Sunday September 17 Day 6

We were picked up at 0700. Heing had bought a box of Cambodian cycle jerseys for us to try on and purchase. Now we were a matching team. Andrew had been out on the town all night and had had no sleep. We were bussed out of town as cycling in PP would be suicidal.

We drove 15km out of town to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre or The Killing Fields as it is better known as. This was one of many area where mass executions and burials took place. A large memorial Stupa filled with human skulls and bones is at the centre of the “Park”.

There was a well done audio tour that allowed you to take in the details of the atrocities committed here in your own space and time. Many of those killed here came from S-21.

Back on the bikes it was hot and bumpy as we followed a railway line for a while then passing through small villages and farmlands. Our other guide Wet was the leader today as this was his home area and he knew it well. Lots of smiling children waved and “Hi fived” as we passed. 

Stopped at Pnom Chisor for a local lunch.

The venue was busy due to the weekend festival. We sat up on bamboo platforms. Once we were finished the plates were cleared and the hammocks strung up. A little snooze to let lunch go down.

From there we walked up 418 steps to visit the site of an early Bhuddist Temple. The Temple itself is no longer there but the people still pilgrimage here to pray at the new Temple and statues. The view and the breeze made the effort worthwhile, however, the rubbish lying around was dreadful. Not many tourists ever come here.

Continuing our ride we wove our way along trails above the flooded rice fields. There were lots of eucalyptus trees bordering the roads. We finally arrived at the rural city of Takeo and made our way to our motel. Not flash but clean and air-conditioned. Lea need sleep to beat a headache and sunburn. We all got burned today as the sun was relentless and there wasn’t much shade. Dinner at a local open air restaurant was a quiet affair as we were all tired out. Great food again though. Beer was good to once we convinced them to brink buckets of ice to chill it. 

 

 Day 7 Into Vietnam

Now dressed in our new Jerseys we started the day with a team photo shoot. 

5 minutes into the ride Lea’s gear cable broke. She was put on the spare bike but it had a large frame that was a bit uncomfortable for her. Our day was straight down the bitumen road toward the Vietnam Border at Phnom Den. Lea got her old bike back after just an hour. The road was busy but had a good shoulder for bikes. 

Our last water stop before the border was near a few shanties on the roadside. The people were rice farmers a obviously very poor. They were very excited to see us. We empty our pockets of the last of our Cambodian cash and gave it to an older lady for distribution amongst the people and children. 

They were all very appreciative. 

The border was out in the open with no trees or shade on a wide section of road raised above the water logged fields on either side.

There was a small shelter and restaurant just before the border. We pulled in there and enjoyed a quick beer with our Cambodian crew as we said our goodbyes. We were to have a new guide and crew for the Vietnam section of the ride.

 

The team. Islam, Heung, Wet and Farid

We walked our bikes under the boom gate and our luggage was trolleyed across for us. We greeted our new guide and with a handshake Heung passed us into the care of Trong our Vietnamese guide. Trong speaks very good English and is a very fit competitive MTB rider.

Immigration and Customs were all business and we were soon through. Our luggage was loaded up & we rode to a local restaurant for lunch. Immediately we noticed an improvement in the food over Cambodia.

Our afternoon ride took in smaller streets in rural areas. Houses bordered the road and the rice fields were directly behind. The farming seems more intensive here with herds of cows, well kept in pens and undercover barns. The produce is varied and well laid out. Copra and Dung is neatly laid out to dry. Firewood is collected and stacked around the houses. The kids gave us lots of greetings and waves but the older people seemed less interested in us than in Cambodia.

After 80 km we had an optional “hill climb” up Sam Hill. It’s 1.4 km and up to 17% gradient. Trong adjusted Lea’s gears and we all headed up except for Miter, our German friend. Trong and Andrew led the way with me not far behind with Jessica and Lea. Anne and Dave soldiered on and got there in the end. A rest at stage 1 to admire the view and catch our breath.

 

Stage 2 was tougher but we made it to the top. Lea later found that on Strava she was the second fastest women up the mountain. If only she had pushed a bit harder!

4 more km to our hotel. 84 km, our biggest day yet. First priority was a shower, then laundry before heading out to find an ATM for some local currency. Dinner at a local bistro was excellent. We are not losing any weight this trip despite the riding. 

Day 8

Woke up to lightning, thunder and rain. Bucketing down! We were bussed to the Mekong River and enjoyed a one hour local boat trip touring the riverbanks. Floating houses with fish farms underneathThankfully it had cleared by the time we started riding, however, the roads were very wet and mud puddles were everywhere.

  

These fish farms are jam packed with tiny Bassa. The feeding part is interesting with big crushers and mixers to grind up the food which consists of anything available from fish guts and offcuts to left over vegetables from the market. We suspect the WC feed the fish as well. Different fish can be in each cage. Some like to live deep near the bottom of the 5-6 metre cages. Others live near the top. Up to 5 Different species can be in 1 cage.

