Ultimately, there are three stages in which I divide the Poi Pet – Siem Reap route. The first part to Sisophon is a very short distance. Breakfast is again included in the room price, I order an omelette and as a hot drink I get a slightly spicy coffee. On the veranda of the Ly Heng Chhay Hotel, you can sit comfortably in the shade of the roof, as water trickles around the wooden frame from top to bottom. The traffic passing about 15 meters away is not what you want when having breakfast, but it is full of variety. There are mopeds, cargo motorcycles, single-axle tractors with long trailers, coaches, trucks and, of course, the wide city SUVs, all-wheel drive, dark-glazed, and also simple cars that make up the traffic, sometimes sneak past, sometimes with a high-revving engine rush, and the horns annoying again and again. A behavior that I will have to get used to in the near future. At around 10 a.m., I head east.
The little post office that I found yesterday afternoon is unfortunately closed today. The officer wanted to be there because he had something to do, as he told me. But he is not there. So I won’t get rid of my already written mail until Monday.
Yes, the city is booming. It is being rebuilt in many places. Houses are sometimes very narrow and here the structural steel for later construction does not protrude from the walls upwards as in many southern European countries, but laterally from the walls so that there can be added later. A finished pointed roof is already on top of the two, sometimes three floors. But there is no asphalt off the main road, the closest parallel roads are concreted, most of them just simple uneven slopes.
I quickly realize that the consideration (which I often feel) of two-wheelers riding on the roadside in Thailand must have gotten stuck in front of the border. Here in Poi Pet you are rather ignored and marginalized and later on the route hardly anyone pays attention to the weaker traffic. If someone wants to drive onto the trunk road from an entrance or junction and there are no larger vehicles in sight, they just drive off, supposing that the two-wheeler will probably stop. And in general, the horn is used diligently to indicate that – whoops – that someone is coming.
What was a broadly marked edge of the road in Thailand, reserved for mopeds and teams, is here a dusty, sometimes sandy matter with no clear marking. The dirt from the street also collects on the verge, but at least there is one.
At a roundabout the tarmac is suddenly missing, I can see the dust cloud already from afar. But it is only this one point without a hard surface and over the next few kilometers the traffic gradually equalizes and a few kilometers outside of Poi Pet containers are handled on a dusty surface, and behind this spot the truck traffic also decreases significantly.
I am now driving in an easterly direction and I am still a bit lucky with the wind, which is currently coming mainly from the south and at least not noticeably influencing my pace. Otherwise the landscape is unspectacular. Dry, harvested rice areas, or simply wasteland – flat and wide. As in Thailand, temples and monasteries are more or less close to the street. The access routes here always lead through open archways, which, however, are more simply decorated than those of Thai temples.
I stop at one of the decorated archways and want to take a picture. Immediately children come running from the area behind, make faxes and also want to be photographed. “Hello!”, “Helloo!”, is called shrill.
In Thailand, people were more reserved, children were in school during the day until late in the afternoon and greeted at most curiously. Sometimes they laughed at my appearance, but were never pushy.
Here they shout “Hello!” after or towards me.
In the area of another ‘Wat’, where I want to watch at the many animal figures there, a boy immediately comes running and starts to beg. I don’t understand him, but at least it gives me this impression. Girls are more reserved than boys and give friendly greetings.
I want to eat something in the early afternoon, but it is not as easy as in Thailand, because the selection of outpatient food stalls or restaurants is not very large. In the village of Tuek Thla, just a few kilometers before Sisophon, I spontaneously stop at a woman’s stall where I see a few closed pots lined up next to each other. She has various meat dishes with different vegetables in more or less opaque sauces, as well as cooked fish with ginger, carrots and pumpkin.
I then eat it of this fish together with a plate of sticky rice, and apart from the many bones of the fish, that’s not bad at all.
Just before Sisophon, the only change in the landscape is a few small elevations from larger rocks. From a distance it looks like a mountain range, but it’s isolated, isolated hills. There is a larger monastery at one of them and a military base a few hundred meters away.
In the city there are several hotels and at least one guest house, a little off the main street, in which I also find an inexpensive room.
I still have to get used to playing with the different currencies in Cambodia, even though I haven’t changed any money in Poi Pet yet, as I have enough US dollars as a reserve for a few days anyway. But I had already ‘exchanged’ a few thousand Cambodian riels when buying the stamps and postcards and now had an overview of three currencies. Because Baht are also accepted here in this region.
The landlady wants 25,000 Riel for the room without air conditioning, which corresponds to about 5.40 Euros. She also takes Thai Baht, or of course US Dollars, which is the main currency used here in the country. Since I still have enough Baht, I give the woman a thousand Baht bill and get 95,000 KHR change back after deducting the room price. So for the moment, I also save myself the search for a money changer. However, the thousands soon run through my fingers again.
