Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Home Contrasts - The Final Blog

Contrasts

A mish-mash of wedding procession with their own brass band, cars, motorbikes and pedestrians in a small street in Kathmandu

  video

It was already dark at 5:50pm on this Friday near-winter evening in Kathmandu, as I dodged another motorbike that had parked directly in front of me.  Miri and I were mid conversation, which, was immediately halted & eventually given up on.  We were headed for the last time to our favourite local MoMo restaurant for our 50 rupee veg steamed momo’s with the super delicious mild chili sauce.
It is dusty.  Although the occasional muddy patch from the daily water truck residue squelches upwards around our sandals. 

There are no footpaths and it is rush hour, so we constantly weave in and out of cars and motorbikes and other pedestrians and small shops that overflow out onto the road edges, until we emerge into the tiny Fast Food restaurant.  In the corner, their son does his homework from the day.  The stainless steel Momo steamer tins squelch small bursts of escaping steam in the corner while the main cook works up another batch of egg-veg chowmein in his blackened Wok.  Namaste! Tik Cha? (Hello, Good?)

5 days later. 

It was very light on this Thursday evening, as we biked into the Hornby Mall carpark in Christchurch.  There was the smell of freshly cut grass in the air.  The roads are wide, very wide.  There are many, many large cars.  No scooters, no bikes, no motorbikes. It's really quiet.  The footpaths are empty.  Conversations between us are easy.  We grab our paniers bags and head inside to Pac N Save to get some dinner and breakfast supplies for the evening.  We stood for a long time in the Breakfast Cereal aisle.  Staring up & along it, faced with so many different options, brightly stacking the shelves.

Freaking out in the cereal aisle!

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Quick Summary:
- After Tansen we spent two weeks linking in with Reed Nepal & the Australian Himalayan Foundation in Kathmandu for the start of their teacher training programme
- Began the journey home on the 5th of December for Bangkok, where we picked up our bikes & other cycling luggage (Thanks Preteep!!!)
- Arrived home 11th of December for a few short days in CHCH before heading up to Nelson to see Andy’s family & then surprise Miri’s family for a Christmas holiday in the Sounds (they thought we were coming home mid Jan)
- Next challenge - to find somewhere to live for the year in CHCH :-)
_________________________________________________________________________________

Bangkok airport - en route to home and reunited with the bikes

Here’s a few first impressions since we arrived back, challenges we’ve been left with from the journey and final pics from Nepal, Thailand and back in NZ.  We have so much to be thankful for, so this blog wouldn’t be complete without a moment to pause & be thankful….

First Impressions

• Clean water – something we often take for granted until we don’t have it anymore.  Clean drinking water is non-existent in most of the world, and, if we lag into complacency it could be for us here in NZ too.
• Abundance - perusing the supermarket shelves, we’ve had to adjust from just one type of muesli, the same across all of Nepal to about 50 different types across the shelves.  Pantry’s are filled with so much variety.  We have much.  Others often function off far less choice.
• Cars – We have a lot of cars in NZ compared to Asia
• Big, wide empty footpaths & wide streets – compared to a lot of walking on the streets in Asia
• Lots more glass around – In Europe they have great incentives to recycle glass bottles & perhaps better drinking habits in general.  Cycling in NZ – heaps of glass on the road!

Back to Christmas in Christchurch, NZ

Initial reflections the journey has left for us:

We don’t feel like we’ve had much of a chance to reflect, but here’s a few initial comments/challenges…

• Bike more – the first few days home we haven’t had a car, so it’s been a good incentive to set up our trusty steeds again, put on the paniers & navigate CHCH by bike.  Our vision is to bike wherever possible…
• Waste less – We were amazed at the lack of packaging people used in some places of India & Nepal – leaf. 
• Think outside the square – The NZ way of doing things isn’t always the only or best way of doing things

Anakiwa with the Wood fam

Thanks

We can’t say thankyou enough to the family & friends who have supported us, encouraged us and will continue to do so as we transition back to a more traditional working life back in NZ.

• Thanks to all our incredible official & unofficial Warm Showers hosts, some of whom took us in at a whim, some distant relatives, some friends of friends, others who responded to our online requests, old neighbours, friends of family.  So, so appreciated – you made our trip!
• To those who helped with logistics, transported packs to India & home from Nepal.
• To those who were amazingly encouraging, who read these blogs, who chose to comment, who emailed us.  You blew us away & gave us an incredible lift
• To those strangers who were exceedingly generous on the road, who gave with no expectation of ever getting anything in return.  Wow!  Bottles of water, raisins, milk, cheese
• To those people who inspired and shared their journeys with us - thank you

The sounds ... what a contrast!


