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The New Chinese Hydroplant Stung Atay Road to Sihanoukville via Koh Kong

4 Mar

By Dean

“tomorrow night i want to be sitting on the beach drinking cocktails… whatever it takes, i don’t care if i have to ride for 12 hours. But it’s everyone individual decision, if you’re up for it – do it, otherwise take it easy and we’ll meet again in Sihanoukville in 2 days time”

Rule no 34 : you set your own pace in r4c.

It was a long dusty ride to get to Pramoy yesterday, most of which was spent fixing other bikes or waiting for other riders, and the smug messages of “i’m drinking beer already” while we repaired Sam’s puncture, followed by a late arrival and welcoming scene of the gang drinking beer after dinner with pretty dutch backpackers got me thinking…

Rule no 33 : what goes around comes around.

So we were up at 6am this morning, and the early bird gets the worm, so with 350km to ride we mounted up and left with whoever was ready at the time. This put us in 2 groups for most of today. Paul, Sam, Matt and I in the first group, and Dave, Gary and Laurence not far behind in the second.

We worked out quite early in the trip that small groups travel faster than one big one, as problems surface all day only a few people are delayed and inevitably they repass the rest when they are subsequently delayed, so when Paul had a flat leaving Pramoy we continued on without him assuming he’d catch us up again or ride with the second group instead.

Sam, Matt and I stopped for a feed of little bananas an hour into the trip, where Paul joined us 5 minutes later with some bad news. Laurence’s bike had seized. Oh dear. We were a long way from any repair shop in steep mountain roads so pushing or towing the bike wasn’t an option. I spoke to Dave on the phone briefly and discussed options for having it put on a truck to Koh Khong or Sihanoukville, before our group headed off again, figuring one of our bikes would stop sooner or later too.

Riding through the Cardamom mountains was really fun (for our group J), it was dense forest or jungle, with birds calling, little wooden bridges to cross and an endless well maintained dirt road built by the chinese hydro commissioning company all the way to Koh Khong.

The little bikes struggled to climb some of the hills at any speed, but down in first gear they were unstoppable (if miserably slow), and mile by mile we ground through the day arriving at the main paved road just to the east of Koh Khong at 12pm. We received a message from Dave that Laurence’s bike had been revived and they were moving again too – Good News!

We stopped after a few km for fuel and a bite to eat, and in this unlikely little roadside restaurant had one of the best meals of the trip. Chilli crab, stir fried pork and vegetables, steamed rice, iced coffee and a beer for good measure. We were happy.

Rule 88 : Dont judge a roadside restaurant on it’s looks.

It was 220km to a cocktail on the beach, and with 6 hours of daylight remaining, things were on track. My little Dailem had been running like a dream all day (get it?), assisted by my weight advantage i was roaring past the rest of the gang up the steep hills in the Cardamoms, and the rolling paved road along the coast from Koh Khong to highway 4 was more of the same. With the throttle held open all the way i eased away from Paul, Sam and Matt and enjoyed the ride – destination Mojito-ville.

I stopped after about an hour and a half, almost half way to my Mojito, and waited for the rest of catch up. Paul and Sam arrived after 5 or 10 mins but Matt was nowhere to be seen. I pulled out my phone to find a few messages from Matt…

“bike intermittently stopping, making my way to repairer”
“bike completely stopped”
“moving again”

I tried calling – no answer, but Matt was moving again so we decided to ride another 30 or 40km and then stop for lunch and fuel at the halfway point to give Matt a chance to rejoin us. When we stopped at a road side food stall the 4 messages from Matt were grim news.

“i have a puncture, please help”
“i have a puncture, please help”
“i have a puncture, please help”
“my coordinates are N???, E????”

I entered these on the GPS…

“shit, he’s 40km back down the road”

In retrospect we probably should have waited for Matt earlier, but you make decisions as you go and the awaiting Mojito may have clouded ours. I called Dave to find he was already leaving Koh Khong, 70km from where Matt was… we did the maths.

It would take team Dave an hour to get to Matt, but they were carrying a spare tube and a pump. On the other hand it would take us 40 mins to get to him, then another 45 to get the tyre out and to a repairer and back before we were moving again. Team Dave would have him moving faster than we could so it didn’t make any sense to turn back from there.

Plus there were Mojitos waiting!!

Matt wasn’t pleased at all, and i did empathise, but team Dave would be along soon enough so we pushed on to Sihanoukville.

The rest of the day was uneventful except for the torrential down pour an hour out of Mojito-ville, the visibility in the rain was appalling, and when i finally came out the other side and didn’t have Paul and Sam behind me it was an anxious wait by the side of the road for a few minutes until they arrived looking a little pale having just been run off the road by a Range Rover driver!

Rule 67 : Range Rover drivers are assholes all over the world.

The beer flowed fast when we arrived at 4:30pm, but we were really disappointed to hear that Team Dave still hadn’t gotten to Matt. Eventually team Dave got him going again, but it was too late in the day for them to make it to Sihanoukville in the daylight, and Gary’s headlight was out so they were stopping in a little town an hour away for the night.

The last sms from Matt read…

“we are in a crappy hotel with no electricity, there is barely any food here”

We really enjoyed the Mojitos J

We got an early start to try to make it to Mojitoville


Lots of elevation changes through the jungle


Packed lunch


One of the villages we crossed


One of the Good Bridges


Sometimes no bridge


No Bridge. No Problem.


Clearing land in the jungle


The Stung Atay Chinese built hydroelectric plant in the Koh Kong provence.


The site plan


Dusty dusty road


Dusty Dave after inhaling hours of red dust from the construction vehicles


Dusty Sam seems to be doing a bit better


Much later in the day Matt's bike kept stopping because of a loose spark plug. Here's his bush mechanic skills


Team Dave helping Matt out with a puncture repair


Our first visit to Sustainable Cambodia

26 Feb

By Gary

Day 7 – Early morning ride to Pursat.  We got on the road at 8 and everyone had made it to Pursat by 10:30am or so.  I stopped at a moto shop and got my headlight fixed and had an oil change.  Big bill this time – $4 🙂

So we were in Pursat to meet with Sustainable Cambodia.  Dean called them and they sent Dimang to lead us to their campus in Pursat.  Lots of introductions were made.  Too many to remember really, but I do remember the name of Polin (sp?) because he was a project director and spoke particularly good English.

They gave us a quick overview of their projects and we inferred their close relationship  with Rotary International – aka the Rotary Club back home.  They seemed to really have their act together and this was echoed by several of the volunteers we spoke to.  The best thing about SC was that they do not give handouts – all of their projects revolve around helping people become self sufficient.

