Day 18 - Finishing It Off - Summer Thaime - CycleBlaze

August 9, 2018

Day 18 - Finishing It Off

Samraong to Siem Reap

Epic ride today. Up nice and late nearly 11am despite a big day on the bike. What's the rush anyway. The weather was choice, cloudy skies and protection from the sun which is ideal given some accounts I've read of other cyclists who did this run during the high season. It is known to be baking hot in the sun, easily topping 40 degrees. Thankfully the timing was perfect to do this in rainy season, and it never got more than 30 degrees. Was very happy about this fact, and the winds were also mostly favorable, coming at me anywhere between 1 and 5 o'clock depending on which direction the road was going. Traffic was also super light, a refreshing change from Thailand.

Road was like this all day
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It was basically an onslaught of calls and greetings from the side of the road all day. I tried to smile and wave at everyone but it was too hard to keep up. When I was able to, the genuine smiles and warmth was off the charts, and it only confirmed that I must come back in future for a longer trip. I spaced it out with breaks every 15km and tried some of the local cuisine. One stop in particular served this sweet type of fruit salad that was oh so delicious. The rest of the breaks were just coke and beer stops. Even so, the hospitality was evident in small ways, such as locals providing red chairs for me to sit on and even for my bags. As expected, food was scarce the whole way but not nonexistent. The stockups from Thailand saved the day no doubt. A car driver came by the opposite direction and tooted with a massive grin on his face. I recognized him right away, he was the guy yesterday at the border who offered me a ride to Siem Reap. Obviously he had found a customer and was on his way back for another. I'm sure he sees cycle tourists all the time like me who insist on riding, and well at least he's happy about it.

After 75 km this small road ended at a junction with Kralan town. Here there was a most delicious and filling fried rice stop and by now I was doing really good on time, just 4pm and could probably hit Siem Reap by nightfall now that the winds would be more favorable. Thanks to the new paved highway, the kilometers flew by. The last time I had done this was in 2006 by minibus and the road was entirely dirt. A bunch of us had backpacked from Bangkok and this section was true adventure, we loaded into the bus and were caked in dust after this road. Between sometime then and now the Thais must have sealed the road and it was in immaculate condition. I can't imagine how it must been like to do this while cycle touring on the dirt road, as I was rather spoiled to be blowing by on smooth asphalt.

Excellent type of desert / breakfast
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Delicious fried rice
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Perhaps 40km out of Siem Reap there was an adhoc checkpoint and the guy had his back turned to me and was talking to a radio. Right after I passed he started screaming and I heard some English. Whether this was related to me or him just squawking into a radio I'll never know and I had no intentions to turn back and find out. I just blew the road even faster. What I remembered then was also true now in the sense that all of a sudden, about 5km out of Siem Reap the dusty road shacks and farms sudden "transitioned" into 5-star resort hotels and spas. It was a change unlike anything out of this world. The sudden shift had everything to do with the approach road from the airport meeting this highway, as perhaps most everyone flies into Siem Reap.

With only a few kilometers to go, a new outlet type of center presented itself and this one 'Route 6 pub' had great deals on Cambodia beer and cocktails. For a few dollars! Who could pass this up. After paying in Thai baht, they finally gave me change in those kickass dollars which would be the currency of choice in Siem Reap. On a general note, you use dollars for guesthouses and in tourist towns, and in the countryside you use the local Reals. Thai baht is also used as a fallback but is not ideal as you get lousy rates.

Excellent stop
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Home for the next few days
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Then once in the town center I prowled the streets for guesthouses and my timing was perfect to land in Ivy's guesthouse just a few minutes before their weekly pub quiz night. I made friends with some people on a team and helped them win second place. They were also auctioning off a pubcrawl tomorrow (Friday) and some guy bet $20 which was too much, just after the announcer repeatedly said "Aww cmon guys this is a $40 value". I should have jumped in and bet $5 and probably would have ended it but I hesitated too much because of the lack of money I had on me. Now I'm kicking myself for that mistake. Even so, later it was easy to go to the ATM and withdraw another $200. During that walk, Pub Street found me and the price of booze was insanely cheap. Therefore, passing on that pub crawl wasn't a bad idea after all.

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Nice friendly karaoke operation
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Today's ride: 132 km (82 miles)
Total: 1,433 km (890 miles)

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