Friday, August 30, 2013

Cambodia : Pedaling Phnom Penh - Mekong Islands Pt.2

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Cambodia : Pedaling Phnom Penh - The Mekong Islands Pt.2
Phnom Penh, Cambodia : 24th August 2013
Small Group Ride - Riverside>Arey Ksat>Okgnar Tei Island>Dach Island>Sangkat Chrouy Changva>Wat Phnom>Riverside.
Cycling Distance Covered : approx. 30 km.
Time : 7:55 am - 2:00 pm
Time Taken : 6 hrs. 5 mins. (including stops at a silk farm, a Khmer temple, a Chinese Temple, lunch, photo shoots, 3 ferry rides; and enjoying the rustic country side & villages)

Route Recommendations :
1. For those who come from right-hand drive countries, bear in mind that in Cambodia vehicles are left-hand drive. So do take the extra care to ride on the correct side. When crossing roads, do bear this in mind, as vehicles will be coming in from the "wrong" direction.
2. Even then, many motorist, especially motor cyclists, take the easy way out & will go on the wrong side - do watch out for these especially when at junctions.
3. Check-in your bike as sports equipment and do packed it properly to protect it (... see Bagging The Brompton For Air Travel). Some airlines may require, bicycles to be checked in as over-sized baggage.
4. Do take care when cycling along the muddy paths, don't speed as they can be rather slippery.
5. Points of interests :
- Friendly children on the islands.
- The Khmer & Chinese temples.
- The ferry rides, especially the one on the smaller ferry.

This is Part 2 of a 2 part blog, click on following to go to other pages :
Cambodia : Pedaling Phnom Penh - The Mekong Islands Pt.1


PRELUDE

In Part 1, we had taken a ferry over to the other side of the mainland where we rode pass farms, orchard and villages. The children there were most happy to see us, waving us by and even High-Fiving us. After a visit to a silk farm, the rain & strong winds came as the second ferry approached. At that point, I was figuring out whether I should board that rickety ferry and sail into the choppy waters of the fast-flowing Mekong; or should I chicken out?


THE RIDE PART 2 - THE ISLANDS

Pedaling Phnom Penh - The Mekong Islands Ride Map (click for Map Link)
The ride route : Riverside>Arey Ksat>Okgnar Tei Island>Dach Island>Sangkat Chrouy Changva>Wat Phnom>Riverside.
Our ride will include three ferry rides and a crossing of a bridge. Taking a ferry we will cross over to Areyksat on the mainland, then another ferry over to Koh Okgnar Tei. We will then cross a bridge over to Ko Dach (Silk Island) and take another ferry back to the mainland.


As the ferry got ready to land on the small, muddy cove; I noticed that it was indeed a small craft with a wooden ramp for boarding.
Well, since we are here, we might as well board. I steeled my heart and prayed that the following day's headlines won't read "Malaysian cyclist in capsized river ferry!"


Quickly, we pushed our bikes on board and ran for the little sheltered section. Amoum had rushed off to get some raincoats for us just before we boarded.
The rain and wind were strong, billowing Sandy's raincoat and hair; well it's part of our little adventure.


After a while, the rain abated and the winds calmed. Here's Sandy standing with Amoum on the narrow edge of the ferry's hull. Seems like she is much braver than this old man.


Okay, okay... I am not such a boring fellow; here I am having a bit of fun - joy jumping but safely in the middle of the ferry.


LANDFALL!
Eric, all smiles, riding onto Okngar Tei Island.


We are back riding onto tracks (but after the rain, they are now wet and muddy) heading for the Khmer temple on the ride - the Wat Pek.


The Wat Pek is a small temple, but it offers a haven to the children of this island. The poorer children are taken in by the temple, to live there and be schooled too. And if they hear the calling then they too can become monks. It is a privileged blessing for a Khmer family to have their children becoming monks.


Inside, amid colorful wall and ceiling murals, the monks were having their simple lunch.


There are really many colorful murals on the walls and ceiling, they tell the story of the Lord Buddha from his birth to attaining Nirvana.


We rode off from the temple through two of the temple arches ...


... and rode along nice tree-lined concrete roads.


Alas! Our easy cycling on good roads were short-lived. We are back off-road again, cycling across a grassy, green field; it was not easy cycling through the wet, and puddled filled field.


A bit of slow maneuvering across mud-filled tracks were required - well one can either ride through the squishy mud or side track onto the edge grass. But who know what will be in the grass?

  The islanders, such as this family, may be poor but they did not let their poverty deter their happiness.

We left Okngar Tei Island through a steel bridge and headed for Koh Dach.

A view of Phnom Penh City skyline from the mid-span of the bridge.

It would have been nice to cycle around Koh Dach  it's one of the larger islands in the Mekong. But we just skimmed the southern end of Koh Dach and reached the ferry dock of Kampong Chamlong Ronaes. There I met some friendly Malaysian girls, Peh Fen & Sook Yee, riding on a modern-looking, cute red tuk-tuk. Together all of us boarded the ferry that will take us back to the mainland.


Disembarking at the Koh Dach Ferry Dock on the mainland, we cycled along the coastal roads of the Sangkat Chrouy Changva peninsular. Here there is some boat-building industry that supports the Phnom Penh Port on the opposite side of the Tonle Sap River.


The people here seems to be a poorer lot with some of them living on board house-boats and many in shanty huts.

We reached our next destination, a Chinese temple, where two tuk-tuks were waiting for us. Amoum mentioned that we will be continuing part of our journey on these tuk-tuks as the roads ahead will be busy with heavy traffic. With some spare time, we did a mini tour of the temple.

Yes, there are a few Chinese temples in Phnom Penh, they serve the minority Chinese population who are mostly Teochews and Cantonese.
This temple looks rather new, it's not even indicated on Google Maps.


It has a small and nice pavilion.


And an even nicer pagoda.


A couple of green dragons guards its stepped entrance from the Mekong River.


In the meantime our bicycles had been tied to the tuk-tuks and we are ready to continue on.


The tuk-tuks took us along the quieter roads on the outskirts, then across the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge. We avoided the busy Sisowath Quay area near the inland port and instead took the quieter Street 47. Come to think of it, other than at the bridge, traffic wasn't that heavy; I guess the tuk-tuk ride was just part of the tour experience.


Clockwise from bottom left - Sweet & Sour Fish, Stir-fried Morning Glory, Egg Plant With Minced Pork & Stir-fried Beef.
We were dropped off at 99 Restaurant, which coincidentally is on Street 98. Here we had lunch; probably most of the vegetables used for our meal were from the farms that we had passed by during our ride.


The mainstay of the meal was the Salor (Cambodian Soup) made from peas, vegetables and fish... YummY!


CHEERS!
The Mekong Islands - an interesting mini-adventure of riding through orchards, farms, onto ferries & bridges, and most important of all - meeting the warm & friendly islanders.
After the nice eats, we rode a short distance back to Grasshopper's shop.

LI HAI!
(That's Goodbye in Cambodian)

This is Part 2 of a 2 part blog, click on following to go to other pages :

Related Blogs :

Cambodia : Phnom Penh Museums : December 2012
A surprisingly educational visit to the National Museum of Cambodia.


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