On to a small Muslim Village renowned for its woven cloth products. They use a different type of loom from those used by the Chau people that we saw in PP. Marks on a local house showed the annual flood levels for the last 20 years. 2000 was the highest but last year 2016 didn’t get a mention as it was so low. The people depend on this annual flood and until last year there was a run of poor years.  There is much concern here about what is being done to the river in upstream countries. The general feeling here is an easy life with an abundance of produce from the delta. Many Vietnamese are migrating here from the North where life is much harder.

We transferred out of town to begin our ride along the dykes that seperate the rice fields and higher water levels. Beautiful fields of lush green divided by palm trees. We saw people out fertilising and insect fogging with backpacks. The crops look better maintained, more neat and regular than in Cambodia. 

Trong

We turned off onto single lane track with the river on one side and the rice fields on the other. A few bridges to cross then passing through some nice neat villages. We had to concentrate hard to avoid the mud puddles but the rain held off. The overcast sky gave us some relief from the sun.

We stopped for a look at a small village that specialises in catching frogs, then gutting,skinning and drying them for packaging and consumption. The frogs of various graded sizes are laid out on trestles with chilli and other herbs to dry in the sun. They create  crunchy snack. Trong bought some for beer o’clock but they never appeared. 

Millions of them!

We then headed for the Vietnam Killing Fields. Here a whole Vietnamese Village was massacred and buried in mass graves by the Khmer Rouge (KR). This was one of the worst atrocities as it was mainly women and children. It happened in many places along the Cambodian border with Vietnam as the KR were trying to reclaim land that once belonged to Cambodia. The memorial was an interesting building design. Like a giant egg.

The germans called it a day and loaded into the bus. We continued on the last 20 km to lunch. Another local cafe that we would have thought twice about going into gave us another sensational meal. Covered with mud and sand we loaded into the bus for the 3 hour drive to our hotel. Traffic is more frantic here and horns blare more aggressively. Our hotel was brand new and very flash. 

 Day 9

A big 80 km day planned but first another boat ride. We walked to the river to meet a day boat that took us up or down river (hard to tell which) to the floating markets. This is a wholesale market for farmers who bring there produce from remote farms by boat. They sell there produce in bulk to smaller vendors. The farmers anchor their boats and remain until all their stock is sold. The produce being sold is displayed on the roof of the boat or atop tall bamboo poles.

Back on the bikes we headed via backroads and laneways to a ferry crossing the main river. 

No time to dally we were off again through great scenery and charming rural roads. Still had to give way to motorbikes and avoid lots of pot holes so not a relaxing ride. We stopped at a cafe to use the toilets. Not the done thing to use the facilities and not purchase anything so we tried the local iced coffee. It came out in a tiny shot glass with a coffee dripper on top. Once the dripping has completed you pour the coffee and sweetened condensed milk into a cup of ice, stir, let chill then drink. A morning ritual for most of the local men who gather here before work. It definitely hit the caffeine spot.

On through the rice fields and the heavens finally opened and drowned us. The good news was that it was cooler and the locals stayed off the roads. We continued another 20 kms through the rain with one more ferry crossing before the rain ceased. We wove through concrete paths that exist on no map. 

This is Trong’s home area and he knows it well. He introduced us to the “Monkey Bridge”. We played around on this for a while much to the amusement of 2 shy local kids.

Finally we made it too the hotel. A quirky place that seemed almost abandoned stuck in unfinished surroundings. The pool was green, growing frogs and green plants. Apparently the area was developed by the government to try and attract commerce and business. A very large and fancy conference centre was next door and our hotel was the accompanying accomodation. Obviously it didn’t quite work out. The foyer and dining area were very large and grand. Our little group looked lost in it. Lots of things didn’t work but we still managed to get cleaned up, wash and dry our clothes of all the mud. Thank god for aircon!

Dinner was at the bistro over the main road and another great feast once we got the beer chilled with ice. We were wondering what to do with all our chicken bones and prawn shells when we noticed the locals just threw them on the floor. Apparently this is ok and the staff simply sweep it all up afterwards. We couldn’t do it though.

Day 10

Our last day of the tour. 50 km to be done before lunch. No rain but overcast and cooler. Perfect! Trong led us through back lanes and villages which made for pleasant views and easy cycling. We stopped to watch local bricks being made.

They were using some simple but effective machinery to mix and form the clay before drying then firing in the nearby old kilns

Morning tea was beside the river where we enjoyed fresh coconuts. Then over the river via an impressive modern bridge. One of 7 that now span the Mekong. Into Ben Tre Province which is a big coconut growing area. We stopped at a processing area. Fairly agricultural techniques used but all parts of the coconut get used. The liquid for drinking, the husks for string, the older nuts for oil and the shells for fuel. We finished at a large tourist trap Restaurant. It was was still great food but the place had a more western flavour to it. 

