Exploring Cambodia on a Motorbike – Part Two
As Exploring Cambodia on a Motorbike continues, so to do the adventures and dramas… including being taken to the wrong island and the near death of our beloved motorbike!
Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh were the last two places we could visit before our time constraints compelled us to cross the border into Vietnam. Sihanoukville is the touristy place to go to for a party atmosphere, beaches and access to the nearby islands. However, for me, the highlight of this part of our journey was Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city. The eclectic array of buildings – including French colonial and Khmer architecture made riding around Phnom Penh very colourful and interesting.
Kampot to Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville is the step off point for Koh Rong. However we didn’t get to Koh Rong because we had friends going to Koh Ta Kiev, so we decided to check out that island instead… But we didn’t get there either. We did try though. We were told by several tour agents it would cost $10 to go straight to the island or we could do a tour, which included breakfast, lunch and snorkelling for $15. We decided to do the tour. We were told we would go snorkelling and then we would be left at our island (Koh Ta Kiev), which was the second stop, (the lunch stop). The next day we would be picked up and have the chance to finish the tour, which included another snorkel stop before we would be taken back to the mainland. Well.. we got out to the second island and it was not Koh Ta Kiev, it was Bamboo Island… and so the dramas begin.
When we spoke to the tour guide he said that Koh Ta Kiev is closed for wet season, we told him we knew it wasn’t, as we had friends staying there at that exact moment and we were booked in to stay that night also. No amount of talking etc could change his mind – the island was closed he would not take us there.
We contacted our friends on the island who spoke to the people at Coral Beach accommodation (who had just got back from picking someone up from Otres Beach) and told them where we were and asked could he please pick us up… At this stage we were so close to Koh Ta Kiev we could see the beach that we were booked to stay at from where we were on Bamboo Island, it was just so close. Anyway he said that Bamboo Island was closed and he would not pick us up. Work that one out! We decided to just finish the tour and go back to Sihanoukville!
Riding in Sihanoukville… Shinaoukville is a busy touristy place where the police are now pulling over westerners, on motorbikes, constantly and fining them for whatever they can. Sometimes rightly so… we went through a red light while trying to read the signs and find the way to Otress Beach. That cost us USD $2. And then there are the times they will pull you over for nothing. The next time we were pulled over we were fined for having our headlight on during the day (this was once illegal in Cambodia but isn’t anymore) we paid USD $1. If you are a foreigner you will be pulled over regardless, most foreigners will give the police a reason to fine them i.e. not wearing a helmet or not having an international licence. But even if you tick those two boxes, expect to pay something. The police will think of something to fine you for. But hey, it’s only a couple of bucks right? Let me tell you… that is how it started in Bali. The police in Bali are now getting $50 out of unsuspecting tourists who don’t know how much they should pay.
Shinaoukville to Phnom Penh
It was on this leg of the journey we had our first breakdown. Our girl stalled about 5 times. Each time we managed to start her up again and continue on. We eventually saw a pile of tires advertising that there was some sort of motorbike repair shop or tire shop…. someone who may be able to help us. We discovered the problem… no oil. She was bone dry! Yep we nearly killed the old girl. We thought our adventures on our motorbike had come to an end.
We had changed the oil about 600km back and we were not leaking oil, so it was a bit of a surprise. Dwayne assumed the piston rings needed replacing because she was obviously burning oil. We were able to top up with oil, cross our fingers and continue on our way to Phnom Penh.
She made it…. She was in a bad way though. She was clanging and banging and blowing copious amounts of black smoke. It was a tad embarrassing… we were getting some pretty weird looks.
The first thing we did in Phnom Penh was get the bike fixed. New piston, valves, and other bits and pieces inside the motor, which came to a grand total of $25 plus a tip. The bike was back in good shape… actually she was running better than ever. We were getting a least 20% more power and had a new cruising speed of 80-90km/h.
While in Phnom Penh we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (The Killing Fields). Neither are pleasant places to visit as they tell, and depict, the horrendous atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge under the rule of a psychopathic Pol Pot. However, they are well worth the visit if you are interest in Cambodia’s history or just want to pay your respects. Although it is a sobering experience I am really glad that I did not miss these memorials. I had read an interesting book, about the genocide, before reaching Phnom Penh and felt… its hard to put into words… just that I really should visit these places. It is a time in history (as are many others) that should not be forgotten. Instead we should trust that these memorials raise awareness to the atrocities that have occurred in history – and are still occurring now – with the hope that one day these types of barbaric acts will no longer occur.
Phnom Penh to the Cambodian/Vietnamese border
This leg of the journey was nicely uneventful. We crossed the Cambodian Vietnamese border with very little bother, and headed to Ho Chi Ming City and its horrendous traffic… Click here for Exploring Vietnam on a Motorbike.
Travel notes (Sept 2015)
KHR – Cambodian Riel written here as ៛
Note: In Cambodia use Riel and the US dollar. At the time of writing this most places will accept both currencies… but have Riel for use when making small purchases in local shops or when in rural areas. Most places will use an exchange rate of ៛4000 to the dollar. Some shops have up to date exchange rates will give the current exchange rate which, at time of writing is ៛ 4090 to the dollar.
Eating in Cambodia – have a look at the following links.
Things to see and do
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – an horrific reminder of humanity at its worst.
Cheung Ek Genocidal Centre – Why You Should Visit The Killing Fields
Sihanoukville – pubs, restaurants, beach bars/restaurants, beach front accommodation, boat trips, island trips, Koh Rong, Koh Ta Kiev… touristy place!
Phnom Penh – Velkommen Guesthouse
Pros – Air-con, cable TV, safe. 5-minute walk from the National Museum, Royal Palace, Central Market and Old Market.
Cons – very basic bathroom, can be noisy at night.
Our verdict – Very convienient location
Sihanoukville – (Otres Beach) – Columbus Bungalow
Cost – ៛50000/night (USD $12.50 or AUD $16.00)
Pros – Very nice position on the beach.
Cons – The mattress was so worn out that it felt like I was sleeping on bamboo slats. There was a mozzie net but I was covered in bites from midgies or sandflies. Too far from Sihanoukville if you do not have your own transport.
Our verdict – Not worth the bites.
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