Scoops out Route 66 in Cambodia

Angkorian Highway or route 66 have connected the ancient temple cities Angkor01 and Preah Khan02 for the last 1000 years. I had no idea what to expect when I took off. Older stories here and here talk about horrible tracks and a more recent here talks about roads with minibuses driving there. I found some of both. My guidance was a tracklog I made from google earth and loaded in my GPS.

All you need to ride your bike into Cambodia is your passport, a passport photo and the bike's green book. You have to own the bike or bring an authorization from the owner. VISA on arrival is available.

Download POIs and tracks for GPS (.gpx) or Google Earth (.kmz)
The numbers written in superscript in the text are references to these files. The Google Earth file shows where all the pictures were taken.

View POIs and tracks in GPSvisualizer

All roads and POIs mentioned in this text are updated to OpenStreetMap

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December 2nd 2012 Sunday

Drove to Poi Pet border crossing03 on mostly backroads through Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary04. At the border first step was the Thai customs which issued me the temp export papers in about 5 minutes, new speed record for me. Next stop was to stamp out at the Thai immigration, it was also quick with no long lines. Then over the bridge to Cambodias VISA on arrival. No "helpers/fixers" approached me on the way. At the VISA on arrival building they asked if I had Thai baht, I said no I got dollars. Behold, I got the VISA for the real posted price of $20 plus 100 baht scam fee. Cheapest ever for me. The downside of paying close to the actual price was that I had to fill out the forms myself and also stand and wait in line. It seemed like the pushers were on holiday. Hopefully this will be the new way. When paying the inflated price of 1000 baht or more you only have to sit back when they fill out the forms and run over to Cambodia's immigration and stamp you in. Once stamped in I drove off without checking with Cambodia's custom, they usually thinks it is an unnecessary hassle to fill out papers anyway. Motorcycles sell for pretty much the same price as in the west so they are not afraid you will smuggle in bikes from Thailand where they sell for up to the double compared to the west. Things are smuggled out from Cambodia, not in. Once inside Cambodia I made an immediate stop at LY Heang Chhay hotel05. This small place has a sort of cafe and makes a nice first stop after the border hassle and lines. They also have wifi.



Drove to Siem Reap06, the road is not very dramatic. It is a good condition two lane blacktop. Speedlimit is 60 km/h but it is good for a bit more. The speedlimit is 40 km/h when passing villages and it is a good idea to roll off the throttle as the road doubles as play ground, dryer for crops, pig farm etc in the villages. The smooth road and new bridges all lined with new utility poles and railroad renovation along this road tells me Cambodia has moved on from the dark days of Pol Pot.



Arrived in Siem Reap after sunset and checked in at Home Sweet Home07 in Siem Reap following a tip on RideAsia forum. It is on a small street which have about 10 budget looking guesthouses on it, a pizza joint, a bike service shop and a convenience store at the entrance. Home Sweet Home charged me 12 dollars for an AC room with hot shower, ceiling fan, a small TV and two beds. Cheaper rooms without AC are available too. They have wifi and a small restaurant. The wifi signal was not strong enough to reach my room but it worked in the restaurant area. No indoor parking but the yard is at least gated.




December 3rd 2012 Monday

Headed out towards route 66. I started out by going east on 6 to route 67. I drove 67 north to where it intersects with route 66. 67 was paved.



Headed east on route 66. The first part was a new dirt road.



After a few kilometers it turned into a track in good condition.



When it was supposed to cross another road going north-south the track went into a big rice field08. I first drove north but then changed my mind and turned south to circumvent the rice field. I got back on route 66 about 10 kilometers east where the route runs on the paved 65.



There was a dirt road going west about where 66 was to come out, I had a look but did not follow it through. I did not know at the time but here is where you come out if you loop around to the north.



The 65 took me to Boeng Mealea and a little restaurant named Rum Duol Angkor 209 that could possible make a good stop. Note that this was the only restaurant I found along the whole route 66.



After that route 66 turned into dirt again.



Shortly after it was a very nice track passing four old stone bridges10+11+12+13.



Unfortunate the jungle was too dense to get good pictures of them.







The track then crossed a dirt road going north-south. The road was in nice condition so I figured it would take me all the way back out to 6 if needed.



This crossing also had many roadstands selling water and sodas. I later found out this was Khvao village14.



Right after the crossing was a fifth stone bridge15. Soon after that bridge the track deteriorated and was flooded in places. I take it as this is as far you get on four wheels.



There were side tracks and dinky bridges made up from planks and logs to make the track passable.





After a few more kilometers I had to start to get in the mud because no more ways around it.



