Jan 05 2014

Cambodia

The runaway from the mob in Cambodia

We were a bit unlucky the first couple of days while entering and travelling in Cambodia. It already started at the border when a very grumpy and unpleasant officer at the border stopped us. He refused to let us into the country with the motorbikes and stubbornly insisted that we needed a Carnet De Passage, which we knew wasn’t needed for Cambodia. We first told him that Carnet De Passage is not required for Cambodia but he persistently told us that he wouldn’t let us in without it. Though we had a Carnet we kept saying that we didn’t as we heard it could be a problem getting it stamped when leaving the country. We thought he would eventually let us pass without a Carnet, but no way, he was grumpy and stubborn as hell. After some time we gave up and we decided to use the Carnet, as it looked that we wouldn’t have a choice. We made a quick decision that Anders would take the Carnet to the officer, as he is much at better keeping calm than I am when around idiots. He showed the officer the Carnet De Passage with the list of countries that require a Carnet and that Cambodia was not included. Instead of letting us in the country he told Anders that it was the wrong Carnet but as we were well aware, there is only one Carnet and it is the one we have. Anders had to beg, smile and beg again and eventually the grumpy guy, who was probably at this time very tired of Anders, stamped the Carnet and let us pass.

When passing the border’s gate we could see that he had gone back to his hammock and was nearly asleep. Honestly, I was so very close to giving him the finger (I know, very grown up… not) when riding past him but I could hear Anders saying repeatedly, don’t do it, don’t do it…. he knows me far too well 😉

 

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The tiny scratch on my pannier

The escape from the mob

Another incident that wasn’t very pleasant was when I ended up in a traffic accident. In a small village that we passed through, a girl on a small motorcycle ran into me from behind. She fell off her bike and hurt her leg. It only took a few seconds and we were surrounded by lots of men, probably close to 30. The only guy who seemed to speak a little bit of English told me, in a not very nice way that I had to pay 200 dollars. I tried to explain that it wasn’t my fault as the girl ran into me. I even showed them the small mark that her bike had made on my pannier. After a while it started to get really nasty and while a man tried to get my attention another one tried to remove the scratch on my pannier that could prove that the girl ran into me and not vice versa. I shouted “what the hell are you doing?” and the man stopped at once but then it was another man who tried to do the same. This time I used a language that is not for print… I guess this was not the cleverest thing to do while surrounded by all these aggressive men. As I looked for the girl I realised that she had disappeared but the men still wanted 200 dollars. At this moment I actually started to get a little bit worried, as the police hadn’t turned up, the girl was gone, the crowd was getting bigger and bigger and some of the men tried to put their hands on my bike. We made a quick decision to put on our helmets. We started the engines and since we were completely surrounded by the mob I remember that I shouted to Anders, go go go… I was giving the engine a lot of throttle and then let the clutch go a little bit too fast but I managed to keep the bike on two wheels. The men must have managed to throw themselves away from the bike, as I didn’t run anyone over. At this time I can assure you that I was very glad that I had my large BMW. With my heart pounding very hard we were riding too fast for the road conditions and trying to avoid the most hazardous potholes. We had also one guy following us for a while but again we were pleased to have our big bikes that were faster than his and luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad. The rest of the day we were terrified of being stopped by the police. I guess it would have been difficult convincing them that it wasn’t my fault, when about 30 men pleading the opposite…not sure how long the sentence would be for a hit and run in Cambodia… eek!!!

I’m still thinking of the girl and what happened to her. I guess and hope that she is all right. She must have been able to walk away from the place. Maybe she didn’t want to be involved in the hoax the men tried on us, I guess I will never know.

 

Phnom Penh

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A Chankiri Tree or Killing Tree was a tree in the Cambodian Killing Fields against which children and infants were smashed because their parents were accused of crimes against the Khmer Rouge. It was so the children “wouldn’t grow up and take revenge for their parents’ deaths”. Some of the soldiers laughed as they beat the children against the trees. Not to laugh could have indicated sympathy, making oneself a target. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chankiri_Tree)

After our lucky escape from the mob we headed towards Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh on very dusty and bumpy roads. When approaching the city the traffic was getting worse and more intense. We soon became aware that Phnom Penh is a crazy city and the traffic is horrendous. We had to share the roads with thousands of Tuk-tuks, motorbikes, cars, enormous lorries, small children begging for money, dogs, you name it. Not only that, but there were also potholes in all sizes and shapes and some filled with water. This along with being surrounded by lots of vehicles made it impossible to avoid some of the potholes. We could only hope that the ones we went into weren’t too deep and didn’t have sharp edges. This together with bad pollution, dust and heat made the ride a very unpleasant one. However, we rode this road several times after that so we got used to it.

