Monday, December 20, 2010

Charmed by Kampong Cham

An excursion into the sleepy town of Kampong Cham proved a delightful discovery for me. Wife's purpose was to do clinical assessments but mine was to explore a new Cambodian provincial town. 120km away from Phnom Penh and sitting idyllic along the Mekong River, Kg Cham is certainly off the tourist radar for now.

This area of Cambodia is where the Cham people live and they are predominantly Muslims. Interestingly, the Malaysian state of Kelantan recognises them and give them rights to citizenship and Bumiputra status. People here are extremely friendly especially to tourists. What still seems to stand out is the French colonial influence seen in the many crumbling but distinct houses and buildings they built some 70 years ago. There is also the fame Nokor Bachey temple ruins, that is similar to Angkor Wat but without the hefty admission charges. Prices here are certainly cheaper than the capital city where our VIP room at the Monorom 2 VIP Hotel costs only US$25 and where basic rooms start at only $15.

I took a rental bike out for a morning ride and enjoyed it thoroughly! Best fun for $1 I reckon and enjoying the cool breezes along the Mekong Riverside was the perfect start to a day. The town of 50000 was already bustling especially the markets and it was certainly fascinating to still see horse drawn carriages along the road.

But what caught my eye was a Surly Traveller Check locked up at the Mekong Hotel carpark. It had S & S couplings. Providence had it that I passed it by this morning and Taylor from Arizona, the owner was just setting off 100km today to Kratie, famous for the Irrawady Dolphins. We enjoyed a great chat as always between touring bicyclists. Locked next to his bike were 2 top end touring bikes with Rolfhoff hubs and unique belt drive system that got me salivating.

Before we left Kg Cham, I spotted another tourer heading out of town. I cant wait for my adventure to begin in Laos next week.

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