Yesteday was another early morning after a sleepless night. The downpour started a bit after sunset, with whipping winds and buckets of rain. The restaurant I was sitting at, with a view of the Mekong, even closed early. Sleeping in my own room in a city where no one knows my name, with that crazy storm going on, did not equate to comfortable sleeping.
My alarm went off at 5, and even though I had listened to Vegan Fitness podcasts (no joke) til after midnight, I jumped up feeling ready to rock out. I was on my bike, cruising along the riverside, before the sun had risen.
After some confusion, I found the path to the bamboo bridge to Koh Paen, an island in the Mekong. I’m so bad with directions. (To find it, follow the road along the Mekong until you see an opening in the barrier that follows the entire length of the walking path along the road. Or just ask anyone “bamboo bridge”)
The bridge is amazing. Built entirely of bamboo every dry season, every monsoon it is washed away. It is strong enough to withstand the weight of any vehicle, even trucks. Its springy surface of flattened bamboo makes for an uneven, off kilter ride, and combined with the lack of side rails to prevent you from falling into the river, it’s quite the scary experience. Add the motorbikes rushing past and the horse carts charging by (yes, horse carts are a very common sight on Koh Paen – awesome!), it’s one of the more unnerving bridges I’ve crossed. (Bridge fee is 1000 riel with return)
Once on Koh Paen, the terrifying bridge crossing just a memory (until you have to go back!), it’s impossible not to relax. The 5 hours I was there, I didn’t see one other tourist. Success.
As usual in the more rural villages, small children greeted me with a chorus of ‘hello!’s, and even the adults smiled and waved. A girl on her way to school biked with me for a bit, asking the usual questions. She was shocked when I said I was 24 and not married. She told me she was 17 and wanted to study instead, that’s why she wasn’t married yet.
After seeing the majority of the island, including the temple, schools, rice paddies, and livestock every where, I headed back to town to pack up my stuff, have lunch at Khmer Food restaurant (lovely tofu salad for $2 right on the Mekong), and catch my moto to the bus, so I can get to Phnom Penh today.
The bus didn’t have air con. Of course. ( Sorya sucks. Take any bus company but them if you can manage). But I did meet 2 peace Corp members from Colorado currently stationed in southern Cambodia (they were on vacation and traveling back to work from Ratanikiri). Reignited my curiosity in joining up. Hmmmmm.
I found an awesome guest house named Okay and splurged the extra $2 for air-conditioned luxury. When I went to pull out my passport, I realized I had forgotten it in Kompong Cham. Ughhhhh.