Beautiful Cambodia

From Stung Treng we took a bus, since the distance to a place with accommodation was simply too far for a one day ride. We decided to get off at a road juction, from where we could reach the banks of the Mekong again and reach Kratie in about 40 kms. In the bus happened to travel an Australian cyclist couple with the same plan. To make it even nicer, when the four of us were having coffee in a stall in Sandan, on the Mekong, we saw the French couple who had adviced us to go to Ban Hua Khon in south Lao pass by. Since that moment the six of us more or less travel together, seeing eachother during the day, meeting for dinner etc. Nice encounters among humans on 2 wheels.

Yesterday we rode a 40 km stage over a dirt road along the Mekong to Chlong. Very nice scenery, sometimes just like riding on a river dike in Holland (but hotter and lusher green). Many people around, and the children are hello-ing as never before. Palm trees, and even green fields. We were very dusty in the end and had to take clothes and shoes with us in the shower. That is, we had no shower, but a bucket an a pan, but to the same effect.

Chlong has remnants of French colonial times. One of them is a beautifully restored villa, now used as a restaurant and – too expensive 4 us – hotel. But we had lunch and dinner there. We even allowed ourselves a bottle of French wine, together with the Australians that is. The table water was Pellegrino, imported from Italy. We considered this a bit insane. The people around are so very poor, they live in a dirty town  full of litter with no paved roads, in huts where you can look through, have no electricity, no water supply or sewage system etc. And we have water that is put in bottles in Italy and transported across the earth into the bush here to please us. We considered it nonsense. But we had a nice time there.  A sinister item about the villa was that during the Khmer rouge times it was used as an interrogation and torture center. The villagers could tell the stories and f.i. considered the well full of bad spirits, as corpses would have been dropped in it.

Today  we cycled to Kompong Cham. 87 kms, 32 of which dirt road. So again we were all red with dust, though there were hardly any cars on the route. But today’s stage was the most beautiful one in Cambodia until now. Beautiful tropic envirenmont, thousands of lovely children along the way, a ramshackle ferry over the Mekong in the middle, fantastic. Interesting to mention that most of the distance was in Muslim country. Big mosques, women and girls with head scarfs, man walking together, not with the women etc. It’s the Cham, a Muslim minority that has been in Cambodia very long ans seem to practice a somewhat "relaxed" Islam.(quote)

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