Last stop was at Trong’s friends bike shop where we could purchase more jerseys. We all chipped in for a tip before we said our goodbyes and were dropped off at our respective hotels in Saigon. We had chosen a small hotel called Ngoc Linh in the back packer area. it was in a small laneway off the main roads and central to all the nightlife. Our room was basic but clean and the aircon worked well. 

Wandered the streets and enjoyed a street cafe dinner. Met some Canadians at a bar and got some good tips for our travels to the north. A very pleasant end to a fabulous 10 days. We covered over 550km & would highly recommend Cycling Cambodia as a tour operator. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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September 15 Day 4

We negotiated a cycle free day today. The original plan was to cycle the 18 km out to the boats again and take a fast boat for the 6 hour trip to Phnom Penh(PP). The boat trip was cancelled (sigh of relief) so we asked to go to the Angkor Wat Museum instead before driving to PP. Lea was up early for a 6km run along the river bank dodging the piles of rubbish and traffic. The German couple elected to do an early morning ride and skip the museum. 

The museum was terrific, a beautiful building, centred on a water courtyard, great displays and lots of information about the construction and symbolism of the Temples. We spent 2 hours there trying to take it all in. Then we picked up the Germans to commence our 6 hour road trip. The road to PP is a busy major thoroughfare only one lane wide with a narrow verge on each lane for motorbikes. We stopped at an old original French Arched Bridge, one of 22 originally on this road. Only 11 remain now.

Lunch was about halfway there overlooking wet paddocks and rice fields. Our last stop was at an afternoon market with local “delicacies”. Tarantula spiders, giant cockroaches, crickets, silk worms and scorpions. The locals were buying up so it wasn’t just a tourist trap.

This local girl was very charming and spoke good English. She encouraged us to try these delicacies. She had a live Tarantula on her shoulder. Apparently the fangs had been removed and we were assured it didn’t jump or scurry. Lea was not convinced and kept her distance.

Our guide Heung and our driver Islam loved the crickets.

Not so sure about the silk worms though.

From there it was dual highway into PP. We arrived at our hotel and checked out the roof top bar and pool. We were in the central river district so we didn’t have to go far for a good meal and cheap beer. Our room was on the 10th floor of the Harmony Hotel. 

Day 5

We were picked up at 0730 and transferred out of town to the edge of the Mekong River. A very short bike ride followed by a ferry crossing onto Mekong Island. It was a very pleasant ride around the Island taking in the quiet lifestyle only a stones throw from the bustling city.

 

We stopped at a house where the women were weaving silk on large, complicated traditional looms. Lots of foot pedals and slides to work the patterns.

The fabrics that are produced are lovely.

Donkeys and motorbikes are the preferred transport.

Nice concrete roads

Unbelievably long dragon boats. 

Back across on the ferry then off to the National Museum. Here we found some stunning artefacts from the Angkor Wat Temples but the displays and information boards were not up to the standard of Siem Reap. The building itself was lovely though.

45 minutes back at the hotel for shower., change and regroup for lunch before visiting the Tull Sleng Genocide Museum.

This former high school became known as the infamous S-21 Secret Prison during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Between 12000 and 20000 people were held her and only 12 survived. All forms of horrific torture were employed here. Detailed records of all prisoners were maintained although many were destroyed with the collapse of the movement. 

The frame was where countless prisoners were hung up and tortured.

The cells contained iron beds with leg clamps attached to restrain the prisoners.

The audio tour presented a grim and somber story of the goings on here.

Next was the Royal Palace in the CBD of PP. Our tour guide was a excellent and well spoken. The King is in Thailand at the moment for health reasons although we suspect there is more to that story than meets the eye. Politics here has taken a more repressive turn toward dictatorship. Opposition leaders have been arrested and charged with treason. The people we spoke to are reluctant to speak out openly about their government. All you get is a shrug, a raised eyebrow or a roll of the eyes when asking questions. There is still an element of fear here.

Inside were great displays of royal regalia.

 

That evening we caught up with our friends Lloyd, Mandy and Heidi who we met on the 2015 Sail Indo Rally. They have settled in Cambodia. it has been a tough 18months for them but its all coming together now. Mandy is working at a new International School. Lloyd has got a foot in the door in the construction business and Heidi is thriving and still cute as ever. We had carried a large jar of Vegemite over for them and some story books centred on Australian wildlife. We had a great night catching up at a local Indian Restaurant. Lloyd gave me quick tour of the seedier side of town before we said our goodbyes. 

 

The view from our PP hotel roof top bar and pool.

 

 

Tuesday September 12

Day 1 of our cycling tour. All ready to go by 0730. We were joined by 3others who had began their ride in Bangkok, Thailand.  Heing, our guide, took us through the bumpy dirt back streets of Siem Reap to get to the Angkor Wat ticket and information centre, a large modern complex. Very efficiently we were photographed and our personal passes given to Heing. It is a quiet ride to the first temple we visit called Ta Phrom. Heing is a little difficult to understand but full of history and information. We have to concentrate to listen and put it all together.

