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Roving Rant Day 6 - Ban Khlong Yai through the Cambodian border (yay!) to Battambang

Updated: Nov 12, 2018


The Phnom Sampov Bat caves, where a huge colony of bats stream from at dusk every day

We woke reasonably early & left the estate as quietly as we could. Pierre had kindly offered us coffee in the morning before we departed, but we really weren’t sure how long that would delay us & anyway, I’m sure he was still asleep! (Slightly guilty, but we were desperate to cross the border (3rd time lucky?) Simon was a bit tentative at first on his new bike, but as he’s now on a Kawasaki 650 & I’m on a Honda 500, I’m sure it won’t be long, save the road conditions, before he tries out its potential!


So we headed straight for the border & possibly somewhere for a quick breakfast. Food went by the by as a need for petrol took over the urgency & then we were at the border crossing. First off, we walked over the border into the Cambodian Customs office to seek clearance again to take the bikes through. We were in luck, as the same lady who ok’d us a couple of days ago was still there & approved us again. So we walked back & started the process on the Thai side. It started badly. The very first Lady we handed our bike passports to said, “no not possible, you can’t take them!” We know that the standard response for any official in this position who does not understand, or does not want to understand the process, is to say you can’t do it, go away... It got better after her boss took over. It still took nearly 2 hours, though.


Finally, we had clearance, so we rode through to Cambodia. We had to buy a new visa & there we met an educated, charming & very funny visa official who spoke excellent English. He asked whether we had been to Pattaya & when we said yes, we were regaled with stories about the ladies there & what they got up to playing with whistles, balloons & other implements using their nether regions for the ‘entertainment’ of gentlemen. He was most disappointed that we hadn’t gone to any shows, so recommended an equivalent night out in Seam Reap! Apart from the vulgarity, he was entertaining & extremely accommodating. 10 minutes after he gave us our visas, we were through!


I had to ask Simon to turn off his communicator a few minutes in (we have radio devices so we can talk to each other on the road, essential when we get separated & companionable at other times) so I could let out a very loud whoop of delight! I couldn’t believe we’d actually made it. I couldn’t believe the incompetence, the obstinance, the petty bureaucracy and the individual power plays that had wasted 3 days of our precious trip. However, bygones be bygones, we were in & going to make the most of it. We shall skip the coast of Cambodia where I used to play in the sand as a kid - Sihanoukville - and head for Phnom Penh & then up to Seam Reap & Angkor Wat.


Immediately we entered Cambodia, the environment changed. The massive road building exercises all the way to the border that we’d witnessed in Thailand ceased. The roads got smaller & much bumpier & the seemingly chaotic driving procedures in Thailand gave way to anarchy! Essentially, in Cambodia, you ride close to the edge of the road, on the right because they drive on the right, unlike Thailand, and the the rest of the road surface is for trucks & cars to pass whenever & wherever they like on any side! Well, even in chaos there is a system & it’s not that bad once you get used to it. The countryside opened up because there were fewer buildings & it was apparent that the poverty was greater here. I remember the Cambodian people as extremely friendly & constantly smiling, despite hard lives, and I hope I shall see that again.


After a couple of hours, the first big town we arrived at was Battambang, where we had decided to stop for lunch (first food we’d had since lunchtime yesterday), but when you drink a lot of water, which we are, you can go for quite a long time without food. Riding round it, pretty much randomly, Simon spotted a rather nice hotel so we popped in to have some food. As it happened they had one family room available, so we decided to check in, eat lunch & relax (with free WiFi!). So we did. After several gin and tonics ($US2 each!) we consumed a fabulous local dish & went for a swim.


Simon read about the Phnom Sampov Bat caves, where a huge colony of bats fly out at sunset to go hunting. They are protected because the eat several insects that destroy local crops & they were a fabulous sight. I was afraid I might miss a great shot because it would be over too quickly. After 10 or 12 minutes they were still pouring out in massive numbers! Because it was only just down the road from where we were staying, we dressed lightly and as we were waiting for the exodus, the thunder started rolling in the distance. The lightning only came as we just started the journey back, but we did have to shelter in a roadside shop, bikes as well, when the heaven’s opened. Luckily, it only lasted 15 minutes, so we carried on back, learning that riding on Cambodian road in the wet & dark is an interesting proposition!


We were going to leave for Phnom Penh early tomorrow, but that may not happen because of washing. We had to wash all our smalls today & they may not be dry by tomorrow morning. We tried laying them out on a lounger by the pool (just picture that in Battambang’s best hotel!) but no go. So I opted for stringing a line across our palatial sitting room & hanging everything on that. No, you can’t see a picture!


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