Gotta be perfectly honest with you. I had no real desire to make this trip. The thought of going to “ The Land of Mud & Skulls” was not my first, second or even fifth choice for a vacation spot in South East Asia. Why would anyone want to go to the real killing fields to see a bunch of old temples? Reluctantly I got on the plane and after a ½ hour flight from Bangkok, Canoli Wife our friend Jessica and I landed in Siem Reap Cambodia. We and had a nice easy day of looking around Angkor Wat. You know something… this place lives up to all the hype. It is incredibly beautiful and is a MUST see when in Cambodia. The next day the ever-thoughtful Canoli Wife had arranged for me to spend some time on a dirt bike while she and our friend Jessica went for a hike in the jungle
She knew that I had no desire to see waterfalls or walk around any more old ruins. She knew that I needed to get away from the tourists and out into the REAL Cambodia and that a dirt bike was the best way to do it (talk about a keeper) At around 0800 we were picked up at our second class hotel ( HA) by Hidden Cambodia Dirt Bike Tours and brought to their shop to meet my guide for the day (Seng), get a briefing ( you are going on dirt roads, through the jungle and will stop for lunch and to see a temple), and to pick up my bike ( Honda XR 250). Having just rented a bike a few weeks ago in the states I was surprised at how brief the briefing was. I was asked point blank if I knew how to ride and when the last time I was on a bike. After demonstrating that I knew where the handlebars were and that I knew how to start the sucker, I said my goodbyes to Canoli Wife & Jessica and sped out of the parking lot in an attempt to keep up with my guide. Right away Seng was out to see what kind of rider I was. We raced through Siem Reap dodging TUk Tuk’s, pedestrians and min-busses, wheelied through a roundabout and tested the very edges of the Honda’s knobby tires. This urban supercross continued until we found where the pavement ended and turned left into the jungle. At first it was all I could do to keep Seng in my sights. I was having some trouble trusting a new to me bike with a twitchy front end …..and man that dude can flat out ride. He was flying over woops and dancing around Volkswagen sized potholes on soil that more closely resembled beach sand then dirt. This was shakedown time. As a guide Seng needed to know right away what he was dealing with. Could I ride or was I some noob with all the gear and no idear (I know I spelled that wrong…thanks for looking) With some effort and faith in my bike I was able to keep up with him right until the first water crossing when stopped to take this picture: With water up to the middle of my headlight I made it across with panache and stopped on the other side of the creek to have a proper introduction and a few laughs about what just transpired. Seng’s English was perfect and he even understood my NJ sarcasm. Back on the bikes the pace slowed a bit ( a very little bit) and we settled into the ride. The roads varied between hard pack dirt fire roads to axle deep sand single track and everything in-between. After a brief slowdown for a Cambodian traffic jam we pressed onto our first rest break of the day in a local village. At the “corner store” I was offered what looked and tasted a yam ( guessing it WAS a yam..) and almost adopted a co-pilot . Ok one more pic before I put the camera away: Akon ( thank you) smile and a wave then back onto the trial. Roosting the back tire and doing my best flat tracker through the corners I was in dual sport bliss. Racing through deep brush then popping out into a town or onto a small slab of asphalt was fantastic. In almost every village all the children would come running out of their houses to wave, smile and encourage us to jump as high as we could over bridges or ½ buried water pipes. It was like every kid in the country knew how much fun I was having and just wanted to be part of the experience. After a few hours of riding it was time to stop for lunch to visit Beng Melea temple ( it was like this when I found it) …and for a quick card game: Since Canoli Wife Jessica and I were scheduled to visit Beng Melea temple the next day and I really wanted to ride we didn’t stay long and got back to it. All was going well for at least 3-4 miles until we hit some very deep sand on a double track road. I was a bit too twitchy on the throttle and I soon found myself face down in the sand. Got up, brushed myself off, put the key back in the ignition (bike never stalled) and kept on trucking until the next village where we were stopped by some “road works”. Or rather make that two huge excavators creating a road. Since we were making good time and the locals seemed friendly we took the time to grab some Thai strength Red Bulls and snap some pictures. About 45 min after some more laughs and language lessons we re-started our ride and….. just outside of town stopped because my clutch cable came loose. A whopping 3 min later Seng had it fixed and we continued our rip through the Cambodian backcountry until it was time for another rest and water break ( did I mention how fregin hot it was?). While stopping for water we were offered some palm wine by one of the local women. Those who know me know that I’m never the one to turn down a chance to try some local brew. The palm wine was a bit biter and tasted like unfinished beer wort. I told her about the American version, moonshine, and tried my best to describe it (looks like water but tastes like fire). A few more laughs, quick goodbye and a wheelie out of town to the last bridge crossing and the home stretch. Riding the last few miles with the sun setting around us my smile was so wide I thought it was going to crack my helmet. Was I really here doing this? Did I just see 20 Ox carts in a row? Did I just twist the throttle a bit too hard again and wind up in the bushes? Is that really a whole field of workers stopping to wave at us? I really didn’t want it to end, but back at the shop Hidden Cambodia had one more gift for me. Why would anyone want to go to the real killing fields to see a bunch of old temples? Because this place is not the Cambodia that you think it is. It is warm, welcoming, picturesque, filled with generous people and some of the best dirt roads in the world. This place is a dual sport rider’s paradise. Next time I go back I guarantee it will be for more then a quick weekend trip. Thanks to Canoli Wife for this.