So, now we continue our journey here in NZ, left with the lessons, enduring images and reflections that will linger in the background, often surpassed by pressing realities.  Our hope is that they will help to shape our life values, objectives and vision.  We feel like we haven’t really had a chance to process things in NZ so far, being consumed by immediate needs (mostly accommodation) and people/family time.


Na reira, kia ora mo tau tautoko ki a matou hikoi nui
(So, thankyou for your support during our long journey)

Arohanui from Te Kainga in Queen Charlotte Sound…

Andy and Miri



Photo Supplement

Making the most of an Outward Bound Christmas - letting go of our excuses on the high ropes course!

Nicky the Christmas legend sorting the tree

Enjoying a sail on Conquest

Summer! Slacklining, food, babies and family!!

Aotearoa - love it!!


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Nepal - The Land of the Mountains



Grand Summary:
  • A few days in Kathmandu in the tourist hub of Thamel getting sorted and rearranging our transport & route (so we could work in a job interview in a place with reception in 5 days time)
  • 10-11 hour jeep ride from Kathmandu to Phaplu
  • 28 Days trekking from Phaplu return on the 3 Passes Circuit in the Khumbu Valley beneath incredible peaks like Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nhuptse, Cho Oyu and Everest
  • Currently relaxing in Tansen, (west of Kathmandu) staying with a friend working as a doctor in a hospital here.
  • Next: Back to Kathmandu, where Miriam will be with the Himalayan Foundation for a short time assisting with the Himalayan Trust/REED Nepal teacher training programme before we head back to NZ.



It's been a truly incredible 28 days amidst the Mighty Mountains of Nepal! 

28 days of near perfect weather, every day.
28 days of expensive Dahl Baht for lunch & egg veg noodles for dinner every day.
28 days of not showering or shaving.
28 days of pulling on the boots and stinky socks and packs every morning. 
28 days of attempting, but mostly failing, to avoid trains of yaks, mules and people.
28 days of experiencing and appreciating different levels of oxygen.
28 days of theoretically getting fitter, but seemingly feeling less and less fit with the increasing altitude.
28 days of trying to speak enough Nepali to be able to eat in the local teahouses (as opposed to tourist lodges), where food was better and much cheaper.
28 days of journeying through incredible beautiful, awe inspiring, places.

On our days off, as a break from walking, just for a change, we usually climbed 600m up a nearby peak for the view or to help acclimatise.  Ahh, but what a real privilege being able to spend this time here coming towards the end of our journey!  Hamro Nepal derri man parcha! (We really like Nepal!).

In a couple of weeks we'll aim to post another blog with some reflections on Nepal and our time here in general.  But, without further ado, we'd like to share some of these Mountain spots with you. The photos really don't even come close to doing it justice. For you, though, this is a WIN!  You'll save on the necessary slow days acclimatising to the high altitudes, the conscious effort required for the simple acts of breathing, and the painfully slow uphill walking with excessive amounts of stops required to do a distance that would normally be straight forward.  (Yes, we learnt that altitude is definitely a force to contend with).


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kolkata, India: Vibrant Streets, Hard Stuff, Freedom Businesses

Summary and Highlights:

  • 2 weeks spent mostly in Kolkata visiting some friends from Christchurch, NZ who shifted there to study & start some "freedom businesses"
  • A few days in Darjeeling, a town at about 2200m near the Nepalese border, which is famous for its' tea & cooler climate
  • Volunteering at the Nirmal Hriday Home for the Destitute and Dying setup by Mother Theresa
  • Learning about and seeing freedom businesses & organisations in action: Freeset, SariBari, Kolkata Arts and Loyal Workshop
  • Next stop - Kathmandu Nepal, with a months trekking near Everest and briefly assisting with the Himalayan Foundation Nepali teacher training programme before heading home...

Vibrant Streets Assaulting the Senses - The Morning Walk

It's 7:30am on a Sunday morning near Sudder Street in Kolkata, India.  We're just stepping out of Hotel Galaxy, our guesthouse, onto the asphalt lane to walk to the Metro Station. On our left, we pass the 5 or 6 bright yellow 1960's style taxi cabs that always line the street early in the morning. There's colourful graffiti on the walls behind them.

