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The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

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DIARY ENTRY, 12 SEPT THURSDAY: Rain all day—dammit—and no indication it will stop. Walked around the town—such as it is—and otherwise sat out the rain. Did get a good raincoat and some boards to support my sagging bag. With the rain, my wet clothes are very slow to dry out. If there is rain tomorrow I shall abandon Sihanoukville for Kirirom, or possibly even P.Penh again if Kirirom is also raining.

The satchel which sat cross-wise on the luggage-rack of the bike had a card-board bottom: when it got wet, it began to sag and ooze over each side of the rack. I scrounged up a board at a construction-site, lashed it across the rack for the bag to sit on. Also in S-ville I figured out the necessity of wrapping dry clothes in plastic so as to keep them dry, since the satchel’s zipper leaked water. Like the natives, I wore a plastic rain-coat backwards when driving in rain. This resulted in a lake in my lap, and of course did nothing to keep the legs of my pants dry, but in general the raincoat helped keep much of me relatively dry, so that when the weather improved and I took the coat off, I did not have to fight evaporation (which quickly cools one off when riding a motorcycle).

Friday, 13th Sept 68

As mentioned previously, I left S-ville early yesterday morning. It was, of course, raining, and for about the first hour of the trip it rained very hard—even harder than when I had traversed the same route 2 days earlier. But when I reached the junction with National Route 3 and turned inland, the rain eased up and finally stopped. The road [took me to] the famous Route #4—Khmer-American Friendship Highway. Built along about 1958 [actually, 1959]. Happily, it  has held up well & is a good high-speed road. There was no traffic to speak of. By the time I reached the junction to Kirirom, I was very nearly dry and had actually had some sunshine.

Your taxes and mine: the Khmer-American Friendship Highway, 1959 (222 km).

But turning off to Kirirom of course put me up into the mountains again, and Kirirom was both rainy and cold—the coldest I’ve been since I left the states. So I looked Kirirom over, viewed the Chalet d’Etat (Entré Interdite) ate an early lunch at the Restaurant du Lac, then moved on. Kirirom is a lovely spot, though, being developed as a big camping and resort area. Given good weather it would be a superb place to spend a couple of weeks camping and hiking.

[More about Kirirom here.]

All that’s left now of the Chalet d’Etat!

Downhill, more rain, but that stopped soon after I resumed Hiway 4, and I got to Kampong Speu about 2. Kg. Speu is just a little off the highway, and apparently most tourists don’t stop there. I got a nice welcome from the usual swarm of kids. My Honda attracts almost as much attention as I do! So, after Soup Chinois & friendly “talks” with the people, I pressed on, staying just behind a storm that passed over P.Penh, and arriving there about 3 PM. Checked into the Mondial again, got some laundry together for them to do up, then napped for an hour. About 6 I went to the Petit Restaurant Champey Siemreap, 1126 Mao Tse Toung Street (!!) for a splendid evening of excellent Cambodian food and warm companionship with the “Director” (of the restaurant), his family, and all the friends he could con into joining us. “Home” to bed about 11:30–and a well deserved long sleep.

DIARY ENTRY, SATURDAY, 14TH: About 2 took off to Tahkmau, then to Chambak, then by the little-used dirt road across to Route 3. I thought I was going to Kg. Speu, but it turned out to take too long, so returned to  PP.

Many roads in Cambodia then looked like this: easily passable in dry weather, treacherous in wet!

BACKSTORY: I had made a date with Thack Ny for that evening: he went with me to the Petit Restaurant and was able to translate for me much of what went on there. For the most part it was innocent banter, but I was startled when the conversation turned to Samdech Sihanouk, nominally the King of Cambodia at the time. There was a State publication (probably called “Cambodia Today”, though I do not recall the exact title), published monthly in several languages and covering various events in the country. The issue current at the time had a “spread” on Sihanouk’s son, who was a ballet-dancer. He had his own ballet teacher, imported from Poland, and was featured in some of Sd. Sihanouk’s locally-made movies. It seemed pretty clear the youngster was gay, and over some good-natured laughter, it was remarked that if anything happened to Sihanouk, they would have “a queen for king”! That son is now Cambodian Head of State, Norodom Sihamoni.

I slept in this AM, and in the afternoon, after more camaraderie at the restaurant mentioned earlier, took a lazy trip in the nearby country-side, including 10 km of a marvelous little dirt road wending its way through the country-side. Along here I really caused a sensation, and it was hard to resist not taking endless photos and spending much time at PR work. But the day wore on, so I returned to P.Penh about 5:30, on the heels once again of the daily afternoon cloud-burst which I missed entirely by taking the trip.

The Honda is performing splendidly. It is a marvelous contraption, taking all the variations in roads & weather in great stride. I’ve already put over 600 miles on it—and it looks as though I will do about double the mileage I’d planned originally before I get to BK. But I shall probably not soon have another opportunity, so I want to see as much as I can.

Tomorrow I’m taking in Prey Veng & Kampong Cham, which will entail crossing the Mekong River (by ferry) twice. Monday, up to Pursat & back, on the south side of the Tonle Sap. Then Tuesday off to Kampong Thom, the next day to Siem Reap. One day, I will go from SR to Pursat, hence completing the circle of the great Tonle Sap.

The sunburn I got in Kep, since it was not followed up by more sun, is peeling off right on schedule. But from here on I should get sun everyday. Alas, I doubt I shall ever reach the beautiful Khmer hue, but I should at least get a better tan than I’ve had before.

Petrol, incidentally, is expensive—over $1.00/gallon in most places. But with the Honda, the cost per mile is still very low. I use about 6 L (ca. 1-1/2 gal) between S-ville and P.Penh, with side trip up to Kirirom. It works out to less than 2c per mile!

Luv to all~

Bruce

Palais Royal and

Dancers Pavilion, Phnom Penh

I rode the entire 5000+ km without a helmet. I had a pair of wrap-around dark glasses to protect my eyes, and a more-or-less water-proof cap to add when driving in rain. The end of my nose tended to burn and scab over; from time to time I would peel off the scab, and the process would repeat. I got any number of new noses on the trip! During warm days, dragon-flies tended to hover over the roadway, enjoying the heat rising from the pavement. If I saw one coming towards me, it would get into my slip-stream and go around. But once in a while one would fly in at exactly the right angle to miss the slip-stream and splat! At 45 mph, a dragon-fly is pretty formidable!

More letters and pictures coming: stay tuned!

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Written by Bruce

December 13th, 2009 at 11:00 am

Posted in Cambodia

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