The flight to Bangkok went without much difficulty. I was immediately greeted by the tropical heat. This hit me with full force as I left the airport. The traffic here in Bangkok is still as bad as it was five years ago on my last visit.
Just outside the city center, in Bang Kapi, I found a hostel especially for cyclists. It is run by a young couple who are also ambitious cyclists spinningbearhostel.com. The hostel I liked so much that I spent 10 days there.
With fresh energy, I drove heavily laden to the Cambodian border after these days. I deliberately chose a route away from the busy main roads. The infrastructure here in Thailand has improved significantly in recent years.
After 4 days I reached the border crossing Prom to Cambodia. There I immediately experienced a positive surprise: Anne and Pierre with their 9-month-old daughter Maely arrived at the border crossing at the same time as I did.
Anne and Pierre started their journey in April 2015 with their tandem from France. Maely was born in Nepal in early 2017 curieuses-echappees.blogspot.com. Since then, three have traveled the world as a small family by bicycle.
We drove together for 1.5 days to Treng. I wanted to try to organize a Vietnam visa in Battambang, while the little family moved directly into the cardamom mountains.
However, I did not like Battambang at all and so I buried my visa plans as soon as I got there. Most of the time here in Cambodia, I slept in a Buddhist temple. Landmines are still spread in Cambodia and there are not many rural lodges.
The traffic on National Highway 5 almost reminded me of India. So I was very happy when I finally got off to the mountains of Cardamom near Pursat.
Up to Veal Veaeng the road was still paved. After that, the road turned into a mud track. Fortunately I was able to gain enough experience in Africa with such slopes.
These relatively isolated mountains are one of the largest and still largely unexplored forests in Southeast Asia. The largest part of Southeast Asia is densely populated. That's why I really enjoyed being back in nature.
Biodiversity threats to the region include habitat loss through illegal logging, wildlife poaching and forest fires caused by slash and burn. These drastic interventions can be seen everywhere on the way.
About one third of the ecoregion has been designated as a protected area, but the level of active protection has been criticized in all parks in the mountains. On the 120 kilometer route from Osoam to Koh Kong I passed 4 newly built dams built with Chinese help
Finding these specific monsters in one of the last intact rainforests in Southeast Asia is extremely depressing.
In Koh Kong, I was able to replenish my supplies, which I desperately needed to get to Phnom Penh. Up to Sre Ambel the road was pretty mountainous. The high humidity, mixed with the heat, did not make it any easier.
On the way I met some other cyclists, which calmed me down a lot. In Sre Ambel I made the mistake of cycling on National Highway 4 to Phnom Penh.
Virtually all of the heavy traffic between Shianoukville and Phnom Penh goes through here, and the asphalt strip provides just enough space to cross two trucks. I would not recommend this route for cyclists.
In Phnom Penh, I had time to renew my visa, apply for a new visa for Vietnam, and prepare for my mother's visit. Exactly on December 25, she landed in Phnom Penh. We had not seen each other for almost half a year.
First, we visited the Tuol Sleng Prison and Choeung Ek Memorial. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a former high school used by the Khmer Rouge regime as Notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21).
The prisoners were transported to Choeung Ek for murder if they survived torture in the S21. At Khoeung Ek mass graves with 8,895 bodies were discovered after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The Khmer Rouge regime executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979. Almost a third of the total population. A visit to the two places is extremely important if you want to understand the history of Cambodia.
On the third day we took the plane from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to visit the temples of Angkor. There we bought a 3-day ticket and visited the temples with the tuk tuk.
Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire and flourished from the 9th to the 15th century. Angkor was a megacity that supported at least 0.1% of the world's population between 1010 and 1220.
The temples in Angkor are more than one thousand. Many temples in Angkor have been restored and together form the most important place of Khmer architecture.
Angkor is considered a "hydraulic city" because there was a complicated water management network used to systematically stabilize, store and distribute water throughout the area.
The popularity of the place with the tourists poses many challenges to the ruins. In recent years, especially the mass tourism from China has increased enormously. In 2017, more than 1 million Chinese visited the temples.
It shocked me to see that the number of tourists entering the facility every day is increasing. Tourists as far as the eye can see. It is also shocking how quickly entire hotel complexes have been knocked out of the ground in recent years.
You can not be more of enjoyment in such masses. We chose the tour in reverse order and managed to dodge the main currents a bit.
On the second day we decided to rent the same tuk tuk driver again, which should prove a fatal mistake. First we drove to the far away Banteay Srey Temple.
Banteay Srei is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Banteay Srei is mostly made of red sandstone, a medium suited to the intricate decorative wall carvings that are still visible today and which have been widely praised as a 'jewel of Khmer art'.
On the way to the Roluos Group we made a stopover in the landmine museum of Aki Ra. After years of fighting, Aki Ra, a former child soldier, returned to the villages where he built thousands of mines, began to remove them by hand and defuse them with home-made tools.
He showed some of the items he had made sure. Cambodia is one of the countries most affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), along with Afghanistan, Syria, Laos and Iraq. There are estimated 4-6 million landmines in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, our tuk-tuk driver was almost tangible in the evening when we did not want to pay him more than the agreed price. The situation almost ended in disaster.
If you visit Angkor by tuk tuk, you should definitely agree to the price before the tour and not choose the same driver for several days.
Our last day in Angkor was also the last day of the year. First, we visited the heart of the entire facility: Angkor Wat. It is the largest religious monument in the world.
Originally built as the Hindu temple of the Vishnu god for the Khmer Empire, it gradually turned into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. By the end of the third day, we had slowly seen enough temples.
After a long New Year's Eve with little sleep we flew back to Phnom Penh. The next day I had to say goodbye to my mother again. I really enjoyed the time with her.
One day later I got on my bike again. After only two days I reached the border in Phnom Den. The border guard there was extremely rude and threw my passport at the end of the area.
Now it is time to go to the Mekong Delta. I am looking forward to a return visit to this country. Akuun jaan Kampuchea!