Thursday, January 24, 2013

The world is my playground with friends

Ainaz is in Stoeng Treng, Cambodia - 2,500km since trip start
'A' is where I started, and the Blue arrow is where I am.
Crossing into Cambodia was our first land border experience in SE Asia. At borders you have to keep a close eye on your bags and a level head on your shoulders, so it was nice to have our new Belgian friends - Karin and Michel - along to share the bike guard shift, and join forces together in negotiations with the border police. Yes, in the South East, even border visa fees take negotiation ;)

We rode into Koh Kong all together in the dark, but even without the light it was apparent how drastically different the continuation of the same land, same road can be as a result of a man made artificial boundary called border and more so because of the history of the culture on either side of the border.
The French colonisation influence is the most apparent in the Cambodian architecture and food ... finally there is bread! Baguettes for 12.5cents, delicious for my midday watermelon breaks. The baguettes replaced the Rosy crackers from Thailand :)
Cambodian boulangerie
But now you see the new generation being influenced by the American dream. Even the bank machines dispense US dollars instead of Cambodian Riels. Cambodians speak much more English than the Thai people did. They are not shy to practice the few phrases they've learned in school - What is your name? Where are you from? Where do you go? What is your job? How old are you? And of course the ultimate question that I change my answer to depending on who is asking .. Are you married?! ...and they always giggle when you answer!

More on cultural differences between Cambodia and Thailand... There are no stores in Cambodia, Thailand had Tesco and 7Elevens, Cambodia only has little stores selling mainly cleaning products and chips, with the occasional minimart store in the bigger cities only which sells jam and muesli for my belly!
Both countires have great street markets though, with fresh fruit and veggies and too much meat and fish sitting in the heat all day long.

In Thailand, the markets are outdoor markets, while in Cambodia they have covered maze bazzares that you can get lost in.

In Thailand they have lots of street food, whereas in Cambodia there are lots of roadside restaurants instead.

In Cambodia the corruption is visible with the fancy street cars, Lexus, Porche, Mercedes, ... in such a poor country. The locals admit they are mainly stolen. We had no such sights in Thailand.
In Cambodia the road conditions are very bad, in Thailand at least you could count on pavement.

Different from Thailand, in Cambodia we ride all day long with shouts of Hello and Bye Bye from the kids mostly. They are playing in the trees, under and behind the pillared homes and they always see you.... I lost my voice several times by the end of the day from yelling back Hello or Susudaii to encourage pride in their own language all day long!

And finally, we've been meeting much more cycle tourists in Cambodia mainly because of the limited road system which increases the probability of encounters.

We rode East along the coast, on the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains with our friends Karin and Michel.
Still hoping to see a wild elephant crossing the street!
Ziggidy Zaggidy road through 300m high Cambodian Mountains
Karin wears her helmet for the downhills only. *heart*
Dariya kicked these mountains butt!
Strong and steady Michel climbs :)

Stayed with the locals for $3/night organized through the Cambodia Eco Tourism Bureau.

I fed some cats and dogs along the way.

Discovered hidden town of Srie Ambel which will remain my favourite through all of Cambodia.

I bought the wooden brushes she sells just to buy something from her, now I use it to clean my chain!
Srie Ambel pool hall
Saw some cool and some crazy things along the way.
And this is not the most overloaded minibus I've seen,
Always striving to do more with less.
Everyday at around 1pm we get to ride with the school girls and boys going home.
This is a chashew nut fruit!
Nursing water buffalo
Fishing village on the way to Kampot
Fishing boats saving fuel as they head out to sea in Kampot
Met an inspirational French duo who have been riding a part of the world every year since retiring 5 years ago. Tija and Titole have been married for 45yrs and still enjoy riding 100km a day on dirt tracks together every day :)
Young souls don't stay still for a photo shoot!
Rode into Kep, our last stop on the coast, with a 5th addition to our group - David from Australia who we met on his first day of riding in Ayutthaya over a month ago and again by chance in Kampot on the coast of Cambodia!

A funny silly video of running into another cycle tourist in route to Kep.