The campus had a library and some school rooms, a community fish pond, rainwater collection system and several biosand water filters.  The people working there and the kids going to school there all used the facilities on the site, but it was clear that they also doubled as a showcase of their projects.

After lunch and another couple quick presentations the kids were getting out of class and we got a couple photos with the kids and the bikes and then headed out to one of the villages just outside of Pursat.  I got the impression this village was a mature SC project.  SC has several different projects, but to explain the first place we went requires a little background.

As I understand it, the way SC organizes is that they setup village community ‘councils’.  The councils oversee the local projects and do community funded microloans to the villagers.  The microloans are actually genius as long as the village as a whole has enough resources to fund them.  They only charge 2% interest, 1% goes to the council admin costs and the other 1% goes to the community members that sponsored the loan.  That stands in stark contrast to Kiva or other microfinance places that typically end up charging between 30% and 40% interest.

So, the first place we went was the house of the current council head.  Their very modest acre or two farm implemented at least two very ingenious SC projects.  The most impressive is a biogas generation system.  Essentially it is an underground holding tank into which they add a slurry of 20 liters of water and 20 kilos of cow dung every day.  That produces enough methane to run gas lamps and cooking stoves – the modest farm house had gas plumbing and fixtures and they all worked with the turn of a knob.  The system had a consistent 9kpa of pressure so it must have had a regulator outside the house.  The excess pressure in the tank would force out the old manure into a holding tank that they then could use as fertilizer for their crops (corn and various types of squash).  Ingenious and cheap.  The whole system was less than $500.  Sustainable Cambodia picks up half the tab for the biogas installs and the family pays the rest.

The also had a shallow water pump, cistern and I think a biosand filter as well.  They were pretty much entirely self sufficient.  I didn’t see their cattle – they must have been out grazing, but the dung was all over the fenced area around the house and I imagine the rainy season provides more than enough water to make the whole thing work indefinitely.  Really ingenious setup.

Then we went to the village school campus and community center – cute kids running around after school, women making baskets, a some bee hives and a palm wine distillery – lots of stuff going on there.  Very cool and all are/were Sustainable Cambodia projects.

Afterwards we headed back to Pursat for dinner and a couple beers.  We need to get on the road early today to get to the next outlying project.  Breakfast and get on the road by 8am – gotta run.

2012 Ride for Cambodia team and Sustainable Cambodia kids


The kids were super friendly


A few of the villagers who SC works together with


Methane collection system in Cambodia


Methane gas lamp at villager's house


Farming food


Well water system and pump




Biosand filter to produce clean drinking water


SC built the building and helps train teachers for this school in Pursat provence








Gary checking out bees


Another SC classroom


Kids having fun at SC school


Villager weaving basket


Offroad through rice patties and shortcuts by Dean

24 Feb

by Dean

It was a late start. It’s always a late start at r4c. Paul waited patiently as Gary went to post a package, Sam had a basket fitted to the front of his scooter (hmmm), Matt went to find a bank, and everyone else filled with fuel. So what was supposed to be an early start turned into a 10:30 start…

Then one of team Roger’s (Frank and John) bikes developed an exhaust leak so they were held up (and consequently decided to take a different road today). Then Laurence’s bike broke the exhaust off as well, which held up Sam, Gary, Laurence and Dave. This left Paul and Matt and I to continue ahead and try to find the mystery dirt road that would lead us to Battambang.

I call it a mystery road because it doesn’t occur on any map or gps, i found it pouring over satellite imagery months ago while planning the ride and trying to avoid the highway. I could see what looked like a road that led south from the highway just outside Siem Reap down to Battambang, but couldn’t be sure it was a road and not a canal or river… i plotted the track in google earth and then downloaded to my gps with absolutely no idea how reliable it would be.

Meanwhile Laurence’s exhaust repair was taking forever, and as the mystery road was an unknown quantity, we decided to push on without the rest of the gang and at least be able to let them know what to expect.

It started surprisingly well. The road was exactly as per my gps track, every turn was within 10 metres of our actual position, i was feeling good about things…

“hey i think i have a puncture… does my rear tyre look flat?!” i yell at Paul down the intercom
“yep it sure is…”

I turn around and try to make my way back to the main rd while it’s still partially inflated, i make it only just but walk it the last 100m to a tyre repair shop where a 13 year old boy slowly repairs the 2 nail holes in it for just $2.

Rule no 55 : you never need to walk more than 100m to get a puncture repaired in Cambodia.

On the road again but it’s Ground Hog Day and the tyre goes down again, this time too far from the road to consider returning though. So it’s out with the rear wheel which Paul heads back with this time looking for a new tube.

Matt and I wait…

Matt makes a fire and then heats water in a plastic bottle to make coffee.

Paul returns and i refit the wheel as Matt greedily drinks all the coffee himself…

“hey Matt could i have a sip of that coffee please?”
“ahhh no sorry i drank it all…”

and Americans wonder why the rest of the world hates them!

By the time this was over i had Dave on the phone who was only a few minutes away, so we waited a little and eventually the team was reunited, but by now it was 1:30pm and we had 60km to ride offroad in about 4½ hours. That doesn’t sound like much but i use the term ‘road’ quite liberally here.

“right guys, we’ve got a long way to go and it’s getting late so we really need to make this happen without messing around too much, is everyone good with that?”

Leading the team away i felt a little like mother duck, with all the ducklings following in a line.

The track quickly degenerated to the point that it occurred to me that this must be how it would feel to try to ride a jack hammer. It might be my imagination but i’d swear that i could actually feel all the bolts coming loose in the bike. The track was just so rough, and no matter how we rode it there was no escaping the vibrations.

Even when we stopped it still felt like our hands and feet were vibrating – crazy.

“how much more of this can these little bikes take until something breaks in half?”

Rule no 45 : The Dailem is one tough little moto

Every now and then i’d stop for a head count, and at each stop i could see the team’s nerves starting to fray more and more. We rode along gravel tracks, we rode through rice paddies and over precarious handmade wooden bridges, hey we even rode right through the middle of a rural school without even breaking stride. It was fantastic!

I was watching the km count down and in a morale boosting tactic continually relayed the good news to the team…

“we’re half way there already!”

“not far to go now!”

“the good road starts just the other side of this enormous channel that has no bridge…”


In adventure motorcycling, the point of no return is when you’ve gone too far on the fuel you have to be able to turn back to the last fuel stop. I’d had a sense of impending doom for some time after we passed that point, and when my until-then-perfect gps track took us off any semblance of a road, across 2 broad rice fields and into a river – i really started to worry.