The smell of urine wafts up from the walls and open urinals on the side of the road against the building to the right.  Up ahead, there's already of crowd, mostly guys, eating breakfast & drinking cha (spiced milk tea). We join them for our daily order of a couple of chappata breads and amazing spiced bean broth, perching on planks setup on the side of the lane.  You need to put aside all your western manners, as you share a plate and delve into it with only your right hand which is soon covered in curry.  The chapati is still toasty hot, after being cooked over the coals within the top of their small, round upright cooker.  Incredible to watch & delicious to eat!

Our lane, with the street urinals on the right, quite a step up from the usual against the wall pee!

The corner cha walah (milk tea guy) on the left, with the morning chapati with bean/potato curry guy on the right...

Street food!  Our Chapati guy in action, freshly cooked over hot coals (5 Rupees per chapata)

Cha in the traditional, recyclable clay cups (5 rupees)
We've been so impressed by the lack of plastic
waste here, often using leaf plates, clay cups, re-usable plates,
filtered water - love it!

Just a couple of meters across the lane, the cha wallah pours out his next steaming brew through the filter into small round clay cups.  Soooo good!  We smash the clay cups onto the gutter underneath us as we finish, before heading round the corner. The theory is that the clay eventually finds it's way back to the river it originally came from, as the rain washes it down the gutters (http://chaiwallahsofindia.com).

We walk past shops opening up, other food stalls, a herd of goats heading to a market somewhere, while continuously telling the taxi guys we don't want a ride.




It's currently the Hindu Durga Puja Festival, so at night, Kolkata is cranking! The streets are lit up with lights, speakers erected blaring out music at ear shattering volumes down the lanes, communities competing with their stage-like setups. This is their equivalent of Christmas.
As we near the museum corner, we pass by the street people, some still asleep, their shelters setup on the footpath.  Some are bucketing water over themselves from the handpump.  We see them every morning; sleeping, children playing, eating here on the footpath.  This is just a small group, in comparison to some of the many large slum communities living beside the railway tracks or banks of steep sided canals here.  A daily reminder for us of the stark realities of the disparity between rich and poor.  Between those entering the malls and nice shops and those living on the streets and slums, or selling themselves to make ends meet.

What you can't hear from the words on this page is the constant tooting of cars and buses as we walk.  It's virtually impossible to have a conversation with Miri, as we dodge cars, motorbikes or hand drawn rickshaws, people yelling and music playing.  This is a colourful place!!!  We pass by other sections of food stalls, with their amazing egg rolls (like kebab wraps), yogurt lassies and lime soda vendors, clothes, belt and bag vendors before taking the steps down into the underground Metro.

Ricki, a friend of our friends at a Puja Pandal (makeshift stage & idol)
Many, many people ....

Hard Stuff

Kokata has the largest red-light district in Southern Asia, Sonagachi, a square kilometre of densely populated homes and brothels.  Some estimate that there are 10,000 women in the trade here, with 20,000 men passing through every day.  Some women can face up to 20 men per day. Our walk with Freeset took us through a very operational, in your face area with one main purpose: "The Trade".  Very explicit! There's men lining up, waiting their turn, bargaining the price for the women, while she stands there waiting.  Women waiting on the sides.  Faces often very devoid of hope.  Ocassionally one would smile as they recognised the lady from Freeset. 

Many of these women have been trafficked here against their will, typically with the knowledge of their families, who are faced with the temptation of one less mouth to feed and an income from the city.  They are then typically held in the bondage of debt, heaped with ongoing expenses that they will struggle to ever repay.  Some are here "by choice" for the work, because it's the only job they can get, perhaps their mother or grandmother was also in the trade.

In contrast to this, we dropped in to visit a family who work for Freeset.  There are now a few women and families in the same building who work for them, as word has spread.  We sat on the bed and waited while they brought some Cha tea from down the road and biscuits to share with us, as we talked with their talking parrot.  This was a real privilege being able to enjoy their hospitality.  A snippet of hope amidst some hard situations.

The night walk through this area was really moving for us.  But we're equally inspired by the amazing people, passionate about giving these women FREEDOM here.  Freedom of choice.  They're involved in some daring stuff.

