The Journo’s parents arrived in Cambodia and stayed across the road at Two D’s, so it’s fair to say I spent some time at my favourite haunt for a few beers.
I helped finish two more houses with VBC and we started to stand up a fence for VBC’s new warehouse out at the crocodile village, where we build many houses. Digging holes in the sun isn’t my favourite thing so I was more than happy to hear that we were doing a week of touring in the countryside with Journo’s mum and dad.
We took a private taxi to Battambang, which is about 170 kilometres from Siem Reap or a three hour trip, and we got there around 10am. We settled into the hotel then organised a trip out to the bamboo rail – a small rail line that uses a Honda-driven flat bamboo platform rail cart to transport people and goods several kilometres.
It’s very handy – especially when the tourists pay and the locals get a free lift back home. At $5 a ride per person it’s an experience with a difference but one I don’t think I will go back for.
The next day was the day I’d been waiting for. One of the Journo’s local friends, Sambath, organised a motorbike tour of Battambang for me and the Journo’s Dad (JD).
We were up at sparrow’s fart in the morning for an early breakfast and to prepare for the ride. I was a little nervous as I hadn’t been riding off road for 25 years and I’d only spent about two hours on the road in the same amount of time. JD must have been worse – I don’t think he has ever ridden off road.
We were picked up by tuk tuk and taken to the bike shop for a briefing, which was: “hello, please enjoy” and then we were off. I jumped on my bike to find it had no front brakes. The rental guy responded with: “just pump them when you need to stop”. No problem. So with all that sorted out we were off on our trip.
Getting out of the city and into the countryside was a piece of cake, then we were riding along the Sangker River. We went through some small villages on dirt roads, dodging pot holes, cars, tuk tuks and cattle while trying to keep our boots dry from the previous night’s rain, which had turned some of the road into mud holes.
And there was this narrow bridge to navigate.
We did a quick trip into Wat Baydomram to have a look at the colony of fruit bats then we were back on the road. Somewhere around here we travelled past the Bannan temple ruins located on the top of a small mountain and although keen to have a look I wasn’t keen to climb the many steps up, so we left that one for another day.
We left the built up area and headed off into some farming country away from the river, which surprised me as there were so many crops out there that weren’t rice. Vast tracks of land covered in a variety of different crops, which looked to be growing in abundance. Set against the mountains in the background, it is a very different view of the countryside from what I have seen so far. The land was undulating and looked to be very fertile – and it needs to be. Most of what is produced here is sent to markets in Thailand, which is not very far away and they seem to get a pittance for their crops.
We soon left the relatively flat country and headed up into the mountains between the Thai border and Cambo and we encountered our first bit of rain. So Sambath grabbed a couple of ponchos from a local store nearby but the rain stopped before we had time to put them on.
We were in the Samlout District where the Khmer Rouge had a strong presence in the 70s. I’m not sure if land mines have all been cleared from the area so when you need to go to the toilet you pick one that’s closest to the road and don’t be concerned about the one that’s bigger a bit further into the bush.
The rain had made the dirt roads a little interesting for me and JD and I think we were handling the conditions well other than the fact we were all over the shop as were both our trail bikes. I was thinking the going was a little tough until several 110cc Honda road bikes with boxes of veggies, piles of wood and some with three people on them, came from the opposite direction and appeared to be having no trouble at all.
After crossing the Pailin and Samlout rivers we seemed to have dodged all the showers that were around so we went up towards Pailin to look at a waterfall at Blue Mountain. But in the wet I don’t think getting there was worth the effort, although JD managed to put his bike in a drain without coming off, which was worth seeing. It’s a pity my Go Pro had gone flat.
After this it was a bitumen road trip back to Battambang and to Sampeau Mountain. This place has a spectacular view of the countryside and is absolutely worth the small cost to go up there.
At the bottom we waited at the bat cave to watch thousands of bats fly out to the river and countryside to eat. This is also where the rain finally caught up with us and on the way home we got soaked to the bone.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was freezing cold – nah just bullshitting you, it’s always hot. But it was dinner time so we headed off to Battambang’s Pub Street for a meal.
I want to say a huge thank you to Sambath from Motor Adventure Mountain Tours for this fantastic one-day experience. We toured through some stunning country and saw things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen and had a heap of fun doing it. Sambath tailored this tour to our riding ability and factored in that I hadn’t ridden off road for many years and JD never had but still included trails that made it an adventure.
Some tips if you are planning to do a motorbike tour with Sambath:
- Make sure you have long pants and I recommend long sleeved shirts to protect you from the sun, the mud and scratches.
- Make sure your travel insurance covers you for this kind of adventure – not all travel insurance automatically covers you for off-road motorbike riding.
- Be prepared to eat at the local restaurants in the villages along the way.
This was a one-day motorbike tour of Battambang that started at 9.00am and finished at 6.00pm. Sambath also offers three-day, four-day, five-day and eight-day motorbike tours from Battambang and through the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia’s south-west. Destinations include Tmorda, O’soum, Kohkon and Areng. Some of the longer tours include camping, ferry rides, swimming and beach visits as well as jungle and rural villages.
The tours run all year but Sambath said December to February and March to the end of July are the most beautiful times and it is not too wet and muddy.
If you are looking to see a different side of Cambodia I reckon you should give Sambath’s tours a go. You can contact him through the link to the Facebook page or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: +855 89 224 517 / +855 96 200 673 9.