Ta Phrom has been extensively restored with sympathy to its discovered condition with trees growing through the temple and roots wrapped around form work.

The temple was stunning and very photogenic. Although there were lots of people around the place had a sense of enchantment. The light filtered through the trees and moss growing on the ancient stones creates a wonderful ambience.

Large piles of stone boulders remain ready for the archeologists and engineers to re piece together. 

We rode on through dense old growth forest to the next site called the Elephant Platform. We saw so much this day that it all becomes a blur. However, the overall impact of the places we visited was huge. Construction dating from around 800 AD the quality of the stonework and carving is amazing. But it is the overall size and magnitude of the temple complexes that blow the mind. Especially so when we know the full extent of the controlled urban and irrigated rural spaces that have recently been revealed with ground radar studies.

Then on to Bayon Temple.

This was an impressive Temple with intricately carved story boards depicting life, wars, hunting and civil structure.

Lunch was a welcome break before the big event of Angkor Wat itself. 

Incredibly impressive with the grand vista across the lake.

From the entrance across the lake we passed Shiva, the down the long causeway into the long halls of intricate carvings telling stories of life in around 1100 AD

 

 

Three levels of picture dialogue. Every surface, cornice and roof has some significant detail. Enough to entertain an archeologist for a lifetime. Modest dress code was applied to the upper temple levels so the girls had to cover their shoulders with shawls. Views were impressive.

A fascinating insight into the symbolism of the Hindu.

Back on the bikes we took the short way home straight through peak hour traffic in Siam Reap. The pool and bar were a welcome respite from the heat of the day and take in all we had seen.

Day 2

A 50 km ride through rural rice patties and villages. Small back streets and sandy lane ways. Neat houses with swept dirt surrounds and no rubbish. 

We visited Banteay Srie, which is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Shiva and called the Womens Temple. This is the most original and well preserved temple in the area. The stone is a redder colour and the carvings and engravings chiselled much deeper into the stone.

 

 

 

More riding up to Kbal Spean and the River of a thousand Linga’s. A 3 km walk to the waterfall and back on a lovely well marked forrest path.

Ancient carvings and Linga

Linga and Yoni

Walking in Bike Knicks is not good in the heat. We were pretty weary and chafed by the end of the walk.

Soldiered on for another 7km to a Landmine museum. Great display set up by Rai Akira a child soldier of the Khmer Rouge before changing sides and fighting for the Vietnamese. He then dedicated his life to clearing 10’s of thousands of land mines by himself. His whole family was killed during the Regime time.

Rain storm led to easy vote to put the bikes in the support truck and take the van back to the hotel. We passed through the Angkor Wat park and many night stalls were open providing a great atmosphere.

A few drinks and a great dinner at our Hotel and we were done.

Day 3

Up at 0445 for an 0500 pick up to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Hundreds of people crowded about the best spots to get the perfect picture.

Stunning to see Angkor Wat again and wait for the sky to change colour from darkness to Orange. Then back to the hotel for breakfast before heading out again on the bikes.

Another route taken toward Angkor Wat via the back roads. The roads were good quality and not too bumpy for our bums. The scenery was stunning with happy kids calling out “Hello” as we passed. The kilometres clicked over quickly on the flat terrain. We stopped at a local market for a walk through. Lots of new foods we haven’t seen before in an Asian Market. Plenty of fresh water catfish, eel fish and very tiny prawns or shrimps. Snakes, frogs and eels were also on the menu. Lea didn’t like to see the skun frogs still moving. 

One of the standout things I noticed about Cambodia is that the girls are generally beautiful.

We tried a local nut. Very tough but tasted ok. Then it was back to the boat dock to visit a water village. This village is dry during the dry season but is only accessible by boat during the wet. The houses are all on stilts including the school, police station and church. 

Dave had a go at driving the boat with its foot pedals and levers for accelerator, prop lift and gears.

We did a circle out into Tonle Sap Lake before heading back via the village souvenier shop. The shop displayed crocodile products, had a large Python in a cage, geese and 2 white rabbits wandering around. The crododile skin products were about a third of the prices in Darwin. 

It was much cooler out on the water and the boat trip gave our backsides a well needed rest. Not too much more riding that afternoon. We visited 2 more Hindu temples both dating back to around 800 AD.

Restoration is a continuous process at most of the numerous sites around Angkor Wat.

Brahma the sacred bull featured in many of the statues here.

We enjoyed learning about the history of each Temple from our guide but there was so much to take in and so many Temples that it all begins to blur.

We cycled back to Siem Reap via country lanes before loading everything into the vans to avoid tackling peak hour traffic.

Back at the hotel the girls went off for another massage while Dave and I enjoyed the pool and a cold beer.

