Cambodia by motorcycle…


How did I end up riding a dirtbike in Cambodia? Here’s the story so far.

Two months ago, sometime in mid-December, I had found out that I’d be going to Beijing for a week on business. I started scouting around for something fun to do at the end of the trip, since I had some time off saved up, and I would be on the other side of the world anyway. January would be cold enough that any extended travel in China or Japan would not be much fun, and motorcycling certainly wouldn’t be. I looked southward at the warmer countries, like Vietnam and Cambodia. Thanks to a Top Gear special I had watched, Vietnam sounded like it would be an incredible place to ride in. I included Cambodia in my search, even though I knew very little about it. I searched the internet for motorcycle touring companies in the area, and halfheartedly sent off a query to a company that looked like it had the best looking website. It was called Dancing Roads. I didn’t hear anything back for a few days, this being the busy Christmas season. Then one morning, I woke up to a reply from Sonia from Dancing Roads in Cambodia, who said that they didn’t have any rides scheduled for January, but they could put something together for me if I was interested. I think I can honestly say that this was the happiest day I had last year. I replied excitedly to let her know that I was very much interested in a beginner level dirtbkiking tour which would let me experience the country in a unique way. I spent the rest of the day dreaming, and hoping that this would work out.

I had a few qualms about doing any sort of organized tour, something that I have actively avoided, as it conjured up images of overfull tour buses groaning with the weight of bored tourists ferried between scheduled stops and unloaded at regular intervals to take in a bit of culture while insulated from the local people. It also went against the grain of self-sufficiency and independence that had led me to do my previous motorcycle rides on my own. My decision to go with a touring company in this instance was influenced by many different factors, partly on account of my experiences during my solo rides.

I didn’t have much time to plan out the details of such a trip, which would include finding a bike to rent, getting spare parts for it, research routes etc. There was a certain kind of freedom in being able to have someone else take care of all the details and just ride your bike and enjoy the ride. In the past, finding accommodation at the end of every day had always been a bit of a source of stress, especially in countries where they didn’t speak English. During many of my rides, I had been consumed with the minutiae of travel, like food and accommodation and hadn’t had the time to check in any of the sights. Another important factor was that since I didn’t have much experience with dirt riding, it made more sense to have the company and backup crew.

A month later, everything had been finalized. I would fly from Seattle to Beijing for a week, the fly to Siem Reap for a seven day tour. The tour would go from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh during the first four days, and a small round trip south to the beach area during the last three. There would be a good mix of sightseeing and riding. There would be four of us on the tour, two women and two men. Since we were all beginners to dirt biking, the tour would cater towards our skill level. We had the option to start out easy and build our skills us as each day progressed. We would ride Yamaha TTR230s. All we had to do was wait until the day arrived…