Cambodia’s National Parks and a Beach Town on the Gulf of Thailand

We have been staying in the beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia for the last couple days. We had high expectations for Sihanoukville as it is named after of one of Cambodia’s most revered Kings and built on a white, sandy beach.  However, it is anything but a white, sandy beach town.  The Serendipity beach, one of the largest beaches, is loaded with trash, shops pedaling a variety of kitschy items,  backpackers who like the $7 guest rooms and more creepy, western men.  The Chinese are here in large numbers. They have built the highways, opened a national park, and developed many casinos and hotels.  It is a bit run down, but there is certainly a lot of energy here.

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(Note: the pictures above don’t accurately represent the chaotic vibe of this city)

Last night, we had dinner on the beach (we had french fries! – first western food in 20 days). Weather is beautiful in the evenings with a cool 80 degree ocean breeze.  The beach scene was chaotic with diners, swimmers, hawkers selling everything and drinkers shouting “chul muy”.  Older women weaved through the crowd balancing a bamboo pole on their shoulders with buckets of fresh crab on one end and red hot coals on the other end, ready for those in need of a BBQ. Chairs and tables were arranged on any free spot of sand and stretched out for at least a kilometer (they were all filled). Thumping music from the shops competed with the tunes of the neighboring restaurants. People were buying fireworks and paper hot air balloons by the dozens and immediately igniting them and illuminating the beach. Of course, this was all happening just a few meters where a fire ripped through restaurants, bars, and guesthouses just 2 years ago.

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It has been quite a departure from the last two days of biking through two Cambodian National Parks. The parks are wonderful as they are mostly without traffic and people -truly an anomaly for our riding over the last few weeks where scores of scooter drivers seem to find even the most remote paths and byways. Although, unlike many parks around the world, people still live within their borders.  The parks are cleaner than most other locations (except Angkor), but there is still a very significant different perspective on trash over here than in the West.  Trash, unfortunately, is everywhere.  We rode most dirt roads thru the National Parks with a 2000m climb over 16k – a bit punishing with the relentless heat.  We were averaging 3 water bottles an hour yesterday.  The first National Park we visited was Kirirom National Park.

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The second park we visited, Ream National Park, was developed by the Chinese. A highway from the US, mine clearing by the Japanese, a park and road from the Chinese; Cambodia is aided by many and has been for some time.  For example, the UN has here in the early 90’s and invested billions.

The park has a modern, paved and deserted approach road yielding to a well-graded dirt road once in the park.  Very few cars or scooters are on the road.  It was truly one of the first spots that we felt alone, but we still managed to run into a large party celebrating a new Buddha statue and a fishing village with about 300 families. Nevertheless, it was truly astounding scenery.

Ream National Park

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A metric century is in the plans for tomorrow. We are both hoping for overcast skies.

6 thoughts on “Cambodia’s National Parks and a Beach Town on the Gulf of Thailand

  1. RS Lumpkin

    My first visit to Thailand left me somewhat melancholic. Bangkok and the beach towns heavily dependent on tourism, but also burdened by pollution and exploitation. Sounds like Cambodia’s predicament. Going off the beaten path the way you have takes courage and fortitude!!! Pedaling through national parks, remote fishing villages, murky river banks, wow. Such a contrast to my “cushy” city routine; this morning I hit with a ball machine for an hour, then came home to a hot shower. Looking forward to your next post!

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    1. The trash and exploitation is pervasive. But a beautiful country with wonderful people and a fascinating history as you know. Would love to chat about your experience in Siem Reap. We really enjoyed Siem Reap. Hope all is well with you, Jeff and the boys!

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  2. Matt welsh

    Trash and plastic bags and water bottles seem to be the theme inmost of Asia which is such a drag…
    I love the fact that your pictures seem to be void of that side of things!
    So spike on the travel notes ad looking forward toc atching up in Alta.
    Love for you both to visit us in Cabo this winter for a long weekend!

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  3. Welcome back, I have missed you. Sue you have out done yourself on these pictures and descriptions in this blog. I also saw on facebook last night the picture of you in the river with the water up to the top of the wheels of your bike, you are a trooper, please be safe both of you. Some of this looks real sketchy and I am sure it is more than even you are showing. Anthony and Brianna are very interested in seeing what you are doing. Anthony would love to go there. I am going to try to send them the blog. I hope that is ok. I would love to get more people on board as this is a lot of work both the trip and the blog. Please BE SAFE and love to both of you.

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  4. And we had snow squalls on Sunday.10-18 …….. the adventure continues . soon you will be coming down the HILLS… Pictures are wonderful……… words tell us Stories … Is bike ride more or less than you anticipated.?? may you have that cool day THESE past 10 days have been practice for the century.???? BIG HUGS Mom & Jane

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