Roast spider with your rice?

322km Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Ice blocks being delivered by cartRoast spider, anyone? At couple inches across, they weren’t small. Their little black bodies and furry legs had been nicely grilled. The perfect snack food to go along with a cold beer? Tastes like chicken, or so they say.

At the risk of being oh so boring and disappointing, we didn’t try the roast spiders the ladies were selling in the market just north of Phnom Penh. They seemed a popular munching option though, judging by the huge baskets of the critters on offer in Skun.

We did think about it for a fraction of a second before deciding that supper was very unlikely to stay down if we tried a spider. Better not to risk these things after a long day on the road. Maybe next time….

When we were confronted with the spiders we’d just finished our longest day of the trip so far – a full 144km on a silky smooth road under rare cloudy skies. Gone are the days when the rainy season meant disaster for bicycle travel in Cambodia. With asphalt now being laid on previously tretcherous roads the cycling is smooth and the intermittent storms are just the thing to wash off a bit of sweat and make long days possible.

All in all the journey from Siem Reap to Cambodia’s capital took us just two and a half days. The flat terrain helped a lot as well as a paved shoulder. Some could call this ride boring – there are few true tourist sights, just one village after another – but we enjoyed waving to the literally thousands of kids who popped out of every house to yell ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to us and admiring the lush, green rice fields on all sides. The new crop of rice is still being planted and families are out everywhere doing the difficult job of putting seedlings in the ground.

Taking the plants from start to harvest is an undescribable amount of hard graft under an omnipresent sun, something we always knew in the back of our heads but didn’t truly understand until now. We’ll never see a bowl of rice the same way again when it eat it with a curry or stir-fry. However much the price of rice has gone up lately, we suspect not nearly enough reaches the farmers who deserve it most.

Phnom Penh cyclistsThe ride into Phnom Penh was straight forward. The city is still one of the poorer capitals in the region and although traffic is growing it hasn’t reached the critical point yet. We also find the Cambodian people very laid back. Aside from a few bus drivers, most people go relatively slow and don’t seem fussed by two cyclists blocking their path for a moment or two. It’s the complete opposite of Central Asia.

Without any trouble we arrived at a hotel, noticeably offering less than our digs in Siem Reap for a higher price but very central and as we’re only spending a couple nights here it’s not a big deal. We could have gone for the very cheap backpacker options in another corner of the city but lately we are craving a bit of luxury. Not a lot by anyone’s standards – we still try and find the $1 lunch specials on the street – but we think a good bed and a tranquil atmosphere are worth a bit of splurging.