January 9, 2013
Another long day with the dreaded headwind, but the weather was cooperating by being cloudy and the road was flat as usual. We had a pretty typical day with lots of waves and hellos in tiny towns. Our arms become practically unhinged from waving when school let out for lunch, releasing a flood of kids on bikes.
We saw a carnival, but for some reason weren’t interested in going on the rides. Chandler did make a good point that Khmer carnies are probably following the same safety procedures as any other carnies.
We also purchased some flattened rice. The rice is first roasted then smashed by a giant human operated smasher thing. It was fascinating to watch. Now we have to figure out how to eat it.
While we were watching some people use said device a young woman approached me. She lifted her leg and showed me a large burn which looked like she had pressed her leg against the exhaust of a motorbike. She started touching it and then holding out her hand or making eating motions. Nope, sorry, no money. So, she tried again. Touching the nasty burn on her leg. No, don’t touch it, gross. Once she realized I wasn’t giving her anything she tried Chandler. She motioned for him to take a photo then asked for money, after showing off the burn. This was the first begging we have experienced outside of the cities. Even though it is clear that the people in the small towns are very poor, most seem to be offering some good or service in an attempt to make a living.
When the sun finally came out, it made up for lost time with its intensity. We had to take a break. We stumbled on a “rest area” a few miles from Kampong Thom. The place had a restaurant and souvenir shop. It seemed like the kind of place that tour buses dump off people to used the bathroom midway between Phnom Penh and Some Reap. We had a few iced coffees and surprisingly good local fish and chips.
Kampon Thom is a decent size town that is new to tourism, so there are menus with English but we couldn’t find anywhere with Internet. There are a number of temples outside of town that have been cleared of mines and are becoming more popular. We ended up at a nice hotel that allowed us to bring the bikes inside and store them in the lobby. The most apparent attractions in town were two parallel bridges, one old one that the French built and a newer steel bridge that the Australians financed right next to each other.
There wasn’t a whole lot to do, so we ended up watching some Australian cable and passed out.