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Willie Weir : January 1st, 2013

Photos of the Day — Dec 21

A day after visiting the genocide museum in Phnom Penh, it’s good to see beauty in everyday things. Life continues and the pendulum swings in the search for balance. -k.

We experience little of the Christmas retail insanity here in Cambodia. So seeing three girls on a scooter gazing in at the Christmas display, brings memories of of the best the holidays bring … and not the worst. -w

Willie Weir : December 25th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 20

Beyond the barbed wire fence is the courtyard of the school turned torture prison in Phnom Penh. Over 20,000 people were tortured at Tuol Sleng school when the Khmer Rouge turned it into S-21, one of the places they used to extract confessions of individuals who they would later exterminate in the ‘killing fields”. This is one of hundreds of similar prisons throughout Cambodia and a harrowing reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. -k.

After the morning visiting the genocide museum, “banana man” provided some much needed levity in our day. We tried to buy a couple of bananas … but he only deals in bunches. -w

Willie Weir : December 24th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 19

I am not a morning person. The heat of the day has forced us to get on the road earlier and earlier. But the advantage is seeing the world in glorious morning light. Here, dyed silk hangs out to dry on the road south of Kampong Cham.

It’s wedding season in Cambodia and roads are springing up tents with bright sashes. Since we get on the road at dawn and try to finish pedaling for the day before sunset, we’ve yet to see a party in full swing. We can tell we are approaching a wedding party site since the sound system is as bold as the color schemes and they are required to blast music during setup and take down. -k.

Willie Weir : December 24th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 18

Those good, old machines don’t ever really die, they gets recycled in SE Asian markets. We passed at least 3 shops in Kampong Cham market that were floor to ceiling sewing machines for sale. Perhaps there is a garment factory close by keeping the second-hand traders in full supply. -k.

It pains me to look at this photo taken in Kampong Cham. For each and every one of those scooters represents a bicycle that will never be ridden by its owner again. Cambodia has the same problem that we witnessed in Thailand seven years ago. The entire populace adopts the scooter, and walking and cycling are history. Sidewalks become scooter parking areas. Bikes are ridden only by the very young or the very poor. And the dream of most scooter owners … is to one day own an SUV or pickup truck. The pollution, the dust, the strain on infrastructure is staggering. -w

Willie Weir : December 22nd, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 17

His name was Rity (pronounced with a trilled “r”), and about the most charming young monk you’ll ever meet. He was so exuberant, and wanted to be able to tell us all about the temple in a small village along the Mekong, completely adorned in mostly fresh murals. But the little English he knew was not enough to satisfy his desires to share with us. But we felt welcomed and privileged to be in his temple and his company. -w

Cane juice on crushed ice is now part of our daily life, and what a glorious thing it is. We now look roadside for the big wheel which turns the press and squeezes the peeled stalks of sugar cane. Those big wheels aren’t that easy to turn by hand, so Willie is known to jump up and help, much to the amusement of the locals. If you haven’t had fresh can juice, it’s slightly sweet with an earthy-grassy taste. Nothing cloyingly sweet about it. Simply refreshing, especially with just a squeeze of lime and a mountain of ice.-k.

Willie Weir : December 21st, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 16

Pajamas are all the rage in Cambodia. Often worn over a warm turtleneck sweater this time of year for extra warmth. For a while I even considered buying a cute set for my cycling kit. Usually they are in bright, cheery colors and flamboyant patterns that pop out, but here this vendor in the market blends in nicely with the cured meats. We’re a little obsessed with this fashion trend. -k.

After several days of dusty roads/paths along the Mekong, we took our bikes to a scooter wash. A team of four sprayed, soaped, scrubbed, rinsed, and dried our trusty steeds. They hadn’t been this clean since the day we got them. But another and another day of mud and dust awaits. -w

Willie Weir : December 15th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 15

Kat backs her bicycle on to a ferry to cross back over to the mainland. When you take a close look at some of these ferries, you have to be thankful that the Mekong is as calm as it is. Safely across, we pedaled along the east bank to the city of Kratie. -w

The 100-Pillar Pagoda in Sambour, Cambodia no longer has 100 pillars, but it has a lot of personality. What truly made this stop memorable is the group of Austrailians we met who were born Khmer and left Cambodia. They pooled their money and bought much needed food, clothing and medicine to distribute on their homeland tour. While those we spoke with felt that Australia truly was home, their hearts are deeply affected by the oppression witnessed every day here, and the pain and love they feel for Cambodia is palpable. -k.

Willie Weir : December 14th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 14

We are following some of the routes in the “Mekong Discovery Trail” and by far the most challenging is the ride down the length of Roungeav Island, the largest island in the Mekong river.  The route follows rough and sandy ox cart tracks, which sometimes fade away or come to intersections with no direction. We spent much of the morning pushing our loaded bicycles through sand, but after lunch and a rest in the shade, the center of the island had a firmer dirt track through the forest. -k.

The Mekong Discovery Trail is a project to bring tourism and income to the people who live along the river from Strong Treng to the near the Laos border. It includes bike routes and possible home stays in small villages that would never support a hotel. We read of an ox cart track you could cycle on an island in the middle of the Mekong. We hired a boat (same man whose home we stayed in the night before) and he delivered us to the beginning of the trail. It was a long day. Sand and loaded bikes don’t mix very well. But we managed. Here, Kat cycles under a gateway of towering snags in the heat of the day. -w

Willie Weir : December 13th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 13

The Koh Khnhaer greeting committee gathered as we walked through the village of one of our homestays along the Mekong. They joyfully say “hello” again and again and follow us as we walk up and down the one street town. The signs of poverty make it clear why NGOs are trying to bring tourist dollars to the upper reaches of the Cambodian Mekong. It’s a hard life, but you wouldn’t know it by the laughter from these children. Not a one asked for money or treats, they only wanted waves hello — to be seen. -k.

I know this is the cooler season. There are actually folks with wool caps on, and women in their winter pajamas. But it’s hot! All the more reason to stick close to nature’s air conditioning. For many of those who live on the river, boats are the only transportation they know. Just after I took this photo, I heard squawking up in a tree on the opposite bank of the river. The view through my binoculars revealed the silhouette of a toucan. -w

Willie Weir : December 12th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Dec 12

We see all kinds of improbably things sold along the dusty back roads of Cambodia, and this is one of my favorites. This is the mattress and dresser salesman, toting stacks of mattresses and what I hope is plastic (not glass) dressers. And now that I think of it, there is no mattress store. Barely any stores at all that have more than a few packages of shrimp chips and sweet drinks. Everything and anything is sold by this kind of roving scooter salesman. -k.

There are moments during a Mekong sunset, when you’d swear that giant ball of fire was going to consume every tree on the river bank. We camped outside the police station (more like a police shack) at the river’s edge. A great place to see Irrawaddy dolphins. And we did! The police were all smiles and even gave us tips on where in the river to spot them. -w