Day 1 – Siem Reap to Koh Ker


We set off at 8:30 from the hotel. After a brief stop for gas and adjusting of various equipment, we took off down the streets of Siem Reap. After a few kilometres of riding, we turned onto a red dirt road. I struggled on this for the first few minutes, like I always do on dirt, as I try to get used to the feeling of the bike moving around under me, and rolls over gravel and small rocks, and negotiates with bumps in the road. Pretty soon I got used to it and started speeding up. The bike handled really well, much like the TTR125 which I had ridden in the past, and better than the XT225, the dual sport which I rode. There was something to be said for riding a pure dirtbike.

This was the dry season and we kicked up a lot of dust. We shared the road with other scooter and bicycles and the occasional car, farm truck, cart and pedestrians, depending on how populated the area we were passing through was. People on the scooters and bicycles were wearing their street clothes and wide brimmed hat, occasionally wrapping their faces with scarves to guard against the dust. I felt a little overdressed in my full riding suit and helmet.


We passed through small villages where the houses were built on high foundations, presumably in case of flooding during the monsoons. Little kids on the side of the road waved excitedly, motorcycles being a rarity here (I had yet to see a single one on the road). It made me sad to realize that many of these kids were of school going age, but they were either working or playing in the streets. We did see a few children in school uniforms, but they were hugely outnumbered by the ones who didn’t appear to have had the opportunity to get an education. Seeing this and seeing the extremely humble conditions in which so many of the people here lived made me thankful for everything I had. It reiterated my belief that travel is such an important learning experience that should be a part of everyone’s lives. The more I see how other people live, the less judgmental I find myself, and the more thankful I am for the things I have due to nothing more than circumstance.

We made a brief stop at a temple and hung around a bit chatting with a food vendor outside, who had all sorts of fresh vegetables and disembodied animal parts for sale. It made me think of how real the connection between the animal and food is here, unlike in most developed countries, where unless you live on a farm, you can go a lifetime without seeing an animal cut up for food.




From here, we rode through more flat dirt roads for about 30 more km to get to the next temple. We parked next to a food vendor in a village and first got some coconut milk. I don’t think I’ve drunk it straight out of a coconut since I was a child! After this delicious break, we set off towards the temple. It was a 500 meter walk, so I took off all my gear. I was a bit relieved to not be wearing dirt bike gear that I couldn’t take off. My boots were the only things not conducive to walking around and exploring, but I’d deal.

It was a short but very hot walk, as it was almost noon and the sun was high overhead. The temple was a crumbling ruin. As we were walking past the first one, a guide magically appeared and told us that we could climb inside. He indicated a narrow flat stone stretched across what looked like a moat connected to the building. Sure, why not? We walked over it, clung to the building wall and walked along the side to the entrance of the building. There were more collapsed stones inside the building. We walked in and clambered onto them and walked from room to room. The guide pointed out various things like intricate carvings on some stone, and thick vines that had overgrown and taken over the stone. N0thing lasts forever! In my head, as I walked down a darkened passage, it felt a little awe inspiring that I was walking in the footsteps of people who had walked here more than a thousand years before. We saw buildings that had been libraries, bridges over what had been pools, coffins, and more intricate carvings of Vishnu and his wife.
We finally arrived at the place where our guide informed us that the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie was shot. It has been almost 10 years since I saw the movie, but the setting looked familiar.



When we were done, we tipped the guide and left. We got some delicious inexpensive lunch – I got some fried fish with ginger and rice for a princely $5 (tourist prices, but who cares at that price?).

The rest of the riding was on more flat roads to a guest house where we stayed for the night. I got to watch the sun go down in Cambodia amidst an immense vista of a completely different landscape that I’ve been used to.