For more, check out:  http://freeset.org/ or  in NZ http://liminal.org.nz/  or http://www.theloyalworkshop.com/  We recently read a book called Sold (by Patricia McCormick) and have had recommended "The Locust Effect" by Gary A. Haugen

The Re-Occurring Theme of Freedom

Freedom.  It's a word that's often used in these parts with the people we know.  For good reason.  It's something we too often take for granted in our worlds of choice.  It's also been a word that we've felt has re-occurred for us time and time again over the year in different settings, whether it's been in the Refugee Camps in Greece, talking with our friends living in Turkey and their journeys with religion, our friends in Myanmar - some who have relatives that have sought refuge in NZ, those trapped cycles of poverty in Phnom Penh and here.  It is something that the people we have spent time with have taught us to be very grateful for.  It's gift that many don't have the privilege of enjoying and we live in hope that, as we "love our neighbour as ourselves", that they will experience greater freedom also...

One of the reasons we came to Kolkata was to visit friends, 3 couples and families who have recently moved here from Christchurch, NZ.  They're passionate about seeing healthy, caring communities with thriving relationships, something they were also passionate about seeing in NZ.  In their new community a key need is choice of employment for the many families that are struggling. They're living within close proximity to 3 different slum communities.  So, they're in the midst of starting up some small businesses to offer a degree of choice and opportunity to some of these families.  We've been super inspired hanging out with them and meeting their local friends while we've been here.

The local Canal, our friend's local neighborhood community, notice the longdrops, slippery banks and makeshift houses.  Our friends summed up the situation like this: "while the clean water gets pumped to the rich
people in southern Kolkata, the southern Kolkata crap flows back past these guys and out to the river...."

The other side of the Canal.  It was a real privilege to share a Cha (Milk Tea) with a couple of families here.  

As our time to head back to New Zealand draws closer, we've been challenged with how our experiences over the year will change how we live in NZ.  Will they just be amazing experiences that will fade into distant memories and photo books in the bookshelf?  We'll need some accountability to this from our friends and whanau back home.

Thanks for reading our blog and journeying with us!

Arohanui,

Andy and Miri

Photo Essay's

Darjeeling

Darjeeling, a hill town in northern India bordering Nepal is known for it's cooler temperatures, views of the distant Himalayas (occasionally anyway), Darjeeling Tea, Tenzing Norgay's home, Tibetan Refugees, many bording schools and amazing MoMos.  We took the overnight sleeper train and 3 hour crazy jeep ride (think packed in, winding steep roads, carsick ...) to Darjeeling for a few days.

Darjeeling clinging to the hills

View from the guesthouse window over Darjeeling

Local markets

Monkeys, many, many monkeys

streets lit up for durga purja, with street vendors doing their thing

Our favourite morning momo and chai and lunchtime egg role street vendor

Morning momo's, mmmmmm!

Night sleeper train (3x3 open cabin)

Kolkata

The bright colours of Kolkata traffic

Daal & rice - getting in there with the fingers


Incredibly industrious, we saw hand powered grinders on the footpath, hand pulled rickshaws, irons heated from
small coal fires uncreasing shirts, and this old singer sewing machine mending clothes.

Sudder Street

Street food in action

Our favourite Lassi vendor (sugared yoghurt drink), delicious!

Many, simply sleep on the footpaths, making it their home

This street had truly incredible creations for Durga Puja!  Made out of bamboo, paper, mud etc...

Mother Theresa's Kaligat Home for the Destitute.  We were privelaged to volunteer here for a couple of mornings.  Some volunteered here for months.

Street life from above

As you can see, the locals always use the footpath, as did we :-) 

The end :-)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cycle Touring Cambodia's Mekong Discovery Trail

Cycling the Mekong Discovery Trail - DO IT !!!  
Stung Treng to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A great chance to get off the main roads! Quiet rural riding between Stung Treng and Koh Preah

This blog-post has been created because a number of cycle touring friends and ourselves have found it really difficult to find information on this great cycling experience.  This is a local tourism initiative set up some years ago but has since been left to its own devices. The "Mekong Discovery Trail" officially stretches from Stung Treng to Kratie.  It's a long, hot day if you do the main road (145km) but it is amazing to split into 3 or even 4 days for something different. The following is a route description from Strung Treng to Phnom Penh, which incorporates information from us and other cyclists also (See also Anna and Ollie's blog at: www.passingthatway.blogspot.com). 

