Sunday, February 23, 2014

16. Phnom Penh - Sihanoukville - Kampot - Kep

375 km, one way.

It was just about time to get out of the big city for while and leave Phnom Penh for the beautiful coast. Besides, two German expats living in Sihanoukville offered me to store the motorcycle in their garage until my return in December. First, I wanted to see them again, -and the beaches of course- , and second, I didn't want to let them know by phone that I would keep the bike with friends in Phnom Penh. Leaving the motorbike in the capital is simply much more convenient than taking the bus twice to Sihanoukville, an adventurous 5 1/2 hour drive which I definitely wanted to avoid.

Off I was, using Highway 4 out of Phnom Penh, all the way to my first stop, Sihanoukville. I don't know exact statistics, and I guess they don't exist, but Route 4 is probably one of the most dangerous roads in the world. 

The road condition is actually quite good: The two-lane highway is asphalted throughout, except for some minor areas in construction zones, but other than that, it is a dangerous ride. The road connects the city of Phnom Penh -meaning the rest of the country- with the only Cambodian seaport, Sihanoukville (see earlier post about the development of Sihanoukville). All containers arrive in that port and need to be trucked across the country, between the port and Phnom Penh on Route No. 4. 

Chicken checking out my panniers.

An additional burden on the road is the fact that Sihanoukville is home to Cambodia's biggest brewer, Angkor (Carlsberg), and expats, tourists and locals alike, like to drink this beer. From the 1960s classic-modernistic French-designed brewery complex hundreds of trucks travel each day to deliver the product to Phnom Penh and the hinterland. Of course on top of all this are the infamous mini-busses with local travelers trying to get to and fro the next market place, the cars, overland busses, cows, dogs, water buffalo, bicycles and motorcycles. It is a lot of fun. I gained some familiarity with the road now.

I left Phnom Penh early to avoid the mad city rush hour (not early enough, because at 5.30 a.m. it was already in full swing), but afterwards the road was very nice to ride, some parts were pleasant to travel on, I experienced the road in a new, beautiful light. 

A stop halfway between my departure and destination near a steep hill-climb and in a large forest is mandatory. Here are hundreds of little shrines lined up along the road and travelers stop their vehicles to light incense, say a prayer and get a drink before they move on. Of course I stop also.

Road side shrines, praying for protection on Route 4.

I arrived early in Sihanoukville to meet my friends for a late breakfast, see the brand-new baby of Helmut and his wife, say hello to the dogs, and find me a thatched roof guest house on Long Beach, a several mile long stretch of wild, non-tourist beach between Otres 1 and Otres 2. I will only stay one night. 

The new baby.

At Helmut's house.

The baby gets a drink too.

Dennis from Berlin, who stayed in Cambodia for the last four months.

Tomorrow morning I will have breakfast again at Helmut's place and ride with Dennis, another German from Berlin who works as an electronics engineer in Amsterdam and his girlfriend eastbound to Kampot, famous for its pepper, one of my favored coastal destinations in Cambodia.

Five hut guesthouse on Otres Beach, Long Beach, Sihanoukville.

The French master-planned coastal resort town, which was never finished. Just walls.

Always the same: Locals love the BMW, and love to check it out.

Otres beach road.

Bamboo Shack.

At the 'gas station'. Never buy red-colored gas from a bottle. It is cheap but mixed with kerosene.

School's out!

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