It’s hard to believe we actually bought a motorbike, with zero previous experience, traveled some of the craziest roads with the craziest drivers in Vietnam and Cambodia and made it out alive! It was such a fun and exciting way to see the two countries and motorbiking was not something I ever really thought I would do.
After making the border cross with our bike, unclaimed by customs (which Kevin wrote about in the last blog), we arrived in Cambodia. It’s pretty uncommon for tourists to travel through Cambodia by motorbike, unlike Vietnam, so we got a lot of attention from the locals. They gave us thumbs up with big smiles, would stop us to check out our beautiful steed and give us advice on maintenance and where to travel to next. Kevin and I both felt this totally different experience when travelling by bike. It’s hard to explain but you feel much more connected to the people, the land and the country. You feel more respect and love, see so much more and end up in places you never would by bus. Not to mention everything was in our terms, we came and went as we pleased on our own timeline. Just writing about it makes me miss our baby, Celestine… That’s our bike.
We showed up in Phnom Penh (PP for short) after a 12 hour day on our numb bums from Saigon. We went from no riding experience to 12 hour days on a bike, jeesh! There wasn’t much in between the two cities and once we had set our sights on Cambodia we just wanted to get there. Instantly we noticed a difference in the quality of drivers. Although Cambodian drivers are still crazy, they are nowhere near as insane as the Vietnamese. Kevin and I would regularly lose our mind at drivers trying to kill us on the road. We rolled into PP and all the tuk tuk drivers immediately took to Kevin and wanted to be best friends with the cool dude riding in on his own motorbike. Wherever Kevin went, there was this regular group of tuk tuk drivers who followed him, always shaking his hand and greeting us. Those tuk tuk drivers, although pushy as hell, became our friends and gave us a feeling of comfort and home. We stayed in PP for several days getting our Burma and India visas and finally getting to see a western doctor. We got to know the city very well and it really began to feel like a home away from home which was exactly what we needed. We found the Cambodian people the nicest people we have met so far on our trip. They are incredibly helpful, friendly and laid back.
Why the need for a western doctor? Well I’ll try not to bore you but for the last 3 months, since Thailand, I have been struggling with exema all over my legs, arms and around my eyes. I get flare ups back home but can quickly calm it down with some regular treatment and prescription cream. Unfortunately with the always changing climate, dirty and dusty environment, lack of western quality creams and zero control over what goes into my food, I’m getting the worst exema I have ever had. Exema is incredibly itchy but itching only makes it worse. It also causes flakey white leopard spots more long term when in the sun. I saw several doctors along the way for my skin when it was at its worst. Each gave me a different diagnoses from nutrient deficiencies, skin fungus, skin infection and even syphilis for petes sake (no, I do not have syphilis)… Each doctor had their own treatments and discounted the last doctor. None of the doctors spoke very good English, they didn’t listen to me and their course of treatment in the end made my exema even worse. In PP I finally got to a clinic where there was a European dermatologist who shook his head at the previous doctors diagnosis and confirmed that it was severe exema… Man, do I ever appreciate our healthcare back home, we are so lucky with the standard of care we get. My dermatologist gave me prescriptions to treat the worst of the exema but after my second appointment it already started to creep back again. He said the best thing would be for me to get back home and get some long term treatment… Not what you want to hear when you have plans to keep travelling for a while. In the end he shrugged and said, if you aren’t going home then you need to stay out of the sun, don’t sweat and moisturize with creams that don’t have added chemicals. Again, not what you want to hear when travelling through Asia where everything fun is in the sun, it’s bloody hot and I’m the sweatiest person on the planet and every cream you find in Asia is either perfumed with a gazillion harmful chemicals or bleaches your skin white. It feels wrong blabbing about something that seems so small in the big scheme of what can go wrong with my health while abroad. However I’m realizing just how significant the skin system is and if I’m to be honest, it’s been stressful, extremely uncomfortable and makes me want to jump on a plane and fly home to get it all sorted out so I can get back to travelling to my fullest capacity. I hate being a complainer, it’s no fun, especially when I feel so lucky to be travelling the world. My skin has good days and bad days and I’m going to just keep trying to stay on top of it and stay positive. Whenever I am faced with health issues small, or large it teaches me to not take my health for granted. Our body is the vessel in which we experience the world around us. In order to feel wholeness we need the mind, body and soul all working together. It becomes very evident when one of these three parts feels off as the other two begin to suffer as well. There is a lesson to be learned in every hiccup or struggle in life.
Anyhow, back to Cambodia… While based out of PP we took a weekend bike trip to the coastal city of Sihinoukville where we enjoyed the beautiful ocean (from my lounger in the shade from now on) and went to a weird party festival in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere. When we came back to PP we were faced with a dilemma to sell our bike in PP and bus to Siem Reap OR do one last bike trip to Siem Reap, but it would be a long ass day. I had a weird feeling that Celestine had treated us so well this far with no accidents that by going to Siem Reap we would be stretching our luck a tad too far. However we hopped on our bike to complete the last leg of Celestine’s journey with us. Approximately 100 kms from Siem Reap we hit some gravel and slid our bike. I am so thankful to say what we came out of the accident with only a few bruises and cuts, nothing serious. Kevin was shaken up and with a pretty gnarly cut on his hand was unable to drive… Although I learned how to drive the automatic bike, I am not the smoothest of drivers so we got to the nearest town and sold the bike for $50 and got on the next bus out. All this took a total of 10 minutes as we had a crowd of men excited to get such a steal of a deal on a bike. When we bought Celestine we were prepared to just give her away to a local once we were done and we actually tried to give the bike away but the men just didn’t get the idea of a free bike. In the end we were able to recoup a portion of the $300 we paid for her. Celestine was a beauty and will forever be in our hearts… Who knows, maybe there will be a Celestine 2 when we get back home.
Siem Reap was a lot of fun. It has a great vibe and Angkor Wat was a huge highlight. After almost 6 months of travelling Asia I must admit, I am totally templed out. NO MORE FRICKEN TEMPLES PLEASE! Angkor Wat was definitely an exception to this however, as the size and beauty is like no other we have seen. One day in Siem Reap, we had a few hours to kill and didn’t really know what to do. We asked a friendly tuk tuk driver to just drive us around the city so we could get out of the sun and heat and still take in some sights. He brought us to the popular floating markets but once we learned that it would cost us $60 Canadian for the entrance to this tourist trap we opted out. Instead, we spotted a lotus farm on our drive back just as the sun was setting. It was absolutely gorgeous and free! A reminder that many of the best experiences while traveling aren’t written in a guide book nor is it necessary to pay a lot of money, but instead can be found by chance when killing time in a tuk tuk.
We said goodbye to beautiful, friendly Cambodia (with more tattoos on our bodies) and took a couple of buses to get back to Bangkok for our flight out to Burma. Our bus dropped us off just as the parties were getting stared on Koh San Road. After walking around for too long with our packs on through the craziness, unable to find any affordable hotels, we settled for a dingy hotel right in the midst of the action. Tired after a day of travel we didn’t have much energy or patience for Koh San road and tried to get some sleep. Unfortunately our entire room was rattling from the horrible music playing outside. We insisted we get our money back as our room was more like the inside of a boom box than a hotel room and paid a little more for a room off the main drag for a quiet nights rest. After a peaceful sleep our first night we had the energy to go out and party with our friends we met in PP the next evening and only got 4 hours of sleep before having to catch our plane to Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)! Totally worth it.
Loving you all from afar,