Sal’s Travelogue #3 – Detours

After traversing the Mekong Delta with new found friends, our writer Sal had to say goodbye to the Norwegians, and head north to meet up with two other travelers he befriended in his past journey. Follow him here on his detours towards the North!

Revisiting Cambodia. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Revisiting Cambodia. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

“Sorry we didn’t send you a message sooner – the nearest internet café has been down for the past couple of days. We’ve been here three days now – you really have to see this place: it’s amazing! Come quickly to paradise, because Antoine is bored and wants to start cycling up North!”

It may have been my first solo journey, but part of it included heading up north to meet Valerie and Antoine, a pair of Canadians that I befriended on my last visit to Cambodia. The challenge wasn’t catching up with travelers on bicycles – but shortening my second visit to the wonderful kingdom of Cambodia, so I could arrive on time in Southern Laos.

Goodbyes have always been hard on me, but goodbyes had to be said nonetheless, as I parted ways with the Norwegians. Off they were, up the Vietnam coast – while I ventured west into Cambodia. Having already been to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I was more interested in revisiting Cambodian moto riders than revisiting landmarks such as Angkor Wat and The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek).

The Killing Fields. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

The Killing Fields. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

A torture chamber. Photo credit - Mozzer502.

A torture chamber. Photo credit - Mozzer502.

Fortunately, all I had to do was show up at the very same guesthouses I stayed at previously, to share good laughs once more with Jaa from Phmom Penh, and Ratha and Tirra from Siem Reap. Since I was only in Phnom Penh for a day, I set out to see Choeung Ek again – this time, with a digital SLR that I brought as a lesson learnt from previously losing film to the airport’s x-ray machines.

The visit felt like a reiteration of my experience at Saigon’s War Remnants Museum. The memorial tower itself, with its central column of genocide skulls, presents a surreal example of how mankind’s worst demons are bred from within the human race itself.

On my way back on Jaa’s moto, I felt pretty good about bringing the DSLR – especially because of how photogenic the Cambodian countryside is, with children running after kites and the evening sunlight setting the vast fields ablaze with colour and contrast.

A day in Phnom Penh, and I was off on a five-hour bus to Siem Reap. I wasn’t there just to visit Ratha and Tirra, but also to find out if they knew anything about an overland route I could take to Laos from Siem Reap. It was already the 16th, and I was trying to make it to Si Phan Don (The 4,000 islands, Laos) by the 18th to meet Valerie and Antoine. Arriving at Siem Reap in the evening reminded me of how romantic the streets of Psar Chaa can be – especially for tourists seeking a welcoming platform from which to take in the country’s rich culture and scenery.

However, I wasn’t really that interested in all that was rustic and rich. After making contact with Ratha and Tirra from the Popular Guesthouse near Psar Chaa, we made a beeline for their favourite watering hole – which was an eight minute ride away from Psar Chaa. If Saigon Green was the beer to mark my earlier experiences in South Vietnam, then Angkor beer was the recreational icon for my short stay in Cambodia.

The beer and company was good – but news that I had to take a bus around the mountains to Laos, wasn’t. Apparently, the journey would probably take three days; with stopovers at Kompong Cham and Kratie.

Don Det. Serene and Tranquil. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Don Det. Serene and Tranquil. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

I guess being able to hold your liquor around Cambodians is a good thing – especially since getting chummy with the big group of locals at the bar resulted in the entire bar entering a huge discussion about the fastest way for me to get to Si Phan Don. Being in touch with the locals obviously has its advantages – because I made it in the end, to the island of Don Det on the morning of the 18th – only having to spend the previous night nestled in a guesthouse in rustic Kratie.

If motorcycles represented Saigon, and Angkor Wat was the icon of Siem Reap – then Don Det would easily find co-relation to the hammock. Walking through the island’s humble pathways, it seemed like all the other travelers had found themselves new definitions of comfort through combinations of hammock, a good book and novelty ‘happy’ shakes that were an understandable favourite among the younger travelers.

‘Perhaps rushing through Cambodia was worth it’; I thought, as my eyes laid rest upon a picture perfect view of the lake, and finally, upon the sight of a very comfortable hammock hanging in the balcony of a room that the Canadians had reserved on my behalf. Don Det was when my journey truly began.

About the Author. Sal S-S. A writer by profession, a free spirit by nature – Sal believes that his life’s one purpose is to see it all, learn it all and do it all. Currently based as a freelance copywriter in Singapore, it is for life’s many unknowns and uncertainties that he sets his sights beyond borders and into new discoveries. Living and working for the journey itself and nothing less, it is with pen in hand and passion at heart that he contributes to Unearthing Asia.


One Comment on "Sal’s Travelogue #3 – Detours"

  1. Sal’s Travelogue #6 – Far, Yet Familiar | Unearthing Asia on Sat, 26th Jun 2010 3:17 am 

    […] Travelogue – #1: Solo – #2: Saigon Green – #3: Detours – #4: All Road Leads North – #5: Saibadee Pakse About the Author. Sal S-S. A writer […]

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