Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cambodia is Colorful

 "SHOES OFF," read the sign at the entrance of the temple. Remembering that shoes are not allowed to be worn inside of Buddhist temples, I slid my sandals off and placed them on the nearby shoe rack.I continued into the temple sans les chaussures, feeling the hot,sun-soaked tiles under my feet. My jaw dropped as I walked into my very first Buddhist temple, Wat Phnom. 

Colorful Cambodia
The first thing I noticed was the bright colors of Wat Phnom. Saffron candles stood proudly in the temple's corners.  Burgundy bunches of incense released silver streams of smoke past the silent, yellow gold Buddha. Lilac-hued flowers lay on the ground and jasmine petals lay immersed in silver jars of water. Every inch of the temple seemed to glow.

Colorful Cambodia
While my eyes were drawn to all that was glittering and gold, Wat Phnom was a feast of scent and sound as well. I could hear the whispered chanting of loyal Buddhists who knelt before the golden alter. A light breeze stirred a clamour from tiny bronze bells. Invigorating jasmine cut through the smoky, rich scent of old-world spices that hung in the air.

I slowly walked around the central alter, upon which sat a gilded Buddha figure. The Buddha was quite stunning but my eyes were really drawn to the temple walls. Covered with murals, the walls of  Wat Phnom are painted with scenes from Buddhist mythology such as from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. I reveled in the paintings of gods, goddesses, elephants and men. 

Colorful Cambodia
Looking up, I noticed even more murals on the ceiling of Wat Phnom! It seemed like every inch of this temple was covered in vivid color. To this day, Wat Phnom remains one of the most impressive religious sites I've ever seen. These murals are really hard to beat!

Even the floor of Wat Phnom radiated color! I loved how delicate the fushia and cream lotus pods looked as they rested delicately over the printed tile floor. 

Colorful Cambodia
After circling the central alter, taking in the gorgeous murals and people-watching for a bit, I continued outside to have a look at the exterior of Wat Phnom. Because it is situated atop a man-made hill, Wat Phnom offers some nice views of the city. I had to dodge a few wild monkeys while walking around the temple but I found the temple's exterior to be lovely!

Colorful Cambodia
I walked down the naga-lined stairs to see a sculpture in honor of the Khmer King Sisowath. I learned that he was king during a time of fierce conflict within the country when French colonial rule became norm.

I enjoyed the beauty of Wat Phnom and I think it was a perfect introduction to Cambodia, Phnom Penh and Southeast Asian Buddhism. If you're traveling through Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom shouldn't be missed. 

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Cambodia Discovery  tour.Ancient temples, empty beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests... and (outside Angkor) only a handful of tourists. But the word is out - Cambodia has emerged from decades of war and isolation and is well and truly back on the Southeast Asian travel map. From Phnom Penh we fly to Siem Reap. At Angkor we have 3 whole days to explore the complex; from the splendor of Angkor Wat to the enigmatic faces of the Bayon and the haunting Ta Prohm temple, enveloped in the clutches of the jungle.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Roadside Smiles: Cambodia

By Willie Weir 

Family in Cambodia













When people say they've visited Cambodia, it usually means they have been to Angkor Wat. This ancient temple complex is often listed as one of the top travel destinations in the world. Many travelers fly in and out, bypassing the rest of the country.

At first glance, Cambodia doesn't have the elements most travelers are looking for in a bike trip — there are few paved roads and lots of dust. The country is relatively flat, so no epic mountain passes to climb. And yet, this small country is one of our favorites. Ask us (and just about any other cyclists who has braved the bumpy, dusty roads) why we loved it, and the reply will come quick ... the people.

 Bikking in Cambodia
Maybe that is the answer to why I've loved every country I've traveled. But the people of Cambodia hold a dear place in my traveler's heart. Pedal the back roads of Cambodia and you will be greeted with a tapestry of smiles more beautiful than a hundred Sistine Chapels.

One afternoon, Kat and I were pedaling near the Mekong River. We stopped to fill our water bottles at a roadside pump. There was a little girl, struggling to fill a five gallon plastic container. Her little muscles could barely move the pump handle. I offered to help, and took to the task with gusto. The little girl laughed. Then we heard a chorus of giggles and laughter and looked up to see a dozen faces looking out of the doorway and window of a wooden dwelling on stilts across the field. The harder I pumped, the louder they laughed.

It was just one of the hundreds of daily encounters. Nothing truly epic about it. And yet it is one of my fondest memories of our time in Cambodia.

Grand vistas please the traveler's eye ... but simple smiles warm the traveler's heart.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Biking Coastal towns and Phnom Penh tour.This trip is for those who want to see a different and true Cambodia by discovering coastal towns in southern Cambodia. The ride through small towns and villages give you a great experience of this beautiful country. The trip is balanced with challenging biking day and laid back time on Sihanoukville beach and Rabbit Island.

