Week Six Chapter - 08 ~ 14 Oct 2007 - Laos/Cambodia
Starting Location for This Week:
Pakse, Laos (Asian Continent)
Ending Location for This Week:
Phnompenh, Cambodia (Asian Continent)
Planned Mileage for this Week:
892 miles (1436 kilometers)
Welcome to Week Six of The IndoChina Expedition
What a change a border crossing can be. We had been through Vietnam and Laos, and in many ways these two countries had a lot in common. People had a lot of the same qualities and the landscape is very similar in many ways. One big difference is that Laos is landlocked.
Entering Cambodia really changed the interaction that we had with people. From being very open and forward in Vietnam and Laos, the people of Cambodia were much more reserved and quiet. We noticed this in so many ways, and one of them was that we no more had problems with people checking out our bikes by touching and trying to sit on our motorcycles. We never had felt threatened by thieves or had fears of being robbed, but it had taken some getting used to all the fingers that liked to feel and touch the bikes.
In Cambodia, we met a nation with more laid back people that seemed to care more about their own business and left a stranger alone. It was a good change, but at the same time a little more isolatioting for us strangers.
I noticed that the gasoline was all of a sudden much better quality from the previous IndoChina countries. I could now accelerate very fast with no fear of pinging in the valves. Compared to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos had more or less the same gasoline price with about $4 for each gallon. In Vietnam the price was about $3 for each gallon.
My favorite happening in Cambodia was our visit to the Crab Village or Kep, if you look at a map. We had a great crab feast in the village and came back for seconds the following day. I love crab and for this reason made a Crab Village slide show this week, I hope that you enjoy this.
As mentioned last week, I will write a little about my experience with the HP2 bike that I am riding on this journey. However if you like to learn about how I set up my bikes, the HP2 included, please check out our new 4-Hour Instructional DVD about the BMW R1200 GS.
Having had the opportunity to ride the BMW R1200 HP2 from Canada to Mexico in the fall of 2006, it was after that journey that I made up my mind that this would be my future adventure bike. Not only did I feel that for MY riding style and journeys would this be a better bike, but all of a sudden I felt like I was back to the basic of a riding partner. In many ways it was like starting over again and I was back in the saddle of my good old girl, Olga, my world-touring partner for so many years, the BMW R80G/S.
This is not a bike for people with short legs; the HP2 is a long legged girl with upside down front forks and an excellent air shock on the rear. Immediately, I felt very comfortable with the suspension on this bike. It took me a week or so before I figured out how to adjust the front fork and what pressure is good for what kind of riding on the Continental rear air suspension. When this was dialed in, I really liked how she took the bumps and curves, even with fully loaded panniers over rough terrain.
I miss having a good center stand and I have already bent the side stand after having people sit on the bike without my consent. It is not a big deal, but annoying at times when I park on uneven ground. With the modifications that I have done, I feel that I have my ideal traveling companion for years to come. I would, however, like to do some work to get a more comfortable saddle, not a big deal, but it could need some improvements.
Well this is all for now, we have more places to ride and stuff to see on this incredible journey of IndoChina.
Until next time take care.
I heard that the roads in Cambodia were going to be really bad, so I was pretty excited to get there. As it turned out, the road leading to the border post was exactly that - really bad. In fact, it was pretty much a big muddy mess until we reached the small border outpost between these two small countries Laos and Cambodia. Once we crossed the border however, the road became a smooth belt of asphalt where some serious high speed cruising was possible. What was a fun muddy mess was suddenly a high-speed band of asphalt laid down across the flat Cambodian countryside and we were instantly robbed of our sense of adventure.
Things don’t always turn out exactly as you expect, for better or for worse. A lot of times, you might remember an experience because it was far worse than you anticipated, and you end up calling it an “adventure” because of that. I once heard somebody refer to these kinds of experiences as something similar to a boot camp. “Something I’m glad I did but I never want to do again” was what they said. At any rate, what I am thinking is that our expectations of a place have a lot to do with our experience and we always have to be careful to see a place for what it is without letting our expectations tell us what to think.
