Statistics Thailand & Cambodia:
Distance: 386/1136 km
Daily Average: 14/44 km
Days in the Coutnry: 27/26
Days on the Bike: 5/12
Altitude covered: 1050/5700m
Daily Average 210/480m
Nights in the Tent: 1/7
Nights in Houses: 26/19
daily Costs : 12,70/12,20€
Relaxing and soberingThailand welcomed me with a perfect 4 laned road that popped right out of the burmese gravel dirt road at the borderline. it led me down to the borderpost where i could collect my second 30days stamp right away.
The same evening i met Marc, the swiss Guy i cycled with in china for 2 Days. We found a place to stay at a house of a local and had some really funny anecdotes to share.
He cycled to Myanmar the next day and i went on to Kanchanaburi. The Town was well known from the Movie „Bridge over River Kwai“. The Railroad track over the mountains to Burma was build by the Japanese using the work power of prisoners of war. A lot of people died while the construction. Today the City is a quiet place, perfect to relax a day or two. I visited some waterfalls that went dry and watched the locals taking a fully clothed bath in the pool under the dripping fountain.
The next day i went on to Bangkok. A quick visit to a Bat Cave on the way showed me a really fascinating phenomenon. over 10 Millions of bats living in that cave and leaving when the Day ends. This leads to a almost endless stream of Bats that are flickering to sound and music. Impressing!
Entering the Metropolis was quite relaxed. Before i crossed the River it felt like cycling through little villages crossing countless channels and at the End the River pray that brought me to the Eastside into the center of Bangkok.
Here i had to organize some things, arrange a visa and wait for a parcel including my new tent. I also wanted to change some settings on my bike. After having back my Tent i can start again what i call a self-supported bike trip. It is nice to have a shower every night but you are more independent having a tent.
I used the time to take a look at the city, but manly to handle the heat. morning trips ended in hanging around the whole afternoon. Along the River there are some parks with nice winds and grass that makes hanging around quite comfortable.
Bangkok is a City with many faces, a modern Heart with Skyscrapers and a lot of glass and a Skytrain called Metro-System. right next to it there is Chinatown with narrow roads and smelly markets. The Khao San Road is the touristic center of Bangkok, 24 Hour Fairground with everything a western heart wants and expects from Asia. Far away from Reality.
I realized that there i no Thai Person smiling in that Area. Expect the burmese People selling more or less senseful stuff on the roads, that makes me think back to myanmar again…
Some Day my Tent arrives, the Visa is issued and it is time to leave. The Heat and my desire to have a break brought me on the bus to Trat, a little City in the East of Thailand From there i took the Boat to Koh Kood, where i wanted to stay for 2 Weeks, relax and learn scuba diving. Some pictures about that you can find here.
As i came back from there i realized the Heat while i started cycling again. Daily Temperatures around 40 Degrees accompanied me the next days.
I crossed the Border to Cambodia the second morning and got the best impression of the country. I had to bargain about the price of my visa. Corruption is all over Cambodia and so i had to pay 37$ instead of the official 30$. That explains why everyone in the office uses the newest iPhone. So the screen was much more important than me and so i could watch the staff surfing around for about an hour before my case was done…
Cause of the Heat i didn´t take so many pictures in Cambodia. I was happy to move and feel a breeze instead of stopping and sweating. So i manly try to explain you the country with my words…
First: Cambodia is not beautiful. at least not in April. It was extremely interesting and sharpened my critical view on the things.
I tried to sort my impressions, so come on and read…
First City i visited was Sihanoukville in the South. Here you can get Visas very fast and without a hassle. In the Meantime waiting for the visa i decided to relax some days on the Islands of Koh Rong Samloen just in front of the coast. So i got a insight into Tourism down here.
What originally started as a Backpacker destination years ago is changing. The western Tourist gets outnumbered by the Asians manly the Chinese. So they build gigantic Resorts exactly tailored for their needs.
The same time the dark side of tourism is visible. A young still drunken western guy told me about the cheapest beer in southeast asia and the wildest party he had down here while the people serving the drinks and working to get the party running sleep to blocks away in fucked up huts or under Beer-Commercial Plastics next to the road. Crass!
