Hobbes (kitling) wrote,
Hobbes
kitling

Travel Diary - Cambodia Day 4

There was a group called Grasshopper Adventures that does a range of cycling tours throughout Asia. I can't say enough good things about these people, we ended up doing three tours with them and would happily do more. We decided to start with an easy one to see what we thought and if their bikes were any good. We opted for a 25km kilometre ‘country village ride’. This was an easy ride that saw us leave Siem Reap and cycle around some nearby villages.



The group size was seven people, one of which was an older larger lady who didn’t usually cycle and wasn’t great on a bike. She spent nearly the whole trip whining about how hard it was, how sore she was, how sandy the roads were and fell off her bike at least once. As we were constrained by the pace of our slowest rider, our pace ended up being very slow. Then she went on and on about how she had arthritic knees and was getting over cancer. She did however take some advice on using her gears properly and was quite excited at the end that she had managed to cycle 25km, so we congratulated her on her achievement.

While I’ll applaud her making the effort, and I know how patient Adam has been with me, I still boggle at people signing up for tours when they don’t know if they are physically capable of them. It is really frustrating for the rest of us who have to listen to the whining and complaining and put up with the slow pace. If you aren’t confident of your abilities, maybe book a private tour instead.

The ride itself was pretty good, the guides English was very good. The roads were a mix of paved roads, dirt roads and little more than cattle tracks. The mountain bikes were quite good quality bikes, which was good because the roads were not good quality. We had to get out of the way for herds of cows and water buffalos a few times.

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We rode through the front yard of one family who were busy slaughtering a water buffalo, I looked away. We headed into their rear paddocks and were shown rice paddies and crops of chillis and greens. While parts of the country don’t have electricity, there is no shortage of mobile towers, you can get phone reception everywhere, but no 3G.

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We stopped in a little village and wandered through a local market place. The contrast with Preston market lies mainly in the use of electricity and cold cabinets for the meat. Stall after stall of fresh vegetables, eggs, fish and cuts of meat. The other difference was the variety of meat available. I haven’t seen snake for sale at Preston. Everything was in a cramped tin shed full of people. Tables to one side, with each table selling something different to eat. This was a market for locals, not tourists. It was easy to tell the difference, no tourist trinkets, just the practicalities of every day life, no exhortations to please look and please buy. Unlike in Siem Reap, we were basically ignored by the locals, although you could tell some people were wondering why tourists would pay money to ride bikes, bikes are essential transport, not a leisure activity.

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We stopped for a snack called a ‘bullfrog’, a kind of hollow puffed bread thingy, deep fried and covered in sesame seeds. Then it was back on the bikes.

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The next water stop was a private home. I should explain that many of the shops are private homes with a ‘stall’ out the front. There was one very popular stall type which I started calling the local equivilent of the 7/11. They sold cigarettes, drinks, some snacks and petrol. Petrol was generally sold in a range of empty reused plastic bottles and utilised for filling up motorbikes. Drinks were in an esky to be kept cold.

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The houses are generally built on stilts with large covered areas around them. Due to the heat, most of the living and activity takes place underneath the house, in the open air. Hammocks are commonly utilised by all ages.

This family was pretty well off by Cambodian standards. These next two photos are taken in what is basically the living area. They have a computer for balancing the accounts.

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They are rich enough to be able to afford a motorbike.

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And they owned a crocodile farm. We were led out to the rear yard to see the cages containing the baby crocs and the tanks containing the adult crocs. The crocs are sold both for leather and meat.

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There was then a stretch of ride past huge rice paddies and back into Siem Reap, where thirsty riders were given coconuts to drink. We enjoyed the ride enough to sign up for the 75km ride the next day.

We returned to the resort to enjoy a traditional Khmer massage. You are given loose clothing to wear and the massage focuses on a combination of pressure points and stretching. It was incredibly effective.

That evening we headed of to see Thare: Cambodian Circus. This is part of a large project, I think run by a French group to train Cambodian children for careers in the arts, they teach music, circus and art. This is thoroughly modern circus and you can strongly see the influence of things like Cirque du Soliel, although without the big budget, exquisite costumes and makeup. The acrobatics were extremely well done, the storyline was well conceived, the music was great and everything flowed together well. I’ve also never seen someone do diablo tricks with one string and two diablos before.

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