General

Bike and Tyre Suitability:  
For the majority of the journey, a normal cycle touring setup will be fine, with the exception of Koh Rogineav island.  For these tracks we would suggest you will need to give your bike setup some thought.  On the island if you are well laden and have skinny tires, it is possible that you will struggle when it's really wet and muddy.  As we describe below, there are portions of the island that you'll need to walk regardless due to the sand.  The fatter your tires, the lighter your bike, the easier it will be.  Mountain bikes for this portion would be awesome!!  

Weather Effects:
We cycled the route in August 2016, during a dry-ish period of the monsoon. Plenty of people have cycled it in the dry season. We generally had one brief afternoon downpour, although one night it rained for about 2 hours. It hadn’t rained in Phnom Penh for the 2 weeks leading up to our ride. This level of rain/mud was fine for the trail, however, if it is significantly wetter than that, we would suggest that you should do more of your route on the main road.  Friends of ours cycled it in the middle of summer in very hot / dry conditions.

Some official information and maps:  http://www.camboguide.com/cambodia-destinations/kratie/mekong-discovery-trail/
Good map:

Our Route:




Getting to Stung Treng:
While people will be riding there from the Laos or Vietnam borders or Phnom Pehn, if you have some time contstaints you can also catch the bus through from any of those locations.  We caught a Soraya Bus (bikes $5) from Phnom Penh, but you can also catch buses through from both borders.

Homestays:
Homestays here are definitely more expensive to stay in compared to budget cycle touring.  This is mostly due to the food costs, so expect that they will put a dent in your budget.  We had some great experiences and some awkward experiences with these, it may often depend on which Homestay you end up in.


6km south of Stung Treng, you leave the tar seal and hit the dirt road


Route Descriptions

 Stung Treng to Koh Khnear (87km: 21km sealed plus 66km off road) - we split this into two days but you don't need to ....
- From the Central Stung Treng market by the Mekong follow the road south beside the river, after 6km the sealed road turns to a dirt road.
- Follow this, crossing wooden bridges, through villages. After 8km is village Koh Sampeay. Continue following the river through Damrei Phong (dolphins!), on to Srae Krasang (8km after Koh Sampeay). 

At the time of writing you could not continue along the river roads to Koh Knhear, a turnoff is needed out to the main highway (or a $40 boat journey).  There are two options at Srae Krasang to get to Koh Knhear via the main highway. 1) Tar seal option (more direct and less adventurous route):  Follow the tar seal road back to the hightway at Srae Krasang  OR 2) Dirt Road, slightly more mountain biking and more fun/interesting option from Tboung Khla (see below)

From Srae Krasang continue straight (tar seal goes left) for 13km of dirt rail, gently undulating woodlands to Tboung Khla. 

***!! About half way between Srae Krasang and Tboung Khla (at about 37km from Stung Treng) you come to the ferry landing for the boat across to Koh Preah. There is a small sign on the mainroad which reads “Welcome to Koh Preah”. Take a small ferry across to the island and bike the final few km to the village and a well-organised Homestay system.  When we arrived and biked past the school, the village leader called out to us and organised a fellow teacher to have us stay at her house.  This was probably the coolest and best organised village of the lot.

Koh Preah Homestay (2016)

Ferry across river - $2.50 for 2 people and 2 bikes (5,000R each)
Homestay $17 for 2 people for dinner/stay/breakfast ($3 each for lunch, dinner and sleeping and $2.50 each for breakfast)

Koh Preah is a lovely village, with a really friendly leader, Saylom. He'll hook you up with a homestay quick as!


The first of many ferries - this one takes you across the Mekong to Koh Preah if you choose to stop here.
Summary of day one towns that have some food available:
Koh Sampeay: Drinks and snacks, restaurants
Damrei Phong: Drinks and snacks
Srae Krasang: Drinks and snacks, basic food.
Koh Preah: Drinks and snacks, homestay
Tboung Khla: Drinks and snacks, restaurants
Koh Khnear: Drinks and snacks, restaurants, homestay

Day One afternoon / Day Two (with Koh Preah option)
If you have stayed a night/visited Koh Preah head back across the river and  towards the main road, turning right at the intersection to Tboung Khla.

Tboung Khla to Highway (20km): At Tboung Khla turn left and head east to National Highway 7.  This is an undulating dirt road that crosses small rivers and farming settlements (the dirt road looks as though it carries on south but it does not meet up with the next village further downriver.)
- Highway 7 (18km): At National Highway 7 turn right (cafes here). Cycle about 18km to junction with a dirt road on your right. There are some big signs there about Ecotourism and village initiatives.
- Cycle SW on dirt road for 12.5km to riverside village Koh Khnaer. 

