This section from Neak Loeang to Phnom Penh is the thirty-first instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

We were supposed to leave around 6 and get into Phnom Penh well before the day had a chance to get hot. But we’re feeling sleepier than ever and in the end we’re not on the road before 9.

A disappointing Cambodian version of Banh Mi, the stuffed baguettes I liked so much in Vietnam, has to serve for breakfast before we hit the ferry across the Mekong. The ferry only cost a few hundred and will probably cease to exist in the near future as the Cambodians are in the process of constructing a large bridge across the river.

Taking the ferry across the Mekong. Those who didn't manage to squeeze onto the platform are left on shore for the next ferry.
Taking the ferry across the Mekong. Those who didn’t manage to squeeze onto the platform are left on shore for the next ferry.

When the gates open, there’s a bit of a flurry as everyone tries to get on board at the same time, resulting in highly inefficient loading and many people left to wait for the next ferry. We’re lucky to squeeze in just in time and find ourselves on the loading ramp which they didn’t bother to close. Some people are even closer to the edge. One move and they roll into the Mekong.

After that we begin our slow trudge towards the country’s capital, accompanied by ever intensifying. We notice that there are way more cars here than in Vietnam, and that most drivers behave like dangerous maniacs when they’re behind the wheel of their four-wheel drive Lexus.

On the ferry. Many more vehicles would fit if they didn't let chaos reign.
On the ferry. Many more vehicles would fit if they didn’t let chaos reign.

We make a few stops and then elatedly roll into a hot Phnom Penh at 2 pm. We stop at a milk tea with pearls place that insists on first greeting everyone in Thai and then switching to English for a reason that is beyond us. Its menus aren’t even in Khmer, but it’s undoubtedly low-wage workers are very Khmer.

We move to the famous street 278 which is famous by virtue of being touristy but not disgustingly aimed at backpackers. However, after popping into Top Banana to ask for the room price, I am not so sure about that claim. In the end we settle on a hotel, eclectically called Golden Tour Eiffel, which offers a large room with kitchen and balcony for $18 a night, including free laundry service. We’ve abandoned our hopes of finding anything good and cheap in this country.

Man plucking veggies from a stream
Man plucking veggies from a stream

Very possibly, this is our last ride on this trip. Originally, we were going to ride all the way to Siem Reap and then back to the Mekong delta in Vietnam, but time is running out and Cambodia really isn’t a good country for biking. Too flat, too hot and food too bad for too much money.

We’ve decided to move on to Bangkok by means of boat and bus because I need to shop for some clothes and perhaps a new bicycle and Bangkok simply has better stores and prices. Also, flying Tu home to Hanoi, in time for the celebration of Tet, is more convenient and cheaper from Bangkok, thanks to Air Asia.

Much deserved chocolate milk tea with pearls
Much deserved chocolate milk tea with pearls

From there on, I may attempt to take the train to Chiang Mai and then ride back to Kunming through Laos from there. Stay tuned, I will still post updates from Siem Reap later this week.

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