Here was a nice part.



Apparently people are still using this route because they have cut fallen trees and took the time to build those dinky bridges. I kept going for a few kilometers. When I had 20 kilometers to Preah khan I bailed and doubled back. I did not know of any route back out to 6 from Preah Khan and I did not want to risk having to double back all 30 kilometers on this muddy track. I drove back to the last road heading south and found my way out to 6 and back to Siem Reap. I will check out a supposed new road from Stoung to Preah Khan tomorrow.


December 4th 2012 Tuesday

I got up a little earlier this time. I drove to fill in the blanks from yesterday before heading out to Preah Khan. I drove out on 6 and turned left on 64? which was paved.



When it intersected route 66 I turned left. It was a sandy track.



Not far down it merged with a dirt road that took me into Angkor.



I turned around and went back, crossed the paved road and into another sand track.



It had a small modern wood bridge16 in it's path



And later a not so modern stone bridge17.



I was back where I started yesterday and drove the same nice track again.



I was now back at the place where the track went into a rice field. Yesterday I bypassed the rice field by going south. Today I went north. The road north was faster but less scenic.





When I hit the paved 65 again I turned right and went out to 6 and headed east. I stopped at Preah Toeus bridge18 for some pictures. This bridge is not part of route 66 but another ancient route from Angkor which follows today's national highway 6





I continued on 6 and turned off where Preah Khan is signposted in Stoung19. The first kilometers were pretty bad but it does not show in the pictures here.







The road T-boned and I rolled the dice and turned left. It was a bad road that turned into a bad but interesting raised track. It went in the right direction so I drove on.



After what seemed ages the track ran into a dirt road coming from right and there was a road stand20. I got some water and asked if it was the road to Preah Khan. The tenant pointed in the northern direction and said something about turning left.



I kept going north and passed a dam overflow21.



I drove on until the road started to head south and I figured I missed that left turn. I U-turned back and found the turn22 and continued on a less than perfect dirt road. After a while the road improved a lot, I was on the new road in the making I had heard about. It was not 100% finished yet but it was very drivable. There is no asphalt yet but the dirt was smooth and good for up to 90 km/h in some places.



The new road took me into Ta Saeng23 and it continued beyond Preah Khan.



I turned in at a sign24 marked Preah Khan. There was no entrance fee but that will probably not last after the new road is completed. The first thing I saw was a patio25 with a view over the 1000 years old reservoir fitted with a newer floodgate.







I had a quick look at some ruins. Phrea Khan needs a whole day to be seen. I got to come back here.







I found where route 66 came out26 and drove it until it ran into a muddy rice field and then I turned back. The track was not very hard other than going into one mud hole after the other. In Preah Khan area the track is not one single track but a maze of tracks, pick the branch that suits you best.









I turned back to Ta Saeng and drove the extension of route 66 beyond Ta Saeng towards 6230 and the track is one of the best I have seen. In places the jungle is so dense around you so it is like driving in a tunnel.



The track is a little too sandy for my taste but it makes good practice driving in sand if nothing else.



When I got to the river crossing27 I bailed and doubled back to Ta Saeng. Maybe it was possible to cross but I did not want to risk getting stuck in mud.



I headed back to Siem Reap. On the way back I stopped at the same road stand for water again. It seemed like not many westerners come by here.



I went out the road rather than the track I came in on. The road was not much better than the track. Got out on hwy 6 after dark and headed towards Siem Reap.


December 5th 2012 Wednesday

Headed back towards Poi Pet but a few kilometers before PoiPet I turned left28 onto the newly upgraded road towards Pailin.





I left Cambodia at Ban Laem border crossing29. The customs told me that Poi Pet gave me a temporary export form only intended to be used if you exit at the same border as you enter. The hand written form I had was not registered in their computer system. This is probably why it was so fast at the customs when I entered at Poi Pet. They did not give me a hard time and said they would mail the form back to Poi Pet. My paper is the right one and the left is the type of paper I should have had.




Conclusion

Ride this route when it is well into the dry season. I think that it is better to start this route from Ta Saeng and Preah Khan rather than from Siem Reap and Angkor because then the road will improve as you get more tired rather than the opposite. You will also be rested when you visit the ruins of Preah Khan or better yet, spend an extra day at Preah Khan. Ta Saeng does not have many guesthouses yet, if any at all, and is therefore not a good place to end up in when you are tired and the sun sets. Siem Reap have loads of guesthouses, hotels and restaurants on the other hand. I started from Angkor because I stayed at that end in Siem Reap and viewed Preah Khan as the goal to reach after getting deeper and deeper into the jungle.