Friday, February 22, 2013

Cambodia-ing to Vietnam - Introduction

In Dec 2011, I made a visit to the French provincial riverside town of Kampot and fell in love with it. Situated by the Bokor Mountain range, the Kampot River and a stone's throw from the crab capital of Cambodia, the thought of putting together a dream cycle trip was sparked. So this adventure had its roots 12 months ago and there's nothing more satisfying than turning a plan into reality.

Our ride attracted a huge team of 11 folks, 2 from Australia. This is usually more than I am comfortable with but I found it hard to say no to such lovely people. Leading the Northern Thailand Winter ride in Jan 2012 with my buddy Chris Wee gave me the confidence to do this, and it helped that Chris was coming for this one too.

The plan was to first fly everyone to Siem Reap to savour the magnificent Angkor Wat, as this is truly a must see. Then take a 6 hr bus down to Phnom Penh and making it our base. There, we could store our bike boxes in the hotel making for easy packing when we fly home. Planning the route to Kampot was straightforward, down Highway 2 to Takeo 90km away, then onwards 80km on Highway 3 to Kampot. What to do after that proved challenging...

2 options were available. Return the same route via bus or bike back - but this would go against my belief as life is too short for repeats. Toying with the idea of moving onwards to Vietnam, the problem was time. A ride to Ho Chih Min could be fun but needed another 5 days and time was not on our side.

A quick research proved God sent. There are regular ferries that leave Chau Doc, a small town along the Mekong River, all the way back to Phnom Penh at 730am daily. US$34 was all it took for the scenic 5 hour boat ride. So, this was to be and we used the Hang Chau Express Boat. The Blue Cruiser boat charges more for somewhat the same service, I'm told. Chau Doc is only 170km away from Kampot so very manageable indeed and the ride hugs the Cambodia/Vietnam border. The added bonus of crossing the international border into Vietnam proved exciting too!

Booking the hotels also was to be a bit of a challenge especially in Vietnam and I am blessed to have Huong, a Vietnamese friend in my Singapore church to help us. They require downpayment and the only way is to directly debit into their local bank account. The rest was fairly easy save for Ha Tien where we took a chance.

All in, the one week's ride across Southern Cambodia and into North Western Vietnam proved an amazing trip. 430km of bliss across a wide range of road conditions, from blistering dusty, pot-holed highways to billet table smooth roads with the most beautiful scenery. What a memorable pre-Chinese New Year ride we all enjoyed from Jan 13 - 20!

Do hope you will enjoy experiencing this Lovethefold adventure online...

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