That evening we were taken out for dinner and a show of traditional dancing. 5 different dances with beautiful costumes. The dance was very precise showing great control with slow, graceful, constant movement. Very enjoyable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 9 2017

Early start on the bus from Sitiawan to KLIA2 at 0400. Flight to Siam Reap slightly delayed. Couldn’t see a lot as we didn’t have window seats but first impressions of Cambodia were green and very wet. Visa took some time and $30.00 USD but we were eventually out and back into the heat. We were met at the airport and driven to our hotel. Many fancy hotels line the main road and traffic is heavy with lots of motorbikes, Tuk Tuks and Lexus 4wd’s. 

Arrived at Angkor Boutique Hotel and caught up with Anne and Dave poolside. A walk before dinner took us over the river

 and through the old town main road aptly named “ Pub Street”. Lots of people around and a busy atmosphere. Food carts lined the streets and locals were out playing a sort of soccer with a large heavy shuttlecock. Very skilful! We just wandered for a while to get the feel of the place then headed back over the river to the restaurant Dave and Anne had found.

 Beautiful meal with 2 drinks for around $16 USD per couple. Alcohol, mainly beer, is heavily advertised everywhere. Such a contrast to Muslim Malaysia. The people are very friendly around not much English is spoken. The evening ended with a spectacular lightning display. We ran back to the nearby hotel before the rain got heavy.

Sunday September 10

The French have left there mark as the bread with breakfast was excellent. Our driver Islam was on time to take us out to Battambang, a town upriver so that we can do a boat trip through the freshwater lakes tomorrow back to Siam Reap. His vehicle was a comfy and spacious Mercedes Van. The roads were very busy with lots of different forms of transport.

 Motorbikes and Tuk Tuks keep to the right. Trucks move over as much as they can and cars keep their left indicator on all the time as they try and pass everything. Horns are used incessantly to warn other vehicles ahead. Horn tones are something of an art form here and almost sound friendly. They are certainly not used in anger.

We stop at a Pottery manufacturer to look at what they make. Islam doesn’t speak much English so we don’t get much idea of what its all about. But they like chickens.

The good news is that the toilets out the back are Western and clean. 

We pass through another largish town with a new railway being built through it. Some nice Colonial Architecture.

We stopped at a roadside stall and tried a local speciality. A Bamboo stick filled with sticky rice, shredded coconut and black beans. Quite good and not too sweet. Got charged tourist prices but thats all part of it. 

Checked into our hotel around midday and arranged a 2.30 pickup to see the sights.

The Classy Hotel has heavy dark wood carvings all throughout the foyer and is currently on display as part of a Cultural Festival. Our room is spacious and overlooks a big beautiful pool. Anne is straight off for a swim while Lea and I head into town for a look and lunch. 

Then off again to the Bamboo Railway. This is the Railway line to Phnom Penh. This part of the line is now unused so the locals use it for transport and tourism. The “train” consists of 2 axles with a wood and bamboo frame sitting on top. A slipping fan belt with a lever for belt tension transmits drive from small “lawnmower” type engines to one of the axles. The whole unit can be rapidly disassembled, lifted clear of the track, or reversed. A friendly tourist policeman takes our $5 USD and we make ourselves comfortable on the bamboo frame complete with rugs and cushions for the ride.

Our driver, complete with his assistant and their lunch, fires up the engine, pulls back on the tension lever and we are off.

The trip is interrupted twice as a new freeway being built has cut the track. We hop off our train, walk over to the other side and resume our trip on another train on the other side. Stall provide cold drinks and T shirts if required.

The other interruption is returning trains. Ours is stopped, dissassembeled, removed from the track to allow the other train to pass. We are then reassembled and on our way again in no time. 

 

The line ends at the local village where the pressure is on to sell us souvenirs. We enjoy a cold coconut and Lea bought 2 locally made scarves. Dave was hounded by a determined and charming little girl into buying a few woven wrist bracelets. She had to work very hard for that sale.

Lots of fun and interesting scenery as we drove through the rice fields at around 20 km/hr. A few Brahman cattle were seen and lots of termite mounds. The driver indicated that the locals eat the termites.

Then it was off to the Bat Cave, Hill Temple and Killing Cave.

At the bottom of the mountain we learnt 4wd was needed for the accent. 

So off we went in the tray of a Hilux for $15 USD each to the top. Our driver didn’t come so we were on our own. However, an enterprising and pushy young man got a dollar off Anne to give us the story.

The cave with its reclining Buddha was where local people fled during the days of Pol pot. Once discovered the Khmer Rouge used a smaller nearby cave to torture and execute people. There are terrible stories of people being thrown down cave holes, heads cut off etc.

The cage contains human bones and skulls of some of the victims. There is a bizarre memorial park showing some of the variety of horrors inflicted on the people here.

At the top, near the temple gun emplacements still remain.

The temple is beautiful with stunning views over the surrounding flat countryside.

Cheeky monkeys are always around.

 

We were back at the base of the mountain in time to watch the nightly exodus of a few million bats from the depths of the caves. 

Back to the hotel for a swim and dinner at the rooftop restaurant. We are finding Cambodian food a big improvement on Malaysian.