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We also visited the Tuol Svay Pray High School which, ‘In 1976, the Khmer Rouge renamed to S-21 and turned it into a torture, interrogation and execution center. Of the 14,000 people known to have entered, only seven survived.’ (http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/s21-victims.html)

In Phnom Penh we visited Killing Fields, Choeung Ek and the Tuol Svay (More info with the photos). Of course these are not the most pleasant tourist attractions to visit but I felt obliged to visit the place to show my respect for the people who died in such an awful way. I have never been very interested in history, I’m more interested in the present but visiting these places in both Laos and Cambodia has made me realise that humanity need to be aware of the past so we can avoid future genocides. The most awful thing though is that it is still happening, as I write this, in several places in the world.

 

 

 

Sihanoukville

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At the Small Hotel in Sihanoukville

After Phnom Penh we headed down to Sihanoukville, in the south Cambodia where we at last saw the sea again. Sihanoukville is really a tourist place but we found a hotel (The Small Hotel) outside the tourist area, which was absolute fantastic. It was so good that instead of staying the two nights we had planned, we ended up staying for ten nights. Henrik, the owner of the hotel, was hilarious and we spent many hours laughing together and had many interesting discussions with him, his staff and some of the other guests in the hotel. The hotel felt much more like a person’s home than a hotel, except that it was cleaner and the food was to die for. This was the first time we actually had a proper lazy holiday and I managed to stay on the beach for two hours each day before getting bored. While in Sihanoukville Anders finally dared to go to the dentist to sort his tooth out, which he had cracked in Mongolia several months earlier. Anders got his crown and was happy as a clam at full tide.

After the ten days in Sihanoukville we headed north again, this time to Siem Reap. Anders wanted to see Anchor Vat. It certainly felt great to be on the road again and not knowing what’s ahead of you.

It took us two days to get to Siem Reap. We had to travel through Phnom Penh again which meant hours in traffic jams but we decided to not stop in the city, instead we went a bit further and stayed in a guesthouse in a small village.

 

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The crowd at Angkor Wat

Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a lovely place but far too many tourists for my liking. In Siem Reap we visited Angkor Wat, which is a Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. We had heard that one of the main attractions is to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat from the east gate, so we booked a tuk-tuk for 4.30 in the morning and we were very excited when we took off. We thought that this early there wouldn’t be so many people, but we were completely wrong. The closer we got to the place the more crowded the roads become. When we finally arrived at the gate there were thousands of people with cameras waiting for the sun to rise, but it was a complete disappointment. I only took a couple of pictures of it, then I started to photograph the tourists instead who stood there lined up with their cameras, which was so much more fun.

After Siem Reap we went to the city Battang Bang, which felt so much more genuine. There were hardly any tourists and the city was so relaxed and with very friendly people. After a few days it was, after about four weeks, time to head for the border and Thailand.

After one night in a village we arrived at the border and I was pretty worried that I would see a picture of myself with the word WANTED underneath…. Probably not the way they do it nowadays but I get easily carried away…. However, we managed to get out of Cambodia and when we saw the sign for Thailand I must say that I was rather relieved.

Though we might not have had the best start when arriving to Cambodia it certainly changed after a few days. Cambodia is such a wonderful, chaotic and crazy country where the people have the most beautiful smiles. You quickly learn not to trust anyone but that seems to be the game and surprisingly I even liked that after a while.

Next Thailand….

 

Random photographs from Cambodia

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Animal transport in Cambodia

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Anders helping the guys

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Temple in Cambodia

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Framed motorcycle in Phnom Penh

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A man having a nap

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Yummy some food in Cambodia

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Phnom Penh

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Celebrating Independence Day in Phnom Penh

 

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Watching the football in the middle of the night at the Small Hotel in Sihanoukville

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We had to share the roads with all sorts of “vehicles”.

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There were some flooding in Cambodia

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Hairdresser in Cambodia

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I still don’t know how he managed this

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Exchange and Laundry….

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In Siem Reap

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Make sure to keep the speed which is…..

