Ride day 39: Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh
5 August 2016
Sihanoukville is somewhere that we both wanted to go, but felt disappointed by our experience. Perhaps the weather and the fact it was off peak season added to it; but we found the centre touristy, commercial and sleazy with all the dirty casinos and hostess bars. I’m sure the beaches and islands would be wonderful in the right weather, so wouldn’t rule out visiting again sometime.
We awoke early in the morning to a drunk neighbour knocking on our door rather than her own after returning from night out. The street workers started work at 6.00 a.m., and from what we could tell, it hasn’t stopped raining all night.
We have our breakfast in the hotel, watching the torrential rain pouring down outside. Then, once packed up, I set about doing a few basic mechanics to the bike: checking all the bolts are tight, tensioning both chains and oiling them up, and re-setting Traceys front light so it actually pointed at the ground and not in to the air.
Once we were fully loaded up and ready to go it was just before 10.00 a.m., and the rain had actually died off a touch. We rode out past the main roundabout (again wary of the cops) and pulled in to fill up with petrol. Our first Cambodian petrol stop, and bizarrely got given big handfuls of free biscuits along with our petrol purchase.
The ride out of town took us a series of back roads around the city and eventually spat us out on the main highway towards Phnom Penh. By this time the rain had started again and it was time to poncho up.
The road was similar to the road from Kampot to Sihanokville, relatively wide, good surface and no potholes, with a dusty hard shoulder on both sides meant for slow local traffic / bikes. As with the previous day, there were a lot of big and fancy 4WD and also large trucks, who seem to enjoy passing as close to motorbikes as possible, sometimes forcing us to ride off the main road and on to the dirt strip.
It wouldn’t be a day riding in Cambodia without seeing the prime minister, and true to form he passed us with his entourage going the other way.
As we head north we notice a lot of big red beer lorries on the road, shipping Cambodia and Angkor beer north. A large chunk of the land along the roadside appears to have been zoned off and marked as industrial areas. Currently not too many factories or much industry there, but the signs are up and the land has been walled off, suggesting that in the not too distant future the views on this stretch of highway may be very different. As it stands, there are still treat views across the rice paddy’s and palms to the mountains in the distance in both the left and right of the road. In places there are also vast coconut groves right alongside the highway, with a series of small volcanic mountains here and there, with thick jungle up their slopes.
In one of the developed industrial areas, we pass a large factory on the right hand side. Rather worryingly it is marked as a factory producing explosive munitions. The road all the way up to Phnom Penh also has various military and police training academy’s and bases.
We stop for a short rest stop at a petrol station around noon, and miraculously the rain seems to have eased. For the next hour the rain holds off, and at 1.00 p.m.-ish we pull in the an excellent roadside cafe called “the stop” on highway 4. The road around here strikes us as looking like outback Australia, with bright red dirt along the roadside. The cafe also has an Australian feel, with an automotive theme. Tables made of old V8 engine blocks topped in glass, old tv’s turned in to fish tanks, and a menu featuring various sandwiches and meat pies. A great place to stop and excellent lunch!
The dry (ish) weather continues after lunch, and we even manage to ride off without our ponchos on. The Australian esque scenery gives way to classic Cambodian scenery – paddy fields and palm trees. This in turn gives way to lots of factories at the road side as we near the Phnom Penh outskirts. Some brand new factories empty and up for rent, others established factories very much in use. With it being late afternoon, the factories are kicking out, leading to very busy traffic, people everywhere, crossing the road, in trucks and on motorbikes, or waiting to be picked up. Market stalls also litter the roadside selling street food. In amongst these factories we pass the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia); a special court established to bring to justice those responsible for the atrocities under the Khmer Rouge regime.
In amongst all the hustle and bustle as we ride the Phnom Penh outskirts, I notice my bike is starting to play up again. The rear wheel feels to have play, either loose bearings or a bushing I assume. It’s a struggle riding at low speed in amongst the traffic. We press on however as its getting towards the end of the day, and only a few kilometres to our hotel.
The traffic towards the centre of Phnom Penh is hectic at this time of day, and thankfully we find our way to our hotel with relatively little drama. A quick check in, unpack of bags to air them after getting damp, and then time for a chill out at the rooftop pool as the sun sets.
After a quick shower, we head to a local cafe (Alva Cafe) for a Mexican dinner. Absolutely delicious and well priced restaurant a stones throw from the popular Russian market, and a mere 500 metres from our hotel (New Midtown Hotel). The walk back to the hotel was only 5-10 minutes, but must have involved over 10 offers of tuk tuk, all of which we declined, in favour of a walk before bed.
Full days route here: