Click here for part1: from Koh Khong Thai border to Kampot
Click here for part2: from Kampot to Phnom Penh
At the bottom of the article is the map of the whole Cambodian tour, click on the track to get the elevation profile.
For general hints and tricks to keep your budget extremely low when traveling Cambodia, here's another article.
from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham - 112km
At KM40 there's the first bridge across the Mekong, that leads to the town of Khsach Kandal (ខ្សាច់កណ្ដាល), where there's a love-motel-style guesthouse with no WiFi.
So from here begun a 43km unpaved leg, the road was a little tricky sometimes but still rideable, even tough it rained the night before, keep in mind however that taking unpaved roads in Cambodia is always a gamble and don't blame us if you find yourself in a river of mud.
This stretch of road, however, is really beautiful, especially the last 20km along the river, a glimpse of Mekong lifestyle, these kind of roads are the reason why we love bicycle travel.
Near the village of Oleng there's a ferry crossing, a slow barge going approximately every hour (coordinates 11°55'25.1"N 105°16'07.7"E), that goes to Kang Maes, at the crossroad between roads 70 and 223, the latter brings you to Kampong Cham in 25 super-easy kilometers. However just beside the pier, visible from the boat, there's a very nice guesthouse with a view on the river (7USD), we loved that, WiFi available.
It's possible to reach Kampong Cham without crossing the river, through tricky countryside roads. My advice is to attempt this only in dry season.
Kampong Cham is nowdays one of the most beautiful Cambodian cities, it ranks 6th for population in Cambodia, with just 118.000 inhabitants. The town is a model to follow for neatness and decorum, with a splendid riverside lined with restaurant and guesthouses it aims to become a major tourist center in the next decade.
What we really enjoyed is Nokor Wat (coordinates 12°00'00.3"N 105°26'20.6"E, less than 5km from the city center), an 11th century Angkorian temple laying in disrepair but completely tourist free. In the same site there's an NGO, named BSDA who trains disadvantaged kids in Apsara Traditional Dances, performance are on request so maybe contact them before. When we've been here the kids had just finished their daily training, we booked a performance for the day after (just for us! Based on donation) but unfortunately there was a biblical downpour and, since the place is open air...
Kampong Cham to Kratie - 124km
Apparently the small island facing the town is lovely and with a cycling path that goes around it, but since this and the dolphin view require a fee, needless to say we didn't do it, cash shortage being a classic for the poor cycloscopicos.
Kratie to Stung Treng - 140km
Just 19km and the road joins highway 7, from now on there's nothing, I mean really nothing, until Stung Treng, 120km past Sangkum. Small signs warn of the presence of mines, few bomb craters are visible, no food, no water, no accommodation, no houses, nothing, at all.
A wide flat road with few cars heading to Lao, that's it.
Here's when we found shelter in a Buddhist temple, we asked to the oldest monk and he agreed, in exchange for a 4USD compulsory donation we could sleep inside the praying hall, which was not a great idea, since we were waken up one hour before down by the prayer's preparation, before the deafening drum begun shaking the wooden structure, few meters from our ears.
thanks to the recent experience by
The highlight of Stung Treng is no doubt the big market, plentiful of fruit, clothes and dubious food stalls (visit them in the morning, when the food has just being cooked). This is the only place where we saw wild animals illegally sold as meat: turtles, monitor lizards, monkeys, a weird rodent and some more stuff whose identity was hard to figure out.
From Stung Treng to Lao border crossing - 63km
Being the only crossing between Cambodia and Lao, the border is surprisingly quiet, if you're unlucky you could meet one of the few big busses that could slow the thing down. Anyway, visa on arrival procedure is smooth, pay the fee, depending on your country, 30 or 35USD for most countries, plus 2$ for the stamp fee, plus 1 or 2 dollars bribe... yes bribe, but this time there really was no choice, pay or stay in Cambodia. Anyway if they ask more try to bergain, tough I don't see much chance here.
There are also some more shady but official fees if you cross after 4p.m. or in the weekends. There are more chanced to be scammed for tourist groups than are there for bicycle tourers, as always.
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