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Paul & Tracey's Travels
17th Feb 2014 - Vietnam,Laos & Cambodia
Road trip through Central Cambodia

Today we took a 10 hour road trip south through the heart of Cambodia to the capital Phnom Penh. We met our guide at 7am, and as we were getting on the bus he pointed out that there was an army generals car in the front of the hotel recognisable by its special number plate, and the two guys in army uniform standing next to it ! Apparently an army General gets paid only $200 per month, but can earn more from corruption !

We stopped a couple of times and did a detour today, so you can do the journey by road in 6 hours, however to put it in perspective, it is also 6 hours by fast boat down the Tonie Sap and Mekong rivers. 

We travelled along the main N6 highway which is essentially a single lane both ways road, like a small uk A road. The condition of the road however varies greatly during the journey. It is road that links south Vietnam with Thailand and Cambodia has got a loan from China to widen it! But that work has not long started and only in a few places.

Traffic consists of a few lorries, a few cars, but mostly bikes, motor bikes and carts pulled by a variety of means. The land is very flat for the whole journey, and the road passes through many small villages, but only one other town for the whole 300+ km journey.

An hour out of Siem Reap, our guide showed us a bridge in what turned out to be his home town, that had been blown up by the Khmer Rouge in the 80's when he lived there.

The first part of the journey the road was tarmaced, although very bumpy and there were a lot of huge holes in the road. Though all the villages, the house style was predominantly wooden built shacks on stilts, and it was extremely rare to see a house with a car in the front. Some houses though have elaborate Buddhist shrines in front. Some still use palm leaves for roofs and walls.

At 9.40am we stopped for coffee by a sort of service station next to a lake which is part of the great Tonie Sap lake which occupies a large part of North Central Cambodia. This lake is 3 tines bigger in the wet season, and in the dry season it's banks retreat by several kilometres.

About half way we turned north on N8, to divert for 30 km to visit a small temple - Sambor Prei Kuk. Shortly after we turned down a single lane dirt road for several km to reach the temple. There are only a few parts of the temple left, however we did see some water buffalo washing in the waster, and some carts drawn by cattle.

We stopped for lunch at the only town on route - Kampong Thom which is on the River seine !

Then at 12.30 we set off to do the last 150 km which took 4 hours. As we left the town, the road is quite wide but only has a thin strip of potholed Tarmac down the middle - the rest is dirt on each side, so effectively there is only one preferred route that all vehicles try to take. 

Some bumps almost literally throw you out of your seat. There is a perpetual cloud of brown dust as vehicles move on to the dirt, and all the houses and trees next to the road are covered with it. At one point as we were following a fully laden lorry there was a massive bang and one of the lorries tyres blew. As we were only travelling at about 30 mph he simply pulled to the side and there was no real drama.

At points the Tarmac completely disappeared and we were simply on a dust road (this is the main highway!) and the visibility was almost zero due to the dust. At one point a car overtook us and disappeared into the oncoming traffic in a dust cloud. We waited for the screeching of tyres and the sound of a crash but luckily none came.

As we got nearer Phnom Penh the road surface became less dusty and the two lanes of Tarmac re appeared. Also the surroundings became a bit lusher with lakes and rice fields at the side from time to time.

At the town of Skun we stopped for a break by a food market where they were selling fried spiders and crickets. One of the people we are travelling with tried the crickets and quite liked them although could not describe the taste. 

With 31 km to go the road crossed the Tonie Sap River and we then turned to run parallel to it, following it into the capital. We could see small collectIons of houses on the water every so often - these are floating fishing villages.

In the outskirts of Phnom Penh we drove through a large Muslim area. These are immigrants from Central Vietnam and are some of the inhabitants that have now pushed the population to over 2 million. We finally arrived at our hotel at 5pm hot and dusty.

Tomorrow we explore the city and potentially visit the notorious killing fields.



Next: Phnom Penh and the killing fields
Previous: Rural Cambodia and more temples


Diary Photos

Buffalo near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Leaving Siem Reap, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Limbs lost by land mine, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Siem reap rush hour, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Off to work, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical hospital, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical police station, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Off to market, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Village crossroads, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical house, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical house with hay for cows, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical houses, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical houses, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical houses, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical houses, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical scene at side of road, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Recent vehicle crash due to poor road conditions, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Village, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical road side scene, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Rest stop by lake, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Rest stop by lake, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Paul at rest stop, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical farm land, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Road near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Tracey at Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Damage from bullet during reign of Khmer Rouge, Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Village girl selling scarves, Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Typical house, near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Water Buffalo, Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

Near Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

School, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Dusty conditions, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Typical road side scene, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Driving through a small town, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Town scene, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tarmac enough for one, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tarmac has disappeared, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The road ahead, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Trying to find the least bumpy route, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Fried spiders, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Carrying food on head, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Bag of Fried crickets, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Wide but dusty, Road south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

View over Phnom Penh rooftops from hotel room, Cambodia


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