13,623 km so far.
It was with sad hearts that we pedalled our way out of Cambodia this morning.
We have loved our 30 days in this country, and hope we can come back one day soon. It appears to be changing rapidly, and we suspect that by the time we do make it back, it will be different: more affluent, more organised, and far more touristy.
As we approached the border crossing with Thailand, we passed a couple of grand, gaudy hotels that made me think of the hotels in Luxor, Egypt. Luxor has been completely ruined by tourism controlled by a corrupt government, and I hope Cambodia will not follow the same path.
(Don’t miss: Our guide to choosing between travelling in Thailand and Vietnam) →
We have been told time and again that Chinese investors are taking over the country, which, quite frankly, does not bode well.
So if you’re going to visit Cambodia, do it soon.
Across The Border
The border at Koh Kong to Hadlek was small and efficient, with none of the brouhaha that accompanied our entry into Cambodia. It only took about 15 minutes total to get stamped out of Cambodia and into Thailand, where we can now stay for another 30 days. The simplicity of gaining access to Thailand makes it a very easy place to see and return to, which must, at least somewhat, account for its popularity with tourists.
As soon as we were out of the border area, we came across one of those great Thai coffee shops that seem to sprout up just as one is sorely in need of a frappe latte.
Today, however, we’d only gone about 6 km, so we decided to pass.
Almost immediately, we started to see little shops, every single one of which had a fridge full of cold drinks and a freezer full of ice cream.
Roadside ice cream is hard to come by in Cambodia, because most shops don’t have electricity and instead must rely on big blocks of ice in orange coolers to keep things cool.
Just after we entered Mae Rut, we dutifully stopped for an ice cream break, simply because we could.
Quay To Mairood Resort
We’d heard great things about the Mairood Resort from a couple of other cyclists’ blogs, but the one thing we’d never gotten were clear instructions on how to get there.
Fortunately, as we stepped out of the corner store, Stephen spotted a Mairood Resort sign.
And then the fun began.
Mae Rut is a town built along a tidal lagoon and mangrove forest, so not only are the houses all on stilts, but the only roads are raised cement quays, a few feet wide.
The walkways weave between houses and follow shallow canals filled with fishing boats. It doesn’t have the romance of Venice, but it’s a picturesque place, and we’ve never seen anything like it.
The houses vary in size and style, but many have walls and roofs of corrugated steel, in various states of rusting out. Even the windows are corrugated steel fit onto a frame that swings open.
Most of the houses have fronts that are wide open to the canal, so anyone passing can see right inside.
I, of course, took the opportunity to get a good look at how people in this fishing village live.
Furniture is rare, and even the big houses just have a wide open tile floor with next to nothing on it. Usually, there is a TV set against the wall, and at least one person napping on the floor or watching the set.
These always-on TVs are another reminder that we are not in Cambodia anymore. Here people have 24-hour electricity.
All along the quay, people sat cracking open tiny crabs and pulling out the meat, which they then tucked into plastic bags or tossed into big bowls.
Crossing through the gate into Mairood Resort is like passing through the back of the wardrobe to Narnia – it’s an entirely different world.
The lush and carefully tended gardens hide small cabanas and cottages.
There are chickens, turkeys, and exotic songbirds everywhere, singing out their unique calls.
Our simple bungalow is out on another concrete quay, nestled in the arms of mangroves. We needn’t have bothered visiting the mangroves in Koh Kong – we’ll be sleeping among them tonight.
In the centre of it all is a charming house with an open-air restaurant, and a lovely swimming pool.
We wish we could spend a few extra days here, but once again, we are on a timeline to Bangkok. ♥