Thailand Road to Hat Lek Border from Trat
We took off for Cambodia today. We got an early start, but went the wrong way for a few kilometers before we realized it. It only set us back about a half an hour. It was a nice ride as we chugged along at a good rate, and besides the oppressive heat of the day, no problems. We were going down the Cambodia/Thailand border down a small strip of Thailand on the Bay of Thailand. The ride was beautiful and we stopped off and relaxed by the water for a little while and fed Buddha and took a break. Were were 20km from the border and the process to leave Thailand was very easy and effective. We crossed into Cambodia and the border immigration and customs at Hat Lek and Cham Yeam.
Hat Lek - Cham Yeam Border - Thailand To Cambodia
Getting from Trat, Thailand to Cambodia - Hat Lek - Cham Yeam Border
Hat Lek is a dirty border with a better Thai side for services and shopping then the Cambodia side at Cham Yeam which was little more than a few small buildings. Once we got to the Cambodian side, we got hounded by "Border Helpers" who insisted that their services were essential, and the only way we could get through the border. For once in our travel life, we allowed a guy to help us and were surprised how easy the crossing was. No problems with Buddha, the bikes or immigration.
Although it took us a little while to get through and about 40 dollars in visa fees, we were on our way without a hitch and no customs fees whatsoever for the bikes. We were a little sad to leave Thailand although it was not our favorite place in Southeast Asia. Maybe it was the places we went to or the weather, but we were spending entirely too much money in an Asian country that is nearly double anywhere else. So we were also pretty happy to be in Cambodia where we hear it is cheap.
Highway 48 - Cambodia
It was already 3pm and our final destination would be Sihanoukville in the south of Cambodia. We were told it was going to be another 300km and there was no way we would make that before nightfall so we decided to stay a night in Koh Kong. Nothing too remarkable about Koh Kong. It's a dingy little border town with a few decent hotels, restaurants, and a lot of dirt and trash lying around. Going from Thailand to Cambodia was like going from the United States into Tijuana Mexico, from nice to dingy.
Cambodia has a lot of trash thrown everywhere and plastic bags along the highways. The roads weren't as nice as Thailand, but still not as bad as Laos. We settled on a 20 dollar room in Koh Kong on the waterfront that was nice. In fact, the best bed we have had yet in Southeast Asia!! I think it might have been a tempur pedic, but maybe it was just new and we couldn't feel springs in our backs for once. We putted around town and had some dinner and called it a night. The next day, we would be getting up early to make 300 miles in a day to Sihanoukville and we set the alarm for 6am. We woke up the following morning and decided to eat a good breakfast before leaving to keep us fueled for the long ride.
Leaving Koh Kong to Sihanoukvill on Hwy 48
We headed out on Highway 48 which is a nicely paved road with wide lanes and little traffic. Really one of the most enjoyable riding days we have had. We were worried that we wouldn't be able to make 300km in a day if the roads were like Laos, but they were as good or better than Thailand's roads. The border roads to Koh Kong, were not indicative of the roads we were on now.
We traveled through the Cardamom National Protected Forest. It was beautifully mountainous terrain, with gentle sweeping turns and manageable hills,nothing like Laos. We rolled through river villages, stopped here-and-there and hob-knobbed with the locals while getting gas, or having a soda along the way. It was absolutely enjoyable and we were making great time at around 60-70km per hour. Really beautiful part of Cambodia and one of the most remote in Southeast Asia.
Highway 4 to Sihanoukville
Tragedy Strikes - Wreck #4 on Hwy 4
We got to the end of highway 48 and hit highway 4 which is the main artery from Sihanoukville and the Capital City Phnom Penh and our enjoyable trip suddenly, like so many things on our trip, became treacherous. It seems like when things are going great, tragedy strikes. We rolled along Highway 4, which was excellently paved, but a little more narrow than 48 and 10 times the traffic. It wasn't 10 km into our 85km last leg to our destination when some cars coming from the opposite direction were trying to pass trucks and ran us off the road. It was either head on with the car or off the road... So I went off the road.
There was a 5 foot wide gravel shoulder of red dirt and rocks to our left. There was a drop of about a 6 inches to get down to it from the pavement and I made the transition rather smoothly considering my anger at being forced off the road. I looked in my mirror and Shelly did great too!! I was so proud of her. As we rode the dirt for a little while at decreased speed, looking for a place to get back on the highway, I looked in my mirror and Shelly was down!
Assessing the Damage
I turned around panicked and rode back to her. She was alright and so was Buddha, but Shelly had over corrected a little on the gravel and slid. She scraped her chest a little, bumped her chin, and scraped her right knee. Other than that unscathed. Her bike however got messed up pretty good. Broken headlight, rear brake pedal bent into the frame, her right engine cover-plate was busted, and her right foot peg as bent back. She also broke her front faring. I pounded her brake pedal back to a usable position and her foot peg and we got back on the road.
Limping Our Way to Sihanoukville
The next 75 km was grueling. We decided not to risk getting run off the road on the busy Sunday oncoming traffic going to Phnom Penh and we stayed right behind a big Angkor Beer truck the rest of the way at 50-60 km per hour, not the most scenic way to travel, and breathing the truck exhaust, but definitely the safest, Anytime the truck passed, we would pass with it. There is a universal law in southeast Asia, the bigger you are vehicle-wise, the right-away goes to you. We weren't going to get run off the road again, so we just tucked in behind this truck and used it as a shield.
Highway 4 to Sihanoukville
Arriving In Sihanoukville
Shelly did great. It's really hard to wreck and get back on the bike and ride again. Your nerves get shot and you become shaky from the adrenaline. I could tell she was in pain. We got to Sihanoukville at about 4pm and hadn't eaten since 8am. We found a hotel called The Queenco Hotel & Casino but, it's also called the Victory Beach Hotel and right on the water.
Our room is nice and the staff here are AMAZING!!! It's not cheap, as nothing is here in this town. Where is this "cheap Cambodia" we heard so much about? We don't know how long we are going to stay here, but we do need to get Shelly's bike fixed before going 250km back to Phnom Penh where we will try to sell the bikes and end this madness and dangerous roads of Cambodia.
Change In Perspective
We set out on this trip to accomplish something for ourselves. Do something different. Live. We have done that, but when the wreck happened earlier in the day, we realized that we could have easily died. Is doing something different and for ourselves, worth dying? Our gut is telling us to quit, sell the bikes and take buses the rest of the way around Cambodia and back to Saigon. We have a lot we need to do with our Divemaster planned in Honduras later this year and those plans will be ruined if we have broken femurs.
Our intuition is telling us to stop the motorbike tour, relax in Sihanoukville to lick our wounds and allow Shelly to get healthy from this wreck and move on from here knowing we did a great job on our motorbike tour of Southeast Asia. It is disappointing however that it ended the way it did.