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 CAMBODIA        DIARY  8

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8

From Diary 7 and the wild south-east , it is now time for the central part .
22/1
It is a cold (22C) and especially windy morning, and it is time to leave the highlands. I head for the larger city of Kampong Chaam, around 260 kilometres west. The first part of the road is mountain with forest, and that causes for several botanical  stops. Then again, the wind might cause branches to fall, and the wind is especially strong today. Further more, I have done this stretch before.

In a matter of fact, the first half of the tour is back to Snuol, and it is lined with pockets of forest in the canyons, huge yellow fields, pine trees and some other plantations. After Snuol, it is mainly plantations until I reach Memot, then the lowland starts with its rice field plains. And if the landscape raises just 150 metres, the plantations take over.

I do a breath stop in the little town of Chumni. There is one new thing at their small market; frogs. The next stop is Memot, which is almost a town, although the fields starts behind the modern houses in the main street. It is a red-dust area, and the old houses are just red.

I find a panis (half flute) and get them to add honey. They not only fill it in, the glazes the bred, and finally fill it with condensed milk. After a tour on the coals, it taste great, almost as the Danish pastry; Borgmesterstang! I do a walk in the central part of town, but here are no now sights.

As I head on, I have to pass quite some mini-busses with thick boards sticking out in the back. Most have more than half outside the car! Another have four mopeds sticking out the back. A third one of the passengers. They are all pulled over at a police check-point - and straight out on the road again. I wonder what you have to do to get in problems?

The endless plains with rice take over, only interrupted by quite some towns, if the terrain raises just a bit. I drive right through, figuring Kampong Chaam will offer it all.
I reach the huge city at three, and drive right into the centre to find a guesthouse between the market and river. I drop the bag, and head out in the city.

The river is narrow here, not more than hundred metres, while it is half a kilometre wide around the bend. There is not really much to see within the river, and I head into the market area. On the way, I find a Lipton tea with condensed milk and a menu card with vegetarian dishes. And they send 70-90% of the money back to the producers, while the rest goes into education. Gota eat here!

The market is quite clean, and here are all the usual goldsmiths, textileshops, plastic household, cosmetics, women's beauty-saloons, small restaurants with local food, fresh and very dead fish and other seacreatures, fruits and vegetables, chopped-up mammals and for once; medicine plants. I even find the antplants sliced into thing pieces. Then, just before five, the market start to close down.

I see several of the central streets, with the shops, the almost colonial houses and the local people. Here is a bit calm, but it is Sunday afternoon, late.
Back to have a cold shower and a fresh T-shirt, and then over to the interesting restaurant. Khmer Amok vegetables with tofu, followed by caramelised bananas with nuts - unfortunately peanuts. Should have been anything else.

I pass the partly open night market along the river, and on the square in front of the market, but only a few stands are present. To judge from the ground, there use to be way more.
Home to work on the few photos and a short diary.

The few photos of the day go all into the general photos of central Cambodia. Somehow, I have lost time, and it is only nine, when I finish work. Strange??? I read a bit of the coming day's sights, and then start accounting - that will last the entire evening....

23/1 For once, I get muesli and yoghurt for breakfast and with Lipton - the best (only proper) tea around. Great start on the day! Then again; the car refuses to start, and I have to tickle all the plugs I can find, to get it on better ideas.
Then I head up north towards Kampong Thom. It is not surprisingly a lot of urbanised and farmed land, and the plantations make up a good part. I find a few flowering plants within the plantations, but not much.

Here are only a few larger villages, but farmhouses are found almost all the 110 kilometres up the Highway 6.
I make a stop in Kampong Thmar, and do a stroll through their market. I find some new food: Grilled Mole Crickets.

Out on the highway, I find another new item: The police do have lasers! I could have done without that! Well, I think it is a 60 km/t, and I was only doing 50 km/t, mainly because of the one in front of me.
A larger village have stonemasons, and the amount of Buddha statues and multi-headed cobras are amassing. So are the quality. 

I reach Kampong Thom before noon, and drive straight to the river Stung Sen. Here are several large guesthouses, and I find a nice room, right next to the river and market. It is a pretty new and clean town, with huge trees and wide roads, but no tourists.

