Your wheels will set you free


Just over a week to my next birthday, when I make half a century plus 10%, and I was talking with my brother about what I would do to celebrate. I couldn’t give a good answer as I haven’t really decided. It is on a Friday and it is not a day made for celebrating as I am up around 6 the next day to work 5 hours starting at 8.

I was out on my bike later in the day and  it got me thinking whether I had received many better birthday presents. It is not an extensively researched list, I have forgotten many birthdays and their presents so apologies to friends and family if you bought me the best ever present and I have forgotten it, but certainly in the recent past I cannot think of any that are better than a bike in the constant positive benefit it has brought to my life.


The alley I lived in when I was known as $2, not much but better than 50 cents!

Before I lived in a more solidly Khmer area. To travel around I would hop on the back of a motto* and pay to go where I wanted. My most frequent journey was to work for which I paid $2 and led, I have been told, to my nickname in the alley where I lived ‘bi dollars’ – $2 in Khmer. They might have carried on taking the piss out of me as $2 after I got the bike but I do not know!

4th March 2017, a few days before the actual day, and we went to a bike street in Phnom Penh to look for a bike. One street with shop after shop selling bikes and little else.


Street 107 – where to buy a bike in Phnom Penh

I was looking for a street bike, nothing fancy, preferably white with black trim. One was found but the saddle was too low so an extension was added and the same happened with the handle-bars. A quick test ride and the bike was bought and given to me.  We went off and cycled to a bar I had recently been to, to welcome back a friend just returned to Phnom Penh, but we would not normally have gone to together as it would have involved planning, getting a tuk-tuk, etc. Having a bike had already improved my life.

Subsequently I learned the joys of cycling in Phnom Penh, to work or for pleasure. When

Photo 3-4-17, 4 59 28 PM

New bikes parked at Show Box

I talk about it people ask me about the danger of the traffic in Phnom Penh. Yet, for me, it is the safest city I have cycled in. In the UK, France or Australia the traffic is all so orderly and managed that it goes so fast. As a cyclist it can be quite frightening. However the traffic here is chaos. A vehicle or motto can come at you in any direction at any time. As a result the cars, coaches and lorries drive slowly. All the road users are looking out for everyone else. It is chaos, but it is an elegant chaos.

So I started to save my $2 a journey to work – $24 a week, nearly $100 a month! I have also improved my fitness. Phnom Penh is a city you cannot walk around easily, with


The bike as it is now, with added rear light and mudguards – for the rainy season.

relatively cheap and easy to get mottos and tuk-tuks, the lack of pavements, and the temperature hardly anyone walks anywhere. As an example, the summer before coming here I was physically active for more than an hour and a half a day whereas, even with the walking around at work, it was less than 30 minutes a day. Together with the cheap beer it resulted in my weight going from 85ish kilos to almost 100, despite my attempts at swimming. I am active for more than 70 minutes most days now and my weight, despite the cheap beer, is now reducing again.

On a bike you can see things you do not see in a tuk-tuk, especially the new Indian ones or even on the back of a motto. I have witnessed more about daily life in Phnom Penh from my saddle than I would have otherwise.

Not everything is perfect. In the rainy season I would get a mud trail up my back and had


New brake blocks being fitted.

to fit mudguards which detracted from the clean, lean, lines of the machine. Too many people I know have had their bikes stolen so it is necessary to lock it up and keep it visible. Some places where people park their mottos, which have security watching over them, will not accept bikes as they are not thought to be serious. I have always lived on the 2nd floor so it is either a case of paying a few dollars a week for parking or carrying it upstairs, however, as a friend commented, it is useful upper-body exercise too! Finally, the way I ride puts pressure on the brakes and handle-bars. The later had recently become lose but a nearby garage tightened them up for free. More worryingly I seem to get through a set of brake-blocks a month. I accelerate fast from junctions, to get through them quickly before I can get hit by something coming from another direction, which also calls for sharp breaking. This wears the brakes. And this has been costing me around $6 a month for new brakes. This week they had got bad again and I had to use my feet to stop a couple of times so, on my day off, back to bike street for new


The new, expensive brake blocks!

brakes. These cost $10 and I was assured they were better than the cheap brakes I had before.

