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Cycling to Singapore: Cambodia

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3254Jesse Milletthttp://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/2010/interview_jesse_millettJin Feibaohttp://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/1511/interview_jin_feibaopersonal blog#http://www.jmille03.blogspot.com/#, which requires a proxy or VPN connection to visit in China.

Days 29-31: Stung Treng – Phnom Penh (375km)

Arriving in Phnom Penh
Arriving in Phnom Penh

Highway 7 runs all the way from the border of Laos to Phnom Penh and is in very good condition. There is practically no traffic, and when a car does come it lets you know with its horn from about a kilometer away.

Stung Treng is a lovely little town resting at the confluence of the Mekong and a major tributary. It sits 57km from the border with Laos and is the only major town around, so stock up on goods before you head out.

It's three tough days to Phnom Penh, so be sure to bring your sunblock and some music to keep you company. The road is flat and the scenery at this time of year is nothing but dried-up rice fields, half of which have been burned. From Stung Treng it's 140km to Kratie. Be sure to take the turn off at Chang (80km) to head back to the Mekong.

A Mekong sunset at Kampong Cham
A Mekong sunset at Kampong Cham

Once you get to the Mekong there are some nice temples, and some desperately sought swimming spots. If you're lucky, you may even spot some dolphins swimming up the river. From Kratie there is a road that follows the Mekong, but we were told it was in horrible condition. Instead we stayed on Highway 7 to Kampong Cham (150km). From Kampong to Phnom Penh the ride becomes more pleasant as the surroundings become more populated.

Phnom Penh is a great little city and I must say it took us all by surprise after cycling through the remote countryside. It is very modern and bustling, with a little bit of everything.

Delivering our letters to the Vice Governor of Phnom Penh
Delivering our letters to the Vice Governor of Phnom Penh

We delivered our goodwill letters to the Vice Governor of the city who greeted us with enthusiasm and heartfelt encouragement. He told us that he hopes that Yunnan and Phnom Penh continue to have excellent relations and more cultural exchanges.

He also emphasized that the most important policy of Cambodia is peace; a well-understood comment coming from a country with a devastating recent history and an ongoing border conflict with Thailand.

Our team with the Vice Governor and company
Our team with the Vice Governor and company

Days 32-34: Phnom Penh – Siem Reap (305km)

After grabbing some goodies at a Belgian-run shop and chocolate factory, we left Cambodia's political capital and headed for its cultural capital. The trip to Siem Reap was much more pleasant than the previous leg of our trip as the rides were shorter and villages more numerous.

Sticky rice in bamboo tubes
Sticky rice in bamboo tubes

We followed Highway 6 all the way, and if you can ignore the constant flow of express buses it's not bad. The first leg took us to Kompeng Thnor (124km), the second to Kompong Kday (110 km), with a final leg of only 70 more kilometers to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.

The ride was pretty monotonous, but there were a few places to swim along the way and lots of kids encouraging us as well! Just remember you are headed to one of the world's most fascinating ruins, rich with history, culture, and religion.

Days 35-36: Siem Reap – Poipet (150km)

It would have been easy to spend a week in Siem Reap, but we headed out after a one-day tour of the temples.

Continuing on Highway 6 it's a quick shot to Sisophon (105km), which is a great place to stay as there are plenty of lodging options. From here it's only 49km to Poipet, and maybe another 10 the border with Thailand.

We planned to spend a lot of time crossing the border and we had heard some bad stories about the process, but we had no problems and went through in about 30 minutes. From the border it is just under 10km to the first Thai town, Aranyaprathet.

Though we only spent about 10 days in Cambodia, it still left a huge impression on me. The people were not as open as they were in Laos, but they still welcomed us everywhere we went and were very curious to what we were doing.

Cambodia has had a horrific war-torn past, and it was easy to see that people's lives are still very difficult. Nevertheless, they showed incredible pride in their country and were very eager to bring us into their temples, their homes, and their lives to show us how they were getting along. In all, it was a very inspiring experience.

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