Friday, May 9, 2014

Cambodia : South Phnom Penh Recce

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                                            AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                         
Cambodia : South Phnom Penh Recce
Phnom Penh, Cambodia : 27th April 2014
Cycling Distance Covered : approx. 22 km.
Time : 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
Time Taken : 4 hrs. 30 mins. (including ferry rides, stops for drinks & photo shoots)

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 wet laterite roads and the gravel roads, don't speed as the muddy roadscan be rather slippery when wet; while the gravel roads can be rough on the bike.
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 :
- Ferry Rides & the traders at the Ferry Ports
- The Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.
Wat Phnom (cycling within the temple park is difficult as the paths are paved with rough cobblestones.


At Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh.
I like cycling in Phnom Penh, not in the city where the traffic is crazy and haphazard; but at the Riverside and outwards to the other side of the Mekong where things are more rural, more quiet and serene. Of late I am trying to do some recce rides of these rural areas, the last time I did a solo recce of the Northern outskirts. This time round I will be doing a short recce of the southern outskirts and I won't be doing it alone.

This time I will be joined by my friend Suhamie, a Malaysian resident to Phnom Penh. He's a newbie to cycling. Seeing me having fun cycling the last time I was here, he had gone out and got a foldie bike too. Hah! I have "poisoned" him into the world of cycling.

This will be just a short 21 km. stint as Suhamie is fairly new to cycling and I did  not want to stretch him. We will ride along the Riverside, take a ferry and explore the southern part of Arey-Ksat and then head back using another ferry.

8:30 am - From my hotel I rode over to meet Suhamie at his place; he was ready and raring to go.
Suhamie operates a restaurant called Cafe Malaya that expectedly serves Malay Food. If you are in Phnom Penh and miss Malaysian food, pop over to his place, they serve damn good curries.

Heading off, we were soon at the Mekong Riverside. This is a nice place to cycle on during the daytime as there is a very wide pedestrian boulevard, and one can enjoy the river scenery as one ride along. At night though it's a different story, the place will then be super crowded, making cycling difficult.

A quick photo stop in front of Wat Ounalom. Other than the Royal Palace, this is another striking landmark at the Riverside. The road at the riverside is actually call Preah Sisowath Quay.

9:10 am - At the Naga World Ferry Port, people and vehicles were rushing to get on board. Cars, trucks and vans were allowed on board first, then only motorcycles and passengers. We followed the passengers in after paying the 300 riels fare for bicycles.

The ferry will be taking us over to Arey-Ksat, the section of Phnom Penh on the other side of the Mekong. Even at this point, almost 300 km inland from the sea the Mekong is still fairly wide and it took the ferry about fifteen minutes to cross over.

At Arey-Ksat life is at a slower place; it's a rural outskirt, with villages, farms and even houses floating on the river. The people are simple and friendly.

Nearby, while their parents where busy tending to the stalls, farms, etc., the children were having fun playing simple games like jump the rope. Not much computer games here, it's all mostly natural fun.

The road leading away from the ferry port were mostly of laterite or gravel. This got me quite concerned about my Brompton tires; I prayed that they could take the rough roads and will not puncture. In future, I should change to Marathon Plus tires so as to ride on such roads with confidence.

Fortunately, ahead were one of the few tarred main roads. Suhamie is taking this riding in his stride, getting into the mood and momentum.

Arey-Ksat is the farmland of Phnom Penh growing produce, vegetable and fruits to feed the fast-growing population.

Many of these farms grow mangoes and lemon-grass, both of which are used in almost all of the Cambodians' cooking. Here a motor-cycle cart is loaded with harvested and cut lemon-grass to be transported via the ferries to the city.

9:55 am -  The weather was getting hotter, it's time for us to stop for drinks and to top up petrol for our bikes. Hah! Just pulling your legs, this is more to show that petrol here is sold by the bottles.
While I was fooling around, Suhamie was on more serious business. He was asking the shop owner to recommend workers for his restaurant; seems with the booming economy, good help is not easy to find and the good workers are from the rural area.

Ahead a wedding ceremony was in progress at a house decorated with colourful buntings.
Without a GPS as to guide us and afraid of getting lost, slightly beyond this point we decided to turn back. Now studying the maps, we could have proceeded slightly south and be at another ferry terminal and explore more of the southern region. So a point to note for future, subscribe to one of those local lines with data plans and one could use Apps like "MapMyRide" to track one's ride and boldly go explore!

It's almost lunch time, and the monks in their saffron coloured robes are doing their rounds to receive alms. These monks look young; many Cambodian youths are encouraged to join the monk-hood, even if it's on a temporary stint of two years. This hopefully will instil strong Buddhist values into them.

I particularly like this photo that shows two monks in bright orange saffron robes carrying bright yellow umbrellas. In front they are toting urns to receive alms, in this instance food.

The devout locals line the front of their houses waiting for these monks, ready to offer alms. It is this practice of dharma that one hopes to attain good karma.

We have gone way past the ferry port that we arrived from; and are instead heading for another one further north, the Svay Chrum Ferry Port. Road improvements are going on here, soon there will be more proper roads. Hopefully this will not spoil the serene rustic beauty of the place.

On the road leading to the ferry port, it's back to dusty laterite roads again.

The port is a minor hive of acitvities. Lady traders can be seen peddling their wares like lotus seeds in their bulbs. On the right most is a basket of eggs, the notable Cambodian delicacy locally called Pong Ti Kone (meaning duck egg with fertilized embryo inside). Ughh... up to trying this?

And here comes the ferry, more packed than earlier; even the loading ramps are full of motorcycles.

On board the ferry, a young girl was leading a blind man begging for alms. I gave some money hoping that it will gain me some good karma. Oh dear! That's not a very pure thought. One should give without a thought of receiving; good karma will come if it comes, irrespective.

The ferry took us to Sangkat Chrouy Changva, a small peninsular that sticks out to divide the Tonle Sap River and Mekong River just before their confluence.

It's a market area that we have landed on. We passed this stall that sells steamed ground-nuts and steamed clams as tit-bits; does these two go well together? One will never know until one have tried.

We left the peninsular vie the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, and it was back to the heavy traffic of the city again.

At Wat Phnom, I could not help but pose for another photo to show my friends back home.

Back at Suhmie's place, the missus had prepared some nice fried keow teow for us. Wonderful!
What was more wonderful is that Suhamie has been bitten by the cycling bug, asking me when I will be back to cycle in Phnom Penh again! He could ride alone, but it's always more fun to ride with friends. So what's next? A recce of the Mekong Islands or perhaps a recce further north or south? The next time it will with a GPS to guide us along.
We shall see.

Till then, my friends:

Related Blogs :

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

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