So did the team, half of whom by then were about to run out of fuel. I’d barely made a wrong turn all day but at this point had to admit we were in trouble as i rode up and down the rice fields along the river looking for some way to cross.

A family living in a makeshift shelter nearby did an excellent mime of a person drowning to convince me not to enter the water with the bike, their vivid mimes of water over my head and bubbling noises, along with one of them wearing a plastic leg was enough to stop us for a moment to regroup.

We delayed there for a little while as they somehow produced some petrol, all of which somehow went into just one of the bikes…

“hey Gary did you just put all that fuel into just your bike?!”
“yeah i did”
“why didn’t you share it!?”
“hey man i frikkin asked everyone if they wanted some gas and no one responded alright!!!”

Things were getting tense.

Paul doing what he does. Paul Waiting.


Matt and his Monk friends


Laurence offroading on the "shortcut"


Daveg crossing the sketchy bridge


Our farmer guide leading us through a route we never would have found


Dave paying the guide. Total money spent - $7. Total lives saved - 7.


We were trying to understand the directions from the village family without any success, until finally it occurred to me to call Visa.

Rule 33 : Visa is the greatest person in the world.

The father of the family offered to take us to the place where we could cross the water, Visa said we’d just need to give him some small money for the fuel he’d use.

“hey this guy can lead us to a track, what do you all think?”
“hell yeah!”

So Mr Saviour poured a litre of fuel into his busted up old bike, put on some clothes and led us off down another nightmarishly bumpy track. We were now heading in the opposite direction to the mystery track, but with a local guide now lighting the path we all rested a little easier. He took us a kilometre or so along the river until it eventually dried up enough to cross it, steep banks made of slippery clay made this a bit of fun but eventually we all got across and continued on down the bumpy path.

Gary was first in line and I could tell by his fist pumping antics that we must have found a road, or at least a maintained track of some sort, Mr Saviour stopped and pointed us in the right direction smiling broadly. We each paid him $1 for his trouble and hugged him goodbye, our gestures of appreciation seemed to confuse him a little, as though he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. The $7 payment might seem like a pittance, but when most rural Cambodians live on about 30c per day, $7 represents almost a months wages. His already broad smile was even bigger as we rode away.

This track was elevated above the fields and took us through several villages and small camps, and eventually into a bigger village where a shop was selling petrol. Phew.

A quick check of the GPS and i saw this little diversion had taken us about 50km out of our way and used up lots of time, so the initial aim of reaching Pursat that night was no longer possible. We all agreed to make for Battambang instead and ride to Pursat early the next morning. Another 10km of dirt track before we popped out on the highway, and another 30mins at full speed (70km/hr) saw us arrive in Battambang.

We’d been looking for a really testing ride to give the group some lasting memories of this trip, and Dave and I agreed this was just the ticket. Another great day for the R4C team.

Rule no 31 : Getting lost is not always a bad thing.

Offroad through rice patties and shortcuts by Gary

22 Feb

By Gary

Laurence getting his exhaust fixed


Laurence getting his exhaust fixed at a village side machine shop


One of the village stops in the "shortcut" offroad route


Day 6 – tired.  Long slog from Siem Reap to Bathambang.  We were supposed to be in Pursat tonight but didn’t make it.  There was the usual dilly-dallying of breakfast, packing up and generally trying to herd 9 bikers, but I also wanted to ship a souvenir back home so I delayed the departure a bit more than usual.

So there was a road from Siem Reap in the direction of Bhatambang and there was a road from Bhatambang in the direction of Siem Ream.  But they didn’t connect on any of our maps.  Dean had checked Google Earth and decided that there was indeed a way between the two, but it looked like it crossed a marshy area or stream bed or something.  So we needed to get an early start because there was no telling whether we would make it through or have to backtrack to take the long highway around.

John had issues with his exhaust and bought a new one in Siem Reap.  Not sure what his exhaust problem was exactly, but when they fitted the new exhaust they snapped off one of the studs in the head.  So Frank and John were getting John’s fix fixed and were going to take the long highway route rather than doing the silly route with the rest of us.

About 1/3 of the way down the highway to the silly route “shortcut” Laurence’s bike also had an exhaust failure.  The header pipe snapped off at the flange – probably from some prior off-roading.  So Sam, Dave, myself and Laurence stopped at a road side welder to get it fixed.  Dean, Paul and Matt kept on humming along to the shortcut.

The brazing took a long time because they didn’t get it put back on at the right angle, and then it didn’t seal and blah blah blah – long story short, 2 hours in the sun waiting for what turned out to be a completely botched job.  But we got tired of waiting and just went on with the exhaust partially sealed.

Meanwhile Dean had a flat tire at the beginning of the shortcut route.  They patched it and rode on a short distance, and it went flat again.  And again.  By the time they had Dean’s flat completely sorted out we had made our way to the shortcut turn off.  So they waited a bit for us to catch up and we set off together down the ‘shortcut’ starting at 1:30pm.  Very late but nobody wanted to be the one to say it was a bad idea.

The connecting road didn’t technically exist.  There were a series of tractor ruts and cattle paths.  Some of the ruts were particularly deep for long stretches.  The consequences for not keeping a good line were steep – if you were to veer off of the lumpy 18 inch wide strip into either of the tractor ruts you would lose your bike into it up to the handlebars.  A couple guys ended up paying the price once or twice in some of the deeper sections but were not injured.  We crossed some truly dodgy bridges and kept getting remoter and remoter.  There was one long muddy delta type of section but as long as we kept the speed up we didn’t sink in too much and were able to make it through without incident.  So I figured that was the midpoint and the road would then start improving.

We thought we had it made when Dean’s GPS indicated we were about 2/3 of the way.  But then the road just deteriorated into what was essentially a series of cattle tracks and we were left in dry fields bordered by swampy mush. Dean scouted for a bit but the road we wanted was about 1 km on the other side of a wide and deep area of stagnant water.

Where one of the routes petered out, we happened upon a family that was living under a large tarp in the middle of a field.  Literally.  If I ever think I have it hard I will remember these folks.  After an akward attempted conversation about direction and a successful but weird purchase of 1 liter of fuel by me, Dean had the brilliant idea to call Visa from Sustainable Cambodia to help us convey what we wanted to ask and to translate their answer back.