So, despite the caveats mentioned in the last paragraph, I still value the bike for the freedom it has bought me to go where I want, when I want. My main regret is that I have not used it to visit places further away in Phnom Penh. It has extended the area of places I regularly go, but I have not managed to do things like join Phnom Penh Easy Riders for a visit out of the city, or the Hash on one of their rides. So I’m richer, fitter and have witnessed more of life in Phnom Penh than I otherwise would have. All from the saddle of ‘My White Bicycle.’

Barang on a Motorbike: The Return


Eighteen months ago I hired a motorbike to ride around eastern Cambodia and started to


The jacket is to protect from the sun, not rain, same with the scarf over my mouth.

write about it here. Other things took over and I didn’t finish. Then I discovered I had lost the photos and that was it. Two years ago I hired a bike and joined an organised cycling tour to Oudong. I thought it was time to do something with our day off for International Women’s Day and I mixed the two. I have now also discovered that this year’s project involved something of what I had done the previous two 8th March, but more of that coincidence in a minute.

Amazingly, and I didn’t know this before, but on March 8th 2017 I went to see a film in the Cambodia Film Festival, “Turn Left Turn Right” and I loved it and bought a poster and got

Turn Left Turn Right

The poster I had signed.

it signed by the actress featured in the film, Kanitha Tith. An ancient temple complex features in the early parts of the film. I had wanted to visit a number of temples within reach of Phnom Penh almost since I arrived. Seeing the temple complex in the film made me want to go more. So, I decided, my project for International Women’s Day 2018 would be to go to Phnom Chisor.  Like 2016 a temple complex, which featured in a film I saw on the day in 2017. The project has nothing, ostensibly to do with day, other than we get one day off, just on its own, and I think it is good to do something with it. I had booked the bike the week before, paying a deposit, so all I had to do was turn up and collect it, as agreed, at 10.

So, I left at just after 10 and headed south on National Route 2. It was almost an hour to get through the traffic in Phnom Penh and the suburbs, but at least that was on a dual carriageway road and felt safer. It being eighteen months since I’d ridden a motorbike my gear changing was a bit rusty, I suffered the indignity of stalling in front of the staff of the shop I hired it from. Having to go round the Central Market with all the traffic and stop-starting was a bit of a trial so early on but I’d got gear-changing sorted quite well. I also filled the bike up with fuel and then head on down the Charles De Gaul Boulevard, past the Olympic Stadium and on out through Stung Mean Chey and headed on down towards Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields.

When I visited the Killing Fields in January 2016 a friend of mine was working on building a 20180308_111249canning factory for Cambodia Beer in the same area. The beer have now just become the Cambodia beer sponsor for my football team so I was pleased to see a poster featuring the team outside the canning factory.

Outside Phnom Penh the dual carriageway changed into a single carriageway meaning there are some hairy moments, particularly with lorries overtaking other lorries –


My first view of Phnom Chisor

meaning they take up the whole carriageway and I am forced on the dirt track at the side of road, which I do not fancy much at around 85 kph. The road also narrowed and the traffic slowed down to traverse four bridges formed of metal plates. I had not liked these much when riding the last time, then there was the added danger that it was in the wet season so it was likely to have rained and they might be slippery.

Around midday I stopped for a water break and a local approached me. He asked where 20180308_123920I was from and where I was going and, in response, he told me I was only 3 km further to go on the road before the turning for Phnom Chisor. Around 3 km further and there was a big sign which, from what I knew looking a the site on the internet before, I could see indicated that the turning led to it. I turned down the dirt road catching the occasional glimpse, before I saw the view pictured above. It was not long after that before I arrived, parked the motorbike and paid for it. Despite having a litre of water before leaving and stopping to have another, I’d had bare arms and face on the journey down so would have lost a lot of water. I stopped to buy some from a woman who charged me $1. It is 500 riel, 12 1/2 cents in Phnom Penh and I said so but the only way I would get the water was to pay it so I did. I walked on to find the sign above which told me there were 412 steps to the top. Great! But, good for my health, lol.


So, up I went. About half way up there was a concrete shelter where I stopped to get my


It must be true 412 steps to the top.

breath back and take a picture of what I had climbed up(left) and what there was to go(right). In a mixture of our poor Khmer and English I talked with the person selling things there, then set back off again.When I got to the top there was another shelter raised off the ground and the woman selling things from there laughed when I collapsed and fell on my back wheezing for display. I bought a water from her, 2,000 riel – about 50 cents, so better.

