Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 D2 - To Areyksat & Phnom Penh Rural Backwaters

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cambodia-Vietnam / Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 / D2-To Areyksat & Phnom Penh Rural Backwaters     |     Go To: D1/D3/D4/D5/D6/D7/D8/D9/D10&D11
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Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 Day 2: To Areyksat & Phnom Penh Rural Backwaters
Cambodia & Vietnam Tour Day 2: Wednesday, 11th July 2018 - Areyksat & Silk Island
This is part of our cycling tour from Phnom Penh (ភ្នំពេញ) in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh & the Mekong Delta (VietnameseĐồng bằng Sông Cửu Long, "Nine Dragon River Delta") in Vietnam:

Cycling Distance: 34.70 km.     |     Level: Easy
Time : 8:45am to 6:00pm
Time Taken : 9 hrs. 13 mins. (including brunch, lunch, visits to the various temples, the genocide museum and the Royal Palace; several ferry rides & a tuktuk rides, and many photo opps).

This is page 2 of a 10-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1 Phnom Penh         |      Go to Other Days    |    Go to D3 Ho Chi Minh >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    In Cambodia traffic is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. Same thing applies when crossing the road, be careful and take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from! Also do watch our for motor-cyclists who ride contra-traffic.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
In Phnom Penh traffic is heavy along the main roads, try to ride along the quieter, parallel smaller roads or lanes, although one may encounter many junctions one will get to see more of the local life. At the rural areas traffic is very much lighter. There are no dedicated/shared cycling lanes; but at the Riverside, there are wide pavements to cycle on.
Do watch out for motorcyclists that ride against the traffic.

3. Navigation
    We used Google Maps in Walking Mode for navigation but there is a lag when starting off, so one would have to cycle a bit to get the orientation right. Do note that often what are shown as roads on the map may turn out to be rough gravel roads or wet, muddy tracks, especially at the rural areas.

4. Weather
     Although rain was forecasted for the period we were in Cambodia, these turn out to be mainly light drizzle. We were only caught in heavy rain once. The drizzle and rain with overcast skies did make the weather cooler and our ride more pleasant; but do note that cooler does mean that one will not get sunburnt, so do cover up or apply sun-block lotions.
    Day temperature was 32°C and night's 25°CUseful weather forecast sites for the Cambodia is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

5. Places of Interest
- Kandal Market (ផ្សារកណ្តាល, Phsar Kandal) (GPS: 11.56904, 104.92884an interesting and colourful local market near our hotel.
 - Decho Meas Decho Yat (តេជោមាស តេជោយ៉ត, Warriors Statue) (GPS: 11.56855, 104.93075) 
- The rural scene, orchards and farmland at Areyksat (អរិយក្សត្រ) (GPS: 11.56516, 104.95313)
- The ferry rides during island hopping across the Tonlé Sap River (ទន្លេទន្លេសាប) and the Mekong (មេគង្គ).
- Silk cottage industry and shop (GPS: 11.62942, 104.93627) at Koh Oknha Tei (Silk Island).
- Wat Ounalom Temple (វត្តឧណ្ណាលោម) (GPS: 11.56805, 104.92986).

6. Food
Breakfast: inclusive at hotel.
Brunch: Noodles soup at shop (GPS: 11.60198, 104.95295) in Areyksat.
Late Lunch: Steamboat hot pot at Piphop Soup (ពិភពស៊ុប) (GPS: 11.55388, 104.91791) near Toul Sleng.
Dinner: Noodles at a road-side stall (GPS: 11.56982, 104.92724) near our hotel .

7. Accommodations
   For Phnom Penh, we pre-booked on-line two 3-person rooms at MYR33 per pax per night for two nights at Angkur International Hotel (GPS: 11.56887, 104.92767)

8. Bringing Bikes Onto Ferries
    All the ferries we took allow unfolded or full size bicycles on board, there is no necessity to fold or bag them. Ferry fares was between 500 to 700 Riels per pax inclusive of bicycles.

9. Communicating with Each Other
    SMART 4G Pre-paid Traveller's sim cards can be bought for USD5/= at Phnom Penh International Airport. This has a validity of seven days comes with 2GB data, and unlimited data for Facebook, LINE, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp; and international calls from 3 cents/min. Get the vendor to set up the sim card for your phone to ensure proper connections.