So Visa helped us to negotiate with the family to guide us through the fields to the other side where we could pick up a road.  The father (presumably) led us through the fields, across a mucky stream, onto a dirt track, then finally to a decent dirt road.  We were particularly grateful and everybody each gave him a dollar.  The theory was he probably wouldn’t take $7 for the guide, but that he might be winning to take $1 from each of us – it worked.  We figure that might have been as much as a month’s worth of wages for his family.  We might have made it across eventually by dead reckoning but it would not have been pretty.

The dirt track eventually made it to a highway that was only 34kms from Bathambang.  We were supposed to make it to Pursat, but it was going to be another 100+ kms and light was beginning to fade.  One of the casualties of the beating of our scooters took was Rocinante’s headlight.  The endo she did on day 2 didn’t do her eyeball any favors and the severe rattling she took sheared off the remaining two headlight bolts.  So I was pretty keen to get somewhere for the night before I had to try to use my zip-tied headlight to light the road.  So when Dean said Bathambang, I pointed Rocinante that way and rolled on the throttle.

Laurence was keeping up with me and the other guys hung back and took a little time to fuel up.

So, to understand the next bit – there is a jealous rivalry we have with our scooters and Honda Dreams.  The Dreams are 125cc instead of 100cc and fuel injected instead of carburetted and have disc brakes instead of drums and a plush suspension instead of squishy crap.  Basically they have everything that our little Daelims lack in terms of modern technology.  So when a couple Cambodian kids flew past on a Dream, Laurence and I looked at each other and both thought the same thing.  We cracked open the throttle the little way that was left and tucked in to chase them down.  It took a really long time but we did manage to close the gap quite a bit before we passed through the next town and had to slow down.

Once we entered the little town, Laurence thought it was Bathambang and he stopped at a moto shop that was selling new exhaust systems.  The crap brazing job the roadside moto guys did on his exhaust flange had given way much earlier in the day and his bike was both loud and ridiculous sounding at the same time.  So first chance he had to get a new exhaust he jumped on it.  Meanwhile I was still tracking that Dream and it was miles before I realized he wasn’t behind me.

I made it the next 20 kms to Bhatambang and talked to Frank and John who had taken the long/easy highway and already had checked into a hotel there.  On the way to the hotel I ran into the rest of the guys minus Laurence.  After an hour or so we began to get concerned and were texting and calling Laurence’s dead cellphone to no avail.

Right around the time we were discussing backtracking in the dark to find him, he pulled up.  We were relieved to see him so he didn’t get too much of a hard time for 1) getting lost and 2) not having a working cellphone.

Not long after, Paul dropped the gauntlet and bet we could not be on the road to Pursat by 8am the next day.  The stakes were high enough that we only had a few beers each, ate and went to bed.  Much more tame than what we were planning when we were flogging our bikes to death, sweltering in the middle of a field on a cattle trail while getting our fillings rattled out.

Day 7 we would leave at 8am for Pursat and meet up with the Sustainable Cambodia folks by lunch.

Drunk locals with one leg have little credibility when pointing you to a mine field

18 Feb

By Matt (with commentary by Dean)

Ride for Cambodia: Day 4 Travel Update from Tbeng Meanchey to Siam Reap

Today was a particularly dynamic day in comparison to those prior. Because so many things happened throughout the course of the day, I think a list of bullet points will be suiting. It is worth mentioning that with the type of riding we are doing and the given terrain, the Daelim City 100 may not be the most suitable vehicle. Apparently, it’s a “good moto, but poor-man moto”. We’ve had our share of breakdowns, but in a country where the most expensive repairs would be hard pressed to eclipse $20 and a 3 hour repair time, it fits the bill. After all, they cost +/- $550 each with a buyback arrangement of around $500, if they are returned intact (which is left to be seen). We are now spending a full day in Siam Reap, home to Angkor Wat. It is our plan to visit the religious site this afternoon, prior to departing the city Sunday morning. For the next leg of our trip, Dean has built a GPS map from Google Earth imagery, as the area is largely uncharted. Interestingly enough, he informed us last night that streams and trails are nearly indistinguishable on the satellite pictures.

• The most magnificent thing happened this morning. Dean asked the day and everyone was collectively unable to remember that it was Friday. In terms of everyone’s expectations, the trip is most definitely meeting one of its intended goals. However, we are constantly reminded by Dave and Dean that Ride for Cambodia is neither a tour, nor a vacation.

• Our first major engine repair took the form of a top-end rebuild on Paul’s scooter. It had consistently lost power and drivability until it would no longer idle nor accelerate properly. The repair took a few hours and $8.50. My scooter barely escaped the same fate when a valve adjustment restored compression to the weary warrior. That being said, this trip has proven that the mechanical condition of our scooters can change much more rapidly than the beautiful sunny weather of the Cambodian dry season.

• Upon arriving at a temple on the way to Siam Reap, we were met by a group of scarf wielding salesladies with a passion for the aggressive sell. I’m not sure how this helped to rid us of our unwelcome pursuers, but Sam and Paul felt led to portray themselves as outwardly affectionate to one another. This apparently offended the modest sensibilities of our captors who quickly fled.

• We went truly off road for the first time, as opposed to areas where roads had been created but left unfinished. When we turned off the dirt road, we were immediately met with a plethora of obstacles in the form of rice paddy barriers made of dirt and rocks. For the most part, they had been previously traversed, though most proved quite formidable to our street-intended scooters. It was humorous watching the group as we attempted to cross each berm, frequently ending in a stranded position atop the mound.

• At one point, we came across a stream which, after having waded out into it to check the depth, was decidedly much too deep for our scooters to cross. We were quickly greeted by a man with one leg who motioned into a lightly wooded area seemingly suggesting that it was safe to circumnavigate said water by that course. This trail was accompanied by a sign stating that the Germans had cleared it of mines. However, not very far behind that sign was another, much newer sign which clearly suggested that mines yet existed. We were collectively struck by the irony of a one-legged man giving directions through a possibly still lethal mine field. We turned back.

Inserted by Dean

I was a little hesitant at leading the gang into the rice paddies, (knowing that some of Cambodia is still land mined), but I figured that the trauma the rice tractors do to the fields should have set off any unexploded mines long ago. We bumped and crashed our way back and forward searching for a track marked as route 66 on the gps (someone has a great sense of humor huh!), with the gang initially laughing hysterically, but eventually a little hot and bothered by the chaos.

At risk of really pissing off the gang I persevered one last time looking for the track, and sure enough there it was, initially along the top of the mounds that separate two fields, but eventually it crossed a stream and we found a real track.

