. It’s just for a two week summer camp in mid July so it fits almost perfectly with my travel itinerary. It’s a great opportunity to really try out this teaching crack as a job and of course put an extra few Euro, or Yuan, in my pocket for my return journey. It’s not going to delay my travels, in fact I will end up being home slightly sooner than the full year as a result of the job. I was tired after my really early morning so I just grabbed a nice burger for dinner nearby before having an early night and sleeping on well into the morning.
I had a lazy start to the next day and went next door to the aptly named 'Lazy Mekong Daze’ restaurant for breakfast. The lady there rented bikes and since it was late in the morning offered me one for the half day for just $3. I took her offer and decided to ride around and see some of the sights of the town and the surrounding countryside. I had picked up a pamphlet of an NGO which organized home stays and teaching English volunteering in a village about 7km from the city. Across the Mekong Bridge (the only one to span this river in Cambodia) there was a dirt track leading to the village. It was quite tricky as the track was very bumpy and dusty and full of tracks and mounds created when wet. Along the dirt track there were many villages which seemed to blur into each other. The people living there were some of the friendliest I have encountered on my whole trip
. Whole families were shouting ‘hello’ and waving from their hammocks beneath their houses. Kids would run out on to the road to wave and ask ‘what is your name’… they were so happy if I had a chance to shout back ‘my name is Colm, what is your name’. It was difficult to keep my eyes on the road and keep up with this shower of greetings. I stopped at a Wat and explored a little before asking a local if he could direct me to the NGO. Of course he didn’t have a word of English but there was a little Khmer script on the pamphlet so he could at least point me in a general direction. I must have passed the NGO as I was over 10km from the city and the people who I stopped to ask seemed to not have heard of it. I felt like I could easily waste the day trying to find the place or I could make the most of the bike and come back the following day. I rode back the 10km track stopping along the way for a nice cold Sprite. Back near to the town I stopped off at the ‘French Lighthouse’. The recently restored building has scary narrow and steep steps to climb to the top and get a lovely view of Kampong Cham, the Mekong and the surrounding countryside. It was quite an unnerving climb down! I rode back through the town to a big monastery on the other side of the city. There the Wats were built within a ruin which I’m sure is a reconstruction (since the Khmer Rouge destroyed all religious building in the country). Still the reconstructed ruin gave a real mystical feeling to the place
. I could already see why the Tomb Raider games have taken much of their inspiration from Cambodian ruins. Surrounding the ruins there was what looked like a grave yard, probably for the rich and important people of the town. I spent about an hour exploring the various Wats, temples and shrines in the area before getting back on the road. I rode back down to the Mekong where I had another nice cool soda to break up the day. There was an island in view from where I sat, which is connected to the bank by a hand made bamboo bridge. The bridge is washed away in the monsoon season and rebuilt every year. It didn’t look all that sturdy but I was happy enough to take it on after watching bikes and even tractors go across it without difficulty. It was quite a hair rising experience driving over it as the bridge deforms and shakes a lot under the weight of the bike. Unnerving too were the vertical bamboos on the side, onto which I would be sure to impale myself if I did come off the bike. Anyway I did make it to the other side and spent another good hour riding around the dirt tracks of the island. It was quite pleasant, and had a nice temple to visit, although not too much else worth note. The people were friendly although not to the same extent as earlier in the day. After looping around the island I stopped near the bamboo bridge where there was a sandy beach and a number of beach shacks, no too unlike what you would find in Thailand. Since it was about 4 o clock the sun was a bit more bearable so I had a small beer there and did something I have gotten to do in a long time… sunbathe
. It was a lovely relaxing way to end the day.
I feel like I’m getting lazy, as when I was returning the bike I stayed in ‘Lazy Mekong Daze’ for dinner. The food is great and it’s just next door to my guesthouse so I didn’t feel the need to go exploring other restaurants. Back at the guesthouse there were a few guests hanging around; a French group who were sticking to themselves and speaking their own language and a Finnish guy. The Finnish guy recognized me from somewhere while I did not know him from Adam. I had a beer and played some pool with him and a few locals. The Finnish guy fit quite well to the stereotype, in that he was insanely boring. I asked him about his day and I wanted to just run far away from him before he had even gotten half way through his response…. To think, pretty soon I’m going to be surrounded by people like this. Around midnight, after a few games of Cambodia style pool I hit the sack.
The following day I took a moto out to Chiro village, see related entry
Kampong Cham was a town which was recommended to me by François, and the lonely planet also sang its praises so I decided I would take a few days there before heading to any of the big Cambodian sites or cities. I left Ban Lung on a bus at 6:30 in the morning for the 10 hour journey. I wasn't the only barrang on the bus this time as there was a gay (British-Peru) couple. They were friendly but kind of freaked me out as they were being all openly gay and affectionate in public. This big no-no, even for heterosexual couples here, was drawing a lot of attention and I was feeling guilty by association. Eventually I made it to Kampong Cham and set out on foot from the bus stop to the guesthouse area along the bank of the Mekong. I found a nice place, Mekong Sunrise which had wifi and pool table and rooms for $5 per night. I didn’t feel like doing much after the long bus ride so I just hung out around the guesthouse using the internet. When I checked my mail I discovered that I’d been offered a job teaching English in Yangzhou City, China