I spent 2 full days biking on dirt roads / paths along the Mekong River. In my 28 years of life I have not yet developed a very strong directional sense, so my strategy was to keep the 10th largest river in the world always within view on my right. (Sometimes I would lose sight of it and have to cut through farm fields to catch a reassuring glimpse.) This is what it looked like:
On my first day of biking, when I left the small town of Kratie at 7am with all my belongings bungee corded to the back of my mountain bike, I felt a surge of joy and had a huge smile on my face - I couldn't help it - this act felt freeing and distinctly like what I wanted to be doing. Here is my bike with my bag looking especially small from this angle. It weighs about 8kg now.
Following the river, there were many bridges of pretty good quality passing over tributaries to the river (which is now at its low point in the dry season)
This little cutie came over when I took my first break on the first day to have some mini-biscuits and water. I gave her a biscuit and she thanked me and then continued to watch me. Her little brother was too shy to come claim his biscuit in person so she accepted it on his behalf
Within the first 30minutes of biking through small riverfront villages I saw details of rural agriculture life in Cambodia that I can't imagine seeing otherwise. Also, it was refreshing to have everyone genuinely excited to see me, since I seeing a (pale and female) foreigner biking through their village was such a novelty. Everywhere I biked children screemed Helloooo! and mother's called their children to watch me pass. In fact, any time I stopped small groups started forming and would mostly just watch me... this was fun except for when I really needed to pee. I had to sneak off from this group of guys pretending I was taking pictures around the corner.
Here is me at the end of day 1.
I washed up and spent the afternoon laying on the wrap-around balcony and reading while enjoying the river. This was my private view:)
On day 2 I saw a LOT of carts - there seem to be several main designs for ox-carts and they all seem to be made for 2 oxen. I wonder why no one tries to pull stuff with one ox?
The second day was a 75km ride that took from 5:59am to about 3pm. What was cool about biking during this whole time was getting to see the daily activities averaged over thausands of families. For the first few hours I provided a bit of entertainment to hundreds of families eating sunday breakfast on raised and shaded platforms (that double as sales stands for produce later in the day). I said hello to hundreds of children (possibly thousands) on day 2.
I ran out of water and small bills by about 1pm and had 30minutes of biking that were mentally and physically less fun. However, I met a farming family that had change for a 10USD bill and multiple drinks I could buy and I hung out with them for a while. The man I was speaking to was 28 and here is his 1 year old daughter that he would like to send to university.
Arriving in Kampung Cham felt a little miraculous. I checked into a room by the river. I changed colors in the shower. I ate a huge bowl of Fish Amok and rice (traditional Cambodian dish that resembled a fish custard with onion).