The first time I heard of Cambodia was in the mid 80’s when I listened to the punk rock bad, The Dead Kennedys, sing “Holiday in Cambodia”, a song that basically said if you don’t like your middle class white American life, try living in Pol Pot’s Cambodia for awhile. At any rate, I quickly began to associate life in this small country with extreme hardships war, famine, genocide, violence, poverty, etc. The more I learned over the years, the darker it got. Cambodia was a place of black markets and trading in weapons, women and drugs. It was a final fronti er on planet earth where the civilized world came to an end and anything illicit was possible. Want to shoot a cow with a rocket-propelled grenade? Cambodia is the place. Want to ??? Well, anyway, you get the idea.
So I was very surprised when I got to Phnom Phen, the capitol and found it to be like any other capitol city in the world full of big paved streets and large buildings dedicated to commerce and finance. It wasn’t quite the lawless frontier I had imagined. And yet I wondered how much I could blame them? Who wants to live that kind of life forever? I couldn’t blame anyone who would want to get beyond the experiences that the average Cambodian has been through. Case in point - our tour guide who we interviewed outside of the Killing Fields. Four of his family members were murdered during the Khmer Rouge regime and somehow he survived. Very humbly he told us about his experience and then said that every Cambodian has the same story to tell. To me it is very humbling to think about what the Cambodian people have been through and then see how much they are trying to move forward. What else would you expect?
So my passage through Cambodia has left me feeling a little bit strange. On the one hand, I went in there hoping to experience some of the danger and darkness I expected to find, but ended up feeling a little bit disappointed when I didn’t find what I expected. And then a little bit guilty about wanting it in the first place when I saw what life is really like in this little corner of the world.
The most ironic thing of all was that our arrival to Cambodia coincided with a national religious holiday. There was a three-day festival where everyone in the country was on vacation and moving to and from the capitol. Overloaded trucks with twenty or more people on the outside of the vehicle were seen everywhere. They were either going to the countryside (if they lived in the city) or going to the city (if they lived in the countryside). Everybody was in high spirits, the temples were full of food and people were cheerful. It reallywas a holiday in Cambodia in the best way possible.
Hi from Cambodia!
We crossed the border from Laos into Cambodia with ease. This is a very remote border crossing, and it was definitely a fun GS ride there. The border station in Laos is a small hut in the woods. We breeze through and process into Cambodia, and get our visas on arrival. I was wondering what the roads in Cambodia would be like and we are greeted by a TWO-lane highway with a center stripe. We have a quick 80km run to Stung Treng. Even with the border crossing and another ferry across the Mekong we have time to do some laundry and wash the bikes.
The next day is a long hot ride to Kompong Cham, but we break it up with a stop along the Mekong. We have read about the freshwater dolphins that lIve in this stretch of the river and we want to investigate. We are in luck and hire a boat, and sure enough, find some of the Irwaddy Dolphins. There are only about 45 of these endangered animals left living. After an overnight we head for the capitol city, Phnom Penh. We have a great ride that day and the roads are very crowded as it's the first day of a three-day Buddhist festival. We take a break in Skuom as we heard they serve a local delicacy of spider. We pull over at the town center and there they are, tarantula curb service. The ladies at the roadside booths have platters piled high with deep-fried spider seasoned with garlic. Helge savors an extra large spidey after hearing they taste like crab. After we arrive in Phnom Penh we visit the Killing Field Memorial. Over 2 million people were killed in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Genocide and a social experiment gone terribly wrong.
We are headed for the coast and the crab capital of Cambodia. We arrive in Kep just before sunset and are greeted by huge Crab statue on the beach. Of course we have a crab feast that night for dinner. We order crab cooked every way they offer it at the little restaurant. The next morning we load up the bikes and head out of town, but encounter a crab market at the beach. Helge slams on the brakes and pulls over. I am worried that we may never get him to leave. After a couple hours we convince him that there is more crab down the road and we head out of town. We see our first elephant today, she was huge and just walking down the road with her 2 handlers. We make it into Sihanoukville in time to change the oil on our bikes. This is another beach town and are treated to a great sunset.
Our next destination is Siem Reap.
An IndoChina Slideshow
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Helge Pedersen Images from Laos/Cambodia, IndoChina Expedition 2007
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