Koh Khnear Homestay (2016)

Sleeping - $8 for two people ($4 each). We were directed by some locals to one homestay with a family, but I understand there may be a few. Here is the least well organised of the homestay locations. Our homestay was located on the left a couple of houses down after turning right at the intersection at the end of the road.

Dinner and Breakfast were offered at $4 each per meal which we thought was a bit pricey so we declined and opted to find our own food in the village. Hopefully this was ok culturally – but we had an awesome noodle dinner for $1 each just before you got to the final intersection when heading into town on the left and an amazing breakfast for $1 plus packed lunch for $1 from the breakfast restaurant.  This was located on the right hand side a few shops down after turning right at the intersection when heading into town.

Ferry – again initially quoted as $7 at our homestay so we asked around the village and found a guy down the street turning left after the intersection when coming into town who would do it for $5 for both of us and 2 bikes. Our host changed her price to $5 in the morning but by then we had organised something else. You need to organise your ferry for the following morning so you can make an early start.  We left at 6:30am.

On the road from Tboung Klua out to the Highway - adventurous!


Koh Khnear village where you spend one night and organise a boat to take you across 
to the island. The village soundtrack included generators, grinders, 
dogs howling, midnight cow bells, kids and some rain on the roof!!

Koh Khnaer to Koh Phdau (38km):
- On the island you have 30km of remote trails and no water. If you are travelling south, you will find the sign below at the canoe drop-off point.  Ask the people at the huts in the start for directions.  Initially it is just a narrow path through the rice paddies, before turning left after 50m and over a fence into the jungle.  We were worried after finding really muddy conditions in this first  section, but it did get better!

Follow trail signage south along ox-cart tracks through the woodland.  The track splits numerous times, with usually no signage, so always choose the most major looking fork and try to keep heading south! Very sandy and slow. After 30km+ arrive at the first village on the west coast of the island, continue south passing through several small riverside villages before reaching Koh Phdau. There are a few ambiguous sign placements and a few places where it is hard to tell the most major. Blue spray-painted arrows mean nothing. Good luck!!  On our route map we've marked a few positions along the way if you get really lost and have your phone/GPS with you...

The first of many signs...!

The beginning of the trail - thankfully it got easier to ride than this


Look out for signs on the trees, and otherwise just pick the biggest fork


Maybe less mud in the dry season - it didn't cause too much of an issue 
for us although we did take our bikes for a bath in the river 
at the other end. 


Through the woodlands!


Another route decision - notice the signpost though - they were usually well-placed 
although there were one or two which, left us scratching our head and wondering 
what direction we should actually go. 

Water – we carried 7 litres of water plus 2 cans of sprite and had one litre left at the end. Others we talked to carried 10L. Depends on the time of year – we hit a good day!  It can get very hot!!!

Koh Phdau Homestays (August 2016)
As you cycle into the village there are homestays scattered along the road for many kilometers
Cost:  $22 for two people – ($3 each sleeping, $4 for dinner, $3 for breakfast) No other options in the village for eating but we got our best homestay food here!
NB:  They also added in an extra $2 extra "community development fee" that they hadn’t told us about until it came to payment time.  This seemed to be a fairly recent addition, which you may wish to query them about, if they forget to explain it to you.

On the road to somewhere...


As you turn left from Samphin headed for the ferry back to the mainland

 Koh Phdau to Kratie: (two options, east bank or west bank) 45 or 55km
- From Koh Phdau cycle south for about 4 km to Samphin. Just past a small village pagoda and school turn left to follow dirt road 2.5km as it bends right and leads to ferry port. Take the ferry to Sambour - be willing to wait! Ferry cost – less than $1 each (3000R)

- Sambour to Sandan (12km). Turn left off the ferry into Sambour village centre, where there's a great market. Otherwise turn left after exiting from the ferry towards the market and take the first right, then take the next right and follow road south towards Kratie. After 12km you reach Sandan village.

- A few kilometres after Sandan, (in a place maybe called Thum or Kakhot village), you reach a short dirt trail down to the river on your right, this is the ferry crossing to Vodthonak on the west bank of the Mekong. If you want to take the east bank route to Kratie (more built up, seal road), ignore this and continue to head south through villages to Kratie. 

