We have just finished a 2day ride out of Phnom Penh (ˈnäm-ˈpen) to the city of Siem Reap (see-um ree-ep) the gateway to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument complex in the world.
Well, I have to admit that I had a pretty „rough ’n tough“ start into this trip – as said I am poorly prepared and way overweight. I haven’t even cycled 1500km in the past 14months and it feels as if I put on 1kg/100km. Well that happens to other great talents of cycling – look at Jan Ullrich, Miguel Indurain or Eddy Merckx 😉
The plan was to get to Cambodia a little bit early, spend three days in the Kampot/Kep area and start with 3 warm-up tours of round about 50km, 75km and 100km and besides that relax, swim, enjoy Khmer messages and get used to the food, heat and humidity. THIS plan shipwrecked big time.
All I remember about the travel in Etihad was that the guy next to me from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok weighted at least 140kg and there was a constant struggle over this quarter of an inch armrest. It makes so much sense that airline set a weight limit on economy class passengers – I think 139kg is fair enough !
I started feeling worse too and my tummy signaled turbulence – not the best place to get to the bath room too. I had a bad **** attack about 15mins prior to touchdown and let me tell you, Suvarnabhumi is a big airport with long, long taxiways. I will spare you the rest.
The layover in Bangkok was great though. I had forgotten my camera charger and I asked at the „Duty Free“ if they had a charger for my Canon 5D Mark II for sale ? Unfortunately that was not the case. I would love to see a salesperson at Zürich/Düsseldorf airport then open a box of a brand new Mark III and telling me to come back in 90mins. I would also love to see a sales person at Rome airport being ashamed of a 2 Dollar tip and refusing to take it ! WELCOME TO ASIA.
Things kept on changing for the good – the food provided by Bangkok Airways was the best on the whole trip. The pilot made an announcement that heavy turbulances were expected but the flight turnt out smooth as Northern Sudanese tarmac. The landing was an akward experience – I always love a window seat. It is a perfect place to get a first and distant impression of a new country.
I remember my first time leaving the European continent back in 1988 when I spent a year in high school in the US. The approach to Kennedy took like 30mins and covered the full length of Long Island including the super rich mansions in the Hamptons, the vast middle class towns spread all over the island and the poor run down quarters mainly inhabited by the Afro-American or Puerto Rican minorities. I saw high schools, baseball fields and marinas.
Approaching Phnom Penh I saw nothing – it was pitch black. None of the residential areas seemed to be illuminated in any way. All of the sudden just two minutes before touchdown I could identify the first settlements. I was confused. As it turns out vast areas north of the capital are marshlands of Tonle Sap River that is so vital to Cambodian monsoon drainage.
Entering the country was a jet lagged traveler’s dream. Unboarding, visum application, immigration, luggage and bike pick-up, customs clearance, getting a tiny little bit of local cash, getting a local simcard, having that simcard set up and negotiating a TUKTUK ride to the hotel took less than 20mins ! WOW, that’s a benchmark.
The TUKTUK ride was a lot of fun but my hotel turnt out to be in a dodgy red-light district adjacent to the airport. The Cambodian Country Club was a great place to retreat for the night though – clean, calm, well connected (I skyped with Kasia as if she was next door) and last but not least it was very affordable.
Things had not changed for good for long though… More of that in my next blog entry – I hope the following pictures will make you stay tuned: