The route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/160054572
After a ridiculously short time at my favourite (so far) stopover, we bid a sad farewell to organic breakfasts, lantern lit swimming pools, and psychotically jealous dogs (long story) and pedalled off towards Takeo. The lonely planet describes Takeo as having roads with “luxuriously wide, paved verges/shoulders”, and it’s food recommendation was a tin shack selling ice coffee “run by an exceptionally tall lad”, so, as you can imagine, the excitement at the prospect of sipping ice coffee with Cambodia’s own giant while lounging on some luxurious paved verges made the journey fly by.
Sadly for the lanky barista, we never actually made it into Takeo as we were lured away by the prospect of a homestay in a commune approx 10km away. Andy and I have realised over the course of this trip that after 100km of cycling we are too old/tired/grumpy/own too many items of lycra and technical clothing to stay in budget backpackers hotels and the prospect of a shared dorm, a night spent huddled round a bad guitar player and shared stories about which Thai island has the best full moon parties has so far proved resistable. What we have learnt we really really love is generic mid range business hotels – the kind of thing Lonely planet will describe as “functional and soulless”. These places are generally cool (temperature wise only), quiet, and antisocial – bliss.
The homestay ( http://www.cambodianhomestay.com/ )we stayed at near Takeo was none of these things – electricity had only arrived in the commune 3 months previously, and there was definitely no a/c. It was also not quiet – there was a wedding going nearby :for those of you who have not experienced this pleasure imagine going to the loudest club in London, finding the biggest speaker, then cracking it open and sticking your head in it. From 4am til midnight. With dance music being replaced with noises of cats being strangled. And it definitely wasn’t antisocial – from the moment we arrived we were looked after incredibly well by Siphen, Mach and their family who lavished us with stories, fresh mango, and delicious curries. The host family worked as state school teachers during the day, had created and hosted their own free english class for 20 or so children each evening in a hut they had build next to their house, and then looked after volunteers and homestayers at night, making us feel lazy in comparison. In addition they also coordinated a charity called Book for Cambodia which sources books, facilitates access to librarian training, and renovates or establishes libraries in rural schools – truly an inspirational family!