The city of Sisophon is also a junction of National Road 6 eastwards, to Siem Reap and further to Phnom Phen, and Road 5 southwards to Battambang, a larger city that many tourists like to visit because of its colonial architecture, as well as to the north, where there is a protected landscape area in the Banteay region. So in the evening I meet some French people in a larger local restaurant on the outskirts of the city that a French woman recommended and in the morning, in another restaurant right next to the two hotels, which unfortunately was closed in the evening, some people from Germany, who must have stayed here, too.
A party had taken place somewhere in the city that evening. The music was heard all afternoon from an undetermined direction. Even when I visited the monastery / temple on the rocky hill about 2 kilometers before the city just before sunset, music could be heard from somewhere. Cambodian hits, snotty music that somehow sounds scary. Sometimes there was music in other places, too. In Poi Pet, a workshop operator had diagonally sounded music from his amplifier across the street from my hotel there.
The next day I drive from Sisophon relatively late towards the east. The wind is still helping me, so I don’t have to worry about the time I need to cover the 54 kilometers. Nevertheless, driving on the now deteriorating asphalt is tiring me more and more. After less than 30 kilometers, I meet a Swiss man, a little older than me, and head west with his bike. He has been traveling in Vietnam and Laos for a few weeks and still wants to meet friends in Thailand before flying back home. The encounters have become a little rarer since Bangkok.
Shortly afterwards I take a short break at a young family’s snack bar on the outskirts of Rohal and drink a chilled cola. I eat later in Kralanh after I have found a room in another, fairly simple guest house. After all, there is air conditioning and it costs US $ 12 for the night.
Kralanh is somehow the typical street village. Apart from the school and district administration, two guest houses (one of which seems to be closed) and two banks, there are hardly any larger buildings. But workshops, mini shops and flying traders are lined up along the street, in the area of a central intersection also the usual, simple restaurants, where there are a few tables and chairs under a tin canopy, but all of them in the early afternoon, and some even in the evening, do not operate.
The young women, whom I have the vegetables collected from two meat pots and then eat with rice, also try to sell their chilled drinks and packaged biscuits, rice cakes and other nibbles to stopping drivers. This business is going surprisingly well. Sometimes someone takes a portion of the dishes out of the pots, filled in transparent bags, the usual way of transporting the ‘take away’ gastronomy in Thailand and Malaysia.
The Da Gamnan Guesthouse is very busy at night, people move from room to room, there is constant loud talking or laughing. I keep waking up from the noise.
The next morning I start looking for breakfast and lo and behold, in the many small restaurants closed the day before, the tables are now largely occupied and the mini kitchens are in operation.
I do not want to eat rice in the morning, so ask for pasta and would like fried egg and get a bowl of noodle soup with rice noodles and vegetables and a fried egg with a glass of delicious coffee – well, it works.
When I start the last 50 kilometers towards Siem Reap, I quickly notice that the wind has changed a bit. It now comes from the south-east and almost towards me again.
I meet a young couple of cyclists from the Czech Republic shortly after breakfast. For the first time, young cyclists who are touring Asia with thoroughbred mountain bikes and extra wide tires. Their starting point is New Zealand and they want to drive straight home in the next nine months. This is the reverse option, as many Europeans tend to drive from home to Southeast Asia.
We only have a short chat, I don’t want to stop them and we wish each other good luck.
Until Siem Reap, the landscape changes a little. Rice continues to be grown on a large scale, but it is becoming greener overall. Field paths off the road are increasingly lined with rows of trees, eucalyptus, teak and other woods are broken up by coconut and other palm trees. Sometimes the palm trees are loosely in between. Private residential properties away from the street are also often planted closely.
In one of the villages I come through, there are a number of sculpture workshops side by side. There is probably a clay pit or other source for the base material somewhere nearby. The various Buddha variants and animal figures on a scale of 1: 1 can be bought directly from the manufacturer.
Since I finally have the time, I take a closer look at a monastery about 1 km off the road. The driveway there is closely planted with trees and shady, but the supposedly gravel slope turns out to be a brittle, dilapidated concrete road, the rough remnants of which are roughly as difficult to drive as cobblestones in Brandenburg. So it takes me much longer than expected.
But when else do I see such an ensemble of turrets, shrines and tombstones? – every monastery is ultimately unique and if I were seriously interested in it, I would have to stop a lot more often. So I just take a few photos and work my way back down the road on that bad track.
A few kilometers before Siem Reap, the development along the road increases significantly and at a large reservoir north of the road I turn onto a slope that leads about three to four kilometers along the reservoir through forest to a first temple ruin (Ak Yum) of the Khmer period, so to speak as a foretaste of the next few days in the ruins of Angkor.