I walked around a bit and saw a Buddha in the centre of a pond and a couple of other shrines, but nothing special. I walked a bit further, went round a bend, and there it was. The ancient temple I had seen in the film.


I walked around some, taking photos:

One of the things I found stunning in the film was the view over surrounding countryside, like this;


It was just too hot to walk down to the temple at the foot and then onto the lake so that will have to wait for another time.

What I did enjoy, having gone there on my own, was the friendliness of the Khmer people there most of whom said hello to me walking around or on the ascent or descent, and were even more pleased when I replied “Sus-duy”, Khmer for hello;

In fact on the way down, when I stopped at the same place I stopped on the way up, I 20180308_132003was asked for a photo by a school-girl. I wondered at the wisdom of it but thought it okay as her teacher and colleagues were there. I also thought about having my picture taken as the only Barang at the temple, but thought what the hell. I got one in return. Through my poor Khmer and their better English I found out they were a group of students from a school in Phnom Penh and the teacher with them was their Khmer teacher. There were English teachers with them but they were elsewhere in the temple. It would have been nice to talk to them, professional to professional. I bought a water for 2,000 riel and after a rest made my way down again.

I had not eaten and it was about half one so I looked for somewhere to get fried rice or something. There were plenty of cooking places with people cooking at them but they seemed like family cooking for family, the equivalent of cooking a bbq. I walked around but didn’t see anyone cooking and selling food. Then I saw someone selling fruit and remembered how, on my bike ride two years earlier we had been kept going with fruit and I also remembered how wonderful the local pineapple are. So I bought one and ate it:

It really was as wonderful as I remembered it. I bought a bottle of water from the stall next door for 500 riel, the price I usually pay from a street vendor in Phnom Penh and then set off back.

I got back, without major incident, at 4, beating the start of the rush hour, as I had aimed. On the way down I had ridden in my t-shirt and my arms and face were red which is why I covered up, as seen in the photo at the beginning, for the return journey. But, I had nothing to cover my hands for the return journey which meant they were in the strong sun for four hours and were slightly burnt. Moisturiser and Tiger Balm have soothed that. What to do for next International Women’s Day?

The Norman Geras Reader: A review


This is a re-post of a review of a book I’ve yet to read from the excellent Harry’s Place. It is about Norman Geras who I discovered through his excellent Normblog which was required reading. A book has been published of his writings, on the blog and through other means. If you like this buy the book here.

Norman Geras (1943-2013) was a significant political theorist, but was better known to most here as the creator of ‘Normblog’, a compelling blend of politics, culture, cricket and much more – Harry’s Place readers will remember his regular interviews with fellow bloggers and his eclectic ‘Writer’s Choice’ guest spots.  Whenever some contentious political or moral issue was in the news I would always turn to Normblog, eager to find out what his take on the latest controversy would be.

There was of course much common ground between Normblog and Harry’s Place (and I discovered them around the same time.) Geras was the principal author of the Euston Manifesto, and a leading light in what came to be known as the ‘Decent’ left (a term he disliked). Eve Garrard offers a succinct summary of his political outlook here.

He was centrally and always a man of the left, but one who became a scourge of those parts of left/liberal opinion which, in his view, had slid away from commitment to the values of equality, justice and universal rights, and in so doing ended up by excusing or condoning racism and terrorism.

However there was one vital difference from HP – Norm never opened his posts for comments …

The Norman Geras Reader: What’s There is There’ (eds Ben Cohen and Eve Garrard) brings together these different sides of Geras’ legacy: academic discussions of Marxism, highlights from Normblog, both light and serious, and companion essays by Alan Johnson and Terry Glavin.

