23rd to 27th November

Saturday 23 November

We had a nice, long night, to rest from yesterday’s emotions. We go to take breakfast in the small restaurant nearby, rice with meat. Today, Phavy takes us around the city by car. We first drive around to find a place to sew the flags we bought in Bangkok on our front bags. It’s pretty hard to find a shop that accepts to sew. While it is being done, we go to visit the Toul Sleng genocide museum. Originally, this building was a school. When the Khmers Rouges were in power in Phnom Penh, it has become one of the many jails used by the government, to place arrested people and get confessions from them, using torture if needed. It was a secret place, under the codename S21. Once having confessed, these prisoners would be judged as conspirating against Pol Pot, traitor to the country, and so would be killed. During the four years, around 20000 people passed through S21, and only 7 survived. We visited the cells for the VIP prisoners, and also the cells for the more common prisoners. It’s impressive to see the bareness of the rooms! For important prisoners, one metallic bed frame, a metallic box, a plate and a place to pee. And for the others, just the floor, in a cell of 2m x 1m, with brick walls around. In some rooms, we still can see some blood stains, coming from the frequent torture. There are pictures of many of the prisoners, and some interviews of the survivors.

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After this, we go to eat in the boat noodle restaurant, typical Khmer food. We have delicious dishes, including one with fermented fish. After recuperating our front bags with the flags on them, we go to the Royal Palace. It is a big complex, next to the Mekong river. There are many temples inside, with typical Khmer architecture, inspired from both Hindu and Buddhist. After the palace, in the street, Juju tries a new kind of egg: in fact, inside the egg, the baby has started to develop, during 20 days. It’s a specialty of Cambodia to boil this egg and eat it. It tastes like chicken soup, but more subtile! very good. And it is supposed to bring a lot of energy.

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For dinner, the parents of Phavy have cooked for us, some delicious river fish, in different sauces, including ginger. In dessert, we have mango and jackfruit. The jackfruit has a good taste, it is sweet, and tastes at the beginning like bubble-gum.

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Sunday 24 November

In the morning, while Mick is updating the website, Juju goes with Jose and Phavy to the Russian market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung). It’s a kind of flea market, where they sell a little of everything, food, clothes, souvenirs, small electronic device,… We have breakfast over there, trying typical flour pancake with meat, shrimps and vegetables. And also a springroll, with the skin that does not need to be cooked. We find many things for a low price at the market: souvenirs, tea, old watch, mp3 player (for 7$ and much better than the one bought 35$ in Siem Reap). After the market, we go to a café to rest from the crowd. For lunch, we go to the same kind of restaurant as yesterday, the boat noodle restaurant.

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In the evening, Mick stays at home, to finish with the first newsletter. He goes to eat near the house with Jose. During this time, Juju goes to meet Alex and Charlotte in the city! do you remember? The British couple who climbed the Rinjani with us. It’s funny to see them again after a couple of months. They are now finishing their tour of South-East Asia. We exchange information about Vietnam, Angkor, Thailand!

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Monday 25 November

We enjoy one more day the hospitality of Phavy and her family in Phnom Penh. This morning, we rest at home, and prepare our stay in Vietnam. Finally, we will go to Ho Chi Minh City by bicycle, to enjoy Cambodge till the end. And we will cycle mostly in the South of Vietnam, then take the train to Hanoi. It’s also what the Danish traveller (Klaus) advised us, since tourism is more developed in the South (and so easier to find guesthouses, or transports if necessary).

For the morning, Phavy’s family brought us typical Cambodgian breakfast food: glutinous rice inside banana leaves, and some fruits. For lunch, we go to a restaurant nearby. Then we go to the very South of Phnom Penh, by bike, to find an agency to buy the train tickets in Vietnam, but we are not able to find the place! nor the locals can help us to find this address. So we’ll see in Ho Chi Minh City for the train tickets. But we enjoyed the ride through Phnom Penh, where it’s close to the anarchy: they still respect the traffic lights, but except this, they don’t respect much rules! except that they do everything to avoid accidents! and the road is not really good. Suddenly, it becomes totally muddy, or with pot-holes 10cm deep!

Afterwards, we go back to the touristic part of the city, near the river, where we have a frozen yogourt (super expensive and not even very good! Tutti Frutti = Tourist trap in PP). Near the Wat Phnom monument, we see humdreds of bats on a high tree. Wat Phnom is a temple on a small hill, to commemorate the place where the city has been created, by a man called Penh (Phnom means hill). Then we go back home. We have a coconut on the way, and a weird fruit, maybe of the family of the coconut. It tastes like apple, but with absolutely no juice.

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For dinner, we go the four of us with Phavy, to a small restaurant nearby. It’s funny to see again the beginning of Jumanji on TV! the movie stills looks good, even though it is from the mid-nineties (wow we are getting old!). We go to bed early, because tomorrow we have much to ride.