Monday September 11

A rushed breakfast to get to the boat in time. Our vessel for the day did have lifejackets. 4 of them for the 14 on board. It did have a toilet cunningly kept clean via a constant flush from a branch off the raw water pump on the engine. It wasn’t overcrowded and it did have padded seats. However, the big 6 cylinder turbo charged motor running a long-tail prop was unmuffled. VERY LOUD.

The river bank was congested with slap together houses mainly of timber with iron roofs. The river is the rubbish tip and the banks were lined with garbage and plastic of every variety. However, the kids were happily splashing about, women were bathing and men were setting fishing nets. The poverty was evident but  they still had happy smiles and a welcoming wave. The housing did get better as we moved away from the town.

 

Beyond the city we entered the freshwater lake system with its myriad of channels through marsh land and stilt houses. We had a few short stops to exchange local people and produce. Many others used the river for transport in a variety of vessels.

We had to cross Tonle Sap Lake. The breeze was up and the lake was rough. The boat flexed and groaned.  Navigation was by steering toward the small pimple of a hill in the distance, just as well it wasn’t raining. The entrance to the channel up to Siem Reap would be very easy to miss. 

Finally back at Siam Reap sporting headaches from the constant noise we were glad to get off the boat. Enough of Cambodian boat trips.

At the hotel we met up with Heang our Cambodia Cycling organiser. She briefed us on final arrangements and took our passports for our Vietnam Visa’s.

Enjoyed a Tuk Tuk ride and a great massage in town at Real Spa before dinner. Cycling starts tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Monday August 7

Our first day was a bit of a blur with an overnight plane trip followed by 4.5 hours on the bus from KL to Sitiawan. We were picked up by Super Clean who had arranged car hire and an apartment for us in Lumut for a month. 900MYR for the apartment and 800 MYR for the car. Not a bad deal. We sorted all the paperwork and payments out at their Lumut Office then checked into our 11 Th. floor apartment with magnificent views over the Harbour.

Back at the marina we found Gemini Lady in good condition with her burka still in place. Apart from black coal dust and bird shit that had sieved through the covers the only problem we found was a flat start battery and engine bilges full of water. Soon had the power connected to charge up the battery and pump out the bilges. 

The air quality here is poor and Lea found it affected her quite badly this time. Said hello to Ben and Bell and Ray and Shaunnagh before heading back to the apartment for some sleep.

Tuesday August 8

Busy day. Dinghy out of the cockpit, food shopping, chasing sanding disks and water tube for new pneumatic sander. Lea cleaned the cockpit while I wrestled with the props. 

Our Variprops have 2 grub screws that prevent the main prop nut from undoing. Movement on the spline causes these screws to get bent so you cant undo them. I often have to drill them out then use an easy out. This time I broke the easyout which caused a real problem as I couldn’t drill that. Eventually got it sorted but did a bit of damage to the thread. At least the props were finally off.

Wednesday August 9

Cleaned Props, Scrubbed boat, dropped anchor chain and pulled out anchor winch. Discussion with local contractor Islam and we decided to use paint stripper and scrapers to remove all oil antifoul. We could find no suitable disks for our flash new sander so had to order some from Australia which would mean too much delay. Shopping for paint stripper, rollers and new easy outs.

Thursday August 10

The boys were on the job by 7.30 am to begin the stripping process on the hulls. Lea got into polishing the decks while I stripped and cleaned the anchor winch. The oil we put in the gearbox last year was far too viscous so had to be changed. 

The boys progressed well.

I found the top seal and main bearings a bit worn so arranged to get them replaced. Otherwise the Muir Winch was in good condition inside after 10 years.  Replaced genset water pump with brand new one and put in a new carbon filter cartridge in the galley.

Lea not feeling well so had an afternoon nap and we finished up early and enjoyed a refreshing swim back at the Condo. The heat was knocking us around after coming straight out of a Victorian winter.

The saloon was laid out as the toolshed. It got progressively more cluttered and untidy over the next few weeks.

Friday August 11

Anchor winch main shaft sent of to Bulat for new bearings and polishing. We go stuck into polishing the cockpit, rear seat and swim platform.

Friday night, party night at Jooks Bistro with the marina gang.

Saturday August 12

Bit slow this morning but had to be up early to get the boys more paint stripper. The anchor winch shaft came back all nice and shiny.

Needed to buy sheet gasket material and cut out new gaskets for the winch. This proved a bit a bit of an expedition but Sunny Chan a the Hose Centre in Sitiawan went out of his way to help. Spent the afternoon putting the winch back together with new seals and oil we had bought with us from Australia. Tested ok so reinstalled. A bugger of a job but got there in the end. Very glad of the little wooden table I made a few years ago to support the heavy winch motor and gearbox while bolting it back in underneath the capstan and gypsy via  the anchor locker hatch.

Sunday

The boys are having a day off so we take the opportunity to cut and polish the inside of the port hull and half the underside of the bridgedeck. A lack of scaffolding or stages made it a bit challenging but gave us us a good upper body workout. Hard work but fortunately mostly in the shade with a nice breeze funnelling between the hulls.