Geras’ Marxism puzzled some of his liberal admirers, and one of the focuses of this volume is his insistence on the common ground between Marxism and liberalism, together with his commitment to anti-authoritarianism and humanitarian intervention.  As a fan of Normblog, I found it rewarding to discover here more detailed and extended discussions of these key topics; In ‘Minimum utopia: ten theses’, for example, he discriminates carefully between the benign and destructive tendencies of both liberalism and socialism, promoting a kind of synthesis between forces sometimes viewed as incompatible. The best institutes and practices of liberalism:

should not be set aside, in particular, on the basis only of a present confidence in some future spontaneous harmony. The great evils we hope to be able to remedy include precisely evils against which liberal institutions have given some protection.(p. 56)

His dislikes, ‘the shibboleths of the modern left’ and ‘morally blind anti-imperialist politics’ (p. 4) also feature prominently in the volume.  In ‘What does it mean to be a Marxist’ he writes eloquently about a fatal blind spot on (sections of) the left: the tendency to treat capitalism as the sole adversary and gloss over evils with a different provenance:

… the democracies of the West flawed, at fault, hypocritical, aggressors, and so forth, while quite appallingly anti-democratic movements and regimes are made apology for, and bathed in the mitigation of that shallow root-causes sociology to which I earlier referred – root causes for which some proximate ‘we’ is always said to bear the ultimate responsibility. Tyranny, terrorism, even genocide, almost cease to be horrors in their own right, evils to be opposed alongside economic exploitation, inequality, poverty and other byproducts of global capitalism. They are, as it were, ‘levelled’ by always being traced back in their turn to capitalism and imperialism, so that they become lesser evils and their direct agents and perpetrators lesser enemies. (p. 113)

Antisemitism was a significant theme in Normblog, and it was good to revisit his excellent essay ‘Alibi Antisemitism’, and its searing critique of Caryl Churchill’s ‘Seven Jewish Children’:

Churchill, however, disavowed [the charge of antisemitism]. She did so on the grounds of what one might call an innocent mind. No anti-Semitism had been intended by her. On the one hand, the blood libel analogy had not been part of her thinking when she wrote the play; on the other hand, those speaking the offending lines in it were not meant to be Jews in general, merely individual Israelis. Churchill is evidently innocent here of any memory of the figure of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, long thought of, despite his being only one character, as putting Jews in a bad light. She is innocent, too, of her own generalizing tendencies in naming her play ‘Seven Jewish Children’ and then linking the broad themes of the Jews as victims of genocide and as putative perpetrators of it in their turn.

The responsibility to protect, the concept of the ‘contract of mutual indifference’, were key concepts both in Geras’s academic writings and in Normblog. In his essay ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ he explores the history of support for this concept, and the problems involved in negotiating competing goods: the integrity of the sovereign state and the imperative to protect. He also reflects on the question of thresholds – how severe must the crime, the human suffering be, in order for humanitarian intervention to become justifiable, particularly when weighed against the risk of an escalation into full scale war?

Although there is much here about war, politics, bigotry and suffering, The Norman Geras Reader doesn’t neglect the lighter side of Norm’s work.  Included here are blog posts on Jane Austen, jazz, cricket, Bob Dylan and Dickens.  I thoroughly recommend the volume to old devotees of Norm’s work – and new admirers.  Terry Glavin, in his epilogue, perfectly sums up what it felt like to first stumble across Normblog:

Reading Normblog always meant learning something, and it was what I imagined it must have been like, hearing the reassuring sound of far-off voices from a wireless in a fishboat galley, with news and analyses of the most momentous events of the day. Normblog was an unapologetically left-wing place, of at the very least a liberal milieu, and yet neither the host nor any of the contributors had lost their damn minds. (p. 249).

15 Reasons To Never Visit Cambodia


Don’t ever come to Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder!

When in Cambodia

1. What is it even famous for?

Angkor-Wat_2399296a-large credit: the telegraph

Angkor Wat, national symbol represented in the flag, in Siem Reap.

2. Temples are just rocksssssssssss

c3193c02829fa0353f8d53d053994df0 credit: Pinterest

The grand gate of Bayon, a gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park

3. Temples are all the same!

Angkor_Capital_Asienreisender_880pxs credit: asienreisender

The Angkor Archeological Park in a picture. (Just some of the temples)

4. Foods aren’t that great

fried-noodles credit: goankhmerunited

Cambodia could be a hidden gem if you’re an enthusiast of STREET FOOD.

what-to-eat-cambodia-Fish-Amok-960x640 credit: adventureinyou

Amok is one of the most favourite dishes visitor never forget to try!

phnom-penh-01 credit: urbanadventures

What is know for the weird Cambodian cuisine is the insect eating tradition. Angelina Jolie approved.

5. What to even do with that big fresh water lake?

Tonle-sap-floating-village-Cambodia-Siem-Reap-Eternal-Asia-Travel credit: eternalasiatravel

Be hold, the floating village of Tonle Sap.

