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Published: January 29th 2015
Rural home outside Siem Reap
Monday morning and I'm cycling again but this time on a 4 hour countryside tour with Grasshopper Adventures. This ride was 30klm long and took us off the beaten track and through the villages and rice paddies around Siem Reap.
There were only three of us on this ride, as well as Thy, our guide for the morning. We left Siem Reap at 7.30am
, riding good mountain bikes and wearing decent helmets. The roads were little more than local tracks, one way and single file. It was an enjoyable outing even though I'm no stranger to rural Cambodia. I enjoyed tasting deep fried rice patties at a local market, snapping a few photos, and calling out 'hello' in response to greetings from the kids. We arrived back in Siem Reap at 11.30 and were presented with a coconut and straw so we could enjoy a fresh coconut milk drink before heading our separate ways.
I have decided it's time to move on from Siem Reap for a few days. Nothing is happening with Hand in Heart and I feel I'm biding (read wasting) my time here until a friend arrives from Australia on the 12th
February. I have activities planned and
places to visit then, but for now, I need to stop allowing the days to slip by and get moving!
So, after some internet and Lonely Planet browsing I have decided to take a bus further north to Stung Treng province. The provincial capital is also named Stung Treng and is an important trade hub with a few hints of Lao influence scattered about, owing to the fact that the Laos border is only 50 km away. It's a quiet country town situated close to the confluence of the San and Mekong Rivers. From here I hope to see the Irrawaddy dolphins at Pheah Rumkel or possibly further on at Kratie. No concrete plans at the moment, I'll decide on my next move when I get there.
So, with bus ticket in hand, which cost $17, preparations are underway to leave tomorrow. Not a lot to do, but I do need to change some money into smaller denominations and purchase another electrical adaptor. Cambodia has three different types of wall plugs, I'm missing one, and don't want to be caught out. Wednesday morning
I'm waiting at the front of Horizons for my 7.30am
pick-up. A moto eventually arrived
Woman with water buffalo walking through village
just before 8, the driver grabbed my backpack and placed it between his knees whilst I clamoured on the back. A fast ride with brakes screeching at every corner, got me to the departure point in record time. After a quick briefing, we all pile into the mini van and we're underway, only 20 minutes late. The van was air conditioned, the driver sane, and we got to Stung Treng about five hours later. There was a 20 minute stop in Preah Vihear City enroute.
For the entire trip we were driving through a dust bowl - parched countryside, some of it burnt out, and tumble down villages baking under a layer of dust. Stung Treng was no better, with many of the main streets still gravel, it too was strewn with litter and covered in dust. The biggest surprise was the new bridge spanning the Mekong River. It has not long been finished and has cut four hours off the trip from Siem Reap.
The van pulled up outside the Riverside Guesthouse and I pulled my backpack on and headed 500m down the road
to my accomodation, Le Tonle Tourism Training Centre. This small guesthouse, with only four rooms, doubles as a
Crocodiles at the Crocodile Farm outside Siem Reap.
hospitality training centre, to help underprivileged locals gain employment in the tourist sector.
The accomodation is basic, with shared facilities. A huge bed dominates my room - a makeshift four poster with a mosquito net hanging above. There is a fan and screens, but no air conditioning, and I have great river views. All this for $6 per night, extra for meals, which need to be ordered in advance. In all my stay here cost me $14.50, for a night's accomodation, 2 meals and a beer!
I was planning on organising a tour in Stung Treng to see the Irrawaddy dolphins from Preah Rumkel, but apparently it's not that easy. Preah Rumkel is still around 70/100klm away, depending on your transport method. That's 70klm on a moto over rough roads, or 100klm via the river in a very noisy longboat. So I have decided to move on in the morning to Banlung in the neighbouring provence of Ratanakiri, and see the dolphins when I reach Kratie. I have organised another bus ticket ($7) through X-plore Asia Travel and am leaving at 1.00pm tomorrow. Still a morning to kill, but I'll spend in somewhere with a decent wifi connection
Rice paddies and palm trees
and catch up online.
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