As I set out to find lunch, I find a stall with Ground Crickets, scorpions, bird-spiders, Great Diving Beetles and huge cockroaches. All prepared for eating. Pity I'm a vegetarian, but I find some pain with honey and some tea.
The shopping area is not that big, and I see most. Here are all the usual gods, and I try to limit the photos a lot. Try...
I find out the fake money is sacrifices to the Chinese Buddha. Somehow, I have a hard time connecting Buddha with fake money!?

The city seems rather new, but some houses seem really old, and they are mixed with the new ones. Along the river are a line of post-houses, and there are green ponds within the centre of town.
I cross the bridge, but the shops along the highway on the other side is fare from as interesting. Though, their coloured new mopeds and hats make a great motive.

I find an extension the the market with mainly fish. One shop have also snakes. What appears as adders and mixed snakes. Raw, but you will get a recipe. I do with a fruit shake.
Back at the office at five to re-group, then out to find some noodle-free (and insect/snake free) dinner.

The "pizzeria" have no pineapples, and the Hawaiian without ham too, sounds a bit doll. The fried vegetables with cashew nuts - without cashew nuts even worse. I am so much looking forward to either my own cooking or at least a proper restaurant!

The few photos from Kampong Thom. The rest go into the general tour.

24/1 Despite I got a $6 room and paid additionally $4 for the hot shower, I don't get any. I try to explain it to them, but give up. While I eat my breakfast, I watch the local news. I don't understand it, but I find it conspicuously that every time the new American president; Trumph gets on, the commercials on the bottom on the screen is for Paracitamol?!
It is a 200 kilometre drive pass Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang and especially its floating town at Phoum Kandal. The first bit of the tour is familiar, and the next not really that interesting either.

It is lowland with its rice fields, all over the low plains. Several larger tows are found along the route, but I have see enough of these by now. I get by all the police's stops unattached, and enjoy the driving. I cross the new and large Prek Kdam Bridge, and reach Phnom Penh at noon.

I do a short walk around, but here are no hotels, and I want my bag stored in a room, as well knowing here actually are a hotel. A single woman offers me a boat tour into the river, and I remember her for later.
Almost back on the two kilometre dam-like road to Kampong Chhnang, a nice hotel is found. I drop the bag and drive back to the temple near Phoum Kandal. From here, a long line of stalls are found on the swamp-side of the road, while some buildings with shops are on the other side, with another swamp in the back.

Many of the houses - if not all - continues out in the swamp on posts. The shops are hardware, household, moped repair and new ones and alike. The sheets on the other side is mainly vegetables, fruit, weavings, live chickens and ducks, dead mammals, fish in all stages from alive to rotten, and clothing among much more.

One path leads into a dock-area, and it seems like a cheap place to live. I try to capture the atmosphere, and return to the road. While I try to find lunch, the woman offering boat tour is back, and why not?
She have a little boat with a quiet engine, and we head up stream on the Tonle Sap River to the floating cities. On the way, we pass the ferry harbour and some other primitive docks. And here are quite active, and I have to return on land.

The fare side of the river is real green and only a few huts are found on the banks. Further up, the house boats are also found here. In the distance, a small, green mountain towers the plain. The locals transport them self in small boats. Some with tiny engines, some with V8. The latter only touch the water with around 10%.

The house boats have all kind of purposes. Some are shops with beer, some fishermen's "factory", some just for living with nice flowers and all. The tend to have a room north and a porch, taking up the better part to the south. And a small sheet downstream for personal matters. Some look like normal houses, some like the farmers sheets.

Many are rather colourful, non are really well maintained. They seem to be build on a bigger boat, added some bamboo bunches and fitted with timber. Most places, there are around 7-10 houses in each line, heading out from land.
We drive near the western ones up, and a bit in-between them too. People are ignoring us, except the kids are shouting "hallo".

We do the eastern part down, and the overgrown trees on the banks make a great background. Here have been so many great motives, but my photos are disappointing. I guess it is the entire collection of houses that does it. And when I get more on, one can't see what it is.

Back at land, I head further out the road to see the post houses and the ferry I spotted from the river. They look so photogenic, though I would not like to live in one. The ferry area is real busy. Here are fish sold along with most else. The women are sitting playing Chinese cards, and they are really engaged!

As I head further out the dusty trail, the post houses are in general made of sticks and palm-leaves. I still look for lunch, but the few places that sell food, are not really tempting.
I return to the road on the dam, and its shops. On a wider stretch, a market is found behind the shops, and I do the loops. Here are only the usual gods.

