Cycle touring is not all fancy hotels and cute little B & B’s, in fact it rarely is. Somedays it’s complete crap, but I guess that’s why I do it, it’s a challenge, a reality check and an adventure all rolled into one. Makes me appreciate the small things. So today was one of those not so sexy kind of days. I just had to cover some distance and get to where I am going kind of days. There was nothing particularly interesting about Kampong Kdei, its just a stopover that puts Siem Reap 65km away, striking distance for a one day ride. There is not a single hotel listed on Booking.com but I do know from searches I have done there are guesthouses, albeit very bad ones. The last hotel I rode past was at the 30km mark, too early to stop and I would still need to stop in Kampong Kdei the next day. So the choice came down to 115km ride and reach Siem Reap tomorrow or a 30km ride and spend 2 more days on the road, 115km ride I think, Siem Reap is calling!
So 115km in the heat wasn’t too bad, the wind was with me, sort of, it was a mix between cross wind and a tail wind. I came across an Italian couple cycling, the first cyclists I had seen since Vietnam. They were going in the opposite direction, we chatted for a while under the shade of a tree, swapped stories on places to eat and sleep. They confirmed that Kampong Kdei was not worth a stop, they went straight through. I have no choice, I don’t have another 65km left in my legs. It will be fine, it couldn’t be worse than Skun! Plus it has an ancient bridge, worth a look, I am sure they missed that. We rode off in opposite directions, me feeling slightly smug that they were riding into the wind!
I saw some cool things along the way, the little girl who raced me on her “too big” pink bicycle. The old man who had 3 attempts at chopping up a coconut for me, that’s not his job I am sure but he seemed so excited for my patronage, he gave it a go. I tried using sign language to tell him “it will be fine no matter how it looks” to no avail. His daughter came and sorted it in the end. I came across some random take away coffee place, in the middle of nowhere, it was brand spanking new, kind of like Starbucks I guess, well thats worth a stop, and a coffee!
Then every now and then on these not so sexy days I come across a gem, as I rode into Kampong Kdei I see this makeshift shop, “Coffee Boutique” is the sign out the front. Well that has me interested, I called in, it is run by Bun, the teacher at an English language school next door. He put the sign in English to attract English speaking tourists so his students can practice their English. Only cycle tourists ever stop, no other tourists stop in Kampong Kdei. So with the offer of a home cooked dinner I return later in the evening for the best meal I have had in Cambodia and chatted with Bun over an ice cold beer, I felt a little spoilt. Bun told me that my name is not good in Cambodia, “anet” is Khmer for pity, he would call me Anne, no one wants the name Pity. I thought back to all the times I responded to “whats your name?”, those kids must think I am some crazy lady.
Bun had recommended the better of the really bad guesthouses in town, I mean for $5 night I am getting what I am paying for, no complaints there. Now the Mey Bo Guesthouse is a quality establishment, pay by the hour rooms down stairs. A fully functioning, not noisy, oscillating fan on the ceiling and a cold pipe minus a shower head in the toilet/shower recess. Not that I want a hot shower. But its clean enough, well the sheets are clean and the bathroom is clean. And thats wbat I mean about appreciating the small things, when I check into my $20 a night hotel in Siem Reap it will seem like the Ritz and I will think I am the bloody Queen!
Now the bridge is not just an old bridge, but a 900 year old bridge, I would say that’s pretty special. It’s tucked away down a dirt track that used to be the main highway. They bypassed it to stop the heavy trucks going over it and damaging it, but thats where it stops. This beautiful bridge is special, I walked over it, around it and under it. I had the place to myself, in the distance I could hear music, the chanting from the local pagoda, it added to the mystical charm and I imagined 900 years ago the Cham Kings travelled across the bridge to Angkor Wat on their horse drawn carriages. This really was something I am glad I did not miss.
So I guess that you just never know what you might stumble across, that’s what makes it special, the completely wonderful can come from the completely ordinary and unexpected.