6. People aren’t friendly

cambodia1 credit: mekongtourism

Cambodians are ranked among the most friendliest nation on earth…

View original post 192 more words

Well said.


Today I’m re-posting from South Leeds Life can you argue against it? The comments are open:

On The Buses: Frank’s guide to Netiquette

Of all the methods of frittering away our leisure time that humankind has come up with since the advent of actually having time to waste, we have finally reached peak distraction with the advent of arguing online.

While only a few decades ago people would spend their evenings watching Morecambe and Wise or smoking a pipe, or perhaps building a scale model of HMS Victory from matchsticks, social media has swept all before it to leave us with the sole hobby of arguing with complete strangers about the topics of the day.

This is all great knockabout fun most of the time, as long as you’re robust enough to have your ideas rubbished and your intelligence called into question. Leaving aside the keyboard warriors who are emboldened from their usual position of cowardice to issue threats or insults we shouldn’t be afraid of ferocious debate. Only through argument and critical discussion of theories can we reach a place where we can hold beliefs that have some merit. The problem in our allegedly post-Truth era, is the cherry-picking of facts to support our positions coupled with the ignoring of details which detract from the case we are making.

One man saw both the need for argument to arrive at a better understanding of the world and the ways we would seek to dodge arguments that contradicted our own – the philosopher Karl Popper, speaking before the days of the internet, eerily predicted the nature of Facebook political debate when he said “If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories.”

Since the Brexit referendum and the election of Trump the world of online arguing has gone insane and I’ve felt myself becoming increasingly annoyed by those who fall into the trap outlined by Karl Popper.

Last week I reached the point where I had to stop reading online arguments and it was all to do with the Holocaust.

The Jewish community’s links to Leeds run deep and our city’s life has been immeasurably enriched both culturally and economically by their input. You may not know it but last Friday was Holocaust Memorial Day. It is one day in the year set aside to remember the innocent victims of a bestial ideology that wielded its hatred with industrial might in an attempt to wipe an entire people and their history from the face of the earth. This is not ancient history. There are still among us some few who survived to bear witness to mankind’s darkest moment. And those who went on to have families after their deliverance from evil have left with us their greatest revenge – new generations of Jews who the Nazis hoped would never see the light of day or draw a breath and speak among the families of the earth. Their lives are a victory in themselves.

On Friday I realised not just how ridiculous it is for people to shout “Fascist” at every idiotic policy that either Tories or Trump unveil but also how belittling of the unique obscenity that was the Holocaust to constantly be drawing inaccurate comparisons between Germany in the 1930s and the world today. The Holocaust was a unique event – unique in horror, intention and scope – and those who seek to use it to further their own arguments about today’s world tarnish both their own arguments by doing so and the memory of those who were murdered.

Watching a Trump-hater lecture the son of Holocaust survivors about how Trump is a new Hitler made my hackles rise like never before in online debate. Trump may be many things – idiotic, wrong-headed, sexist, blundering – but he is not a new Hitler nor are his policies fascist and to constantly overuse that word undermines the work of bringing judgement to the genuine fascists who are abroad in the modern world.

His policies don’t make him a fascist unless you are willing to concede that Obama was also a fascist. For example, if you use his 90-day travel ban on people from seven countries (bizarrely six of whom ban Israeli citizens from entering their countries) entering the US, or his proposed Mexican border wall, as evidence to label him a fascist while simultaneously ignoring the fact that Obama banned Haitian refugees and deported more Mexicans than any American President in history, no serious person will take your theories with anything other than a massive pinch of salt.

Online arguing requires a coherence of outlook and thought unless you wish to be revealed as hypocritical. You can’t ignore the enforced dress and moral codes imposed on millions of women in the world and say that sexist remarks made 12-years ago by Trump make him the greatest ever threat to female equality if you want me to take you seriously. Likewise, you can’t scream racist at people who voted to leave the EU and ignore the fact that the EU’s policies of “fortress Europe” led directly to the death by drowning of thousands of Africans and Asians in the past three or four years.

When we come to battle clutching our “facts”, prepared to throw them at our opponents and deliver a killer blow to their position, we would do well to apply some rigour in evaluating our evidence.

When you argue online, if you ever want it to be more than simply an exercise in screaming your opinions into the virtual void, be coherent, be like Karl.



