Clouds hung over the sky today. It had been raining most of the night. Ahead of me was the northeastern edge of the Cardamon mountains. Up and through those mountains was the city of Pailin, a frontier city on the edge of Thailand, described by many as an “adventure traveler’s destination”.
And today, an adventure it was.
I left Battambang and headed up into the mountains and into the clouds toward Pailin. I cycled up and up through a desolate landscape with an unnerving emptiness, through a part of the world that is truly isolated and remote by anyone’s definition. For several long stretches, I would not see another human being for a long time. An uncomfortable and eerie stillness seemed to hang over the mountains.
The road is lined with an undesirable number of minefields (both cleared and those not yet cleared) as well as areas with UXO (“Unexploded Ordinance”). One does not wander off the road in these parts.
Finally, after ascent after ascent, I came to where the mountain road thankfully went straight down for several kilometers. After having had my legs “give out” at one point, the sight of that descent was more than welcome.
Six hours of hard cycling (and a bit of worry about being in so empty a place alone!), I reached Pailin … a frontier city that was still under Khmer Rouge control until even very recent times. Those former “Khmer Rouge” are still here. But now they are “Cambodian” government officials who run this province.