10. Communicating with Locals
    The official language in Cambodia is Khmer (ភាសាខ្មែរ, phiəsaa khmae). Their words are not pronounced the way they are written, click on the Khmer words within this blog for their correct pronunciations. Most locals do not speak English. Hotels receptionist do speak some rudimentary English. The staff at Tourists information counters do speak pretty good English. Google Translate is a good app to use for basic conversation with the locals, it also have an audio feature to play the respective words/phrases.
11. Curency
      The official currency used in Cambodia is the Riels (KHR), but most locals do use the US Dollar for daily transactions. At tourist spots like the Central Market and the Russian Market (ទួលទំពូងPsar Toul Tompoung) do bargain down prices by at least fifty percent.
12. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools. As many of the roads we muddy or dusty tracks, lubricant oil will come in handy; we also brought along a couple of spare tires.

Yesterday, we had arrived at Phnom Penh, rode down from the airport to the city via its side streets, side lanes and back alleys; taking in the beat and heat of the city. Today we will go island hopping via ferries and bridges across the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers in search of the country's rural soul.


Route: Angkur International Hotel>by ferry>Areyksat>by ferry>Koh Oknha Tei (Silk Island)>Koh Dach>by ferry>Sangkat Chrouy Changva>by tuk-tuk>Toul Sleng Genocide Museum>Royal Palace>Ounalom Temple>Angkur International Hotel.
Cycling Distance: 34.70 km.     |     Level: Easy

After a good inclusive breakfast at our hotel, we walked over to the nearby Kandal Market. It's a local market where hardly any tourist visit, and what better way to get to know the locals then to see them in their daily action.
One of our first views was of this young girl, carrying an large basin full of... er... some vegetables or fruits. Her warm and sincere smile eased us into the mood of the market.

At one of the shops surrounding the market proper, a man was pruning off the leaves from sugar cane stalks and tying them up into bundles, taking a puff from his cigarette which each stroke of his knife.

The market is a wet one with stalls selling dry stuff, vegetables, meat and fishes... and even a few odd things we did not recognize. And off course there were hawkers selling juicy worm-grubs and crispy insects.
In the brouhaha and loud cacophony of the market crowd, this woman, slowly slicing beef into cube cuts, stood out. She looked like a Malay lady, dressed like a Malay and, in fact she could speak Malay. She's a Cham (ជនជាតិចាម) from the Kampong Cham Province. Her similarity to to Malaysian Malays is not coincidental; in pre-historical time, the people from Yunnan, China migrated down through central South-east Asia down to the Malay Archipelago. Next to her, a Khmer lady, dressed in a flowery yellow blouse, slowly pared of the leaves of a basil plant; she sells an assortment of salad leaves.

As we crossed the road, a trishaw man rang his bell and smiled at us happily. His lady passenger was in a haughty, pensive mood but did manage to give us a slim smile after we greeted her "Sook Sabai" (that's "How are you?" in Khmer).
The Cambodians are colourful people, they dress colourfully, and chatter away in loud colourful tones.

And here we are, undecided of where to go next, and adding our colour to the local scene 😍😍😍.

8:45 am - We are off for our adventure for the day, starting with a ride down the Riverside and passing this sculpture sitting just opposite Wat Ounalom. It's the Decho Meas Decho Yat statue, showing a couple of men on horse-back, they are Cambodian historical figures called Decho Mas and Decho Yat.

Further down, several ladies sat akimbo next to one of the many golden lion guard statues that face the river. After their morning walk, they were in a relaxed mood, and were slowly eating bowls of noodles. The hawker's tote sat quietly with the carrying yoke suspended in mid-air. On the other side of the dragon, a beggar was seeking alms. Across the river, a new hotel shoot up at the spit where the Tonlé Sap River meets the Mekong. A simple scene that quietly tells a story of the contrasting life of a developing country.