It was great going and lots of fun for about 15km until we reached the first water crossing – too deep to ford.

“now that was a lot of fun!” contributed Gary

“lets carry them across” suggested Laurence
“I wanna ride across” – Matt is crazy and will try anything.
“those air intakes are lower than the water level” – Sam was thinking the same thing as me
“there’s always another way around these things, the locals sure as hell arent riding through it” I countered, a little sad to be dampening Matt’s enthusiasm, but not keen on filling a bike motor with water so late in the day.

After a quick search and helpful advice from a man living nearby, we rode right past the man’s hut and around the water back onto the track.

“cool, we’re going to do this” I thought, all excited about the prospect of riding into Siem Reap from the east, on the road that runs straight past Angkor Wat!

More fun on the sandy track and then another water crossing. Once again there were different opinions about how to cross, the group a little tired by now, and then the slightly frayed nerves were set alight by the “warning mine field” sign just off the road.

I back tracked a little and was met by a very drunk villager who wanted me to ride into the field with aforementioned sign. He seemed convinced it would be ok but I was still really hesitant – oh did I mention he only had one leg. Well, he only had one leg.

Ignoring his advice I continued back until eventually I found a another established track spearing off the one we were on, this one led to another one, which eventually led back to route 66 but on the other side of the water.

I doubled back again, a little worried that the gang might have moved, and found the drunk amputee now trying to talk to the rest of the gang, some of whom were obviously worried about the mines, and rightly so. I assured them that I had found another track that would take us around this water and we set off, but not before several worried looks were exchanged. At the fork in the road we stopped for a moment, I wanted group agreement before proceeding.

“hey I just wanna check that everyone is cool with continuing, I don’t want to push someone into doing something they arent comfortable with”
“um yeah I suppose” – Dave
“yeah I guess…” – Paul
“Hell yeah” – Matt
“Um… ok” – Gary
“I’ll do whatever everyone else does” – Laurence
Sam was at the end of the row of bikes so I couldn’t hear him, but the shoulder shrug was enough for me to tell he was a little worried, but would follow regardless.

The blank expressions made my mind up though. I checked with Paul and Dave, the two other most experienced riders in the group, and after a moment they concurred in turning back. It was 5pm so only another hour of light, we had a long way to go on single track where we would most likely encounter more water, and Gary’s bike was fading fast so he was worried with good cause.

“ok then, lets pull it, back up the track the way we came, we’ll leave this one for next year” I yelled through the helmet.

Paul explained it well

“mate, I hate turning back as much as anyone, but in these situations you need to consider that we have little water left, no food, mobile phone service here is patchy and we’re tired so decision making is poor. Then if someone falls and hurts themselves it will be really bad. There have been 2 water crossings and probably will be more, and it will be dark in an hour. If we were fresh and had all day then we could do it for sure, but right now this is the right decision”

Actually the right decision would have been to turn back an hour earlier! The road home was totally dark for the last 30mins, after which anyone thinking we should have continued was well and truly convinced that it was the right choice. Live to fight another day.

Good team work R4C.

• Another humorous aspect of this jaunt off road was my close encounter with terra firma. There were many areas which were covered in deep sand. It was funny to watch as each of us struggled to make our way through the treacherous hazards and to wager who would be the first to fall. My appearance at the end of the trail, similar to that of a sugar-coated doughnut, was indicative not necessarily of the winner of the unspoken wager, but most certainly the loser.

• As dusk descended upon the greater Siam Reap area, we were still on a highway which was becoming busier with each passing minute. As we passed a very large truck, my scooter began to sputter with ever increasing frequency. Somehow, I was able to proceed to a filling station a few miles further down the road (Cambodians beside the road with whiskey bottles filled with fuel) as the scooter breathed its final breath.

• Finally, our group experienced its first death shortly after nightfall in route to our guest house. Gary’s scooter died in dense rush hour traffic and refused to start once again. We, however, fought the good fight and soldiered on to the guest house in Gary’s stead. Upon arrival, Dave valiantly returned to the scene for a post-mortem recovery of the brave scooter’s remains. At this time, the rest of us, with heavy hearts, consumed a frosty beverage in honor of our fallen steed. I will update later on the less than $10 repair which will most certainly breathe new life into it

No refrigeration needed. Farm fresh chickens


The driver and scooter loaded up and ready to go


Everyone here in Cambodia is super friendly


Waiting at a "gas station" in Cambodia for them to refill their coke bottles fill of fuel


Nice Cambodian kids everywhere


Friendly people!!


The Temple District Ride For Cambodia Team


Riding through CLEARED minefields


We're riding through rice patties hoping that the minefields were cleared as described


Uncleared Minefield that blocked us from going around the deep water crossing


Too deep for scooters, a local with one leg was telling us to go back and take the alternative route just past a closed gate behind the sign that said "DANGER: MINES"


This guy was stumbling on a main dirt road near Siem Reap trying to give us directions


After finally making it to the guest house, we were welcomed by this sign next to the bathroom.


First Day of Offroad to the Temple District

16 Feb

By Gary

Fun road yesterday.  We left Stung Treng in the morning on the way to Tbaeng Meanchey.  A couple of the guys bikes have been developing a cold start problem.  One of them was solved by adjusting the valves, but the other not so much.  We bought a a couple sockets to do nightly valve adjustments just for good measure since we are riding these scooters wide-open in top gear for hours on end.  Paul’s bike might have burnt valves though – his cold start problem continues to just get worse.

The road was new.  So new it isn’t complete.  Not even close 🙂  It looks like it will be a decent highway at some point but at the moment it is bladed and compacted earth.  It had many kilometers of perfectly flat wide sections that might as well have been an 8 lane highway.  But of course it is dirt.  They can probably get away with that in the dry season pretty effectively.  When the rains come it will probably turn into a mud pit though.  There were a few short sections of deep sand and a couple very narrow deep rutted areas.  At the transition of one of these, sand to hard packed ruts, Rocinante bucked me off and took a little dirt nap.  At about 70km/hr we came up to a sharp ledge about curb height and those little tires and archaic suspension did not take it well.  She managed the tumble quite well though – she escaped with a cracked front fender and I just got a tiny bit of dirt rash on my left love handle.  That was the only part of me sticking out from my protective gear <blush>.   These little scooters really are bulletproof.  They have to be at least 30 years old and they are taking the punishment we are dishing out admirably.

We stayed in Tbaeng Meanchey at a gob smackingly fantastic place for $16/night for a double.  Unbelieveable to stay here for $8.  In the U.S. they could just name their price.  Hand carved hard wood throughout, marble floors, high ceilings – just unbelievable.  We had to tour around the city for an hour or so to find it, but very glad we did.

