very slow-going (no cars at all for miles and miles- they would never make it!) and at one point, we had to cross a flooded village- I got off the bike and waded across and my friend gingerly drove through it, hoping the bike wouldn't stall.
    It was 160 kilometers to Kompong Thom, but since we wanted to see Sambor Prei Kuk, we had to drive an extra 34 kms (1 hour). We were delayed a bit by having to stop and repair a flat, so spent less than 2 hours at the site, which was not enough (for me, anyhow) but nonetheless amazing. More ruins, very photogenic, lots of kids hounding you to hire them for a guide. When we finished at Prei Kuk, we headed back into town and immediately checked into a cool little guesthouse ($10 for 2 rooms, cold water shower) to relax for a bit before dinner. There was a nice, bustling open-air restaurant on the corner (across from an expensive-looking place that was vacant!) where we had dinner- various grilled items served with rice, plenty of cold beer (total for 2 people $6.50).
    Departing the city the next day, we headed to Phnom Suntok, some 20 kilometers away. This fascinating temple is on the top of a mountain, and has some impressive buddha sculptures. There is a lookout point halfway up.

  • 5. Kompong Cham

    After breafast, we headed for Kompong Cham, which is 127 kilometers from Kompong Thom. En route, we stopped to see Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei ("Man Hill" and "Woman Hill"). Man Hill was by far the more impressive of the two, but Woman Hill had the better view. Arriving in Kompong Cham, we found the pleasnat Mitapheap Hotel, $6 per night for spacious fan rooms. We spent 2 nights in Kompong Cham, sightseeing by day and hanging out at the riverside drinking beer and eating dried squid at night. The day trips included Wat Hancheay, which seemed to be a popular sightseeing place for locals (you could tell by the massive amount of garbage strewn on the side of the mountain!), and the temple had very odd, colorfully-painted fruit sculptures dotted here and there. The temple did command some excellent views, and I was lucky to be able to see a wild gibbon strolling through the temple (yes, it got up and walked away!). A policeman approached me and said I needed to purchase an admission ticket($) which was also good for visiting Wat Nokor, which we did next. Wat Nokor is a 13th century buddhist shrine of latterite and sandstone. After a hot, sweaty day of sightseeing, we returned to town and had a couple of cold ones at "Lazy Daze" guesthouse.

  • 6. Battambang

    While we stopped in Phnom Penh for a night en route, I will not write up that visit as it consisted of meeting up and consuming copious amounts of beer with local friends, no sightseeing was done there. ;-)
    Headed out to Battambang in the morning of September 25, getting totally soaked in a downpour on the way. Stopped to put on raingear, but it was really coming down! Arrived at around 2:00pm and checked into Seng Hout Hotel ($8, large fan rooms, new interior!). While my friend was napping, I went over to the Bus Stop guesthouse to have a few well-chilled beers for happy hour. We had dinner in town, and more beer and dried squid by the riverside afterwards.
    In the morning, we visited Phnom Sampeau, a mountain temple offering simply spectacular views of the countryside. We hired a local guy to take us around, and he showed us some remnants of the war (Russian and German artillery) as well as the Killing Fields in that area, a cave which housed the requisite glass case with skulls. (There are killing fields all over the country). Phnom Sampeau is 14 kilometers from Battambang, then 2 kilometers up the mountain. Heading back into town, we stopped at the Battambang Winery. The owner is very enthusiastic about her craft and I am hoping in the near future, when I retun, she will get it right. It is still worht sampling, and she said that locals snap up her goods, however most prefer the hard stuff like the brandy she also produces, which people like to bring to auspicious events like weddings.
    The food was great in Battambang (White Rose, Smoking Pot, Champey Garden) and we even went to a beer garden one night that had live music.
    On the next day, we visited Wat Banan (some 300 steps to the top) and Wat Ek Phnom (very cool ruins, good for walking around & exploring), and then headed back to Siem Reap.