Current Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia (click on Where We Are, above, to see map)
Longest Daily Ride: 117.8 km from Sa Kaeo to Pong Nam Ron, Thailand
Total Distance Cycled: 7,897 km
Total Distance Cycled: 7,897 km
Snakes: Dead 25, Alive 2
"Keep your fur on Fido, or it's the wok for you," Judy the Stoker as yet another
dog takes an unnecessary interest in us.
We cycled into a nation in mourning, where television sets were broadcasting live pictures of a very dead man.
Former King Norodom Sihanouk died in October last year, and his embalmed body had been lying in state in Phnom Penh ever since. For touring cyclists though, the news is sometimes slow getting through and as we crossed into Cambodia from Thailand we had no idea what was going on - that the country was saying its final farewell before the funeral pyre was set alight.
Sihanouk was a complex figure. He negotiated his country’s independence from France in 1955 but backed the Khmer Rouge, responsible for the deaths of an estimated two million Cambodians. In later years he was seen as a peacemaker.
|During the official mourning period tv and radio stations|
were not allowed to broadcast entertainment programmes.
|Hard to find guesthouse at |
Pong Nam Ron, on the Thai
side of the border.The only
place in the town itself,
it took us an hour to find it. For
the record, it's on Highway 3193,
on the right as you head out of town.
Sihanouk was cremated in a 15-storey purpose-built crematorium alongside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
The heat hung over the land as we cycled on. There was less green and more brown and soon our water bottles were nearing empty. The differences with Thailand were striking. The houses were more dilapidated, the people more ragged, and the farm machinery more antiquated. Roadside signs showed where teams had been clearing landmines.
It’s estimated there are 40,000 amputees in Cambodia, all victims of landmines.
From time to time we could hear the live broadcast coming from the houses we passed, the same discordant music.
|There was only one show on tv, the|
funeral of Norodom Sihanouk.
|Cassava chips drying in the sun.|
|Fellow cyclists, near Battambang, Cambodia.|
In the dark we traipsed along a dirty, scruffy road to the only passable restaurant we could find. A tv in one corner was screening a rerun of the day’s funeral proceedings. An elderly woman wearing dark glasses watched intently and reached for a tissue to wipe her eyes.
The next morning an ATM threatened to swallow one of our plastic cards, then relented and spat out our US dollars. It was just as well as we couldn’t have sought help from inside the bank. A sign said it was closed for four days as a mark of respect for the Father King. Later we learned the schools were closed as well.
|Architectural influences in Banttambang.|
|Tuk tuk driver, Banttambang, Cambodia|
Some news organisations say 1.5 million people attended Sihanouk's cremation.
|The tandem being loaded for an eight hour journey on the|
Sangker River from Battambang to Siem Reap.
|Wine tasting at what must be|
Cambodia's only vineyard. We didn't
arrange to ship any bottles home.
|Boatman on the Sangker River, Cambodia|
|At a floating village, Sangker River,|