Barang on a motorcycle, day III


It had been raining in the afternoons in Phnom Penh and rained the afternoon  travelling to Kratie so the thought was that an early start would get the travel out of the way by the time the rains came. Unfortunately breakfast took longer than intended as a result of slow service, getting cash etc it was well into the morning before the leaving of Kratie happened. I was not far out of it either when the rains started. Lightly at first, then the heavens opened and, despite taking shelter in a petrol station, I was soaked. I carried on and got to the morning’s destination.

The first thing I saw was the pictures of the dolphins on the sign in the big picture then the gateway in the smaller picture at the bottom. So I stopped and paid for my boat and a drizzle started almost immediately. Then it stopped then we headed into the rain you could see in the picture (top right) and I was wet through again. I even put on the life-jacket to have something for the rain to hit upon.

After about twenty minutes the rain, it stopped (Bottom top right) and then the boat stopped and things went very quiet. The driver indicated something but I could see nothing, then a fin, then the Mekong Dolphins in all their glory.

Everything I had hoped for, to see these rare, threatened, majestic creatures. On the way back we passed islands which were inhabited and being cultivated. People whose existence is said to be threatened, just like the dolphins, by proposals for dams on the river.


Back on the road and it was pretty much as it had been the day before. On the left-hand side properties heading down to the river and on the right ones in the forest or heading out into paddies and cultivated fields. A paved road so danger was less. It was never possible to get up much speed as all the time you were keeping your eyes peeled for animals or children running into the road, slowing down when there was a dog or a chicken, or a child who insisted in remaining in the road. The biggest offenders in staying in the road and staring at you were cows.


As you can see from the map above after a while I moved away from the riverside and traveled through a more rural route which had fewer homesteads alongside the road but more cows in the road. As also seen from the map, at Sangkum I joined National Highway 7 and the quality of the road improved significantly. Most houses were further back and when you went through built up areas people and animals were more aware of the traffic. If they weren’t the lorries screaming through would soon have made sure everyone else didn’t forget. The lorries added to the fun when a hilly stretch came and then they were to be overtaken,  then they would want to pass when heading downhill, and repeat. Then the rain came back.

I dived into the first place I found by the side of the road. Where the above film was taken from. The people running the shop must have been used to giving shelter from the storm to people, I bought some things from them then was offered some food. It was now into the afternoon and I had had nothing since breakfast so the noodles with salad and an omelet was most welcome. You can see how wet I was.



The redcoats are coming! Once the rain stopped most of the journey was uneventful, apart from trying to start in neutral after asking the way in O’Pong Muon and being laughed at  by the local people. Closing in on Stung Treng it started to rain again so I opened the throttle and tried to get there as quickly as possible, finishing up in a pharmacists on the outskirts of town. My thumb on my left, inside just below the knuckle, had got blisters each day from the grip for the handlebars and using the clutch. I had bought the see-through plasters but they had fallen off in the rain and made things worse so I was looking for industrial strength elastoplast type (other plaster types are available) plasters which they had and I was able to put on. Whilst there I rang the guesthouse for directions and, after conversations with a few people, they said someone would come to collect me. Typical of the friendliness I found whilst travelling, the pharmacist brought out a chair for me to sit on whilst waiting and sheltering from the rain.

When the person from the guesthouse arrived the rain had diminished and I followed them to it only to find, coincidence or irony of the day, that there was no water. So, I got moved to their other one which was a result as it was in the centre of town and I could walk to restaurants etc from it. After a shower and change of clothes I walked down to Ponika’s Place, recommended in the guide, for a very nice meal. I was willlingly sold some carry-outs as the owner and partner wanted to get to a birthday party and went back to my room for a read, drink and then sleep.

Barang on a motorcycle, day II


So, yesterday was get going and recover from the evening before. As I said I have explored Kampong Cham and you can read about it here, here and here. Today I wanted to visit something I had not visited before and then get to Kratie, via Hanchey Hill, which I had not seen before either and the ferry at Steung Trenung.(222 on the map here and the interweb thingy is no better to it.)


