Barang on a Motorbike: The Return

Eighteen months ago I hired a motorbike to ride around eastern Cambodia and started to


The jacket is to protect from the sun, not rain, same with the scarf over my mouth.

write about it here. Other things took over and I didn’t finish. Then I discovered I had lost the photos and that was it. Two years ago I hired a bike and joined an organised cycling tour to Oudong. I thought it was time to do something with our day off for International Women’s Day and I mixed the two. I have now also discovered that this year’s project involved something of what I had done the previous two 8th March, but more of that coincidence in a minute.

Amazingly, and I didn’t know this before, but on March 8th 2017 I went to see a film in the Cambodia Film Festival, “Turn Left Turn Right” and I loved it and bought a poster and got

Turn Left Turn Right

The poster I had signed.

it signed by the actress featured in the film, Kanitha Tith. An ancient temple complex features in the early parts of the film. I had wanted to visit a number of temples within reach of Phnom Penh almost since I arrived. Seeing the temple complex in the film made me want to go more. So, I decided, my project for International Women’s Day 2018 would be to go to Phnom Chisor.  Like 2016 a temple complex, which featured in a film I saw on the day in 2017. The project has nothing, ostensibly to do with day, other than we get one day off, just on its own, and I think it is good to do something with it. I had booked the bike the week before, paying a deposit, so all I had to do was turn up and collect it, as agreed, at 10.

So, I left at just after 10 and headed south on National Route 2. It was almost an hour to get through the traffic in Phnom Penh and the suburbs, but at least that was on a dual carriageway road and felt safer. It being eighteen months since I’d ridden a motorbike my gear changing was a bit rusty, I suffered the indignity of stalling in front of the staff of the shop I hired it from. Having to go round the Central Market with all the traffic and stop-starting was a bit of a trial so early on but I’d got gear-changing sorted quite well. I also filled the bike up with fuel and then head on down the Charles De Gaul Boulevard, past the Olympic Stadium and on out through Stung Mean Chey and headed on down towards Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields.

When I visited the Killing Fields in January 2016 a friend of mine was working on building a 20180308_111249canning factory for Cambodia Beer in the same area. The beer have now just become the Cambodia beer sponsor for my football team so I was pleased to see a poster featuring the team outside the canning factory.

Outside Phnom Penh the dual carriageway changed into a single carriageway meaning there are some hairy moments, particularly with lorries overtaking other lorries –


My first view of Phnom Chisor

meaning they take up the whole carriageway and I am forced on the dirt track at the side of road, which I do not fancy much at around 85 kph. The road also narrowed and the traffic slowed down to traverse four bridges formed of metal plates. I had not liked these much when riding the last time, then there was the added danger that it was in the wet season so it was likely to have rained and they might be slippery.

Around midday I stopped for a water break and a local approached me. He asked where 20180308_123920I was from and where I was going and, in response, he told me I was only 3 km further to go on the road before the turning for Phnom Chisor. Around 3 km further and there was a big sign which, from what I knew looking a the site on the internet before, I could see indicated that the turning led to it. I turned down the dirt road catching the occasional glimpse, before I saw the view pictured above. It was not long after that before I arrived, parked the motorbike and paid for it. Despite having a litre of water before leaving and stopping to have another, I’d had bare arms and face on the journey down so would have lost a lot of water. I stopped to buy some from a woman who charged me $1. It is 500 riel, 12 1/2 cents in Phnom Penh and I said so but the only way I would get the water was to pay it so I did. I walked on to find the sign above which told me there were 412 steps to the top. Great! But, good for my health, lol.


So, up I went. About half way up there was a concrete shelter where I stopped to get my


It must be true 412 steps to the top.

breath back and take a picture of what I had climbed up(left) and what there was to go(right). In a mixture of our poor Khmer and English I talked with the person selling things there, then set back off again.When I got to the top there was another shelter raised off the ground and the woman selling things from there laughed when I collapsed and fell on my back wheezing for display. I bought a water from her, 2,000 riel – about 50 cents, so better.

I walked around a bit and saw a Buddha in the centre of a pond and a couple of other shrines, but nothing special. I walked a bit further, went round a bend, and there it was. The ancient temple I had seen in the film.


I walked around some, taking photos:

One of the things I found stunning in the film was the view over surrounding countryside, like this;


It was just too hot to walk down to the temple at the foot and then onto the lake so that will have to wait for another time.

What I did enjoy, having gone there on my own, was the friendliness of the Khmer people there most of whom said hello to me walking around or on the ascent or descent, and were even more pleased when I replied “Sus-duy”, Khmer for hello;

In fact on the way down, when I stopped at the same place I stopped on the way up, I 20180308_132003was asked for a photo by a school-girl. I wondered at the wisdom of it but thought it okay as her teacher and colleagues were there. I also thought about having my picture taken as the only Barang at the temple, but thought what the hell. I got one in return. Through my poor Khmer and their better English I found out they were a group of students from a school in Phnom Penh and the teacher with them was their Khmer teacher. There were English teachers with them but they were elsewhere in the temple. It would have been nice to talk to them, professional to professional. I bought a water for 2,000 riel and after a rest made my way down again.

I had not eaten and it was about half one so I looked for somewhere to get fried rice or something. There were plenty of cooking places with people cooking at them but they seemed like family cooking for family, the equivalent of cooking a bbq. I walked around but didn’t see anyone cooking and selling food. Then I saw someone selling fruit and remembered how, on my bike ride two years earlier we had been kept going with fruit and I also remembered how wonderful the local pineapple are. So I bought one and ate it:

It really was as wonderful as I remembered it. I bought a bottle of water from the stall next door for 500 riel, the price I usually pay from a street vendor in Phnom Penh and then set off back.

I got back, without major incident, at 4, beating the start of the rush hour, as I had aimed. On the way down I had ridden in my t-shirt and my arms and face were red which is why I covered up, as seen in the photo at the beginning, for the return journey. But, I had nothing to cover my hands for the return journey which meant they were in the strong sun for four hours and were slightly burnt. Moisturiser and Tiger Balm have soothed that. What to do for next International Women’s Day?

2 Responses to “Barang on a Motorbike: The Return”

  1. Molika Sok Says:

    I just went to Phnom Chiso for the first time last Saturday. The view from top of the mountain was amazing, really worth the exhaustion of climbing up those stairs lol. Hope you are well.

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