Waterfall is worth bad roads, traffic and a tough climb

Cambodia’s roads are notoriously crowded, generally poorly maintained and dangerous.  That is why I have started to avoid riding on them for trips of any distance.

However, when I saw on my Facebook page an invitation to join an excursion to Chhreav Mountain Waterfall that was supposed to involve only two hours on a bus, the temptation to enjoy the hike, swim and companionship of some 30 other folks proved to be compelling.

Mai Channeang — who runs a transportation service that schedules Sunday tours every two weeks from Phnom Penh to outlying attractions — wrote that the site is in Kampong Speu Province, on the border between Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces 150 kilometers (93 miles) away.  It is in Thpong district.

I had been on another one of his tours, and I was impressed with how well organized and diverting it was.  Including a typical Cambodian lunch, transportation and Mai’s assistance, the $20 fee was a good deal.  The hike to the waterfall sounded like particular fun.  When I mentioned the waterfall to several Cambodian friends, none had heard of it, making the modest adventure all the more appealing.

(Mai has scheduled another excursion there at the end of this month.)

Unfortunately, we got off to a bad start not long after we departed a few minutes after 8:30 a.m.  Fifteen minutes later, we ran into a traffic jam fairly close to the center of Phnom Penh, and we were pretty much at a standstill for something like an hour. Continue reading

Towering loads of cargo, humans atop trucks, ply roads

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Big loadThere apparently are laws against it, but vehicles overloaded with merchandise, produce and even Cambodians themselves ply Phnom Penh’s streets with impunity.

No one bats an eye at the spectacle, and it seems as those who ride or drive tuk-tuks, motorcycles and trucks or wagons of all sizes don’t Continue reading

Travel continues to infiltrate my blog about Cambodia

Written years ago, the focus of my blog as expressed at the top continues to be true: “Reflections on Living in Another World.”

Although you may have noted a sprinkling of posts that are more about my travel experiences than my perspectives on Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, rest assured that I don’t see this blog as merely or mostly a travel blog.

Yet it occurs to me as I write that maybe you’d prefer more travel and less of my observations about the country where I have made my home since the end of 2013.  If so, you’ll be particularly pleased over the next several weeks.  Indeed, I may find it hard to avoid commenting on aspects of the wider world as I spend increasing amounts of time outside Cambodia in satisfaction of the travel bug that afflicts me.  Nor will I abandon trips worth describing when I make my way around the country.

That said, I am unable to Continue reading

Visit to Khmer Rouge Tribunal sparks old memories

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday. ECCC

Convicted of crimes against humanity, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in June. Source: ECCC/Phnom Penh Post.

The idea was not so much to report on testimony given at what is officially named the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia, or ECCC, a U.N. funded organization that otherwise is known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.  It was a sense of obligation.

The courts’ multi-million-dollar mission since its creation in 2006 has been to prosecute ultimately just a few of the individuals involved in the genocide of more than 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s.  That the government is filled with former adherents of the Khmer Rouge has resulted in years of negotiations, stalling and the resulting freedom from trial of thousands and thousands of killers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held onto his position for 31 years, acknowledges that he once was a relatively senior member of the Khmer Rouge before he changed sides.

Having already borne witness to the atrocities committed by Cambodians against Cambodians at a high school that became the notorious S-21 prison — referred to as Toul Sleng — and the killing fields, I decided it was high time that I observe the trial taking place 16 kilometers (10 miles) from downtown Phnom Penh.  My goal was less to recount testimony but more to share with readers how it felt to get and be there.

It was an unexpectedly chilling experience because Continue reading

Risk, even unintended, can result in its own rewards

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Part 3: The final installment of my hiking adventure

thumb_P4020724_1024By the time I had walked, skidded and hiked for a good hour, I decided that I had long ago reached the point of no return and so struggled toward the periodically faint signs of vehicular movement.

Eventually sensing incrementally louder engine noise and spotting what may have been a path, which disconcertingly vanished after a short time, I blazed my own trail, plunged through a thicket and stumbled Continue reading

The best researched plans don’t always work out well

Part 2 of my scary ordeal

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Numerous paths strewn with brown pine needles suggested trails that rarely panned out.

The first installment of my hike in Vietnam chronicles my decision to set out without map or working phone to reach the peak of Lang Biang in Dalat.

Among the three sets of directions I had printed out was this one:

The trail starts about 200-300m from the gate of Lang Biang Base. Follow the paved road that the jeeps take and after 200-300m, take the first dirt road to the right. . . It will go down a hill and there will be greenhouses on the right side of the road.

Simple enough, I thought, except I spotted only a green house, not a greenhouse, and assumed the faint trail that I saw there was the one to take.  Uh, it wasn’t.  I should have Continue reading

In Vietnam’s Dalat, I made two serious hiking mistakes

In this first of 3 installments, the saga of my hike in a foreign land

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The road not taken. . . at least up.

My second mistake was taking the wrong trail.

My first mistake was deciding to forego the road and follow directions I had assiduously downloaded from a travel site.  Truth be told, I should confess that I tried to follow the directions.

One of my chief reasons for visiting Dalat in south central Vietnam in late March was to climb a mountain called Lang Biang and gaze down on the city and the surrounding countryside from an elevation of 2,167 meters (1.35 miles) above sea level.

Unfortunately, Continue reading