When I return to the car, a find a pain with honey, and call it lunch. Then I drive back to Kampong Chhnang, just to see it and especially locate a restaurant for later.
I walk the entire centre of town, see the market and some of the roads leading out of town. Here are three restaurant-like business, none have any vegetarian, they say. I hope they have a live night market!

Kampong Chhnang have a bit of a colonial vibe, and if it had cafes and restaurants, they might get tourists. The floating city of Phoum Kandal ought to draw some here from nearby Phnom Penh. I think I am at the nicest hotel in town, and they don't do toilet paper. Tourists can't be common around here!
I head home to work a bit before the night market opens. Somehow, I have only managed to take 152 photos. I had guessed on at least twice that amount. And the real great one can't be found among them.

At six, I try Kampong Chhnang's tiny night market, and I find some deep-fried rice balls with vegetable filling and an egg. Actually quite good. A cup of ice-coffee end the day, then it is back to work.
Some of the photos from the day have their own slideshow: Phoum Kandal, while the rest is in the general tour.

While planning tomorrow, I realises I might have to head into Phnom Penh by now. I have a rescue zoo and two market I want to see, and I have to return the car - and find a flight in three days.

25/1 By accidence, I get a look at the left rare wheel. It apparently drive in an angle, and it grinded to the steel in the inner side. It will explode anytime now, and if I were doing any gravel-roads, I would exchange it with the spare. But I'm only looking at 200 kilometres sealed by now. 

Not surprisingly, it is hard to find breakfast without meat. I finally find a stand with bread and vegetables too. I try to explain; I don't want the sausages, and she warms up the flute, and bring me a plate with vegetables and sausages. The flute have been filled with minced meat sauce.
She get to do it all over, and replace the sauce with honey, loose the sausages and toss in some tea.

The road towards Phnom Penh is familiar in the beginning, and the rest is just the usual rice patches and small towns. I had planned to do a bit of a de-tour to avoid Phnom Penh centre, but the road have been dug up on around 70%, and it make a slow progress. I return to the great highway.

Well, it stay that for some time, but then it is being renewed, and it is a narrow dirt-road with too much traffic. I passes a few road stalls with the Chinese New Year trees: Branches of trees and bushes that will sprout or flower soon. And I see more examples of how bad animals for slaughtering are being treated. Ducks and hens are hanging on mopeds, their heads touching the exhorts pipe or the sealing. One minibus have a bunch of hens and a bunch of ducks hanging outside the car. It is so cruel!

As I reach the traffic jam in Phnom Penh a warning light pops up on the dashboard, and I can't figure its meaning. Check the rental company's location; 1,9 kilometre away. I might as well go bye them. It take a hour, and thinking about it; I can do without the rescue zoo. I hand in the car three days before time, but I won't be using it, and finding a place to park is truly a challenge around here.
They keep $10 from the deposit due to the lack of the stick, holding the hood, and I get my brand new Cambodian driving license - which I have paid $60 for, and only covers B; normal car. I got most of the letters in my Danish.

The Russian Market is just around the corner, and while walking there, I look for a guesthouse, a hotel or alike. Accordantly to the tuck-tuck drivers, there are none, and they might be right. I have to see the huge market with my back-pack on.

I guess if this is the first market you see, or you have a truly extended family to buy souvenirs for, it might be interesting. I have see more interesting markets, and I have the souvenirs I need.
Out on the street, I make the day for a tuck-tuck driver, asking him to drive me to the hotel I have a reservation at for, the next two nights. I might as well spend three here, although it is in a dorm. And it turns out to be with cold showers???

It is in the middle of the back-packer area, and I do some walking in the streets. I manages to find Lipton tea and a pizza for later. A tour down to the boring river and through the Ounal Om Pagoda. A small marked is nothing special, and the shops in the aria either. I guess I have seen Cambodia by now. I do find a T-shirt without printing to replace the one who bye now is more holes that fabric. Icebreakers are great to a point, then the disintegrate rapidly.

Back at the dorm room, I have a long chat with a Canadian, teaching English in China. I find my vegetarian pizza, which is real good. Back at the room, I have another chat with a English girl for even longer. She have been around in parts of Africa I haven't.

Out to grab a cup of tea and a diet bisquet. I guess something went wrong in translation: I get the tea but also a thick pancake, soaked in Malibu and topped with generous vanilla ice and pineapples. As the polite guy I am, I just eat it without complains.

