January 02, 2003

Kompong Thom and Preah Vihear (Rovieng)

I rode between the monitor and the driver
The following doesn't have as many travel tips as some other entries, but does have some useful info about an out of the way place in Cambodia. Our ADRA office in Preah Vihear Province is actually in the town of Rovieng which definitely is way off the tourist circuit.

After staying up way too late visiting on New Year’s Eve I got up Wednesday morning and caught a taxi to Kompong Thom. I was supposed to meet up with the Preah Vihear ADRA team there and then travel on to Preah Vihear with them, but due to a communication mix up, I came a day later than they did. Upon arrival in Kompong Thom I hired a moto taxi to take me the 30 kilometers out of town to some temple ruins where I was supposed to meet the ADRA team. The moto driver decided to take a shortcut on a bad road (it was under construction in places) and we ended up with a flat tire along the way. While waiting for the tire repairs I lounged in a hammock and ate some pomelo (similar to grapefruit) that I had along. Eventually we made it to the temple complex and began asking around and looking for the ADRA people. Many people were quite helpful and a few even said they had seen the ADRA group and gave us directions, but of course it turned out that they had been there the day before so none of the ‘sightings’ were legitimate. Once I finally gave up on finding the ADRA people I decided to make the best of the situation and wandered around some of the temple ruins for a bit. The ruins are from the same time period as Angkor Wat and were fairly extensive. I didn’t see all of them, but the ones I saw were interesting and it was very peaceful to wander through the forest and ruins with very few, or in some cases no other people around. By the time I gave up looking for the ADRA people it was too late to catch a taxi to Preah Vihear so I got a $3 room at a guest house in town ($3 gets you a mid-range room with double bed, cable TV, shower and western toilet in your own room). After staying up late the night before and then running around all day I was very tired and went to sleep early after a supper of mangostiens, oranges, french fries and coconut milk. In the morning I wandered down to the taxi stand and discovered that no taxis go early in the morning because they usually originate in Preah Vihear and then return there in the afternoon. After talking to several taxi drivers I somehow wound up catching an earlier one (only had to wait a couple of hours) that went where I needed to go. I think they actually were headed to a different village but the village with the ADRA office was on the way so they agreed to drop me off there. All the taxis to this part of the province are pickups and I splurged and bought 2 seats in the front (which is really just the front passenger side seat). The cost for my 2 seats for the 2-3 hour ride was a whopping $2.50. If you ride in the back of the pickup the price per seat is considerably lower, although we’re getting into the dry season now so the roads are really, really dusty which makes the back extra ‘exciting’. I finally arrived at the Preah Vihear ADRA office about 30 hours after I left my room in Phnom Penh. Oh, and by the way I was carrying my backpack and a 17 inch computer monitor box with me for the whole trip. The moto driver seemed happy with the $5 I gave him for the 60+ kilometer, 5+ hour roundtrip including time spent in the temple complex. I rode between the driver and the monitor, which was strapped on to the moto with bungee cords. The trip certainly was a bit longer and more eventful than I had planned, but I had fun and it sure was an experience!

See this album for more pictures.
Posted by Andrew on January 2, 2003