13,053 km so far.
The ride from Phnom Penh to Takeo is a relatively short one, which meant we had time to return to Feel Good Café for breakfast. We went there yesterday to try their coffee and it is fantastic, so I wanted to buy some beans for the next few weeks of our trip.
Over a lazy breakfast and amazing coffee we slowly woke up and prepared for our ride out of town. Riding out of the city is always an adventure. Phnom Penh is sure to be chaotic with morning traffic, the heat, and little adherence to the rules of the road.
Feel Good Business Model
While we were waiting for our coffee, Kevin, one of the owners, came by to see if everything was OK. I told him how much I enjoyed yesterday’s coffee, and that I’d also spotted bags of Saffron green coffee beans around. Jane and I had visited Saffron in Luang Prabang. This got us talking about the different beans they use and where they source them.
Turns out they are doing really incredible work, as well as making delicious coffee, at Feel Good.
Not only are they sourcing coffee locally in Cambodia, but they are working with a Thai company that has brought together farmers from small coffee plantations to help them sell and get a better price for their beans. They also buy from Saffron, who are all about helping Laotian farmers get out of the opium trade, and into a more acceptable addictive commodity – caffeine. By also buying two different types of Vietnamese beans, they really are buying from the bulk of Asia’s often overlooked coffee regions.
On top of this, the business plan, when they opened just less than a year ago, called for a transition to an employee profit-sharing and managed business within one year. They are in the final stages of seeing this through. As part of this transition, the beans I bought and enjoyed so much at the café were some of the first they are selling that were roasted by one of the Khmer staff, and not by Kevin. They are also the best beans I have had since Hong Kong.
The staff are all Khmer, and for most of them this is not only their first job, but they are the first employed people in their families. Just think about that. Most Khmer who don’t live in urban areas are farmers. Most of the staff, it happens, are from Takeo, where we are riding today.
We crossed another milestone today – 13,000 km cycled. We have also now cycled further in Asia than we did in Europe. Cambodia is our 20th country of the trip, and this our 13th month on the road.
When I think of it as a whole, it is hard to comprehend cycling that far or for this long. Each day, one pedal after the other, we have accomplished a distance that on the whole seems insurmountable.
Leaving Phnom Penh was one of the more challenging rides we’ve done. It was a dusty mess that seemed to go on forever. It was rush hour, or maybe it’s always just plain busy, and it was already hot.
It’s hard to pick up much speed in town, so there is little breeze.
I had routed us along some small roads that looked like they should ease the congestion, but it turns out our nice quiet road was a big messy construction zone which they are widening and repairing.
It was dusty, noisy, busy, slow, bumpy, sweaty, hot.
We rode past one of the Killing Fields on the edges of town, but there were hustlers all around, including the shop keepers who had doubled their prices for visitors. We looked at the map of the site and decided not to stay. We did end up paying for bike parking for the first time ever, even though we only stopped for two minutes and there was no indication we’d have to pay when we pulled in.
Our brief exposure to hawkers and hustlers at a place like The Killing Fields, where people go to remember and be educated, left a very bad taste in our mouths.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we finally got away from the city and the tourist traps, and back into the Cambodian countryside.
Wanted: A Middle Class
Takeo is strangely quiet. It seems the city has undergone recent (past 10 years) road upgrades, and new parks were built. Yet something feels out of sorts.
The streets are four lanes wide but there is hardly any traffic. The roads are beautifully paved, and the central park opens onto the grounds of the pagoda (wat). It is very welcoming, but only a few families are enjoying the space. We couldn’t really see any houses or many signs of everyday life.
It is a far cry from the Cambodia we have seen on our rides.
It is so odd to come off the busy highway, with all the air horns, scooter honks, and cars rushing past, and into a quiet, peaceful, modern town, just a kilometre away.
I wonder how and why the city got this big upgrade. Is an important politician from Takeo? Was the city trying to entice businesses? In this bustling country, it’s not often our senses get a rest, but it was a welcome change tonight.
Soundtrack: Ziggy Marley, Fly Rasta (don’t bother) | Snoop Lion, Reincarnated | Microphone Check podcast ♥
Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.