Wake at 6:00am (rooster!) and with no snooze button decide to make an early start. It was a nice day for a ride, and nice to be on the bike by 7:15am. Lots of children waking to school and the commuters heading for the fields, on their farming equipment.
The road was good but the scenery fairly mundane once the below mountain range was passed. I did have a bit of an exchange with some boys on bikes. They were more confident than others I’d tried to talk English to, and we rode at the same pace for a couple of minutes chatting (me mostly chatting, them laughing), but we were able to ask each other “what’s your name?” and “where are you from?”, interestingly the latter response being “I’m from Krong Preah Vihear province”, rather than simply “Cambodia”. “How old are you?” didn’t seem to compute.
I had a great pitstop after 50kms with a welcoming family running a drinks stop store at the side of the road, a common sight. I shared photos and handed out stickers. I was going through the animals, kangaroo, koala, snake, lizard and when I got to cockatoo the mother left the table and returned with their own pet bird. Awesome. I like pet birds. I reflected on “Bill”, our families pet cockatiel, the breakfasts and other meals, the sitting in hair, the escapes. Good times. Good times.
As I’m finishing my third drink the little boy points behind me. It’s another touring cyclist! He is also staying in Sra’aem that night with plans to visit the mountain temple by tuk tuk that afternoon. He speeds off and there are vague plans to meet up later. I say goodbye to the family and jump on the bike hoping to catch him. He would have been in his mid-late forties but kept up a cracking pace. At times I would dig deep and catch a glimpse of him up ahead but that’s as close as I got. As fortune would have it, he had headed to the same stretch of guest houses where I had planned to stay (not that fortunate, only a couple of options in town!) I spotted his parked bike and checked into the same hotel. The Raksmey Sokon, fan room, wifi for $13.
I found him at the attached restaurant and we made plans to visit Prasat Preah Vihear atop the Dangkrek Mountains with great views of lowland Cambodia to one side, and Thailand to the other. $20 by tuk tuk (shared), then $5 each for a motorbike ride up the mountain. It would have been possible, and enjoyable to cycle it for free (there is no cost to see temple ruins) however in the end decided the extra day would be better spent later in my journey – along the Mekong or by a beach.
At the temple I spent some time talking to a friendly monk, Sambo, and his teacher Sokunthea. Both were monks from Angkor Wat, visiting, for the day as part of a nine minibus convoy!
Dinner that night in town and early to bed.
Today I’ve made my way to Tbeng Meanchey (known by locals as Krong Preah Vihear), a provincial capital of may be but it’s still a dust bowl of a town. I had planned to go smaller roads but I’ve learned my lesson. Possible in Thailand. Not so much in Cambodia. Instead, I went back the way I came turning east to TB rather than west to Kulean.
The hotel Ben recommended was full but I found another easily, the Sen Samneg where $10 gets you the VIP room (bigger??). Basic, but the room is set back from the street I won’t be troubled by traffic noise. I hope not by roosters either.