|click image to enlarge|
Thursday, 19 April 2012
A Bike in Cambodia
We are happy to publish a story sent in by Milford on Sea village resident, Sue Forward. Together with a group of other adventurous cyclists, they managed to raise £65,000 for under privileged children.
Reflections of Cycling in Vietnam and Cambodia
So much traffic, so much beauty, so much contrast, ravaged by war, new opportunities for a new generation.
With a time difference of 7 hours we arrived in Saigon – now known as Ho Chi Minh City. The next day we had free and so visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, the hide out of the Vietcong, stretching from Saigon to the Cambodian border. Those of us who were small enough could fit into the narrow passageways, giving an empathic and claustrophobic appreciation for the people who spent weeks underground.
Imagine a constant stream of countless cars and motor scooters in all directions, scooters sometimes with 2 or 3 persons plus a calf or a pig, pavements teaming with street vendors, ramshackle wooden shops selling silk and spices, cafes selling steaming bowls of noodle soup by the roadside, incense filled pagodas, a Vietnamese guide in front giving hand signalling directions at traffic lights with a countdown of thirty seconds to get across, and a guide of similar nationality shouting “keep going” from the rear!! Phew! We did make it out of Saigon and cycled 30 miles the first day with increasing confidence but realising too how much of a challenge the heat and humidity were going to be, temperatures reaching 100 degrees – keeping hydrated was of utmost importance! Reaching the ferry to cross the Mekong Delta we saw a water world of boats, houses and markets.
The next day we had a wait of 3 hours in order to cross the border and into Cambodia, we cycled a further 30 miles to Kep, founded as a colonial retreat for the French elite. With a longer wait than anticipated we were cycling our very hardest in order to reach Kep before dark but the next day we saw strong evidence of the Khmer Rouge rule with scores of Kep’s luxurious pre-war villas still blackened shells. The longest day, cycling 60 miles, we past lush scenery, rice paddies and fish farms and a constant wave from children, little voices from nowhere, and hands out to do “Ha Five” as we rode along. We must have been getting tired – two people fell off their bikes and cramp for some was debilitating. Our guides and back up team were tremendous.
Day 4 was probably the hardest, although not the longest, 50 miles, certainly the hilliest. But for those who struggled up the hills there was always someone from behind who could manage to give you a gentle push! We arrived that evening in Phnom Penh, the capital. If we could get out of Saigon, surely we could get into Phnom Penh, a city of poverty and excess, of charm and chaos!
We had two free days visiting the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom and the sobering and poignant Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which documents past struggles of the Khmer people. The next two days we cycled 40 miles on each, visiting a school and taking books, pencils and rulers.
Our flight home from Siem Reap was 17 hours with a 7 hour wait at Seoul. Touching down at Heathrow I thanked God for our safe return, the privilege of having the opportunity to learn more about the incredible culture and lifestyle of the Vietnam and Cambodian people. There were 22 of us and the whole challenge raised £65,000 for under privileged children in the South of England. Thank you to all who have been part of that journey. Sue Forward