Monday

Lea back up polishing the foredeck while I tackled a crack in the gelcoat between the catwalk and frontdeck. Found some pretty poor workmanship underneath but soon had it filleted, glassed and bogged with epoxy.

The boys were going well and we were down to the old barrier coat. Not a divot our gouge had been done to the gelcoat. We were thrilled with job they were doing. They didn’t use stripper on the waterline but hand scraped, a long tedious process before sanding.

Tuesday

A day of odd jobs. Discussed painting and antifoul with Jimmy from Prestige Marine Services. Agreed on an International Epoxy Barrier coat to be sprayed on and then 30 litres of Intersmooth 360 antifoul to be rolled on when we come back from our land based trip through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. 

I was coming down with Lea’s bug so took it easy. We found a leak in the Port Bow under the genoa furling block so we took that off and resealed. Took the genoa back to the apartment. There was a large tiled area in the foyer of the vacant condo next door. After washing the floor we could lay the sail out.

Wednesday

Cleaned the foyer floor and laid out the genoa. Overall its in very good condition. Just the UV strip stitching is failing and a bit of chafe on the leach. Called in Mr Teh the sail repair man.

Back at the boat I finished the gelcoat repair on the catwalk while Lea sanded the port saildrive leg. Spent the afternoon cutting and polishing the inside of the starboard hull and the other half of the bridgedeck. 

Thursday

Mr Teh meets us at Lumut to inspect the Genoa. He will take it up to Langkawi to get it all fixed up. His machine is broken and he has just ordered a big machine from Germany. He will be setting up a repair loft in Sitiawan.

On the boat we girded our loins to tackle another window. 

This one is not leaking but the Fixtech 200 is failing and the window lifting. We replaced this one back in late 2013 but it was failing again. We would not recommend Fixtech products to anyone. We are now using Dow Corning 995, recommended by Roger at Lightwave. The window cut out very easily as the Fixtech 200 is so soft. At least it wasn’t still tacky like on the last window we replaced for the second time.

We waited until 4.00pm when the humidity was at its lowest and temp starting to drop. At 5.10 we opened the first tube of 995. By 5.19 the window was in place and clamped. At these temperatures the working time is very limited.

Friday August 18

More polishing today followed by a big night out at the German Bar with huge serves of Pork Knuckle.

Saturday

The polishing continues while the boys are sanding the outside of the port hull.

Home early, Lea up for a swim but I just chilled in Air-conditioned comfort. Watched the little monkeys in the tree tops below us as the sun went down. A melodic call to prayer in the background and a glass of wine in hand made for a pleasant evening.

 

 

Sunday August 20

Another early morning run. Lea saw a beautiful kingfisher and a squirrel. More locals out exercising this morning. Great to see groups Muslim women getting out for a run, fully covered and Hajabed in 26 degree heat.

The boys had finished and done a great job. We tidied the work site and did a few odd jobs before washing all the sanding dust off Gemini Lady in preparation of the Barrier Coat Spraying.

Monday

Not much on today so we headed up the mountain behind the Condo. It was a very steep and badly eroded track. Strong ropes had been installed to assist the climbing. At the top was a picnic area and a hammock. We let the sweat dry for half an hour.

On the way down we were menaced by an aggressive looking male monkey, so we diverted around him as he had no intention of moving out of our way.

It was a perfect day for spraying but unfortunately Jimmy had no product in stock even though he knew the job was coming up. Lea cleaned and waxed the leather while I sanded the saildrive legs a bit more.

Tuesday 

Lifted the shade cloth skirts for Th. painting then went off to source parts for another small project. Installing header tanks for the saildrive gearboxes. I have been meaning to do this for years and slowly accumulating the parts to do it. Caught up with Heather and Rod off Psycho Puss just back from Australia. Dragged and lowered the Mainsail into the car then laid it out in the empty foyer as before. All in pretty good condition apart from the reefing point tie patches coming adrift. Started cleaning them up and restuck the first batch then clamped them with buckets of water.

Wednesday

A dry morning but the wind was up early. Jimmy and his team were masking up and covering Gemini Lady’s lower parts with plastic wrap to keep off the overspray. The wind made the job difficult and I’m sure half the paint ended up in KL. However, apart from a few runs we seemed to have good coverage. They forgot to mask the ground plate so I had to clean that up. Not his best work but it was done. 

Thursday

A day off after sticking down a few more patches on the mainsail. We caught the 10am ferry over to Pangkor Island and hired a motorbike for the day. We headed south through the township and went as far as we could to see the beautiful new Mosque built out over the water.

A short stop at the old Dutch Fort.

Then over to the lovely beaches on the east side of the Island. We parked at our favourite restaurant for an iced tea. 

Chantilly was anchored of the beach so Lea swam out to invite them for lunch. They had other plans so we enjoyed a great lunch and a lazy relax n the beach.