First was something I had wanted to see since pouring over the maps after my previous visit, the last surviving wooden temple in Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge had destroyed all the others but this survived thanks to being used as a hospital) at Wat Mohaleap. I was given a metaled route to follow by the fab people at Mekong Crossing Guest House, who also said the river was very high. Well, they were right as the river said I was not visiting the Wat:

So, I turned back, went back over the bridge into Kampong Cham and headed out of the city on the western side of the Mekong. I headed up route 220, which was just like any English country ‘C’ road passing though villages and with occasional glimpses of the mighty Mekong to Wat Hanchey and, as luck would have it, missed the entrance so had to go back to get to the entrance. As luck would also have it, many people talk about the walk up but, having found the road up, I was able to ride up in comfort to:

A few kilometres up the road I came to Steung Treung, which is a real place with a ferry crossing of the Mekong though the internet does not avow much of its existence. The ferry was on the other side and, on coming back it was clear how strong the river was. I took the obligatory photos and made the obligatory social media comment about the ‘ferry ‘cross the Mekong’:

So, according to the guide that was 31 kilometres done and it was around midday with another 78 to do. So I motored on. Initially it was like the bit before the ferry with largely riverside villages interspersed with areas of forest with fewer people. All the time though looking for someone, a child, an animal running out into the road. After a while the road became higher and the river had clearly broken its banks and the countryside on either side was flooded. Then there were herds of cows, goats, buffalo and other animals being taken back to the house over night. I had got used to avoiding most animals, then all of a sudden there was a commotion, people were running alongside the road and there were throngs of people. I came to a bridge, OK but nothing to see here then I got to the other side and:

The elephant on the left in the picture on the right clearly did not like me. I know people who have been around elephants in Africa and they said that you cannot beat elephants in a charge so I did not wait to find out so it was open throttle and high tail it outta there.

Someone at work had said to me “Why are you doing it in the rainy season” and I hadn’t really thought about it. I had the chance to think about it for the next tens of  kilometres through the drizzle that continued till I arrived in Kratie. It ceased raining enough to get these pictures of my accommodation for the night and then get something to eat.

Kratie mainly talked about the riverfront and the dolphins so, having seen the former I went to bed dreaming of the latter.

Barang on a motorcycle


Day one. 13th September, school’s out so, with a few friends something to eat and a few drinks to celebrate which meant, unfortunately I was up late and half an hour late to collect the motorcycle. Bag strapped on the back and headed off out to Kampong Cham. A fairly uneventful ride and arrive in tine for lunch and then catch up on sleep from the night before. Something to eat in a nearby hostelry and sleep.


I had previously been to Kampong Cham for a visit and wrote three posts about it starting here. The previous visit was at the end of the dry season/start of the rainy season in May and you can see how much higher the river is comparing the photos below taken from the same spot.


Shearer and Mills English Traitors


Alan Shearer and Danny Mills are English traitors who do not want to see our great country ever win national trophies again but are just seeking jobs and money for them and their mates.

What else can be the explanation for their piece on the BBC saying that England should have an English Manager? Why should there be an English manager? What justification is there for former players, part of failed teams to remain involved with the team?

Read Soccornomics, and look at the best England managers. Are they necessarily English? No. The best English Manager according to the research in the book was Italian.

So, do Mills and Shearer want England to win the World Cup or European Championship? Well the evidence from the piece is that they don’t. They are not interested in getting the best manager possible for the England team. Just an English manager. What if they are an average manager but English? OK seemingly according to Mills and Shearer. What if they are the best manager in the world but foreign? No. According to them. Do we want to win? No. Just lets have an English manager. Step up Mike Bassett.

Then, what is even worse, they call, in their own self-interest, to have an involvement in the England team. Why let a bunch of proven losers anywhere near the England team? They won nothing. OK, so the BBC pays them a fine sinecure for sitting on their collective arses and pontificating about whatever the crowd are saying this week. Before moving on to whatever the crowd say next week. What measurable criteria are there for Shearer, Gerard, Mills et al to be involved in the England team? What can they transmit to the players about winning

No. They are losers. I want winners involved. Have Vaughn on how to beat the Aussies at cricket, Mo on winning at running, Hamilton at F1 and the Scotsman at tennis but do not let any of these dinosaurs anywhere near our football team.


Architecture Tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo II


At the end of the first part I left people tantalised. (Well maybe I did, maybe you don’t give a toss, for the narrative I’ll continue believing I do) A whole piece about a tour of Phnom Penh by cyclo and no cyclos. What gives, eh? The last picture was the key to the tantalising with the back of our guide and some cyclos. So, to release the tension here are pictures of cyclos from the rest of the tour.