While i was staying on the Island i couldn´t escape the problems of the tourism. too many Resort had been built in the last years so the are running out of water in the Springtime. Just 10 minutes of freshwater everyday were possible at the end… bright look out to the future…
Even Eco-Tourism has arrived down here and so you can find some Roadsigns leading to village based projects along the roads. A start.
My way brought me to the Southeast to the Capital of Phnom Penh. On the way there i realized the huge ecological problem they are heading to. It starts with water. Not as in Thailand you can´t fill your bottles with clean water somewhere. They sell it in Bottles (Goal for Nestle!). Cause of the Heat they prefer 500mL Ones, cooled in the Fridge. You can find them lying around along the roads, Thousands of them per Kilometer! I collected my trash to find a place to recycle (for PET and Cans) it (or get it really disposed) for the rest. I got asked what exactly i am doing there? Just throw it away, it´s the way we do it…
The Rubbish is if treated burned next to the road. So everywhere you can see little campfires burning.
So my first impressions of Phnom Penh weren´t beautiful. Ditches full of stinky dirt water running through the City and the people live (more or less by their own choice) next to it. In the Streets the Rubbish is Piled and will be collected once a day. You always walk through rubbish and so the smell in the streets is intense.
The Carelessness against it is impressing.
I visited Phnom Penh while Cambodian New Year and the city was almost empty. Traditionally everyone is going home to celebrate the time with friends and family. So i enjoyed the quiet hot streets and, cause of the heat, decided to take a trip to Siem Reap by bus.
In the Northwest of the Country Einfront of the Gates of Angkor Wat you can find everything a tourists heart expects. Excessive Party all around the clock, backpacker guesthouses but also 5Star Spa-Resorts. If you compare the prices with the Level of Life in Cambodia you can see that every relation is lost…
Angkor Wat is a eight wonder of the world for some. The biggest Touristic Hotspot in the Country that attracts Millions of visitors every year that are willing to pay minimum 20$ per Person to see the ruins. The Area is leased to a private company so none of that money is coming toward the people…. Another example for the greed of the powerful in Cambodia.
Here i found a positive example of help:
the swiss Doctor Beat Richner started to rebuild a Childrens Hospital almost 25 Years ago. He stayed in the Country and is still running the nowadays 5 Hospitals big activity.
There are impressing Numbers behind that: 85% of the serious sick children in the country are treated by his Hospitals and 80% of the patients would not survive without this help. The Countries Problems are gigantic, but here there is substantiell help. Vaccination programs try to fight epidemics, 65% of the Childrens of Cambodia are carrying tuberculosis in them. From time to time Dengue-Fever is breaking out. Without Hospital it is the Death for that Childs.
The best thing: It´s for free. Not one patient has to pay for anything. Richer is collecting money for years to get the more than 40 Million $ to pay his bills. He is treating everybody the same way, why should a swiss child have better treatment than a cambodian one? So the hospitals are equipped on swiss Level. The Medicines are internationally respected Specialists. But not everybody is happy about that. The WHO is against it cause it´s for free… a average treatment is about 230$, thats more than a Farmer is earning a year.
He is paying higher wages to protect the hospital from corruption. In normal cambodian Hospitals without paying Money to the doctors and nurses there is no treatment. So Kantha Bopha, the Name of the Hospitals, is the only corruption free lace in Cambodia. In the meantime there are only two foreign workers left, Richner is one of them. The rest, 2500 Cambodians doing fabulous work.
His Goal is to make sure that the money for Kantha Bopha is payed regular. For that he is collecting money while touring through Switzerland and playing Cello for the Tourists in Siem Reap.
On his Website you can find a lot of Informations about the Project.
After i came back to Phnom Penh i finally got back on the Bike and headed eastwards. Here you can see the backwardness of the country. The people living in simple wooden Houses on Stelts. They cook on wooden fire on the ground. Electricity is a luxury and toilet is a hole in the ground behind the house. Rubbish is blown away by the wind…
The drought in April is massive. This year the strong el nino in the Pacific is lengthen the period and so the people couldn´t start working on the field and stay unemployed. They watch television, there is a cambodian version of „the Voice“ or just some badly translated telenovelas from the neighboring countries. Horrible Quality…
Commercial for Beer is everywhere and cigarettes are incredible cheap (50 Cent/Package) that everyone is smoking.
