Guest Post: To Udong, The Long Way..
Semester 23 volunteer Alysha shares a trip to Udong Mountain, the former Royal capital of Cambodia. Despite not intending to visit Udong, this motorbike trip was certainly one to remember!
A few weeks ago, during a five day holiday, a few fellow volunteers and I decided to stay in Phnom Penh and save money. So of course, we decided to take a moto trip into the countryside. Erin, Rachel, Jelle, Joanna, Mike and I were the only westerners on the trip. We were accompanied by Soriya, Kan, and Seanglay, all of whom are staff members at CWF and our good friends. We were a bracade of motor bikes. At 6 am we set off for the ‘Hot Springs’, which is a 3 hour ride west of Phnom Penh. In total we had eight people, three of which were Khmer. Even so, we were happily lost throughout the whole journey. Ha!
Kampong Speu Province is south of the city and there is a road which supposedly takes you Northwest, which is where we wanted to go. It only took about half an hour for us to get lost and it was hilarious watching my Khmer friends try to figure out where we were. In our culture it takes all of 2 minutes to ask someone for directions. In Khmer culture it takes about fifteen minutes. I have no idea what they could be talking about for so long.
My guess is something along the lines of, “Oh right, the hot springs. Okay, well you’re on the wrong road, but the right road is about five houses down and to the left, and then at the second mango tree you need to go left for about 20 kilometers, and then my cousin who owns a place and sells coffee and the best noodles I’ve ever eaten should be there and you should stop and eat and make sure that you tell him his cousin Rathanak says hi but after that you need to keep going until you see the pagoda make an immediate right and that’s the road that will take you straight to the hot springs….“
Something like that. BUT I love it! I think it’s so cool how easy it is to talk to people. In Khmer culture everyone is always talking or chatting to people they don’t know, as carefree as if they were best friends. Western culture is more reserved in some ways and much more open in others. It’s amazing to see the cultural difference.
In the middle of our journey we stopped for energy drinks, petrol, and the toilet. Fortunately for us, there happened to be a fortune teller at the house/shop we stopped. Some discovered their wedding date, others found love, and it turns out I am going to have a baby girl next year! Definitely not happening. However, it was a great experience and I do enjoy a good fortune telling every so often; just to keep myself in check.
Anyways, on we go. Winding and turning on a massive convoy surrounded by a beautiful countryside, we happen to run into an ice cream stand. Who knew that ice cream in a baguette was pretty darn good. While pondering where to put our litter, Joanna and I were discussing the oddities of trash collection in Cambodia, especially the countryside. We decided, as a group, to join the Khmer in throwing our trash to the side of the road. Soriya then turns to us, while throwing her own trash onto the road, and says,”HEY! Don’t litter in my country.”
Our, what was supposed to be a 3 hour trip, ended up being a six hour ride to Udong Mountain (which is only 45 minutes north of Phnom Penh by moto). I found this hilarious and when I realized where we were I could not stop laughing. One, because the whole ride was so intense. I rode with my friend Seanglay and we were taking turns driving. The roads were not great and it was raining. We were dodging massive pot holes and driving through sand [which is really difficult]. Secondly, because it took 6 HOURS. My butt was hurting. And thirdly, because I had just been there the weekend before.
It was great though. When we got there we ate a huge lunch and then slept in the hammocks while it poured rain. And trust me when I say “when it rains, it pours.” We made it to the mountain just as the rain started, slept through the storm, and then went home.
The video I attached is a video Erin took while we were riding. The countryside is one of my favorite favorite parts of Cambodia and this video gives a really nice picture of what it looks like over here.
The long and short? I love Cambodia.