At the far end of the Riverside, at the Kg Chamlong-Areiy Ksatr Ferry Port, we boarded the first of many ferries of our island-hopping adventure. We disembarked at the ferry port near the Areyksat Community Center, on the other side of the Mekong River. Here the river is at one of it's widest stretch, at almost two kilometers wide.
Both ferry ports seems very make-shift, with earth ramps at the river banks. There is no permanent concrete dock. The ferry is like a war-landing craft, docking at the earth ramp and winching down it's metal draw-bridge for vehicles and passengers to disembark and board.

I am the tour guide for my friends again today, and was most happy to show my buddies the other face of the city. Just across the river and it's a total different landscape; no more traffic jams, no more honking cars and loud motorcycles. Just the quietness of the country.
We are not in Phnom Penh any more, as Areyksat lies within Kandal Province (កណ្ដាល).
We rode down a concrete road just after the landing dock and then turned left... oh-oh, no more tarred or concrete roads even (though on the maps roads are shown), just earthen laterite tracks; some wide enough for cars, many only suitable for two-wheeled vehicles... Yipeeeeee! Car-free!

It's a serene area where cows can languish at a grassy patch next to the river.....

..... where boys go frolicking for a dip, oblivious to the busy going-ons at the opposite bank.....

..... where little children come wave at us as we rode pass. "Never mind if I don't have trousers on, let's just give these visitors a warm hello." 😱

A young boy taking his little brother for a ride passing through a banana plantation. Areyksat is the agricultural backyard of Phnom Penh; here  fruit orchards and vegetable farms are a plentiful.

As we rode passed a cow, it turned around at Anne and gave her a serious look: "Hey! What are you doing here, it's my territory. Please pay toll, before you pass that line!" 🤣

The previous night's rain had made our morning jaunt a cooling one, but the down side was that occasionally we met muddy patches. But we are not going to let these mar our happy mood.

10:15am - We reached a T-junction. Left leads to another ferry port back to Phnom Penh, we took a right and crossed a bridge spanning across a small lake, one can hardly see the water of the lake, it's overgrown with plants., A couple of motorcyclists zoomed passed us, carrying bales of green that seems to be reed grass which will probably be used as animal feed.

Straight ahead was the Wat Svaychroum, a couple of lion statues guards its entrance. These were beautifully carved. Hmmmm.... don't think they are lions though, they have dragon heads, perhaps they are qilins.

The temple serves the local community. To it's rear is a large compound with a school, and at another side are timber housing for the monks. As we admired the temple, a procession of monks walked pass us, with sober looks, on their way out to receive morning alms from the locals. These were novice monks, young boys from the neighborhood. In some South-east Asian countries, young boys will join the local temple as samanera for at least a couple of years, some elect to stay on to become full-fledged monks.

In a contrasting mood, these young girl students were on a recess break, and were laughing away while playing games.

We waved goodbye to the girls and continued on, taking a break for lunch at a noodle stall at the Leu Village, Svay Chrum Commune community hall. While we were eating a curious local patron asked to have a wefie taken with us; proud to see that foreigners like us were keen to see his side of the country.
Not far ahead was our next destination, the Wat Prek Bongkong. Taken in by the prawn statues at the entrance, I have always stopped at this place whenever I pass by. Previously, they were painted a natural pinkish-red, now they have a golden coat. Also new Apsara statues have been put up lining up the road outside the temple.

Inside there is a Sleeping Buddha.

We were taking a photo with some boy monks when Sin came zooming in. With his bald head he looks like a monk wannabe!

On the opposite side of the road, a couple of large fish statues decorate an entrance arch. No, this is not a Fish Temple, it's the entrance to a school.

The road leads pass the school to the river side where there was another community building. My buddies here posing with fluttering Cambodian flags, seems like there are getting ready for a race.
Should we take this gravel road onwards... No! Enough of muddy tracks and jaw-shaking gravel roads, let's get back to the tarred road.

As we rode out, a colourful mother with her equally colourful smiling tot rode by us. Back on the main road, A couple of school girls, one riding pillion waved to us. It's wonderful that many of the locals get around by bicycles.

Next to the Prek Luong Temple (វត្តព្រែកលួង) I led the gang down a narrow, dark, off-road lane. They were a bit curios of this odd road, but it leads to the Prek Luong Ferry Port (កំពង់ចម្លង ព្រែកហ្លួង កោះឧកញ៉ាតី). Our timing was just right, a ferry was docked and waiting. It's a smaller ferry and is now made of steel.