On my trip i crossed an area that was almost fully deforested. While the People sell Charcoal along the Road apocalyptical fires are burning in the Background. I can not imagine that these people know what they are doing to them self.
Here Corruption is also strong. the Jungle full of high-priced woods getting cut and sold to the neighbor countries and instead they grew monocultures of Rubber and Eucalyptus… Officially it is forbidden to cut them but greed always finds a way. So almost all of the cambodian jungles are History.
There was no real Industry on the Way. Trade seems to be the only pillar of the Economy. Every second Hut has a orange plastic fridge and a shelf for Petrol-Bottles. The Scooters will be filled up with half a litre and something cold to drink is always necessary in this temperatures. These Mini-Gas Stations are delivered from canisters that are filled up by real Petrol Stations.
In the Area around Phnom Penh you could find a lot of factories that are sewing clothes. After Bangladesh cambodia is the biggest Tailorshop of the world. This seems to be the reason that the Football-Shirt is the most famous part of Clothing in the Country. In the Countryside there are also a lot of sewing machines in the huts and the women of the family earning some extra money for the family.
In the Capital there are a lot of expensive Cars around but the main part of Traffic are the Scooters. Everything in any form is transported here. 5 Persons on one Bike or the Scooter is stuffed with goods behind and even infant of the driver. A lot of these low powered Bikes (100-150ccm) carry trailers with up to 20 Persons on it. Just possible cause of the totally flat areas in the centre.
There i no individual traffic on the countryside. Except the Scooters there are just Minibusses or Trucks on the Roads. These Automobiles are partly in such a horrible condition and overloaded that you only can be happy when it overtook you… To have a free Road they use the Horn very often and very loud. Entering a Village means to horn. Using the Break is the very last step for them. Adventurous!
After the Peacetalks at the End of the Eighties the aid organizations came in Masses and stayed. Cambodia is full of them, everyone with or without a name is here. The UNO (UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO…), USAID, EU, WWF, GTZ, Medicines without Frontier… you can go on and on. That brings Money into the Country and feeds the Corruption very well.
Phnom Penh is full of western Restaurants, originally funded for the aid workers more and more Tourists are coming in. The Prices are almost western Level, in on they offered me a coffee for 4$ (that´s like in Switzerland). Like in Thailand you can meet a lot of older Men surrounded with cambodian Women. The Locals call them Sex-Pats like the Ex-Pat…
Cambodia History is a sad Play. After the Fall of the Kingdom of Angkor 500 Years ago (the Ruins are the biggest touristic Attraction in the Country) it went more and more playable of external power. First the Thai and the Vietnamese took part after part and after the french came to protect the country, they took it all.
After Independence i the 50s they thought it could get better but then the Vietnam-War came with massive bombardments and the political influence of the USA.
At the End the Khmer Rouge called communists took over power in 1975 and managed in a barbaric way to kill 3 Million People in three and a half Years.
They wiped out the intellectual elite in the country and destroyed Art, Healthcare and Education totally. In 1979 they were forced to leave by the Vietnamese but the Country is still suffering from these years.
The West, led by the USA still stuck with the Khmer Rouge (cause of the Influence of Vietnam to the new Government) and so there was a Civil War until the End of the Eighties.
After the Peacetalks the International Aid Workers came into the Country and bring money. The Men at Power are only interested in filling their own pockets and so the cambodians, traumatized from the Khmer Rouge, fell in a fatal passive way. The things causing from that you can see on the street. Only the things that bring money for foreign investors grow. Just 24% of the Country has electric energy but the Mobile Network is uptodate.
So the People are lying in their Hammocks and watching senseless stuff on their little screens… Impressing.
Read more about that it shows in the most perfect way how international help can make things even worser. There is a lot we did wrong!
After 4 Weeks in the Country i am impressed. First from the Heat, it brought me to my limit. Now i know that you should not visit Cambodia in April by Bicycle. But at the End i managed to cross the country by bike….
On the other hand the Country impressed me in a negative way. Here you can see where the world is going in the most negative case… Over the Edge!