Saturday, January 4, 2014

17. Phnom Penh - Siem Reap

339 km = 6.5 hours

Googlemaps travel times in this part of the world are off by a good margin. Instead of the 4 hours and 32 minutes shown above my ride took considerably longer, despite my sometimes high speed, wherever possible. The road out of Phnom Penh to the town of Kampong Thom is in very bad condition, it is mostly a 180 kilometer long stretch of road construction. During the rainy season one will be covered in mud riding roads such as these, now in the dry season you fill your lungs with sand and dust, despite the surgical mask. 

I am getting more familiar with the driving style here. Khmer are very bad drivers. The best experiences I had so far is with the (professional?, maybe) drivers of the overland busses. I often just follow them, this is one big piece of metal in front of me. The views are not that great, but it is comparatively secure and you don't get run off the road.

Getting ready in the morning, packing up and checking the bike which always takes about 20 minutes or so was always a hoot, in both countries on this trip, Thailand and Cambodia. Quickly a small (male) crowd gathers and watches how I get ready.

Now the difference between spectators in Thailand and here in Cambodia is, that in Thailand the guys are all excited and quickly asks questions like "How much does the bike cost in the U.S.?", "How many cc?" ""How fast?" and other technical stuff like that, here it is entirely different. The crowd which gathers is still, sometimes they speak quietly among themselves. On their faces there is the look of people who just have witnessed the landing of a manned spaceship from Mars while the hatch comes open and one-eyed green creatures with long head-mounted antenna's are looking out. In city traffic in Phnom Penh I see often folks getting their cell phones out shooting a picture of me and the bike.

Siem Reap of course is the city closest to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. I will buy a 3-day-pass tomorrow which lets me access the immense historical site. Today I went already to the gate and asked the girl whether I can ride in with my own motorcycle. She declined. Police would not allow it. But she pointed to a big building nearby and told me that I am free to check with the Police myself. Said and done. The officers there said it isn't possible, only local motorcycle taxis ("tuk-tuks") would be allowed. But I showed my Cambodian (temporary) driver's license, they were surprised first, went outside and checked the registration on the bike, saw the U.S. license plate, and all of a sudden it was OK. Tomorrow I can explore Angkor Wat using my own transportation.

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