I don’t have much to report today, as most of the day was spent riding on highways.
We needed to get from Phnom Penh to Battambang today, which is 300km via the most direct route – paved highway (mostly). Dave offered me other options that would break up the journey by including more dirt roads and visits to interesting places. But adding these options also meant adding mileage and time to the day. I opted to just bang out the miles on the highway and get to Battambang in the shortest time.
Dave was concerned that the route would be too boring, and continued to offer suggestions of detours for some sight-seeing along the way. However, I was quite happy riding the highway for the day. I explained to Dave that, coming from Bermuda with its 35km speed limit, 150cc maximum engine size on motorcycles, and a lack of open roads, that it was quite a treat to be able to ride a larger bike on more open roads.
The Suzuki DRZ400 was fun to ride on the road, being very responsive to a twist of the throttle. I enjoyed being able to crack the throttle for fast overtakes along the way. There wasn’t much to look at – the fun was in the ride itself.
Getting out of Phnom Penh in the morning rush-hour was quite interesting. There is no right of way at most of the city junctions, so all riders and drivers nudge or push their way into traffic. Dave was an excellent point-man. All I had to do was stay close to his back wheel and follow his moves. When we had to cross a road, I used him as a blocker, so that we could both cross at the same time. The traffic looks like a nightmare, but it isn’t that difficult if you drive like the locals.
We were able to avoid some of the rush hour traffic by diverting from the road and along the dirt track next to a railway line that helped to get us further out of town. After a few dirt roads, we eventually came to paved highway that took us the rest of the way.
There were a few animal hazards along the way, such as cows and dogs, but the main hazard was other drivers. Many drivers of cars and trucks have no regard for other road-users and just expect them to get out of their way. We experienced this with vehicles trying to overtake us going in the same direction as us. But the worst culprits were those coming at us from the opposite direction. Often, they didn’t care that there was no clear lane for them to overtake. They just flashed their headlights, sounded their horns and overtook anyway – coming directly at us when we were in our own lane. The only available option is to move over to the far right side of the lane to let these vehicles pass.
We left Phnom Penh about 8.00am and arrived at our hotel in Battambang about 4.00pm, so it was a full day of riding even though we took the direct highway route (we had a one-hour lunch stop around the 200km mark).
As we were driving into Battambang we were greeted by this huge statue that is very different to all the other statues I’ve seen in Cambodia. I have since learned that the statue depicts a boy from local legend – Ta Dumong. Apparently, he was able to use his magic stick to depose a king but was subsequently deposed himself by the former king’s son, as the magic stick had no effect on him and he then lost the stick. Lore has it that the town was named after the boy and his lost magic stick – Ta Tambang.
We’ll overnight here and will then do some sightseeing in the area tomorrow, before riding back to Siem Reap.