Tuesday 26 November

We get up at 5h45. The time to prepare our stuff, and say goodbye to Phavy and her family, we are on the road a little before 7. They are so nice, they prepared food for the three of us: snacks (fried raw rice with coconut!!), meat, a kind of omelette, and a lot of rice!! After a detour in the post office, we go to take breakfast on the shore of the Mekong river. It’s so peaceful in the morning, with a soft Sun quietly rising. We enjoy the food they prepared for us! and it is our main meal of the day. In fact, we’ll reach our guesthouse tonight with only this (and some sugarcane juice hehe).

It takes quite a long time to exit the city. We are now used to weave in between the cars, trucks, tuktuks, just as if we were scooters. For sure, we’ll have to change our way of driving when we arrive to more developed cities, because drivers are not used at having so little space between vehicles.

The morning passes smoothly, with beautiful landscape and sugarcane juice. The part of Cambodia we crossed all these days is very flat, with a lot of welands around the road. In fact, the road is elevated from the rest of the fileds by 1 or 2 meters. And the typical houses we see are all on piles, some 2m high. For sure on rainy season, the lower part is flooded, and the house itself thus protected. Now that the water is not so high, they use this lower part as a parking / storing place, or also to rest in the shade.

After 30 kilometers riding along the Mekong river, we cross it on a small ferry called Vishnu. It’s nothing more than a moving bridge: as soon as the vehicles and passenger take place on the boat, it leaves, without closing any doors. The Mekong river is brown, very muddy, probably it comes from the big rains upstream. We see many plastic waste floating (as we saw in Phnom Penh the cleaners throw the rubbish of the banks directly inside the river) and also a lot of tree branches. The current is very strong for a river that size. The crossing lasts 10 minutes, for a river 700m wide.

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As the riding is going well and we are not hungry, we decide to skip lunch and continue till the city where we want to sleep. We finally arrive in Svay Rieng around 17h, after 130km. It’s perfect, we have a little time to find a guesthouse not too expensive before sunset. After some time in the city, we arrive at an intersection with guesthouses at 3 corners! each one of us goes to explore for the best price, although it’s similar, and with the same quality. The room is good, for 5$ the night.

We have a rest then go to eat dinner in the city. It’s impossible to find a place where they cook rice!! For the first time in Asia, we cannot have our traditional fried rice, or at least steam rice with meat. It’ll be rice soup with chicken, or instant noodles. But after one day of cycling, it’s enough to content us. And once back home, we devour the fruits we bought today on the market.

Wednesday 27 November

Today, it’s also going to be a tough day. We get up at 5h45, and leave the guesthouse quite fast. We manage to find a place to eat rice with meat. I don’t know why all the restaurants we found earlier in this city only had rice soup or instant noodle. We start cycling around 7h30.

This morning, it’s quite hard. The three of us notice that the time seems to pass very slow. After what seems like 3h of biking, we only did 20km, but in fact only a little more than 1h has passed. It probably comes from yesterday fatigue. We only have 40km to bike until the border, but it seems so long. As we are one or two kilometres before the border, we see alongside the road many casinos. Probably Vietnamese law is stricter than here about gambling, and these casinos are designed for Vietnamese gamblers.

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We have no problem to pass the controls in Bavet-Moc Bai border!in fact it takes longer to get out of Cambodia, than to enter Vietnam. As soon as we are inside Vietnam, the road is different: in Cambodia, we took the main highways, and all the roads we saw were at most one lane in each direction, with a lot of dust and pot-holes. In Vietnam, even though we are in the middle of the countryside, the road we are following has two lanes for each direction. And they are needed: there are a lot more scooters and motos here. After one hour riding, we arrive a first city, Go Dau. It is strange that there was no city on the Vietnamese side of the border. We withdraw money (only 70€, apparently we cannot withdraw more), buy a local simcard, and eat lunch. We still have to ride like 80km this afternoon, Ho Chi Minh seems so far away. We stop after a few more kilometres, to take a coffee.

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Next pause is around 17h, for sugarcane juice. We enjoy also to try many new funny food. We are nearby a school, so we see the children exiting the schools to go home suddenly. Contrary to what we saw in Cambodia, the children seem shy, and do not dare to say hello to us, although they are curious.

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As we take again the road to Ho Chi Minh (with still 40km to go! And only half an hour of Sun left) we are surprised by the traffic. Now, the road is full of vehicles, mostly scooters. And for the next two hours and a half we need to reach our destination, it’ll be like this, a road for scooters. There are even traffic jams of scooters, it’s totally crazy. But we don’t feel it too dangerous, since the drivers manage very well their vehicles, and most of all want to avoid contact.

We finally arrive at our destination, a little before 20h. In Ho Chi Minh City, we sleep at the place of Hector, a relative of Isidro, a workmate of Julien in Madrid. Hector is the fitness coach of the Vietnamese national team of futsal. He lives in the expatriates region of the city, in very comfortable towers. Here, the restaurants are internationals, although with a majority for Koreans, since they are the most present here. After the well-deserved shower, we go to eat to the Big Rollers restaurant, that serves international food. We enjoy pasta carbonara, Bolognese, and hamburgers. Then we go to have a drink in an Australian pub nearby, and finally go to sleep.

And of course, here is a video of these days: