the dancing road to angkor

cambodia angkor watGoing local isn’t always smooth travelling, but Intrepid’s Nicola Gibson explains why bouncing from Thailand to Cambodia can be such fun…

“Some people complain about the “dancing road” from Poi Pet (Thai border) to Siem Reap, but my groups so often say it was a fantastic experience of a life time. Yes, the road is bumpy, but have you taken a good look outside and noticed the countryside that you’re passing through?

Have you noticed rice fields, with some being harvested and some being planted? You won’t see this side-by-side anywhere else. It’s due to the extremely fertile land, caused by Tonle Sap River that flows back into itself once a year – a natural phenomena!

And what about the plastic shallow sheeting with water inside? It’s there to catch crickets – a tasty cuisine in Cambodia. You should try some when the bus stops for our next comfort break.

Houses on stilts, you won’t see many of these in the cities. The stilts protect the houses from flooding, but look below and you’ll see that the locals also use the shade underneath the house for storage, husking rice and to relax on a bed away from the glaring sun.

Along the roads, look out for the variety of transport. Trucks crammed with people, family wagons with a tractor engine at the front, motorbikes with sometimes as many as 5 people on them – see how many you can count next time. And motorbikes carrying animals – sometimes two large pigs or nearly 20 chickens hung upside down and strapped across the back of the bike.

Smile or wave to the locals as you pass by and your greeting will be returned by a huge, warm Cambodian smile. Even children running excitedly after your bus will be waving energetically!

So yes, you could take a flight, it’s quicker and convenient, but look at what you’ll be missing out on. A one-off local and cultural experience of country life – surely that’s worth surviving 4 hours on a bumpy road?”

Tour Cambodia with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Cambodia Basix – 13 days
Road to Angkor Eastbound – 9 days

* photo by Dan Whiting – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Cambodia’s greatest resource – the people! It is such a wonderful experience to be with individuals who have lived through so much and still smile. Their sense of “other” is truly inspirational – especially evident on the roads. Now we have to teach them about sustainability and how to live without plastic.'

good read; unlike some stuck up old tourist in Siem Reap Angkor Wat is a marvel

Hi Joe,
Thanks for your comment and you’re right, I forgot to put a note that since Nicola shared her story the road has been paved. But even though the journey is now smoother, the great local experience of overland travel hasn’t waned.
Happy travels, Sue, Intrepid Express editor'

That must be a slightly dated article because that roads been paved for a couple years'

And now the road is paved and its as smooth as silk.'

This article reminded me of a trip I made on that same road many years ago now, shortly after this overland border crossing was opened. I was jammed into the back bench in a Toyota truck with another traveller, with another dozen or so locals and their baggage riding in the box behind. The road was horrendous, like crossing the WW1 Western Front in a tank. Vehicles in front would literally disappear into potholes big enough to engulf them completely, then there they were crawling up the other side as we plunged into it.
Frequent check points bristling with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers waved us down, mainly it seemed to collect cash off our increasingly indignant driver. After several such stops he just waved back and drove through without stopping, while we held our breath.
It tooks us about 5 hours to reach Siem Riep, with only one stop to unfold our cramped muscles and obey nature’s call, staying close to the truck since there were frequent signs warning of mines along the road. It was several weeks later that I heard the Khmir Rouge had finally surrendered, the week after our journey along that road.
Graham Kenyon
Rossland BC

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