After leaving Phnom Penh, we headed north along the Mekong. Our first stop was Kampong Cham. Even though it is a provincial capital, the city is quiet and subdued. Our hotel was right across the street from the mighty Mekong.
The Mekong is simply a huge river. A little bit upstream, there was a bridge heading to an island. This island, just like the river which surrounds it, is very big. There we rode our clinking bikes through one of the most pleasant villages we have been to in on this trip. The dirt road was dusty, but there was not a piece of garbage in sight. Typical Cambodian houses on stilts line the road. Little Buddhist temples peek out from behind bushes in people’s front yards and friendly kids run around waving and yelling “Hello Mister.” We stopped a few times along the way. Once it was to fill up my bike tire with air, and another to repair it. We also took a pleasant break for a coconut and sugar cane juice, which gives a nice kick of sweet energy which is often needed during the day in the tropics.
The best part of the bike trip to the island was the bridge which we needed to cross to get there. This bridge is built entirely out of bamboo. It is assembled at the beginning of the dry season and taken apart when the big rains come. From a distance, it looks as if it was made out of matches. Riding across it on a bike, you feel quite a spring in the material under your feet. It must be quite strong. We’ve seen plenty of motorbikes, a mule cart, and even a Toyota Land Cruiser make its way across this local contraption.
In the afternoon we hired a tuk-tuk for a long distance trip into the country. We went to see one of the last remaining wooden wats in the country and a traditional silk weaving village. Along the way we stopped at a rubber plantation. We also stopped at a roadside stall which was selling banana flavored rice wine. This potent potable packs quite a punch, and since the girls did not find it pleasant, it was up to me and Paddy to make it disappear. Well, actually, mostly me, as Paddy was nursing an upset stomach. I am not sure exactly how strong it was, but at $1 per 1.5 liters, this was one of the most powerful bang for the buck drinks I had a chance to imbibe. It was a very happy tuk-tuk ride indeed. Miraculously, I escaped any sort of bad hangover on the following day.