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Children in Siam Reap

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A boring picture of Angkor Wat

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I started to photograph the people photographing Angkor Wat…

 

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Ta Prohm temple

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Ta Prohm temple

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Ta Prohm temple

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Bayon

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Sunset Angkor Wat

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Anders queuing for some rice… not successfully though 😉

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Temple in Battambang

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Some monks in Battambang

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We thought we were heavy loaded

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Shock absorbers for sale in a market

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Sunrise… that is one of the reasons we prefer to start early in the morning

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Public transport ???

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Flooding

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Drying rice next to a petrol station… just wonder how healthy that is…

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Some men crossing the border Cambodia Thailand

 

Portraits

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18 comments

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    • Al on 5th January 2014 at 10:03
    • Reply

    It sounds like that girl is one that does that regularly to get people to pay up. Glad you got out of it somewhat okay

    1. It was terrible experience.

      I hate the way people handle accidents in Cambodia

      1. Cambodia is a beautiful country and have wonderful people with great sense of humour.
        I think we were just a bit unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This could have happened in any country we visited.

        Best regards
        Anders and Petra

        • Al on 22nd May 2016 at 11:36
        • Reply

        It is unfortunate when this happens. I have heard about it happening in several countries. They see a foreigner and cause an accident, then surround them to intimidate them into paying up or end up as a bloody pulpy mess on the floor.

        1. We have been on the road for three years now in 40 countries and so far no one has done that on purpose to us so I don’t think it is that common as people think. Unfortunately when it happens that is what people seem to talk about and not all the good people that are out there.

            • Al on 23rd May 2016 at 11:23

            That is true. People will remember the bad and forget the good.

  1. I bet the guy at the border was interested in a few American Dollars… as the guys at the accident. Good job getting out of there quick! 🙂 Lovely photographs, we were amazed at what they loaded on those little bikes. Wow! Ride safe and Happy New year!

    • Mathias S on 5th January 2014 at 13:05
    • Reply

    Thanks for yours photo and words-explaning your travel in all ways..!! hugs. Mathias

  2. Your fortitude continues to amaze me. Your photographs continue to delight me. I am very glad that I am not motor cycling round the world but I am very glad that you are so that I can it enjoy it from the safety of my chair.

    • Len Jones on 6th January 2014 at 09:37
    • Reply

    Am continuing to enjoy your adventures … many thanks for sharing

    • anders on 10th January 2014 at 07:52
    • Reply

    Otrevig situation ni råkade ut för, vad jag har hört är det inte ovanligt skönt att ni lyckades ta er igenom. Somvanligt underbara bilder.

    /Ride Safe

  3. Nice photos! Glad you got across the border without using the almighty finger. 🙂

    • Bernie Beutel on 12th January 2014 at 14:14
    • Reply

    Howdy, I am Bernie from Michigan and we met in a 7 – eleven in BKK. I really enjoyed meeting you and reading aboutyour experiences in Cambodia especially since I have been to these same cities.I wish you all the best and I am looking forward to reading more of your adventure my e mail is ; bbeutel2@att.net and my name is Bernie Beutel….

    1. Hello Bernie, thanks a lot for your comment. It was so nice to meet you I wish we could have had a longer chat, maybe we see you again in Bangkok if you are still here.
      Anders and Petra Stridfeldt

    • Louise on 12th January 2014 at 16:50
    • Reply

    WOW! I am so glad you emailed with the link to your blog. I have not moved for the last 2 hours while I have read all your posts and absorbed your amazing photos. It was slightly odd to read about me – I am glad I could help protect you to a degree!! sounds like a vaccine against potholes and aching muscles might have been more useful!

    1. Haha yes a vaccine against potholes would have been great and against mosquitoes even better. Thanks a lot for spending such a long time with our blog and I am glad you like the photos. I always carry a camera and I love to photograph both people and landscape. I can’t wait to get to India and photograph the people there but I ‘have to’ be in Thailand for some time first 🙂

    • Joel Ross on 19th October 2014 at 02:25
    • Reply

    Greetings from the guy who “rushed” you in the market parking lot in Carlsbad, CA. I’m on your lists and have days of “catch up” reading to do. A pleasure to meet you both. Shiney side up… Rubber down! Joel Ross (jdross69@gmail.com)

    1. Hello Joel, It was a pleasure to meet you too. Thanks you for following our blog we will soon publish a blog post from our time in India 🙂

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