We finished our circum navigation of the Island on the bike. Very pretty in the north with walking tracks we might try another day. 

Friday August 25

Morning run to clear the sludge from too much food yesterday. Lea stayed home and prepared the other side of the Main for patch reglueing. 

10 pin bowling night and great Japanese food with Ray, Shaunnagh, Patrick and Elizabeth.

Saturday 26

Day cruise with the Chantilly crew around Pangkor Island. A fun day that ended in Pizza and Karaoke until late.

Sunday 27th

Bit fragile this morning so took it easy. Packed up the Main. Mr Teh delivered the Genoa back all beautifully repaired. Lazed about the rest of the day.

Monday

Picked up custom fittings for gearbox header tanks and food shopping. Quiet goodbye drinks with Ray and Shaunnagh off Parlay. 

Tuesday

A 9.00am lift was scheduled and the boys did a great job settling Gemini Lady 500 mm in the air on sandbags to allow me access,to the underside of the mini keels.

As soon as they were finished I was under grinding away all the old antifoul and cracked gelcoat. Still no sanding disks so I had to use the angle grinder. A hot dirty job.

 Not much for Lea to do so she studied up on bread making with a new book she had borrowed “Mastering the art of extraordinary Bread making”.

Wednesday 

A morning run before back to grinding. Drilled a few holes to drain water out of keels. We put wicks in the holes to suck out the water before fibreglassing. We measured and cut all the glass. I went off to help Brett with his new fridge. On the way home picked up some more West System Resin and hardener.

Thursday

Morning swim. Wicks were still damp so decided to wait until after lunch. We set up a plank covered in heavy plastic and prewet each layer of cloth with resin then rolled it onto a length of 70mm PVC pipe. From that Lea unwound the cloth as I rolled it onto the underside of the keels. Messy and awkward job but eventually we had 3 layers on. Abandoned the idea of bogging the glass while still green.

Friday

The local Mosque was banging it out from 5.30am without rest until 8.00am. It was a Malaysian Independence day yesterday and today is Hari Raya Haji which is a religious holiday so it was a 4 day weekend for working Malaysians. The bomus was not many cars on the road so Lea did her Strava Segment without dodging too many cars.

I sanded the glasswork then bogged the whole job. The wind was up making it hard to keep the microballoons under control. 

Saturday

The morning was spent sanding the bog. Lea broke the surface with the electric sander. I followed with a torture board. More hard and dirty work.

Psycho Puss was launched and they headed straight off to Penang. We troweled on the second layer of bog.

Sunday

Foreshore run before more sanding and bogging. Used red micro balloons this time for contrast. Cooler day today with thunderstorms in the air.

Put the props back on before heading home for beer and chippies.

Monday

Final sand of the mini keels then 2 coats of straight epoxy resin rolled on. 

Tuesday

Final sand before applying International Barrier Coat to all repaired areas. Finished job looks good.

 

Jimmy came over to etch and prime the saildrive legs and props. We are now ready for a light sand and new antifoul when we get back from our land trip.

Wednesday

Started to pack up the unit and move stuff back to Gemini Lady. I went over the shade mesh burka and repaired it where necessary. We masked the waterline and cut and polished the strip just above it. Finished the day with the final fillet on the replaced window. Always a messy job. 

Lovely dinner with James Khoo and family together with Patrick and Elizabeth at the Japanese Restaurant.

Thursday

Lea finally happy with her running performance. 10 km under 60 minutes.

Not much happening today but shared some Champagne and a great Chinese dinner with Bell and Ben.

Friday September 8

Packed up the unit. Settled the marina bill until relaunch on 25th October and said our goodbyes. Handed in the keys to the apartment and car and got a lift into Sitiawan. Booked into the Mornington Hotel for the night as we had to catch the 4.00am bus to the KL airport for our flight to Siam Reap, Cambodia.

 

 

 

 

 

We spent 5 months back in Australia struggling with the Victorian winter. It was the first winter we done in 4 years and it wasn’t endearing. I worked a full month up until Easter. Lea and I then spent 6 weeks painting the outside of the house. We had all the water damage to the eaves and front doors fixed and the place looks immaculate. 

Lots of cycling and time with friends. I flew over to New Cal to spend some time with Gerry on Aqualibrium. It was great to revisit places from our 2013 trip there.

Gerry is having a ball and right into the hunting and gathering side of cruising life. We had a great 10 days together. The weather didn’t let us wander off too far but we did get some great sailing and enjoyed a couple of good reds with big steaks. 

It was great to see the resident caretaker of Illot Casey, Moose, still in good health.

Back in Aus in early July we did a 3 week road trip heading North and visiting friends and family along the way. 

Greg and Janie have new power boat so we helped them with them change over and had a ball as usual.

Caught up with Annelise at Tamworth and enjoyed some good walking.

 It was soon time to get home and get organised for our return to Gemini Lady in Pangkor, Malaysia.

 

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