Crossing Cambodia

Friday, September 28, 2007

International Press

Yesterday's Bangkok Post (September 27, 2007) includes the weekly Horizons travel section. Included in it are a lot of promotional reportage's about either boring places or places where no one has ever (wanted ?) to venture. That aside there is the excellent Traveller's Tales, the weekly column by Don Ross who tries to expose Thai travel rip-offs as well as those perpetrated by airlines.

This week, Don is fixing his sights on Cambodia's national highways 5 and 6, arguably some of the worst stretches of road you'll encounter, while sticking to national highways in South East Asia. Crossing Cambodia has reported on this section of highway previously, on May 26, March 19, January 18 of this year as well as November 10, 2006. And the Tales of Asia site maintains up to date information on this stretch, so clearly something must be happening on this stretch of road.

Well, that's what's the problem, nothing seems to be happening. Despite this being the preferred and shortest route between Bangkok and Cambodia's number 1 attraction Angkor Wat. With the policies in place to attract tourists to Cambodia, one would suspect that upgrading this section of the national highway grid would be high on the agenda. PM Hun Sen, while using a short stretch of the highway on his way to inspect Cambodia's number 1 golf course, complained that it almost broke his back! That from someone who is used to breaking backs! Anyway he did not come with any immediate solutions, that's Cambodia's politics for you.

Well, Don does not come with any new revelations, simply because there are none. He does mention:
' ... drivers prepared to tackle the bone-jarring road.'

' ... you will ultimately end up in Siem Reap dreaming of a hot bath to wash off the layers of persistent red dust.'

' ... a hotchpotch of potholed and seriously damaged roads.'

'Highways five and six are literally falling apart.'

He then goes on to try to establish (an unproven?) link why airlines are interested in the non-improvement of these roads. Surprisingly in this, is that he does mention these interests and not discuss Bangkok Airways at the same time. Bangkok Airways, which has a monopoly on flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok.

All in all an interesting read, if not complete. And a way to plug a cycling holiday in South-East Asia!
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