The little Cambodian kids are adorable. I want to just throw a few in my suitcase and bring them back – they are living in some pretty dirty conditions and are obviously so poor – but they are all smiles and happy. One of the girls at the ‘restaurant’ we ate at spoke a little English (they have an english school here) but she kept getting really frustrated when she couldn’t understand me. I just motioned with my hands to calm down and I found in the shop what I was looking for and pointed to it and said again “RICE”. She was *so* pleased to have learned a new word and to be able to communicate. 😉 I am learning a tiny bit of Khmer too.

The dogs here live a rough life. Many of them are so thin they look like little walking skeletons. The ones that have any meat on them at all are usually nursing and just have teets hanging down. We were feeding three of them table scraps last night and we had a lot of scraps. Between everyone at the table there were six whole (small) chickens. The dogs were happy to get the feet and heads and fatty bits and bones. But at the end of the night I guess they had a little turf war out in the street – must have had enough energy to waste it on fighting after all those table scraps. Well it was pretty dark and they were fighting in a roundabout , and a local on a scooter just like ours rounded the bend and slammed on what little brakes these things have but still ran into one of them and dumped the bike in the middle of the road. The dog ran off and seemed ok but the guy was pretty out of it – he must have hit his head pretty hard.  They don’t wear protective gear around here and most, like that guy, don’t even wear a helmet.

Today we are headed to see some of the temples in the North and then will head south to Siem Reap and meet up with Frank and John.  Several of us would really like to head up to the Thai border and visit one of the temples that are the source of a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.  Thailand is no longer shelling Cambodia in the disputed territory and I forget the name of the temple, but they are serious enough to have fired shots over it as recently as a year ago.  The temples here are quite spectacular and honestly sort of a dime-a-dozen, so that one must be pretty special to be so hotly contested.

However, the way to Siem Reap is just loaded with temples, so we will be stopping to see a few.  I am certain none of us will be clean enough to go inside after the hundred or so kms of dirt we will be doing to get there.  But it will be nice to see them from the outside.

Building up the ramp for the ferry from Stung Treng


Chaos of the ferry for the Ride for Cambodia team


Gary and Laurence are happy to be off the major roads


The new road to Tbeng Meanchey, Preah Vihear. This was some good riding


Gary explaining the crash to the guys after he picked up his bike (only a little damage to front fender)


We're all looking a little bit dusty after today's ride


Gary made it in without injury and is happy to be sitting on something not a Daelim


Sam is all smiles after finding the lady who not only speaks english but also s
ells beer.


First Day of Riding

12 Feb

By Gary:

Day 1 – We are in Kampong Cham – we had a change of route to avoid some wet weather on the coast where we were headed.

Yesterday was an eventful day. Between the crazy Cambodian drivers, the heat, the breakdowns and the, uh, “roads” it was a fun time. The way some of these guys are riding, I seriously doubt all the scooters are going to make it. It is pretty funny though to see them riding these things like it is a hare scramble. Most everyone is a pretty good rider but we are still developing into about three groups – fast, slow, and pepe l’pew. Two of the older guys, Frank and John ride slowly and deliberately and end up many kilometers back, yet somehow manage to be among the first to the destination. Probably due to less stops for repairs and picking up of thrown off luggage.

As far as a first day’s ride – there was lots of shake-down. Several people lost their luggage and their GPS and such, but with a couple minor exceptions everybody still has all their gear.

Damage for the day was mostly just to one guy’s bike – Lawrence’s. He broke his footpeg, lost his chain guard, ripped out (stripped already?) the case mounts for his pegs and had multiple and regular fuel problems until we finally found he had salt(?!) in his gas tank. By sheer dumb luck we found a welder on the road to Kampong Cham who welded and reinforced his footpeg bracket and re-fitted it for him. That was a lucky break. Riding these bikes at this pace on these roads, we have to be standing on the pegs just to prevent beating these poor little things things to death.

Rocinante is holding up fairly well. The front fender is a little off center and when the suspension compresses the knobbies eat up the right side of the fender a bit. I didn’t lose any luggage or have any mechanical issues. Actually she handled shockingly well in some of the deep sand sections on the road today.

I had a nice Khmer yellow curry last night. Best meal so far this trip – I keep forgetting to take pictures of the food. Nobody has tried to serve us dog yet except for some mystery meat in yesterdays lunch – of course I didn’t eat the meat so no fido so far. I haven’t had to break into the emergency meals I brought, though I might today just to shed some weight from my luggage.

Headed off to breakfast now. ttfn

Sand from Laurence's Tank


Improvised gas tank from water bottle


Traffic for the RFC riders in Phnom Pehn


The first fill up -- Buying gas out of a coke bottle on the side of the road before we take off


Riders Ready!


Scooters Ready!!


Buying Scooters in Cambodia

6 Feb

by Dean:

Team USA & Australia Arrive

It hurts me inside to know that i’m sitting on the greatest ever subject matter for a blog entry, but that i cant share it all with the world for fear of embarrassing some participants…

Rule no : 36 what happens on the ride, stays on the ride.

I will share this though.

Yesterday we went out to buy another 2 motos for Frank and John, a process which was much easier the second time around, then while they waited for a few things to be repaired Dave and i went out to the airport to meet the other guys arriving in the afternoon.

They were all really excited to have arrived in Cambodia, so much so that Paul and Gary doubled on the scooters with Dave and I for the ride back into the city

“i am so excited to be here, i’m literally jumping out of my skin!”

We went to a local market for dinner where they roast whole cows on a spit, drank some beers and got to know each other. The resounding theme from the evening was just how excited everyone was, and how much fun we were going to be having.

The beef on the spit was sensational, as was the Angkor beer that was flowing like the mighty Mekong itself and the night ended in a local bar in the wee hours. We did all make it back to the hotel though, and i breathed a sigh of relief when all the lambs were accounted for this morning.

Today was a repeat of yesterday in heading back to the moto market but this time to buy 5 bikes. The scenes were chaotic as almost every bike in the shop was test ridden by each person, and then the haggling for better deals began.

Sale prices were between $500 and $570, with the most expensive bike being bought by Matt after an hour of haggling, in which the price actually went up instead of down.

