Cambodia...

28 January 2007 - 02 February 2007

We stayed in the Thai town of Aranya Prathet and crossed to Cambodia first thing (apart from breakfast) the next morning. The border was only just on the sane side of chaotic, and the difference across it was amazing. Cambodia is probably the poorest country we've been to, and even after rural Thailand it was a bit of a shock. There were hundreds of Cambodians waiting at the border to wheel wooden carts full of goods across to Thailand to sell.


Once we left the border town the road was not sealed, it was just a trail of dust and bumps and huge holes, and it took us hours and hours to get to the town where we planned to stay. Every time a pickup truck or car, or even motorbike, went passed it kicked up a cloud of dust that made it impossible to see. When we arrived we were covered in dirt and dust, and quite tired. Richard had had a slow puncture which we'd been trying to fix all day, so that didn't help the situation. It had been one of our shorter rides for some time, but still one of the toughest. We were pretty downbeat and worried because we had over 100km to do the next day and weren't sure if we could make it. We went round town seeing if there was a bus or something we could take part or all of the way, and loads of people offered to take us in their pickup trucks. We decided we might as well go that afternoon so we got the bikes and us precariously loaded, but then we waited a couple of hours while the driver found as much stuff to take as he could. Thankfully there were plenty of vendors pedalling baguettes of all things; we turned down the deep fried locusts and cockroaches though. Our driver spoke good English and French and we got on quite well. He gave us his address and number and made us promise to send him a photo and call him to say hello.

Before departing we were piled high on top of sacks of vegetables, truck tires, 15 locals and loads of other stuff. The road was a nightmare and there was no way we could have cycled it in one go - even the truck took hours. We looked like mud monsters after the journey, but fortunately it was dark when we arrived and we found a hotel that would let us in!

Siem Reap is a tourist town if ever there was one, but laid back and a nice base from which to explore the ruins in the area. We thought Angkor Wat itself was amazing. Riding round the ruins was great, it was the perfect way to see them. It was some of the most enjoyable cycling we'd done for some time. Apart from the temples we paid a visit to a rather sorry for itself crocodile farm, but didn't try any of the meat that was supposedly on offer.

Our journey back to the border followed a similar pattern as the one to get here, except that this time we sat in the cab of the pickup truck rather than on the back. It made all the difference. Although it was kind of nice to see the tarmac of Thailand again, Cambodia became one of the top places we'd been to in the short time we were there - mostly because the people we met were so amazing, and you could get some great pizzas in Siem Reap.

Richard also took the opportunity to do a live update on BBC Radio Berkshire during our brief stay in Siem Reap.