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Room54 First's Cycle Challenge!

Where:Vietnam to Cambodia
20th November, 2009
Vietnam to Cambodia Cycle Challenge - 400km in 6 days

After 22 hours in transit we arrived at our start point in Saigon, sat in a café in the heat drinking coffee listening to festive music. Have seen our bikes, off roaders with front suspension, heavier than the ones we trained with. Very glad we both brought our own saddles with us. 

Dinner was in a courtyard, very good food and to keep the temperature down they sprayed vaporised water over the area, worked a treat.

People are fantastic, especially the children who stop whatever they are doing and rush over to wave at us, even when at school. It's not often you see 15 cyclists with helmets and cycling shorts passing through their village.  

Day two, 75Km, past paddy fields and then came across plantations that are growing grapefruits, bananas, avocado, oranges and lime. This area is full of rivers which requires the taking of ferries which again sparks interest from the locals.

Slight incident today with a chicken, they wander around the place as if they own it, the bike in front disturbed said chicken who took flight and landed on my arm which produced an immediate reaction from me (Jan), the good news is that we both survived.   

Within the group is Karl, 6’ 4’’ who makes an impact whereever we go as he is so tall, Layla in turn has the children looking to touch her blonde hair and very white skin, they both stand out and are a source of interest.

Day three, 97Km and it was dark as we approached our hotel for the night. Today we also visited the floating market, every day at 05.00 each boat prepares their produce to sell, they hoist an example up the mast so you can see who is selling what.  Just a fantastic sight to see.

No aches or anything, huge thanks to ELAINA FRANKLIN of Stoke Park Club who put together our training, yes there were times during this that we all looked at ourselves and said why? but now we understand,  makes the whole experience more enjoyable, thanks again Elaina.

Must report that the hotels have all been of a good standard, and so has the food, organization and the company.

Said our farewells to the Vietnamese support team tonight over dinner, their organization has added to the experience. Across the border tomorrow to Cambodia and into Phnom Penh, with all its old and new history.

Had a one hour delay arriving into Cambodia due to an oil leak with the ferry, then we had immigration which just took some time. Lunch at the FCC (Foreign Correspondent Club) was perfect, a slight breeze, the restaurant is on the 1st floor so good views of the river.

We then visited the Tuol Sleng Museum also known as S21 , a former French colonial school, which has become part of the history of Cambodia, a moving experience to visit these buildings .  Even though it was nearing the end of daylight a few of the group cycled out to the infamous killing fields. Our guide had the gates opened and we walked around with torches with the noise of the crickets in the background.

Tomorrow we tackle 89Km of cycling to arrive at Kompang Tom, ever closer to Siem Reap our final destination.

Weather was hot today and we were mostly on tarmac roads so no shade, more traffic around us and it turns out that our two Cambodia guides are part of the National Cycling team, no pressure there then!

Besides the cycling, we also visited one of the many temples, this one was up a hill, to be precise 550 steps up and 550 steps down. Tremendous views from the top. Had an interesting experience with food, fried Tarantula legs, Cockroaches and Locusts, apparently these are considered a local delicacy. Did try the legs, well only a small amount...

Making our way to Siem Reap on Thursday famous for the temples at Angor Wok, hopefully less traffic on this leg.

Day 7 – Phnom Penh – Kampong Thom: We passed lotus ponds, local villages, rice fields, fish farms, with mountain views in the distance. Cycling distance – 89km.  The roads were very straight and long.  Very busy traffic and numerous roadworks to contend with.   Incredibly hot - 38c - full sun and no shade.  We were all covered in dust which took forever to clean off.  By far the hardest day!

Local children surrounded us when we stopped for a water break.  Again Layla and Karl were a great source of excitement to the children.

Day 8 – Kampong Thom – Sambor Prei Kuk – Siem Reap: We cycled from Kampong Thom towards the 7th century Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex and then onto Siem Reap. Cycling distance – 60km.   Another hot day and the roads were mainly sand.  We were given masks to wear as were covered in sand every time a lorry or car passed us.   We also had to concentrate on as oodles of potholes which caused one of our team to fall off. 

This was the last day of the challenge as we had achieved our 400K.   The team and our guides celebrated with local beers and the ladies got the opportunity (or excuse) to be photographed with our guide.

Day 9 – Free day exploring Angkor Wat: With our bikes we spent the day exploring the incredible Angkor ruins.  Fantastic way to see all the temples and we clocked up another 40K.   We then headed back to Siem Reap for our celebratory dinner.

It was a fantastic challenge - so glad we did all the training!!

Thanks to everyone who sponsored us for our charity: Williams Fund www.williamsfund.co.uk

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