Despite our night in a grim “hotel” both Fi and I slept reasonably well, and thankfully, we seemed to escape the bed bugs, a genuine concern in a place so dirty. We set off early, as much to get out of that hellhole as to avoid the burning hot midday sun, or the risk of afternoon thunderstorms.
It was today that we discovered the best cakes ever, made from coconut and rice flour, “Nom Ah Kor Tnort”, which we bought from the market in Svay Leu and ate with sticky corn on the cob for our breakfast. Fi, who cannot eat wheat, was particularly happy with the discovery of so many sweet treats to eat. They were delicious, and the sugar high meant neither of us missed our usual morning coffee!
The cycling, despite being a second flat day, was fun. The scenery beautiful and the kids and villagers so friendly. It was difficult to cycle more than a couple of kilometres at a time without shouts of “Hello” from adults and children alike. A few of the smaller kids, already making plenty of noise, went up a few octaves when they saw us cycling past, and one man on a motorbike let out a spontaneous squawk when he saw us!
We stopped at various roadside stalls along the way, all selling an eclectic mix of cold drinks, fresh coconuts, snacks and old plastic bottles refilled full of petrol. At one such stop we saw two naked kids standing on a very bendy plank of wood balanced across a ditch full of water. They took it in turns to bounce on the piece of wood until one, or both, of them fell in. They were laughing and giggling the whole time and we couldn’t help but smile at how much fun they were having.
Another very cute boy, probably around 7 or 8 years old, jumped on his knackered old single speed bicycle a few metres before we reached him. We realised only after we had passed him and seen his briefly crestfallen face that he had probably wanted to cycle with us a short distance. Luckily his frown was quickly replaced by a smile, wave and “Hello!” Nevertheless, we were reminded, and somewhat humbled that, though we may have only been on bicycles, as were many of the villagers we passed, we stood out a mile. Our smart looking hired mountain bikes, cycling helmets and fancy gear couldn’t have been further from their battered old bikes.
We were both feeling exhausted today from the previous two days of cycling (and perhaps we hadn’t slept as well as we had thought in our grotty room) and at times it felt like a real slog. Luckily, it was our shortest day, at only 62km.
We arrived in Kulin in time for lunch, and after a morning eating nothing more than sugary snacks, we were grateful for some savoury food.
Once more we were in a town with only a single guesthouse, so after lunch we decided to go and find out what treats it had in store for us. Luckily, it was a vast improvement on the night before. The bed had clean whitish linen and the bathroom was also clean this time. We also had a table and chairs, instead of the floor the evening before, to relax on under the porch outside our room. It felt positively luxurious.
Until we took showers… and found out that we were actually staying in an animal menagerie.
The door to our bathroom didn’t close, so I just pushed it to and turned on the (proper!) shower. In seconds I was swarmed by huge, black and white mosquitoes. I hadn’t noticed they were on all four walls until I had turned on the water. I confess my shower turned into a little bit of a mosquito massacre.
Fi’s turn to take a shower brought out two rather large cockroaches, crawling on the walls at eye level, their long antennae twitching nervously. It was a very small bathroom, about the size of a normal sized shower cubicle in the UK, so hanging out with the cockroaches and mosquitoes felt particularly up close and personal.
Our insect malady continued when I found a huge, antlered beetle hiding in the outside corner of our door frame. I tried to encourage it away from our door and into the shrubbery nearby, but instead it squeezed, with great effort, through the crack under our door and scuttled towards Fi as she was getting changed. Luckily we did manage to chase this one away and it remained unharmed, though perhaps a little shaken from its encounter with us.
Our final brush with nature that day was in the evening, after the rain had come and tiny toads appeared all over the front porch, one of which was just outside our room. As with the beetle earlier in the day, we tried to usher it away, but it too decided to bounce under our door and all around our room. I eventually managed to trap it, still bouncing, under a mug and put it back outside, where it suddenly stopped bouncing completely and decided now was the time to play dead!
Though nothing was poisonous, the sheer quantity of different insects was a little uncomfortable. We were glad to discover a much more basic, but cleaner and more insect free bathroom at the end of the block of rooms, which we decided to use over our supposedly more luxurious en-suite. We wedged the door to our own bathroom shut, put a towel up against the outside door and after a second mosquito massacre, slept soundly in an insect-free room!