“this one how much??”
Wanna scrawls 600 into the dirt floor of the sales room…
“but when i came in here the price was only $550!?” retorts matt
The rest of the gang is trying not to laugh openly
“ok special price…” 580 is scrawled into the floor
“but i don’t understand, how has the price gone up?!”
“this one very good bike”
“yes but before it was only 550!”
“ok ok 570 but not less”
Now we’re all laughing pretty hard.

Rule no 54 : Don’t let Matt do the haggling.

Visa came to meet us towards the end of the process and was once again really helpful. All the bikes had a little something or other that needed fixing, so while that was being done Visa went to the Russian market with me to look for offroad tyres for the bikes.

We found a rear tyre but no fronts, so decided to leave it and just ride on regular scooter tyres.

A couple of hours later we met the rest of the guys who were now at the local repairer doing some preventative maintenance on the bikes, things like wheel bearings, brakes, getting faulty lights to work etc. It was really interesting to see the Cambodian mechanics work, and the biggest bill was still only $50!

At some point this repairer produced some offroad tyres (again only for the rear) but given the riding we have planned, we decided to try fitting them to the front as well, so it was now 7 bikes with full off-road tyres. For scooters they look really hardcore J

This all took quite a long time, so it was pushing 6

The same day after buying, we're now getting the scooters upgraded (new tires, chain, brakes, etc).


Everyone and their new Scooters!!!


Paul and Wanna's English speaking niece/.


Wanna Scooter Shop. She (and everyone else) seems to think we're impressed when they rev the throttle high. Apparently that means "Strong Scooter."


Frank and Dave on their way to the scooter shop. We may stick out a little bit compared to other Khmer riders


by the time we were all back at the hotel. A quick bite to eat and an opportunity for the most recent arrivals to meet Frank and John too. The mood tonight was somewhat sombre, but that’s what you get for drinking Anchor beer until 4am…

Which should bring me back to the point where i began this entry, but unfortunately rule 36 prevents me from sharing it with you all J

You’ll just have to come along in 2013 to find out!

Post Ride Edit:

Wanna ended up going back on the deal we set up and did her best to pay us as little as possible for the scooters.  Most scooters were returned in a condition much better than we bought them too!  She couldn’t even make eye contact with us as she knew exactly how she was taking advantage of us.  Ohh well.  The shop right before hers did a better job honoring some other participants deals.


30 Jan

It’s a special feeling to be on the eve of a little event that we dreamed up a year ago, and feel the excitement coming from the other participants as they converge on Phnom Penh from all around the globe. The facebook chatter as the guys packed bags, boarded planes, and then waited it out in transit lounges around the world, was really exciting.

Some excitement is a really good thing too because waking up it the unlit dungeon every morning is starting to mess with our zen a little.

Speaking of messing with our zen… last night we rode to the airport in the dark to meet Susan, one of the founders of Sustainable Cambodia. Armed with a GPS worth more than the motorbike (which i have named “Turtle” for obvious reasons), we figured it would be easy enough to get there. But since the traffic over here is chaotic and doesn’t move very fast, we gave ourselves half an hour to travel the 10km route…

Rule No. 8 : Try to avoid riding at night in the suburbs of Phnom Penh.

We were doing pretty well at picking our way through the traffic, but after 10 mins of travel I realised we were moving so slowly that we were going to be 20 mins late! Not wanting to miss Susan we tried to step it up a notch, so there we were zooming in and out of the other moto’s on poorly lit roads – which progressively became more deteriorated and even less lit.

A tuk tuk driver telling me we were going the wrong way should have rang alarm bells but it was not until all street lighting disappeared and we found ourselves riding through a busy market, negotiating trucks, hand drawn carts, effluent spills and speed hump after speed hump, that i realised we’d gone very wrong. The road did lead straight to the airport though, so we persisted until the gps route led us to a turn off the busy road and into an unlit building. Hmmm

We stopped just short of this, at which point a bunch of pretty girls in tight dresses and high heels walked over to us…

“what the hell are these girls doing standing around in the dark in this part of town” was my first naive thought…

Needless to say we didn’t stop to chat. A quick consult with Dave and we concluded that we were actually almost there, but on the wrong side of the airport. Oops. Back onto the turtle and finally the market road led us to the main road that passed the entry to the airport. It was wide and straight and well lit… i was finally going to have a chance to stretch the Turtle’s legs, and long legs they turned out to be!

You know how some old cars sound awful at 90km/hr but at over 100 they start to smooth out and actually sound better? Well the turtle is nothing like that at all. I’ve already mentioned that at 70km/hr it sounds like she’s about to explode, well at 90km/hr the experience is truly terrifying, and almost nudging 100 it feels like her remaining engine life can be measured in seconds rather than kilometres. Regardless of that we did get to 95km/hr! Yeah baby, Turtle’s got legs!!

Rule No 9 : don’t underestimate the Turtle.

While it’s nice to know that Turtle will manage more than a slow walk, we don’t plan to travel so fast as the conditions don’t lend themselves to it at all, so we reigned it in and arrived safely at the airport in time to briefly meet Susan and some of the gang from Sustainable Cambodia. We didn’t have much time to talk but it’s obvious that they’re passionate and caring people, we’re really happy to have partnered with them. Visa was there with her mum too, and with what little shyness she initially had towards us now completely gone, she wasted no time is teasing us about everything from taking the wrong directions to the airport to losing my parking ticket when we went to leave.

Back to today… our list of things to do included heading out to see the now drained lake in central Phnom Penh, get a haircut, work on the blog and meet up with Frank and John, our first two arrivals.

We got the blog out of the way early and headed out for a bite of street food at one of a thousand little kitchens that litter the sidewalks of this city. This one in particular was making some sort of little round food balls about the size of a tennis ball.

“what is it?”
“i have no idea”
“1 please”

There was a girl stirring a bucket full of some sort of white-ish liquid with some green stuff floating in it, and with a ladle she’d fill little cupcake sized holes in a tray sitting on a wood fire. After a minute or two another girl would flip these little balls, and eventually they’d be tossed into another pot of boiling oil to be deep fried before being drained and served.

We sat on stools about 30cm high at a little table and were served 5 of these little balls along with a small bowl of another white liquid. It wasn’t bad, but not so inspiring either, so we also ordered the other dish being prepared, which resembled an omelette but was actually just a skin of fried yellow something, with bean shoots, thin egg noodles and ‘maybe-chicken’ in the middle. This was served with a big bowl of green leaves, which I’m sure is picked from a several trees nearby, along with a few lettuce leaves.