Monks in Samphin, once you cross back to the east side from the island. We stayed east and biked straight to Kratie - lots of fun local food and small villages along the way. Tarseal.

If you want to take the west bank route to Kratie (quieter gravel), cross here on the ferry. 
- Vodthonak to Praek Prolung (28km): At Vodthanak turn left, cycle about 5km crossing several wooden bridges then 18km very close to the river bank. Shortly before Saob is a junction, turn left just after crossing a bridge. Another 3.5km after Saob turn left to the ferry at Praek Prolung. 
- Praek Prolung to Kratie (3km): Take the ferry across the Mekong to Peam Te. Follow your noses north up river to Kratie. 

Accommodation in Kratie: Plenty, we stayed in Mouha Outdom Hotel, a 5min walk north of the market on the main riverside road. A basic private double room with fan but no WiFi in the room for $5 (2016) - most of the other options were around $7.  There was great food options at the market, like advocado shakes (4000R), multi choice options with rice (usually about 4000R each), buy bananas, etc...

Kratie to Kampong Cham – 120km
From Kratie you can choose east or west bank. As at August 2016, advice was the East side was a good road for 60km south of Kratie before becoming very muddy and bumpy. We took the Westside, so from Kratie, cycle south for 5km to a bridge across an inlet. Turn right and make your way down to the river and the ferry to Praek Prolung. There are restaurants at the ferry landing on the West side. 120km to Kampong Cham, mostly following through old style villages. Good dirt road for 50km and then good tar seal. 

Plenty of food options and drink places along the way. At 75km the road goes steeply up a hill into a rubber plantation. It is about a 3km square detour but probably easy. We looked at google and saw a more direct route straight down the side of the river, however, the road deteriorated, became too loose and steep to ride, but rejoined the tar seal quickly. The last 33km is a bit of a drag as you are back on a main road, but generally fine.

Accommodation in Kampong Cham: Plenty, we stayed in Mekong Crossing Hotel, one of our fanciest rooms, fan only, for $8.  We grabbed some food down by the market and took it to the Mekong riverside with some frozen watermelon.

A larger ferry this time round across to the west-side.


Awesome gravel road for 50kms after Kampong Cham on the westside


Don't believe Google that this is the main road - small but fun detour


About to rejoin the tarseal at the end of our wee detour. If you want a 
bit of fun, go this way, otherwise the tarseal would be quite fine!!
To Phnom Penh – 94 kms
Many options. The main highway (6/7) on the west side is apparently very average due to it's busyness. A local described the east side as shorter but in worse condition and the westside small roads as longer but generally slightly better condition. We followed Google’s “walking route” on the east side, which was the shortest option.  The road conditions are VERY variable depending on the time of year etc, what were amazing conditions for us, might be super washed out or under construction for you.

From the riverside in Kampong Cham, we cycled south past the main road leading to the bridge. We were on road 223, which followed the west side for 20kms. At 20kms there was a bridge and we turned left just before it down to the river to a ferry crossing to the east side (1000R each incl bikes Aug2016).

Upon reaching the west bank there is a great noodle soup place just as you come up to the main road on the left. There were plenty of other food options along the way, so you don’t need to carry much. We were on an OK gravel road for about 10km and then the road turned really, really awful for about 20km. Rough, loose, corrugated gravel. They were doing this road up slowly, so it may improve... Thankfully, at 53km from KC the road turned to lovely tar seal again and it is amazing! 

We followed this road all the way down to the main intersection with the road from Vietnam heading across the bridge to Phnom Penh. We carried on straight ahead following the Mekong for another 20km until our final ferry crossing.  To reach the ferry, turn left opposite the Svaychroum Pagoda onto a dirt road that crosses a causeway. Ferry cost 1500R for 2 people & bikes (Aug 2016).  After heading up from this you follow the trafffic round to the left before you cross a bridge into the edge of central Phnom Penh.  It's amazing going from quiet country roads to a humming large city in an instant!

Cranking (hot) market about 40km from Kampong Cham on the east side. 
Death Road, which in Aug 2016 was most definitely under construction. If you can 
hack it for 20km, the rest of the day is a nice ride!
The final ferry across to Phnom Penh from the east side

Please add your comments / any amendments to this, so we can keep it current!!  

Safe journeys!!!!


Andy and Miriam (with a lot of input from Anna and Ollie, Lisi Aimer and Jonathan Barford)