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2014 MARCH CAMBODIA - WE EXTEND OUR STAY IN PHNOM PENH.

Hotel is comfortable and we are not yet ready to move on, another day in the capital. A pleasant bicycle ride in the countryside turned into a heart stopper as we had to dance with the traffic coming back into town.

TUESDAY 11TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 192)

Of course we had breakfast at Feel Good Cafe and hung around for an extra couple of hours - just lingering, chatting with owner.
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There seems to be some kind of celebration day today as all the tuk tuk drivers outside our hotel are sitting in their vehicles drinking beers. Love it when one of these guys comes up to me and asks with beer in hand 'you want tuk tuk?'
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Today we are going to be a little more active than usual and hire some bicycles and go for a bit of a ride around. Well 3 of us are anyway, Dolly is using the excuse that she has to go back to the Thai Embassy to collect her passport, but we all know she has no intention of ever getting on a bicycle. By the end of the day we may just applaud her wise decision.

We walk the short distance to the river front to a travel agent that hires bicycles. We passed it the other night and took mental note of the location and since we did not see any other places that had hire bikes this was the one. The bikes looked good enough and we were quoted a price of US$4 each, however since we were taking 3 bikes the price was reduced to US$3 per bike. Cheap enough for a couple of hours recreation.
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While at the travel agency we priced bus tickets for tomorrows destination and they were US$4 cheaper than the price quoted by our hotel so we bought them there and then. This means we will definitely be leaving here tomorrow.

I guess starting out on a bike ride at 1pm in the afternoon is not the smartest thing to do as it was pretty hot, but really it's pretty hot here for most of the day and we'd had a nice leisurely morning.

Traffic here on the river side road was chaotic as usual, so we started our ride on the very wide cement board walk. There were not many people around so ride the bikes on this area was not a worry. We followed it along the river as far as it went and then had to ride a short way on the busy road before turning off down a street that led down to the river where there was a vehicular ferry that travelled to the other side of the river. This is where we wanted to go - to the other side of the river - away from the city and traffic. We were stopped at the gate and paid the 500 riel = 12c fare each. Small price to pay to take us and our bike across the river which took about 15 minutes to motor across to the other side. The Tonle Sap (River Sap) and the Mekong River meet here so it was quite a wide crossing.
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On the other side we rode off (or more like pushed bikes off, because there was a steep hill) the ferry into a little village with a rocky, dusty road. With no idea which direction to go we just more or less rode in any direction and had nice ride on a dirt track that run parallel to the river that we could glimpse every now and then through vacant land lots. Here there was a mixture of local housing, wooding houses on high stilts, and very expensive looking mansions, with high barbed wire security fences. These houses seemed to be happily living side by side.

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Riding past rice and crop fields, every second dwelling seemed to have a big white beast of the cattle variety tied up to a tree in the front yard. These were obviously animals used with cultivation but the ones we saw were being watered and fed at moment.

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Yes it was pretty hot riding and we stopped a few times for water drinking breaks. Lyn spotted a sign for a hotel that offered a pool and we rode towards it hoping we would be allowed to cool off in their pool if we had lunch there. We found the hotel and the pool looked beautiful and very inviting. We ordered lunch off the menu and although the prices were a little higher than normal we were happy to pay if we could use the pool. I asked the waitress if we could use the pool and she advised we would still have to pay a US$5 fee to use the pool, even if we had an overpriced lunch. Yeah, right, not us, US$5 to use the pool was a rip off and we cancelled lunch and rode off. Sure we were hot and the pool would have been glorious but we were not about to be ripped off. Robyn thinks they heard us say we had to swim in our underwear because we did not have swimmers on (except for Lyn) so they were making us pay in the hope we would not strip off. Well their bluff worked and we just wet out singlets under a tap and hit the dusty road again.
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Pedalled back to a different vehicular ferry that crossed only the Mekong side of the river and deposited us in the bit of land between the two rivers. This one was only 300 riel = 7c each and after they packed the barge to capacity with cars, tuk tuks, motor bikes, pedestrians and us it took less than 10 minutes to reach the other side. We would just have to ride across the peninsular and over the bridge and we would be back in Phnom Penh town.
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Again a steep climb off the ferry and we were met by market stalls. It was after 3pm and a good time to start to look for something to eat for lunch. A little up the street I saw a women at a street stall with a charcoal bbq cooking something on a stick. After identifying the meat, making sure it was not some kind of offal we took the chance and ordered some skewers of beef? and a fresh baguette each. The stall next door was selling fresh coconuts which were kept in the fridge so we ordered 3 of those also. All this was managed without the shop keepers being able to speak or understand a word of English. There was a guy sitting next door that did help us out a bit but most of it we managed with a bit of sign language and a lot of smiling. The coconut milk was cold and soooooo refreshing - absolutely yummy and they cost 3000 riel = 75c each. The skewers were a bit touch and go - fat, gristle and a little meat but at 4000 riel =US$1 for 3 sticks and a baguette it was a pretty cheap meal.
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After lunch we rode the long way to the bridge, which was only about a 2km detour. Chruony Changvar Bridge (Japanese Friendship Bridge) built from grant aid from the people of Japan as a token of friendship and cooperation between Japan and the Kingdom of Cambodia - 2005.
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So this is where the bike ride got a little hectic and manic. The traffic on the bridge was full on, 4 lanes of car, bus and truck traffic and a narrow bike lane that was used by the hundreds of motor bikes going up and over the bridge. To top it off it was a slightly steep climb to the top of the bridge. I managed to ride it to the top, getting beeped at by motor bikes trying to pass which also trying to stay upright and avoid big gaps in the paved pathway. Lyn gave up half way up the incline, having trouble with her bike seat not being very compatible with her bum, and Robyn started pushing the bike from the bottom fearing a collapse halfway up and being run over or causing a pile up. But this traffic was nothing, there was worse to come.

We glided down the other side of the bridge, downhill along the walkway keeping clear of the motor bikes and as there were no pedestrians this was no problem. At the bottom of the bridge we had to join the traffic and this was where it became a little frightening. We just had to blend and weave and try not to get killed alongside the other traffic on a huge round about. It was mighty scary as we were the lowest form of vehicle in the mix which meant we received the least respect and were expected to give way to all and sundry. But, if we did not push through the traffic and go forward we would still be sitting there on the bikes trying to get somewhere. Certainly stuff to get your heart starting, but really very dangerous cause one slip and it could be the end.

Thankfully we made it back to the travel agency without any incident or accident and with relief handed back the bicycles. It was just after 5pm - so we had only been out 4 hours - plenty!!

We had an appointment for massages at 5, and were running a little late. A short walk got us there and we were told Dolly had been there but had just left to go back to the hotel. This was very odd that she did not wait around for us, especially since she left an almost full glass of beer behind.
We waited around until 6pm thinking Dolly would return, but when she did not we just went ahead with the massage. It felt deserved even after just a short ride.

The massage was heaven US$8 for an hour and we felt much better after it. Hopefully it will avoid any muscle soreness tomorrow. It had been a few months since Lyn and I had been on the bikes and today was a nice reminder of our earlier travels.

Finally met up with Dolly for dinner where we heard her abrupt disappearance had something to do with a toilet emergency - no further explanation necessary. I had a great dinner of Amok fish, the food is so much better when we go for local cuisine, instead of try hard western dishes - well I think so anyway.
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On the way back to our hotel, we stopped for US$2 cocktails (as we do) to celebrate our time spent in Phnom Penh.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:43 Archived in Cambodia

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