There's something about
waking up in a new city.
Your eyes peel to the
sunlight with a stream of
thoughts flowing through your
mind things to do, places to
see, food to eat. As we stepped
out of our nights' hide-out, we
were fully excited about taking
a tour of Cambodia in our
bug-eyed Baja 250s (bike).
The tour's first stop was Kep,
a coastal town in southern
Cambodia that seemed isolated
and unexploited by tourists.
First stop Kep
We, the group of bikers zoomed
in our Bajas, which are quite
unlike anything available in
India. Powered with 250 cc
motors and built to look like dirtbikes,
these motorcycles are
capable of going anywhere and
everywhere you'd possibly want
to take them. Highway 3 leads
down to Kep but with the annual
reconstruction work on, we took
a detour. It is roads like these
that give you a true perspective
of Cambodia. It's far from
Phnom Penh's rap-star lookalike
Khmer boys in their Chevy
Suburbans and glass buildings.
It's the place of stilt bamboo
houses and hammocks made of
torn fishing nets for furniture.
Where a square meal consists
of rice and a broth of any kind
of animal or insect that can
Kep arrived a few hours later
as we rumbled down a sea front
avenue with decrepit and ghostly
French bungalows. Once a popular
beach resort in the colonial
times, the place is now stuck in a
time warp with a couple of eco
resorts sprouting up just recently.
There was a motocross rider
who led us through some tight
tricky trails up the mountain in
Kep's forest reserve.
Cambodia's great lake
With Kep checked off the map,
we were bound to circumnavigate
the great Tonle Sap lake.
But before that, there was a
night's halt back in the capital
city and a mandatory visit to the
Genocide museum which bore
witness to Cambodia's dark past.
As we entered the eerie gates of
Choeung Ek, an orchard that the
Khmer Rouge used to systematically
execute 17,000 victims,
bolts of lightning and deafening
thunder rumbled in the skies on
a bright summer day.
Lake or playground?
Going around the Tonle Sap via
Siem Reap and Battambang was
the plan. But who was to know
that the Tonle Sap had now been
reduced to a stream and what
was once the lake was now an
open playground for us Tomb
Riders. We took a detour off
the highway and rode for
miles on end in chase of the
elusive waters of the lake but
En route to Siem Reap, we
stopped at a Stoung, a small
town known for its deep-fried
delicacies tarantulas (hairy
spiders) and crickets. While the
locals say the tarantulas act as
an aphrodisiac, my take was
that they tasted taste like, well,
spiders and I passed.
Having visiting the Angkor
ruins before, visiting them wasn't
a priority for me. But an outing
on National Road 66 is what
made the road trip worth it.
National Road 66 skirts
around the main Angkor complex
before turning deep into the
forest. The serenity of the place
was briefly interrupted by our
motorcycles as we rumbled in.
But as soon as the dust settled,
the magical sight of the Beng
Mealea temple draped in a
beam of moon light emerged.
The thought that I was so far
from civilisation and yet so close
to its origins was an overwhelming
feeling. And all it really takes
to get you here is a motorcycle.
Two wheels really move the soul.