Thursday, November 18, 2004


I've made it down to the coast and am taking a few days of R&R here. Standard Cambodian tourist town. Cheap places to stay, expensive places to eat ($4 rooms. $4 meals is the norm here), lots of moto drivers, and of course plenty of beggars.

The ride from Kampot wasn't too bad. It's about 100 km, so I left early, around 6:30 am. 30 km or so into the ride, there's the "last chance for food and water" and a reported 20 km of uninhabited bad road. So I came upon this village with only meager provisions and thought this might be it. So I stopped by one stand and there was an older guy, maybe 70, who greeted me. "No anglais" he said, "francais." Ahh, he speaks French. "Je parle francais, un peu," I replied"(I speak French, a little). "Je cherche pour un petit de'jeuner" (I look for a breakfast). He doesn't understand a word I say. "Manger" (to eat), I profer. Nothing. Hmmm. He speaks to me, and I have a hard time figuring out what he's saying. Either my French is really bad or there's a big gap between French with an American accent and French with a Cambodian accent. Probably a bit of both. I try the breakfast bit again, and still, he doesn't understand. As I look around, half the village is gathered around staring at the barang (foreigner, which would be me). This unsettles me a bit, like trying to give a speech in front of a large crowd, in French. I can't think of anything. The old guy is starting to get unsettled as well, "Francais? Espagnola? Anglais?" I can make out. His hands are starting to wave around. I notice a machete in his lap. Realize of course that there aren't very many elderly people around (due to poverty, the war, and the Khmer Rouge), and I'm a little suspicious of anyone, especially a man, who has been lucky enough to have survived into his 70's. And this is southern Cambodia, one of the last hold outs of the Khmer Rouge. So all I can think of now is that it is time to move on, food or no food. "Pardon, pardon, merci, pardon" I say, as I back away. I race across the street and get a couple bottles of water and head on down the road.

Of course, the real "last stop" was another kilometer or two down the road, where I stopped and picked up a bunch of bananas (25 cents) and a pineapple (25 cents). They didn't peel the pineapple for me, so I still have that sitting in my hotel room, as well as half a bunch of bananas. The road in town was the bad dirt / rock that I feared. But soon after clearing town, the road had been repaved and was nice and smooth. And very little traffic, as the Phnom Phen traffic travels down route 4 and I was on route 3 still. I was pretty much able to just cruise down the middle of the highway, as any approaching cars can be identified for some distance, as the Cambodians generally drive with their horns constantly honking. After joining route 4, the traffic got a bit heavier and there wasn't an adequate shoulder to bike on. But as long as you keep an eye out for passing cars and trucks in your lane, the vehicles from behind will keep you informed of their proximity. It's the deeper more frantic honking that signals you to get off the road, whereas the higher pitched beeping is just motos passing buy. Oh, and there were hills as well. Nothing big, but the first noticeable changes in altitude I've encountered. It's just that they come after 80 some kms and the sun is blazing down that causes some consternation. At least they'll be early on as I head back to Kampot later this week.

The bike was also experiencing some minor problems. One spoke had come out and my back wheel was getting warped. Maybe in part because of this, my tire was also getting frayed along the side. So I'm sure this hindered my efficiency somewhat. But I found a bike shop here and the guy fixed the spoke, balanced my wheel (quite nicely in fact) and changed my tire (or tyre as they'd say). Total cost, parts and labour - just under $6. I still need to adjust my derailleurs, but I figure I can fiddle with that sometime while I'm here.

In the meantime, I'm off to the beach. My arms and legs are nicely bronzed (and my hairs nicely bleached) from riding, but I've gotta get some sun on the rest of my body. Those sandal tan lines are particularly annoying.


- There are in fact a plethora of stop lights in Phnom Phen. I saw at least 5. And people actually heed them, in general. As far as I can tell, there is just the one in Siem Reap outside of Phnom Phen.

No comments: