Camping and Cambodia

14 Jun

Hello. I am in Phnom Phen, the capital of Cambodia. I see it has been just over a couple of weeks since I wrote last.

I will begin with my first day riding; a bit of a shock back into my vagabonding ways. After checking out of my hotel I began the ride out of Bangkok, through heavy traffic. It took almost 2 hours to cross the city and find the correct road. The road heading east was a busy dual carriageway that I followed all afternoon. About 20km from my destination (the name escapes me) a huge downpour hit, soaking me before I could find shelter. I holed up there for an hour then carried on the ride in lighter rain to the city. I spent over an hour finding the 3 hotels in town and being told they were all full. I weighed up my options, ate some dinner (overpriced and with lots of sleazy men perving on the waitresses) before spinning on in the dark. After about 15km of looking for a campsite I found a railway crossing the road and put up my mosquito net there for a night of being woken every hour by trains overhead. A bit of a change from having huge beds, a fridge and a shower. Anyway the riding to the border improved the further from Bangkok I got, patches of green becoming more frequent.

The border crossing was a bit of a hassle as I accidentally left Thailand without an exit stamp, just riding through and nobody stopped me. After some hassle I eventually I got back in, had my passport stamped and then bumped in Jerome, they Swiss guy I trekked with.

My first impressions of Cambodia were good, the people were friendly, the roads less busy and there was more countryside to be seen. The food isn’t so good though. When I eat a good meal I try to note it down to remind myself of it. In Thailand here is what I found noteworthy: A rice noodle soup on the roadside near Chaing Rai with an especially chickeny broth and bean sprouts. A breakfast of steamed rice, rich stewed beef in coconut and cucumber in Chiang Rai. A mixture of seafood stir fried with holy basil and chilli (it’s also good with crispy pork) that made an excellent lunch on the beach with steamed rice. I also had some really good barbecued meats, little pork lollipops and chicken served with a sweet, spicy soy dipping sauce and sticky rice. Cambodian food seems a lot simpler, still a lot of noodle soups (of varying qualities) and rice served with simple stews, like pork and cabbage in a light sweet broth. However one of the downsides of eating all this meat compared with India and Nepal is that I have picked up a couple of stomach bugs, so far too problematic though.

So what have I done in Cambodia. The first place I went to was Siem Reap, the city near Angkor, an area of ancient temples from the 12th to 14th centuries. The temples were expensive to visit at $20 for a day (plus an hour or two the evening before) but definitely worth it. The temples were impressively large from a distance and well balanced aesthetically. From close up the detailing on the stone is even more impressive. One temple had huge faces of Buddha carved in it, another was being overtaken by tree roots that slump over the stone (*EDIT – They are not faces of Buddha but probably of King Jayavarman*). Despite being a popular tourist attraction I found it pretty peaceful, especially the ground set in forest with moats and a river running through it.

I stayed a few nights in Siem Reap and met some nice people and then made my way here in 4 leisurely days riding. I will leave tomorrow for the coast and bit of beach life.

I have uploaded my Nepal and Thailand photos, not enough time for Angkor yet. You can see them by clicking on Media above.


Indian outset

24 Nov

Hello one and all.

I will begin in Devanhalli. A town 20km north of Bangalore airport. I decided not to ride into Bangalore, I was there on my last trip and didn’t want my first taste of India after a long haul flight to be riding in a city. So I stayed in Devanhalli for a couple of days and soaked up the Divalli atmosphere.

What struck me as I wandered round the town was the familiarity of the smell. You can read all about a place but there is no way to experience it until you have smelt it. The air was thick and hot, filled with aromas of spices, incense, vegetables, bidis (little leaf cigarettes) and urine. As you walk down the road you get a hit of each one and more but put them all together and there is an overall smell that bought back so many memories; it felt a bit like coming home.

From Devanhalli I have been riding north east, into Andrha Pradesh. I visited Puttaparthi, the former home of Sai Baba, a famous ecumenical guru who is revered by many millions of devotees. He was also a very rich man and common magician, producing ash and gold rings from nothing supposedly (although refused to perform the ‘miracles’ under test conditions). The ashram, a prison come holiday camp did have some pretty tasty all you can eat meals for only 10 Rs though (13 pence). Here I saw the first white people I had encountered in India, mainly dressed in ‘authentic clothing’ with red dots on their foreheads looking ridiculous. Still I managed to buy a map in the town, at last. And found one of my favourite foods, deep fried chillies.

The riding has been mainly on the plains, surrounded by paddy or cotton fields; I got some hills going over a granite mine and then through a small forest on my way to Cumbum. However the riding hasn’t been boring. I am never alone on the road here. There are always people working in the fields, taking their oxes for a walk or riding along on a motorbike. Every so often (possibly more than I would like) somebody pulls up alongside me and starts talking to me. This, in varying qualities of English, is 75% the same questions, but I have been trying to keep polite and open and not get frustrate, they are just curious, after all ‘no Indian would do this’. The most challenging is ‘What is your purpose?’, which gets a different response depending on my mood and motivation. Whenever I stop for chai or food (which I have been absolutely loving), I am also fired questions at whilst the men poke my tyres, squeeze my brakes and honk my newly acquired horn.
I had a strange experience when a rickshaw pulled up next to me and pointed at the newspaper which he gave to me. I have clearly achieved a minor celebrity status with an article about my in it. Apparently is says that I like the food, and cycling. Another weird experience happened to me in Amaravarti; I went for my breakfast where a lady tried to fatten me up and force feed me chai, not that uncommon. What was strange was that when I returned to my lodge she was there waiting for me. At first she looked in my room and asked a few questions (in Telugu), like what my first aid kit was. Then she started talking in hushed tones and I was bamboozled. Only when she tapped me then herself and then the bed did I get the message, despite my protests she forced my hand to her breast and kept trying to push against me. Obviously I declined the offer from this small plump woman and managed to get her out my room but I couldn’t help wonder what the scam would have been.

Anyway that is just a taste of the weird and colourful Indian cycling experience so far. Yesterday I was stopped by a guy in a car who invited me to stay at his school for a few days, so here I am. I will tell you about the experience in my next post.

More photos uploaded, some take by SageĀ