I woke up early in the morning, I felt like going for a ride. I had been very busy these days fixing the photos and recording videos for the blog, contacting the girls… I needed a break. I had two places I wanted to visit. One was Wat Maha Leap, a wooden pagoda near Kampong Cham I wanted to see because a friend who has been living in Cambodia for two years told me it was her favourite. She said it is very beautiful because it is completely made in wood, with one piece columns and carvings in gold. The other was a rubber plantation, which is the material used to produce car wheels, shoes soles, etc, there are many over the area and I was curious about the process. So I left very early, at seven, and the first things which caught my mind were the bamboo trees. I stopped to see the plant from a close distance because I have never seen it before, the canes weren’t very thick, they were long and strong. I kept on pedalling and left the city behind. As I was riding, I could see on both sides of the road many brick factories. I stopped to see them. I parked my bicycle and a man invited me into the place, I shot lots of photographs, it was very nice. The bricks were handmade, something you could notice when looking at the imperfect shapes. Getting into the factory was pretty impressive; it had a huge canyon vault absolutely covered with bricks, some waiting for the oven, some just stored there.
While I walked through the factory I could see lots of wonderful colours, I especially liked the walls because they had a singular orange on them.
Then I hit the road again and I didn’t know if it was better to visit the pagoda or the rubber plantation; the sun was starting to be high, so I decided to head the second one, hoping to be fresher among the trees and to find a better light to take photos in the pagoda during the sunset. I had seen a lot of plantations from the road, but this time I got in, riding through the rubber trees. More and more neverending rows of trees that made you feel the same infinite sight as when staring at the sea.
I suddenly found myself in the middle of a bunch of rubber workers. They cut the bark of the trees and they collect the sap in buckets; it is a white liquid, dense and sticky, similar to cow milk, that fills in the buckets, which are stored in the truck that goes from one working group to another. I asked the truck driver where it went afterwards, if it was sent to the factory. Another responsible who was nearby told me to follow his motorbike. I pedalled as fast as I could, chasing him, but when he stopped, instead of to the factory, he had taken me to another working group just the same that the one I had been watching before! He hadn’t understood me, so I tried to draw a typical factory, with the roof with little triangles and many chimneys… he looked at it and then at me, it seemed that it was clear for him this time. I followed him across the trees and we finally reached the factory! I thanked him and was about to get inside, but a guy stopped me at the door. I showed him a photo with rubber to explain him what I wanted to see. He said no with the hand and talked, but I couldn’t understand him… then the boss came and I found out that it was a tobacco factory! The man had got me wrong again and he thought that I wanted to visit a factory in general…. So I took the bike and rode in the plantation taking pictures. The guide book said that there were many rubber plantations around, but I couldn’t find any factories over the area. It bothered me not finding one but well, what could I do? I headed to the pagoda, it was two in the afternoon and I was hungry, so I stopped to have lunch in a restaurant. Sat in there, I couldn’t help thinking about the factory, I felt rage because I couldn’t find it… so I tried to ask the waiter if he knew of one near that place. This time I did a really clear drawing: the tree with the split, the rubber in the buckets, the truck and an arrow pointing at a building. The waiter told me that he knew one, it was far away, going straight on from there… I asked him to come with me with his moto to show me the way when I finished my lunch and he kindly agreed. After a long ride we finally got there, what a joy! I thanked him and I tried to get inside the factory.
I left the bicycle and they gave me an ID card and a helmet and they charged me one dollar. Outside, there were many trucks like the one I had seen before. Once inside, you could see an unloading area, where the trucks spilled the rubber in giant recipients with hellix which shook the rubber, it was the same as milk. Later on, in another area, they stored a diferent quality rubber, kind of the spare parts, dirty and solid. These masses were chopped to produce a lower quality rubber. After that, the white fluid was spilled in channels and they let it rest there. Then, they added water, which made the rubber contract itself and, following different processes, the rubber was treated with rolls until it was compact and thin. Later they cut it in blocks to be sold as primary matter to produce wheels…etc very interesting.
I took the bicycle again. The sun was going down and I started the way to the pagoda. It was very far, I pedalled and pedalled, the guide book didn’t tell how to reach it. It was getting dark and I began to worry, I was far away from Kampong Cham… I asked a couple of moto and car drivers where the pagoda was and I followed them for a while, but it was becoming really late, so I decided I couldn’t continue anymore. I stopped a pick up and I asked the driver to take me to the city. In the boot, laying down next to the bicycle the air on my face made me realize how far I was… he left me on the main road, I said goodbye and run to the city; I was just crossing the bridge when the sun disappeared completely. That was close… I don’t like to ride at night, it looks dangerous and I don’t have lights. When I got to the guesthouse I looked at the kilometres counter, I had done one hundred!