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Published: December 14th 2017
Started the day riding from the hotel 30 kms to the Cambodian border. One of the prettiest rides to date with a levee road running along a canal with both side lined by humble stilt houses & alive with the every day activities of village life.
The houses were ramshackle, made from anything available like rusty tin, plastic, canvas, tree branches but with an obvious pride, swept clean & decorated with colourful pot plants. Ironically many also had satellite dishes.
The Border crossing was quite but still slow & bureaucratic, but not so for locals who seemed to be loaded up with produce or goods & continue straight past quarantine & immigration.
Once through we picked up our new bikes & a new local crew for a short ride to lunch. After lunch we did another 25 kms before a 3 hr drive & 3 night stay in Phnom Penh at the Cardamom Hotel.
The sudden change in landscape from lush to dusty and bumpy roads was incredible. Near Phnom Penh we came across the incredible sight of thousands of women standing in the back of trucks returning to their villages after a change of shift at
huge garment and footwear factories.
First impressions of Phnom Penh are a modern, visually appealing city with a vibrant atmosphere amid the chaotic traffic. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda sit fronting a wide promenade that runs beside the confluence of 4 rivers that merge with the Mekong opposite the palace with a grid pattern of streets working back from the river.
Next day we took a small ferry ride to Kuh Dach island for a leisurely 20 km morning ride around the isle stopping at a village silk weaving artisans workshop with a free afternoon. Dinner was overlooking the promenade to take in the atmosphere with a long walk home.
Our final day in Phnom Penh was a riding free day starting with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda where the latter is so named due to the whole floor covered by over 5000 silver tiles each weighing 1.5 kgs. The rest of the morning was a sombre but important lesson in trying to understand Cambodia’s tragic past. First stop was was the Choeung Ek Memorial, a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls exhumed from the infamous Killing Fields followed by
the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former Khmer Rouge torture centre. No photo's required as these places leave a more vivid image than what any photo could.
While each of us has some knowledge of the Pol Pot regime I think most of us don't realise the extent off the extreme cruelty & the staggering death toll through outright slaughter, starvation or missing where the population declined from 9 mill to 4 mil in 4 years between 1975/9.
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