The first two pictures on the right show us mounting up, what other verb can I use for getting on/in a cyclo? The one on the left at the top shows us processing towards Wat Phnom and then they show, from the left, the author at repose in his cyclo, the convoy of cyclos turning left, in amongst the traffic and the start, sort of like the start of the Le Mans! (Wat Phnom is again in the background, we have traveled anti-clockwise from 3 to 6.)  So, now the lust for cyclos is sated I can move on with the narrative, our first stop was at a Chinese temple.


From the top, we see the outside of the temple which is in the grounds of s school. Our guide, Virak, said the King was pleased to have the Chinese in Cambodia and gave them the land on which the school and temple are built. It is possible to learn Madarin at the school for $100 a year he said. The people who worship at the temple are from southern China and Taiwan. Next picture down shows the detail of the window and on the right, at the top of the column a Khmer detail. Going in, on the right, we saw the dragon to protect people on the water, which is why the fish are in front of it. On the left was the tiger to protect people on the land and it has plants in front of it. Both have a small dragon and tiger pictured also to reflect continuity. I just like drums which is why that picture is there and the final, main, picture is of the altar.

Next stop was another Chinese temple. This time made of wood. In writing this I found another blog written about the tour (giving a different perspective of it) which also posted a picture (left) of the temple from three years ago. I think it makes an interesting comparison to what we saw.

Our guide said that before the Khmer Rouge there were no other buildings here but the price of land and the largely uncontrolled state of planning and building mean that people build something wherever they can. Obviously the temple has not been used for worship for a long time.

We walked further on and came to another religious building, a former Catholic Chapel which was used for Taikwando and as a school but is also now lived in and is very dark so people need to keep the lights on and I can’t imagine there’s too much ventilation for cooking smoke and fumes.


We then got back in the cyclos and went to the National Library of Cambodia. Obviously built in the colonial period, we are back in the European quarter with very classical architecture, although the columns share the Khmer feature with the Chinese temple, the only nod to the location of the building. The Khmer Rouge used this as a kitchen and canteen with animals living in the grounds which were slaughtered and then cooked and eaten inside. Some of the books were used for the cooking. The library is in the centre with the stores and offices in the wings, which can just be seen, on the left and the right respectively. Back to the cyclos.

We then toured past the Hotel Raffles Le Royal. (Top right) Built in 1929, what the hotel’s biog doesn’t say is that after the coup in 1970, as part of the republicanisation of the country, it’s name was changed to Hotel Le Phnom and it is as that it features in the film ‘The Killing Fields‘.  After a five year renovation by the Raffles group it is one of the more high class hotels.  Then, bottom right, is the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications building. Another government office building – what’s so special about that? It is not what is there now that matters but what was there before. It is the site of the former Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Pictured, from a stamp, below) Building work on it started in 1951 financed by the, secular, French government, but it was dynamited in 1976 by the Khmer Rouge. The architect said he was not disappointed by its fate as it had been built on the same layout as the Wat Phnom at the other end of the boulevard and he had never been happy with the challenge to the primeval Budhist pagoda in the city. The final picture on the left is us passing the station built in the 30’s by the engineer who also worked on the architectural wonder that is the Central Market, and it was said that he learned how to work with reinforced concrete on this building before going on to use it so successfully on the market.


Our last stop was at the former Hotel International which was originally built 1900-1910 On what was Phnom Penh’s busiest shopping streets as the Magasin Paris, the place to get your items fresh from France. It has been altered many times and no longer a hotel; the old signs are still readable on the entrance, i.e.’Horlogerie’, a clock store. The Hotel’s name, in Khmer, is still visible high up the building and you can see where people have built homes on the roof and like the hotel at the start of the tour it is now lived in by many families and the ground floor is given over to shops. Our guide said he had recently seen adverts for the hotel from the 1970’s when the hotel was heavily discounting the rooms, no doubt a function of the uncertainty as a result of the civil war taking place between the Lon Nol government and the Khmer Rouge. We got back into the cyclos and returned to the Post Office Square. If you are in Phnom Penh do take one of their tours, you learn not just about architecture but the history of the city and country, social history and so much more and the enthusiasm of the guide for the subject is contagious.

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