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Crossing the Mekong

Friday 29th December

Miles: 95   Climbing: 2057ft

I really needed to get a wiggle on if I was going to reach Siem Reap for New Year so I knew that today would be a long one.

I couldn’t find any information about a Mekong crossing in this area but by looking at the map a road appeared to lead to nowhere on one side of the Mekong and then appear on the other. It must be a ferry crossing. So I followed the Mekong south and found a ferry just where I thought it would be. I also found a huge group of Belgian cyclist waiting for it. They were a few families doing an organised ride for charity. They had a tour guide and a van for all their luggage so they were quite amazed to see me and hear about my trip.

They all thought that I must be super fit so when I saw the really steep hill at the other side of the river I felt a bit panicked. Suddenly I thought I would look like an idiot if I couldn’t cycle up it. So with my legs and lungs burning I rode up it as fast as I could, I even managed to overtake the youngsters of the group.

I’d spotted a town further down the road, making it about 95 miles for today, which appeared to have a really nice, but cheap, hotel and I figured that there would be a lot of food options too. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I was starving. It was starting to get dark my the time I rolled into town and there was absolutely no sign of this hotel. I cycled up and down the same bit of road about 10 times but the side road marked on the map just didn’t exist. Time to get some food and reconsider my options. The only problem was there didn’t appear to be any cafes or restaurants either. I did spot a coffee shop eventually, the only problems was that they didn’t serve food. I was fading fast so I ordered the coffee that looked like it had the most calories in and that was just about enough to prevent a major meltdown.

I asked at the coffee shop about somewhere to stay and it turned out that they had rooms upstairs that were a pretty good price. I had just about enough energy to get unpacked and showered before the meltdown happened. I was so hot, hungry and weak that I didn’t even have the energy to leave my room to try and find food. I knew I needed to so I resorted to the only thing in the room with calories in it. Yes, I emptied 2 of those little sugar sachets into my mouth.

It did the trick and I made my way back downstairs where I was directed to the only place in town that served food. It was a small street food cart next door. The woman at the cart knew a few words of English so when I pointed to the suspicious looking meat she was cooking and asked what it was she replied “Pig”. I’ve never seen anything in a butcher shop that looked like that before, but I had seen something similar elsewhere. I pointed towards my stomach and she just nodded.

I couldn’t bring myself to eat intestines so had to walk away. I was so annoyed with myself for not being able to ask if I could just have a bowl of rice or something.

Eventually hunger drove me back to the cart, by which time a taxi driver, who spoke fairly good English, had arrived. I explained to him that I had never eaten anything like this before and I wasn’t sure I could do it. His response was that I should try everything once, especially when I was travelling in a different country with a culture different to my own. I should experience things the way the locals do. He’d convinced me so I ordered some. I don’t know if I was relieved or disappointed when such a small bowl of food was given to me. I didn’t like to admit it but it was actually really tasty. Not quite tasty enough for me to ask for another bowl, although I was still really hungry.

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