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40th birthday in Cambodia

I’m not gonna lie I spent a lot of time thinking about and planning my 40th birthday, I guess for about 2 years.

My original plans had been to have a rather large party with a crack group of friends I have accrued over the years and ideally doing something rather debauched. And then the world happened.

My own personal journey to Siem Reap began when I cleared the Chinese border into Hong Kong 75 minutes before they closed it. Over the next month I would get through five further countries, inclusive of a funeral. To call the whole experience emotional would not even be getting close.

To read about my escape from China click here.

Siem Reap

To cut a long story short we, as a group, that is me Rowan and Nic Songt-Dok ended up camped out in Siem Reap of Cambodia. And not just camped out, but for all intents and purposes stuck here, stuck unless we fancy moving home, or living in Seoul. Neither of which particularly filled us with joy.

Our original pan had been to take a bus to Phnom Penh, then to Sihanoukville and the boat to Koh Rong (a trip I still managed to make), but then Rowan got loaned a car.

When a car gets loaned there is only one answer for birthday jollies. It has to be a road trip.

Road Trip Part 1

I’d designed a big epic itinerary, so in Sunday 26th we headed for Stung Treng on the Laos border, watched some storms, checked out some rapids drank beer Laos and headed to destination 2 Ban Lung, more street food, a volcanic lake and then off to Sen Monorom and Bousra Waterfall.

To read about Stung Treng click here.

To read about Ban Lung click here.

Things go wrong…..

Whilst driving to Sen Monorom we decided to check out the supposedly lovely Boursa Waterfall, which apparently had lots of street food, and a three tiered waterfall. What could go wrong? It appeared the car could go wrong…

Whilst literally within spitting distance of the waterfall the car died and died in a big way. We were later to learn after much money and time that it was the transmission, but at that point in time it meant standing next to a dead car for 6 hours.

This particular area is famous for its population of the Pnong tribe who inhabit both the Vietnamese and Cambodian sides of the border. And it was one of these gentleman that decided to stop and be our night in shining armour. That night not only did he get the car to a mechanic, but also arranged us a hotel in the village.

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Growing old disgracefully and sexual harassment…..

The hotel he arranged for us was basic to say the least, but it did have a rather flamboyant owner. The other gentleman went to bed, I sat up drinking until after it was “officially” my birthday, but it was the next morning that things started to get interesting.

Apparently the rather camp owner deicide to peep at my friends whilst they were making toilet as well as touching them inappropriately. Obviously this perturbed them somewhat and they wanted to leave. I don’t want to take sexual harassment lightly, but I was genuinely offended the chap hadn’t tried it on with me. I guess thats what happens when you hit 40.

Moving places and motorbiking

Our night in shining armor helped us move to a slightly better hotel, well at least it was sans sexual predator. He also arranged motorbikes for us, so we finally headed off to Bousra Waterfall.

The waterfall was pretty impressive, as was the passion fruit wine. I can see why people like the place, but not sure I would have opted to drive 4 hours to not only get here, but get stuck here….

What followed though was to be a highlight, although that would be surpassed come the evening. The next four hours were spent driving through the countryside of Eastern Cambodia on our motorbikes, well that was until one of he bikes got a flat tire, at which point I did wonder if life might actually be cursed, or if not life at least my birthday. Cue a very slow ride back in order to meet Net, our local night in shining armour who had invited us out for a BBQ.

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The Trip Highlight

We were picked up from where we went to a store to pick up beer and some behind the counter “wild meat” (despite the reservations of the clerk) before driving off to our spot for the evening.

This was where things started to get cool, we basically drove into the jungle and next to some wild rapids that apparently could be swam in. A fire was duly beers were grabbed, one of the guys started fishing and we jumped into the water.

The water actually looked legitimately dangerous, but our hosts not only assured us it was ok, but one of them was in his underpants fishing in there, so fear was defiantly not on the menu.

The next 5-6 hours were spent playing in the water, eating wild boar and freshly caught fish and generally just having a good time. Had we not broken down and melted our host I am sure we would have still had  decent day, but this was real life and the kind of experience that simply cannot be planned.

Local traditions….

We managed to stay out pretty late as despite it obviously being night time we were treated to clear night illuminated by an almost full moon, but then the subject of “later” came up. It was decided by our hosts that they would like to buy a whole heap of extra beer and treat us to dog meat. Now, I realize that dog meat is controversial and you can read my thoughts about dog in Cambodia here, but when a local tribe offer to share a delicacy you do not refuse.

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We were thus presented with what looked like an insurmountable amount of food and beer, but hey where there is a will there is a way.

We stayed up the whole night eating and drinking, which whilst amazing at the time did not help when the 7 am bus to Phnom Penh arrived to pick us up.

The next 7 hours were spent feeling like a piece of spam in a tin desperately trying to hydrate without elbowing my neighbors as we tried to endure the unendurable. It was at this point that we were really missing the car that had now been in the village near Bousra Waterfall.

I eventually arrived on July 30th in Phnom Penh ready for the next part of my adventure to Koh Rong and to some extent i’m still celebrating my birthday on August 11th! But with everything considered I think i’m unlikely to have something in the near future come close to what an amazing day my 40th birthday was.

See you in 10 days time? I certainly hope so…..

Stung Treng Guide

Street Food Stung Treng