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ough

Member since May 2012 • Last active Feb 2019

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    Oh, tooth ache sucks.

    We had to pay the USD35 instead of 30. First we gave the officer USD60, he just looked at us and rubbed his fingers, totally self-satisfied with his cheapo gangsta impersonation. We asked 'what?', he just said 'money'. We protested in vain. Of course he put it all on his pocket.

    Then the 'doctor' called us to a screening room, I asked what was it about, he said 'check', I said no thanks, I don't need it, and walked away. He didn't even try very hard.

    It was easy to keep an eye on the bike and take turns, but that's because it was totally empty.

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    One more thing, but this you know already: tandems are ridiculous. It's very easy to notice the reaction of people when we ride by. Sometimes they see us from the front, and it must look like two 'normal' riders so we're about to be ignored, but when they decode what it is that they are seeing their reaction changes immediately. We get claps, thumbs ups, shouts, drunken hellos, lovely smiles, all the lot. I really, really appreciate the fact that we are amusing and somewhat ridiculous to them. They want to take a picture of us as much as we want to take a picture of them. It disarms my tourist guilt, it feels like a fairer exchange to me, we are an attraction too*

    *says someone who hates being an attraction

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    Couplers are amazing, it'd be a totally different trip without them. That said, we're set on not taking flights apart from the one that took us to the starting point. All the rest is ferries and trains or buses when we want to reposition on the map. It's definitely more hassle than a solo bike, but not a lot and easily measured: 5 minutes to decouple the front section, another 30 if the rear bit is to be decoupled too (rarely happens). If you're packing it, it's quite a bit of volume to carry but still less than two solo bikes.

    Now, let me tell you this: tandems are amazing. Just amazing. There's no end to my love for them. They make SO much sense for touring, they are not agile or easy to manoeuvre but perfectly suited for plugging along at a steady, comfortable pace. Speeds are very relative, depends on how lazy we are, how far we want to ride on the day, how much there is to see. I'd say that on a flat road, no wind, there's no reason why two accomplished riders shouldn't be able to at least match their pace on solo bikes (unless you're climbing!)

    To give you a bit of context, my girlfriend rarely cycles solo, and when she does it's the 5 minutes ride to the grocery store. If we'd be on solo bikes she'd really struggle to cover half of the distance I could ride on a day. If we'd be on solo bikes this trip would never happen. But together on the tandem we probably move at a pace only 10% slower than I would do solo. In other words, it's a wonderful leveller for cyclists of different aptitudes and it allows us to share something we had very little chance of doing together.

    One last point: tandems put more stress on the components, so it's worth spending a bit more to make sure you get quality stuff. Wheels, tires, brakes and drivetrain take a hell of a beating on a tandem. We wanted peace of mind and that definitely comes at a price.

    But hey, do it. If it wouldn't be for me seeing people riding tandems on this forum I'd never think that's a reasonable thing to do. They're amazing things.

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    Hello there! We crossed in Ha Tien, there was barely any other traffic so it was quick. What's your route?

    Oh, and please don't let my impressions of Cambodia put you off, as you know plenty of cyclists enjoy riding there.
    This guy for instance. We crossed paths in Vietnam and he was in Cambodia at the exact same time as us, but he had a totally different experience. Depending on the riding you guys are doing, he might be a much better reference than us.

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    Can't stop loving this bike

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    This is what the main road can turn into, all of a sudden

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    When reading about SE Asia on cycling blogs, I noticed some form of competition where people say 'in country A all children say hello, unlike country B'. Personally, I would prefer not having millions of hellos to reply to (some derisory) as I'm at my happiest just seeing people get on with their lives as I get on with mine. However, I understand people say that as a roundabout way of saying country A is friendlier than country B.

    It's easy to compare countries when crossing via land borders, there's always a change of vibe, even if it's just in my head. In the example above, Vietnam is my country A, Cambodia is B (though we had endless hellos in both).

    Cambodia is at the same time less developed and much more expensive. The lack of development means we had less roads to choose from. Either we stayed in the main roads with all the country's traffic, or we'd be in dirt roads of unpredictable quality, direction and length. If we'd be bike packing with solo bikes, I think Cambodia could offer lots of nice riding, but on the tandem we kept to the main roads and they were mostly flat and boring. Our route was Kep, a quick look at Kampot, then Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, and Poipet. Headwind all the way.

    Kampot looked a bit creepy with retired westerners drinking away their last days by the river, Phnom Penh is pleasant enough but with off-putting levels of inequality (though to be honest we appreciated the comforts of having good restaurants and trendy cafes), Siem Reap is very touristic but again we enjoyed having the chance to have a gelato, and there's not much I'd say about the other towns and roadside markets. People are nice, food is ok, and the best experiences we had were staying in the countryside guesthouses.

    Unfortunately, I think what will stay with me the most is a bad taste of officialdom, corruption and sleaziness. It sounds pretty bad when I put it like this, but we didn't have any direct experience apart from being ripped off by cunts at the immigration border. Plus, I know almost all SE Asian countries suffer with similar problems, but in Cambodia I felt it a bit more, like a cloud hanging above everything. It comes with the entitlement of the SUVs on the road, the omnipresence of State and Army licence plates, the billboards of the Cambodian People's Party, the stories we heard from the guesthouse landlord we spoke to. There are places we gave up on seeing (Sihanoukville) because they are reportedly destroyed by corrupt development, which is a shame. Arriving in Phnom Penh was a bit of a shock, with bling Rolls Royces and Range Rovers pushing everyone aside when less than 15km away we saw people living very precariously. There is a lot of 'aid' around, NGOs left and right, which was surprisingly upsetting for me to see (I still didn't process why).

    I know most countries have the same issues, to a smaller or larger degree. This is not a Cambodian problem, I'm sure, but in most places I find enough small pleasures to distract me: food, landscapes, weather, culture, and so on. My passage through Cambodia was short of these comforts, so I might have paid too much attention to what was bugging me.

    Anyway, we crossed to Thailand, and we'll ride here for the next couple of months. For now we're sitting out a storm battering the trees outside, looks wild!

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