Photo of the wooden ferry from a previous trip.
Previously it was a rickety, wooden one. Frankly, I prefer the wooden one, it gives a more authentic ride and gets the heart beating in tempo with the creaking noises as it sails along.

As we sailed off, cows that had made way for the ferry landing, moved back into the river. They seem to enjoy their afternoon swim in this hot weather.

With this second ferry crossing we land on Koh Oknha Tei, affectionately know as Silk Island. A lucky wrong turn had us stopping at a silk shop where a lady was on a traditional wooden weaving loom, weaving out silk.

Another lady was spinning our silk yarn from the cocoons.

They did have beautiful Cambodian silk and all of us ended up buying several nice cloth to bring back home.
My friends later joked that, I did a wrong turn on purpose so as to take them to patronise my "Cambodian family" at 
Silk Island.

Riding over a steel bridge we cross over to the narrow, southern tip of Koh Dach (កោះដាច់) and arrived for our third ferry crossing at the Kg Chamlong Ronaes Ferry Port (កំពង់ចំលង​រណែស).

Landing at ferry port near the Vearin Pagoda (ហៅវត្តព្រែកលៀប), and we are back at outskirts of Phnom Penh!
Running late we decided to to hire a couple of tuktuks to take us over to Toul Sleng, 11 km. away, at USD7/= each. The fare is much cheaper at the outskirts, within the city a short 3 km. ride around the Riverside may cost USD10/=. And here we are, with our Bromptons bicycles folded and loaded onto the tuk-tuk too! That's the advantage of a folding bike.

The Toul Sleng Genocide Museum is quite a hair-raising experience to visit, one have to steel one's heart to see the gruesome exhibits within. My buddies came out looking sombre and sad perhaps even a bit teary-eyed.
(.... read more of the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum)

Time for late lunch, and time to try something different at Piphop Soup - hot pot soup!
I like the food here and also the lady boss was very friendly, and she has seven daughters, all of them beautiful. I do hope that in my conversation with her in my faulty Khmer, that I did not unintentionally make an offer to marry one her beautiful daughters Hee... hee...

Fierce looking guards at the Royal Palace.
Our tour of the city is not over yet. Next was the Royal Palace, but when we arrived at 5:10pm the place was already closed to visitors. We just had to be satisfied with peeping through the gates to have a look and posing at a guard-house.
(.... read more of the Royal Palace)

Offering prayer thanks for a safe cycling tour.
We were more lucky at the Ounalom Temple; it was still opened. By another lucky misdirection, we ended up at the rear entrance! Fortunately they allowed us to go in, and the first building we saw was a small shrine that holds a hair of Buddha's eyebrows. Normally this shrine is not opened to visitors, but the kind monks unlocked the doors for us so that some of us could offer prayers there.

There's a huge bell at the front courtyard, and Anne had to push a large pestle to ring it three times! It rang quite loud, she's a strong girl!

Outside at the feet of a temple guard statue, these cute kittens slept quietly, unperturbed by Anne's loud ringing.
(..... read more of Ounalom Temple)

Later in the evening, we walked out for dinner at a nearby road-side stall. It was doing roaring business with many patrons continuously coming by to take away. Due to some miscommunication, we ended up with wrong orders. The operator was a friendly chap, came over to chat and also advised us to use Google Translate to make orders from his waitresses who hardly spoke English. Surprisingly, he spoke passable English.

សូមអរគុណ អ្នកជិះកង់ចាស់,
(That's saum arkoun anak chiahkng chasa, reatrei​ suostei, meaning "Thank you from the AhPek Biker & Good Night" in Khmer)

(For more photos of the dayClick Here)
This is page 2 of a 10-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1 Phnom Penh         |      Go to Other Days    |    Go to D3 Ho Chi Minh >

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cambodia-Vietnam / Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 / D2-To Areyksat & Phnom Penh Rural Backwaters     |     Go To: D1/D3/D4/D5/D6/D7/D8/D9/D10&D11
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