I’d eaten one of these things the previous day, so i knew to refuse the cutlery we were offered and instead took a lettuce leaf, broke up the omelette with my other hand and put some of the filing in the leaf, along with the tree foliage and then wrapped it up with the lettuce a bit like a Vietnamese cold roll. This is dipped into a peanut-ish sauce and tastes delicious, the bill was only $2 for both of us!

Eggy Stuff


Devoured Eggy Stuff.


Rule no. 10 : street food rocks.

Belly’s full we set off for a street side haircut. This was easy to find as there are kids working in many of Phnom Penh’s streets, where an old chair and a desk with a mirror sitting on the kerb constitutes a hairdressing salon. There was the obligatory negotiation on price, which started at $6 and ended with $1.25, and then a genuine jostle for the business when they realised we both wanted to be cut at the same time. I sat there as a 14 year old kid went to work on my afro with a set of electrical clippers, while discussing politics and corruption in the Cambodian government.

The conversation was interesting, if a little one sided, but he was passionate about the plight of the Cambodian people and the widespread corruption that he put down to the high number of wealthy Vietnamese controlling the city. I don’t know enough about the situation to really engage in that conversation, but will try to learn more as we travel through.

Our first arrivals came in today, so we headed back to the hotel to met Frank and John this afternoon and went out for a beer or 3 and eventually some dinner later on. It was great to finally meet them and with 2 more Australians on board the beers came a little faster than usual. Dave was struggling to follow the Aussie accents, but had even more trouble keeping up with the rounds, and at 11 we said our goodnights and retired to the Dungeon, with a loose plan to meet tomorrow morning and go out to pick up another 2 moto’s, hopefully making Monday’s workload a little lighter.

Rooftop Beer


Rooftop View


“hey Dave”
“we forgot about the lake”
“oh yeah!”

Fixing Scooters

29 Jan

Once again today started with darkness in the dungeon, but according to our previous nights agreement (to get up early to service the bikes) we were both in the bright whitely decorated Blue Pumpkin for the now routine breakfast in lightning time. By lightning time i mean about an hour later, and not before Dave had well and truly tainted the atmosphere of the dungeon beyond thoughts of any further habitation.

I guess that’s one way to make sure we get out of the room quickly Dave…

Rule No 7 – Dave yields the bum gun with an iron fist. Be warned.

Last night over some beers we got chatting to some moto taxi guys about the going rate for bike service work, and armed with the new information we started by asking the hotel staff for the nearest strip of motorcycle repair shops.

The Official Ride For Cambodia Workshop.

“You go up and first of block, then straight and straight and on left side find”

“ummmmm ok.”

It was actually really easy to find, and in a new tactic for trying to close the gap between local prices and stupid tourist prices, we entered the negotiation by offering the correct amount for what we needed rather than asking for what it would cost.

WIN for the Ride for Cambodia team!!

Oil Change $5
Chain and Sprockets $9
Front Brake Pads $2.50
Rear brake light switch $2
Labour $0.50

Rule No 8 : First find out what something should cost from someone without a vested interest, then go buy it.

The guys in the shop spent a couple of hours on our bikes collectively, changing parts and chasing up loose wiring to get the tail lights working again. I guess that’s one advantage of using these bikes, there’s someone on every corner who knows how to fix them! We were really impressed with how quickly they worked, and the guys were really friendly and spoke enough English to tell us what the various parts would cost before going ahead and doing the work.

While the wheels were off we were able to check the wheel bearings, one of which needed replacing on Dave’s bike at a grand total of $1.50. Eventually we each paid our $19 bills and left 2 happy men.


No traditional gender roles here. This is the first time I've had my oil changed by women.


The older woman's assistant is by far the best dressed garage employee


The counter sprocket from Dave's bike was really worn. Dean's bike was in good shape


The work is quick and of good quality.


Electrical problem diagnosed and fixed in less than 30 minutes. Total labor cost: $0.50


The Damage. This shows that there is no reason to fix your own machine here in Cambodia.


Rule No 9 : Leave the bike repairs to the locals.

That done it was back to the hotel to take stock, eat some food, and generally be enthused about how easy getting some work done on the bikes had been. We resolved to return to the same shop on Monday and have all the bikes oil, chain/sprockets and wheel bearings changed, along with a check of brake shoes, and repair to any faulty wiring. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way.

I don’t mean this to seem as though i’m riding like a lunatic, but i’m trying to do a bit of a ‘high speed test’ to gauge what sort of highway speed we will be able to maintain with these bikes. The result is not encouraging. It goes like this…

Lights turn green and i surge forward in first gear to a max speed just a bit faster than walking, select second and nail it again. A few minutes later second gear has run out and i’m travelling marginally faster than a jog. Yawn… The jump to third is a long one so the little 100cc motor needs a bit to get wound up but at the top of 3rd I see about 45 or 50km/hr on the GPS – now we’re really moving!! This is the tricky part because the traffic in Phnom Penh only travels at about 40km/hr (max) so by now i’m working hard to judge the distance to the next potential obstacle… i snatch 4th gear and move into the left lane now outpacing even the bravest teenagers on their shiny new fuel injected Honda Dream 125cc bikes (insert jealousy here).

Fourth gear is L O N G so the speed now builds even more slowly than before, 55….. 56…..57…..58……59 well you get the picture. Eventually i see 70-something just as a huge black 4WD pulls out in front of me and i have to execute an evasive manoeuvre that even Bill Clinton would be proud of.

On my best run i think i saw 72km/hr on the GPS, by which stage everything on the bike was starting to shake and make those strange noises that usually serve as a warning to slow down. I think with a bit more road we’ll see over 80, but i have no idea how long the engine will hold together at this speed.

Rule No 9 : There is no shame in being towed to the finish line.

Street food in Phnom Penh

So I went out for a more leisurely spin on the bike for the rest of the afternoon, buying some antibiotics ($1 for a full course), and about 5 meals at different stalls i moto’d past while exploring the city. I love the little encounters you can have by eating in tiny little ramshackle places most tourists only take pictures of. First it’s surprise and the “are you lost?” look, closely followed by shock when i point at something and say “one”. Next people scramble to get a clean chair and somewhere for me to sit amongst the crowd of locals. Then there’s the raucous laughter by everyone present when the food arrives and i smell the various bits and pieces and don’t really know where to start. But finally it’s just warm friendliness as they mime out the process for me, then linger to see if i pull a face at the taste, and smile broadly at my approval. At the end of the meal i say O-kun (thanks!) and Lee-Hai (good bye) which again gets the crown laughing, and even more chatter follows when i get onto the Dailem scooter and point to it smiling and say “Mine”.

This trip is going to be so much fun.