Then, Dariya's nature pulled her to stay on the coast a little longer, while I continued North to Phnom Penh with Karin and Michel.
Dariya and I talk and check in on each other every chance we get and hope to get to ride another section of this journey together when our routes match again.
Don't forget to keep upto date with her travel stories at

A short pause in PP and I was on my own heading North along the Mekong River, while Karin and Michel took a bus and boat West to go check out Angkor Wat.
I look forward to cross paths with them again on this trip or in Belgium or France after the trip.

I rode one long 110km dusty day where my road turned from pavement to gravel to sand to a little track along the river...
Finally got some flags. This lady insisted I also buy the Cambodia Buddhism flag.

I was trying to take a picture of sunset behind me and I ended up with a self portrait explaining to me why I got such odd treatment from the guesthouse reception later this day!

And then I ran into this....
Visit to follow their world journey
The best surprise of my trip. I ran into Solidream in Kampong Cham, completely unexpected,  completely unplanned. We were headed the same direction for a few hundred kms, so I got to ride with them for 3 days. When I set out on this journey,  I didn't even imagine I would see Siphay and his friends on the road, let alone get an opportunity to ride with them :) It has been a joy to first hand experience the solidarity in their group and learn a few tricks from their way of travel like how to camp in SE Asia with a hammock and how to travel where there are no roads shown on the map or known of by the locals...just follow your instinct :)
Fishing boats in Kampong Cham
Riding along the Mekong
Mekong creek crossings
Bridge is out of commission!
I would not have been able to push up all these hills without Siphay and Morgan's help and then when I was tired, Brian and Etienne stayed back to ride with me.
Everything you need in the most simple form
Cambodian toll Hwy!
Many amazing views along the Mekong
You can't tell, but I'm washing my clothes while swimming against the current in this shot ;)
One night in a Pagoda, one night at a restaurant and one night in rubber tree plantation we camped :)
Now they head towards Vietnam and I go towards Laos
"Fais de ta vie un rêve,  et d'un rêve,  une réalité."

Finally, no adventure is complete without some hiccups...
I had a little fall in the best place possible after my rack rattled off due to lack of pavement after the Cardamom mountains.
First fixed my hand and knee, then my bike.
and I broke my rear derralieure while riding through the mud on the way to Kratie along the Mekong.... it got caught in my spokes.

Siphay turning my chain into a single speed
Etienne installing my $2.25 derralieure
The piece that broke welded back in Stoeng Treng

But you know, these countries are too small, by the time I start getting comfortable with the culture and a tiny bit with the language,  it's time to move on. I cross into Laos tomorrow, excited for what the road ahead brings along. I also hope I find a good bike shop soon!

These posts are getting to be too long, I know. When you're enjoying where you are, it's hard to take time away to write about it. So I take a brake day just to write, choose photos and post some memories.
Thank you for you emails, comments, and for continuing to read patiently :) xo


  1. Hello Ainaz joon, thanks again for this post and its not to long. All of your heart is in this post and thats what we like. Succes going in to Laos, also such a wonderfull country. Waiting already for the next post!!!! bisou

  2. So great to read this ~ and to see your lovely face in the pics! XOXOX b safe.... :)

  3. Yea, Ainaz! I'm glad to follow the daily sagas of my cycling hero.

    Don't get Loast in Laos - or if you do, enjoy it! Best day of my overland trip to India (way back) was when we got lost. (Guess who was navigating...) :)

  4. Wow, great pics and a wonderfully exciting looking trip! It's inspiring, I feel like getting on my bicycle myself now!

  5. Ainaz, I have been enjoying reading your blog. What I have found the most amazing so far is that you describe all your adventures in a way that they turn out positive.

    Sometimes I catch up on reading your blog in the middle of the night when I get woken up by Clara and can not go back to sleep and I live an adventurous and "down to the basics" life through your blog.

    I still hear you saying that you wish you could go on a biking trip where life is reduced to it basics. A few pieces of cloth, some food on you and an adventure ahead of you.

    Stay save on the road and stay away from grown up ladies with pick teddy bears. You never know what they are up to : )