The guy drinking beer at the next table is a English brick-layer, who have travelled quite the same countries as I, and we chat till after midnight - and closing time. And then I have to sneak home to get the computer and finish the work of the day on the balcony, offering a view over a huge part of the town.

26/1 As the original plan was to do, what I did yesterday, I just get a real slow start on the day. Accordantly to other back-packers and the hotel, there are really only two sights worth seeing around here: The Killing Field and the Shooting Range. As I have a no interest in wars, I skip them.

I pass through the large Ounal Om Pagoda complex again, and find an ancient hall, with beautiful paintings on the walls, tall pillars and a bunch of old Buddha statues. The real special is: None of them have the annoying LED light coming out of their heads. I sit there for some time, listening to an old monk talking to other monks.

As I head on,  the new and huge Psar Thmei market turns up. The central dome is said to be the tenth biggest in the world, and the entire market is actually impressive. It is light, clean and huge. The areas are still partly defined,  with raw food, foot court, hardware, textiles, flowers, shoos and bags, jewellery, Chinese New Year stuff and way more.

I find significantly more "tusks" here, and get confirmed; it is actually stag-horns from huge deer - but they don't tell that. I am looking for shoos for the colder Taiwan, and find some reasonable ones. And without any proposes, I find an egg sized elephant in bone, which I accidental buy.

Back to re-group at the hotel, and down in the lobby/restaurant to work until dinner. My roommates returns from the Killing Zone tour - fare from amassed: Hot, too much information, boring.

The Chinese New Year actually starts this evening, and last five days. Cambodia only have a minority of Chinese who celebrate it, where other Asian countries treat it as a combination of summer brake, new year, Christmas, Easter, spring brake and birthdays all together. Hong Kong and Singapore sure know how to have a party!
The other back-packers try to find the party, but absolutely nothing is happening around here! I spend the evening talking to a young Finish girl, who it travelling for the first time, and alone. The I go through the second half of the Myanmar diaries.

27/1 It is my last full day in Cambodia, and besides form a lot of work on the computer, I don't have any plans. The national museum is just around the corner, but I have seen enough statues and pottery by now. But I have to remember to suck-up as much heat and sun as possible, as Taiwan and especially Denmark won't have any.

I do a long walk through the more interesting part of town, might be the old area along the river. Plenty of shops and three small markets. Many of the shopkeepers and their families or employees are outside, feeding the fire with fake dollar bills and other printed matter as a sacrifice. The big New Year eve it tonight.
Later some of the workshops and alike have parties on the sidewalk, where the employees get too much beer - around two each in total.

My roommates are gone, but then I get invaded by three Australian girls, and that live up the dorm-room!

At the markets, half the stalls are closed, and I guess most of the rest actually live and sleep in the shop. I pass through my local temple, but here is as quiet as normal.
Back at the hotel at noon, and into the restaurant next door. Nachos and tea for lunch, then home to wash the T-shirt I'm wearing. While it dry, I sit at the roof and work. 
I make the last slideshows;
Central Cambodia, and the Ultimate 150 photos.

The afternoon is spend walking around the area with the national Museum and The Royal Palace. Despite my most eager efforts, I fail to talk myself into seeing it from the inside. Then I get a shave at a barbershop and one more tea at the usual restaurant.

I leave the girls in the room, and go playing pool and drinking tea in the evening. Here are real quiet, considering the New Year. Not a single fire-cracker!

28/1 I have a two hours to spend, before I get a tuck-tuck to the airport - and then three more in the airport. The tour to the airport is through the new city, consisting of a lot of posh buildings. Many with a "Royal something" sign in front.

To sum the Cambodia tour up a bit: I have driven around the entire Cambodia; 4350 kilometres, and seen pretty much everything I wanted to see. It have been a quite disappointing botanical experience, and the country is actually already too modern to fascinate me. But despite what I have heard, I find the people of Cambodia real kind and helpful. It is in general a happy people.
Their ancient buildings are magnificent, and a few of the natural wonders like the Flooded Forest are worth the tour. I have taken 3600 photos, which is next to nothing.
The expenses summed up to be twice as much as for Myanmar:

 

  DKK         
Flight (1/3 tour) 3.660 491
Local transport 476 64
Car rent 5.042 676
Gasoline 2.333 313
Enters 1.227 165
Visa+Insurance 816 109
Gadgets 1.530 205
Food, drink 2.849 382
Hotels 2.460 330
 Total: 20.393 2.179

Next Stop; TAIWAN
 

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