At the border of Cambodia a official asks for some dollars: 'stamp fee'. In such moments I use my most useful weapon: time. Of that I have plentyful and after 5 minutes he is bored too and lets me pass.
As soon as I have changed money I go back to the east, where there is another part of the Ho Chi Minh trail waiting for me. At first it is some more dusty red road that brings me to Ban Lung. Constantly there are open bush fires next to the road that people seem to set deliberately. Cycling in the smoke is almost worse the the dust. From here it is a good dirt road to a big river. The ferry men is sleeping in his hammock on the other side and it takes a while until he notices me. But then he brings me to the other side with his little raft. Now the real thing starts: a narrow, sandy trail straight through the bush. It is simply fantastic if very sandy indeed at times...
On the second part they have build a good dirt road by now. But as I am not in the shade of the trees anymore the brutal heat of the sun now hits me without protection. The next town is on a high plateau and the climb up there of the type 'shortest link between two points'. Reaching town I head straight for the first restaurant in search of some desperately needed refreshment.
On the way back to the Mekong it is again very dusty and incredibly hot. At a construction site I see a truck splashing water on the road. I get behind it and show them to aim the water at me and for a while I cycle in the cool rain. The guy on the truck with the water pipe has about as much fun as I do. Actually I should hire these guys so they can drive in front of me for the next weeks...
The preferred dress of the women in Cambodia is the pyjama, no kidding! Kind of funny as they all walk around in their pyjamas at daylight :-). Well to be honest the Sarong is certainly more elegant.
Following the Mekong I pass many fishing villages until I reach the capital. Phnom Penh is a town of contrasts as only an asian town can be: snobbish rich next to bitter poverty, idyllic places along on the Mekong and chaotic traffic in the streets, exotic smells on the market and in the temples and a disgusting stench from the rubbish hills, friendly people and site of one of the biggest genocide of mankind. All that is Phnom Penh and much more. For me it is also kind of a service place where I can fix up my equipment and myself.
The 300km to Siem Reap can be described as 'flat hot and rather boring'. It gives me time to get prepared for what lies ahead: Angkor!
Angkor Wat is the biggest religious building ever constructed. But in the area surrounding Siem Reap there are dozens of temples of that size. Every one is different and unique in its kind. Be it the sheer size of Angkor Wat, the mystical faces of the Bayon, the huge trees and roots that have covered Ta Prohm, the bas reliefs of Banteay Srei or the architecture of Preah Khan. For 5 days I cycle all across the area always finding new treasures. It is absolutely overwhelming.
Leaving Siem Reap I can visit some more remote ruins. I am going directly north now towards the border with Thailand. Often the sight is quite depressing. The dense forest has being cut down recklessly leaving behind barren fields and bushfire.
For a couple of month now Cambodia and Thailand have been arguing about a temple close to here. On both sides of the border there is a lot of military but the situation is relaxed and calm. From far away I can already see the hills building the border to Thailand. Only 400m high they are still the first elevation of any kind for weeks. The actual border crossing is very relaxed. Not many Falang seem the find their way to this remote border crossing here. Together with the border official I sit under a bamboo roof where we fill in the papers and I explain what I am doing, before he stamps my passport and wishes me all the best.
For quite a while it has been very hot already. But it seems it is getting only worse. After noon is hardly bearable on the road anymore. But the 40° in the shade feel hotter then in central asia, as the heat is not as dry.
I try to adjust my day so that I start very early and finish cycling at noon. The rest of the day I spend under the shower or in front of a fan while I drink endless amounts of water.
After Cambodia and Laos, Thailand looks very modern and western. In the shops there is again everything and there is a ATM on every corner. At the first bigger crossroad there is already the first 7eleven. For minutes I wander up and down the shop. Not because I cannot decide what I would like to try first but because it is cooled to 20° in here.
I only stay in Thailand for a few days but soon cross the Mekong again to find myself back in Laos.