Throughout your travels in Cambodia, you will be amazed by the beautiful mountains that you will see in your journeys.
This post is about a day I spent exploring only one of them…
At some point in time, you are going to have to realize that the Italian speed machine that you are pedaling through the Alps of SE Asia is simply not the proper machine for the job.
(Yes, yes,,, fellow traveler at the other guesthouse, I know how much you paid for your bike, and mentioning it over and over only annoys others…)
It is now time to adopt “local” transportation. The Cambodian bicycles are the ‘workhorses’ of this nation. They are everywhere and they can go everywhere. Which is why, for local exploring, I now ditch my fancy rod for one of these local guys so I can get to where the action is without mechanical breakdown.
I had been dying to trying one. I even went to the bike store to try to buy a used one,,, but it seemed a bit of waste to buy one and just leave it. So, I have decided a “Cambodian bicycle” shall be my sole main souvenir from this trip.
Great stuff for friends and family. Just a simple Cambodian bike for me and I am very happy.
Luckily … the owner of the guesthouse had an extra one and pulled it out for me to use.
So, here we go … in pictures … “How to Explore a Mountain in Cambodia”:
First, find reliable transportation.
Start your journey by cycling entirely around the mountain first. Very important… you MUST see the back of this mountain in order to understand a future post. (Unfortunately,,, I forgot to load that image on the laptop, so I will simply post it later with that post. For now, pretend to cycle around the mountain…)
(A bit of honesty here: This part was actually very hard. I love climbing DOWN mountains. I just don’t climbing UP them. The whole having to slither vertically over
rocks, through dirt and vegetation, and that “holding on for dear life” thing.)
These mountains offered refuge from the Khmer Rouge, of which there were many in this area.
This area was one of the last holdouts of the Khmer Rouge, before they were finally
defeated by Cambodian National and Vietnamese army forces.
So, the locals fled here to this mountain … and the caves here … to hide from the KR. As a local told me,
“the Khmer Rouge never dared to even try to go into those caves… they knew the locals knew the caves better than they, and any Khmer Rouge would meet a certain death.”
That being said, they inflicted a horrible toll over the villages you see in the picture. My Khmer friend (which means “Cambodian local”… and has NOTHING to do with the Khmer Rouge), had both his grandfather and great grandfather murdered by the Khmer Rouge.
I am awed by the resilience and pride of the Khmers. All the bad stuff of the past “is history”… all that matters now is moving Cambodia forward on its new path to prosperity. All the pains of the past,,, “it is only history, we must focus on the future”. For a solo American traveling remote rural routes on a bicycle, cycling a lot a night, that is good news.
The only way down is by holding onto these vines and going down like a rock climber. (Just wish I had actually done this before…)
Now, the only way to go back is THRU the mountain, via a series of caves.
Be careful of steps. My guide almost met a very serious accident today when his steps broke out suddenly from under him!!
(NOTE: Probably a good idea not to stand under old steps in a cave. Today was lucky. Several people could have gotten very hurt, but luckily they were more forward, away
from the falling steps.)
Make sure you brought your headlamp. I always carry one.
This is where the skulls that are displayed in Phenom Penh actually came from this cave, to be on display at the “Killing Fields” outside Phenom Penh. Those skulls that are on display in the glass case at those killing fields,came from _this_ cave. Not widely known.
Now, make your way through the cave to the interior grotto. Have a soda, relax, and enjoy the view.
And then, have a refreshment to end your adventure.
You will probably end up as big a mess … dirt, grime, sweat, heat … as me ,,, and hopefully ,,, just as happy. 🙂