Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cambodia : North Phnom Penh Recce

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Cambodia : North Phnom Penh Recce
At Wat Phnom park.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia : 7th December 2013
Cycling Distance Covered : approx. 35km.
Time : 10:35 am - 3:15 pm
Time Taken : 4 hrs. 50 mins. (including ferry ride, stops for rests, photo shoots, and visiting temples)

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. Do take care when cycling along the muddy paths, don't speed as they can be rather slippery when wet.
3. What is seen as roads on maps at the outlying areas of Phnom Penh are in fact laterite tracks only.
5. Points of interests :
- The "Prawn" Temple.
- Ferry Ride.
- The Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.
Wat Phnom (cycling within the temple park is difficult as the paths are paved with rough cobblestones.

I have been doing a fair bit of cycling in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I have followed friends cycling to islands in the Mekong River (... see blog), and on a longer trek to the Oudong Temple (... see blog). Previously, I have also done some cycling by myself but these were short rides to familiar places (... see Pedaling Phnom Penh : Diamond Island blog). Feeling more confident about riding here, I am going to try a solo ride to, this time to carry out a recce of the northern Phnom Penh area; to the north-west where there are some lakes. But things never turned out as planned, and I got diverted .....

Cambodia : North Phnom Penh Cycling Recce Map (click for Map Link)
The ride route : - Monivong Blvd>Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge>Ferry Ride>Prawn Temple>Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge>Wat Phnom>Riverside>Monivong Blvd
From Monivong Boulevard, I tried to head to the north-west lake district but got diverted. Instead I went to the north-east and scouted around that area.

Starting from Diamond Hotel, I pedalled northwards along Monivong Boulevard. Traffic was fairly heavy, with cars, tuk-tuks and motorcycles squeezing here and there trying to weave through the slow traffic especially at the traffic lights. A difficulty I face is that many motor-cyclists tend to go against the traffic, and I had to watch out for them to ride safe.
On the way, I stopped by Cafe Malaya to have a quick chat with a friend before continuing further. This place is where I come to eat whenever I miss Malaysian food while in Phnom Penh.

Heading further north, I hit the big round-a-bout near the old stadium. The traffic was getting heavier and seems rather chaotic, but the locals seems used to it; stopping, horning and squeezing their way through irrespective of whatever they were driving or riding.
I don't like to ride in such heavy moving traffic conditions, nevertheless I proceeded on and took a left towards Road 70.

At the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.
Gosh! Traffic at Road 70 was also as heavy! Seeing that in that direction onwards the traffic situation would not be safe to cycle, I decided to turn around and divert the recce - heading east instead. I decided to cross over via the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge over to the other side of the mainland, hoping that over there light traffic would make cycling more pleasurable.

From the bridge, a downstream view of the Tonle Sap River, at the far end it merges with the Mekong River.

Crossing the bridge led to the Chroy Changva peninsular, except for a couple of main roads, the traffic here was much, much lighter.... and I look forward to some pleasant riding.
Over here, I was pleasantly surprised to find a building with some elements of Japanese architecture and this reminded me of my recent cycling trip in Japan (... see blog). This building is the Norton University, seems like there is more Japanese influence in Cambodia than just the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.

At this peninsular I did a bit of exploration and at the other side saw these water intake stations. These are pumping station, taking in water from the Mekong and send it to a purification plant on the other side of the road. This must be one of the sources of drinking water for the city.

From here I espied a vehicular ferry crossing the river. Hey! There must be a ferry terminal nearby, and off I went towards that direction.

There was a long queue to board the very. Fortunately, I was riding a bicycle and managed to make my way to the front to board the next ferry. In the ferry itself, it was such a tight squeeze that  one can hardly walk in between the vehicles! The fare for the ferry ride was 300 riels for bicycles.

On the other side of the river, the disembarkation point was the Sway Chum Ferry Port, with a laterite slope road leading away.
Saw this lady, still in her pajamas cycling with two dogs, disembarking the ferry too. Wow! she really took her dogs on a good ride.

Moving on, I crossed a short bridge spanning over a small lake, I wonder which island in the Mekong am I on. Without a GPS unit, I was not able to tell. Ahead the laterite road continued on; I was a bit concerned about riding my Brompton on these laterite roads but decided to press on to see what lies ahead.

Thank goodness! Ahead was a proper road. Right at this junction was a couple of elephant statues and opposite it a small temple. There were no signboard stating that the ferry port was here, and without a GPS unit, I had to use these visual points of landmarks on my return trip.

Travelling on this road, I passed by rural houses. But I have seen all these before in my earlier cycling treks in Phnom Penh, missing were there children as it was now late morning. I did pass by a cheerful pink shed with green buntings, this was erected for a forthcoming wedding celebration. When in Cambodia, do not be mistaken that all such brightly coloured sheds are for weddings, some are for funerals. Just look out for bunting that are of blue, white or black colour.

Stopped for coconut water refresher.
I was getting bored; sure I passed by many temples - which made me believe that the Cambodians are very religious people as almost every other two kilometres I passed a temple. But I have seen many Cambodian temples before..... until...

... I saw this temple with a couple of prawn statues at it's entrance.

Interesting... a temple dedicated to prawns. It must have been erected by local fishermen whose livelihood is from prawn fishing. This reminded me of the Crab Temple I saw at Pulau Ketam during another ride (... see Pulau Ketam Ride blog). The giant prawn statues at it's entrance were well crafted and look so realistic.

So too were the ornate carving of nagas at the top of the entrance arch. And inside the temple itself, I would even be more impressed.

These are what I saw inside:
A 20 metre long Sleeping Buddha.

A peacock statue?

Man sitting on a Cambodian dragon statue.

A lady sitting on a rabbit next to an elephant, at the back is the residence of the monks.

What statue is this? It looks like a mixed of a Chinese Qiling and an elephant. Perhaps some Cambodian can enlighten me.

Olden days Cambodian warriors battling.

Elaborate painting of Buddha's life on the ceiling of main hall of the temple. The visit to this temple along was worth my cycling over here.

Further on, I took a rest at the banks of the Mekong River, wondering which island I was on?

I turned into one of the branch roads leading into more villages, but fearing of getting lost, I went back to the main road and continued on hoping to hit the northern tip of this island. But after a while, and still not reaching the northern coast, I decided to turn back. (Little did I know then that I was not an island but on the other side of the mainland, I would have continue riding on without reaching "a northern coast".

On the return ferry trip, it was packed as usual. Even the landing ramps where full of motorcycles and people.

Back on the city-side of the mainland, avoiding the busy Monivong Boulevard by using the secondary roads, I rode over to Wat Phnom. This is one of the oldest temple in Phnom Penh, built in 1373 it is almost 800 years old.
The interesting thing about this temple is that the stupa seems to have some elements of Burmese design. In the park around the temple, is a realistic statue of a cobra that is made from rattan! This cobra statue encircles partway of  a giant clock. Note: the cobble stones make it difficult to cycle in this park, and for most of my visit here I had to carry my bicycle.... pant... pant!

Tandem bicycle with third bicycle attachment.
Still avoiding main roads, I went via the riverside road and stopped by to to say a quick hello to my friends at Grasshopper Adventures before returning to my hotel.

Related Blogs :

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

You may also like:

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