5 February 2012
This is my last full day in Cambodia. I head along route 57 to Pailin, a small provincial town that lies 19km short of the Thai border.
The bike touring pioneers who added this road to the Southeast Asian bike touring canon shortly after the nearby border crossing opened speak of an horrific unsurfaced mess. For me, following along a few years later, it's good seal, with sealed shoulder, courtesy of the Chinese. All goes smoothly.
This is one area of the country where straying from the road is especially ill-advised: the Cambodia Thailand border area was the last redoubt of the Khmer Rouge, and mine clearance is still underway. I see a dozen or so signs marking sites that have been cleared or that are in the process of being cleared. Mines Advisory Group (MAG) seem to be the organisation most actively involved.
I go up to around 250m above sealevel today. It's a feeble ascent, which I don't really notice, as it goes up over 60km or so, but I think it might be the highest elevation I've been up to since I fell out of the hills on the way down to Hue in Vietnam.
Dinner in Pailin finally bumps me out of my Cambodia tourist comfort zone. I get amok, Khmer curry, served over rice noodles. There's chicken on the bone, lumps of congealed pigs' blood, and sweet potato all stewed in a red coconut milk sauce similar to a Thai red curry. It's not bad, but there's not enough of it. A couple of cartons of soy milk and a big lump of banana cake I bought this morning and I feel I've been properly fed.
86km, 22.7km/h, 3hr48min, 5436km