Highlights 
  • Beautiful cycling roads
  • Sihanoukville beach
  • Phnom Penh tour
  • Rabbit Island

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Cycle Cambodia

by World Biking 

Cambodia is well-loved for its exotic temples and spicy cuisine.Rachel Hugens shares some of the reasons why this southeast Asian country is a current hot-spot for bicycle tourists.

Reason #1  Location, Location, Location

Cambodia is a wonderful destination for a short cycling trip or traveling through as part of an extended adventure. Nestled between Thailand to the west, South Vietnam to the East, Laos to the North, and a coastal region to the South, there is so much to see in Cambodia and many border crossings.

Our trip started in Bali, Indonesia 3 months earlier and we cycled into Cambodia from Bangkok to Siem Reap on the dustiest road ever! As you pass through the border from Thailand, there is a switch from riding on the left side of the road to riding on the right and you begin to see the land of extremes.


Reason #2. Land of Extremes

You see ox carts that you later recognize as the same as the stone carvings on the walls of the ancient temples; overloaded vehicles (trucks, wagons, motorbikes, bicycles) carrying people and anything from live pigs to ice. Locals are wearing rounded straw hats or checkered scarves wrapped around their head and face or face masks to protect from the dust. Big black vases at the side of buildings collect water. Batteries are left at the side of the road to be recharged. There are no coins for money. Prices are quoted in US Dollars. Contrast this to the Lexus and Landcruisers carrying tourists or NGO personnel.

A taste of the exotic.
Because of the history of Cambodia, landmines are still being found, so it’s not recommended to free camp or get off the trusted footpaths. The good news is why would you want to camp in a tropical climate when there are wonderful guesthouses with reasonable (cheap) rates, hot showers, western style toilets, and TV with BBC news?

Reason # 3  Friendly People

As you cycle by you hear the children shout, “Sah- bye- dee, Sah- bye- dee, and bye-bye”, all in one sentence. School kids on bikes riding to? from? school any time of the day, and we never figured out the school hours.

Lots of waves and shouts!
Reason #4 Culture and History

Siem Reap with the ancient temples (wats) is Cambodia at its best. Plan to spend time in the city to see all the temples of Angkor. You can cycle or hire a tuk-tuk to take you around to see the sites. Besides the temples, it’s fun to see the monks in Cambodia known to carry umbrellas.

Phnom Penh with the history of the Vietnam war, Khmer rouge and the killing fields is at its worst. Though grim, the killing fields is a must see to understand the country you are traveling through.

The grim side of history.
Reason #5: Food

The French left a legacy of good coffee and baguettes. As you look at the food stalls along the side of the road or in the city markets, you see anything that crawls has been deep fried: snakes, frogs, crickets, scorpions– things people learned to eat to survive during dark times. To pose a question: Did the French teach the Cambodians to eat escargot or did the Cambodians teach the French to eat snails?


Come on, try something new for a change.

Our route through Cambodia was crossing the border from Thailand to Siem Reap. We took a boat to Battambang and cycled to Phnom Penh before continuing on into South Vietnam and eventually to Llhasa Tibet. We want to go back and explore more. Cambodia is a great country to see by bicycle!


ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Cycling Angkor Temples tour. Let’s discover the world’s remarkable awesome historical site through this adventure trip and grasp the reasons why the Tomb Raider’s film maker team chose the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap for its screen backdrops. Also experience the biodiversity of Tonle Sap listed as the World Ecological Wonder.


Highlights: 
  • Beautiful cycling roads 
  • Impressive Angkor temples
  • Boat trip on Tonle Sap

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Written by Mikey

So, the big one: Angkor Wat! Travis, Mike and Tracey have all been telling me it’s an incredible sight and that Siem Reap is incredible too. I must say, I was pretty sceptical. I’m the kind of person who will visit the Eiffel Tower, look at it for about 2 minutes, then turn around and watch people watching it instead!

But I must say, for the first time since my first trip to Ha Long Bay, I’ve had a tourist attraction live up to the hype. It’s absolutely incredible, and I want to a) let you know exactly what to expect, and b) why it is as incredible as people say it is.

Angkor Wat Temple
First of all when people refer to ‘Angkor Wat’, they are not normally referring to the Angkor Wat temple (the famous one, above); they are normally referring to the whole area of hundreds of temples, of which the temple is undoubtedly the most visited and most famous. The area lies just outside the town of Siem Reap, which acts as a launchpad for your visit and is full of hotels of all standards, and restaurants of all types of cuisine.

To visit the temples, you will normally get picked up from your hotel by a tuk-tuk driver (cycling is possible, but the distances are quite large). There are two main ‘routes’ around the main temples in the central region, but ultimately if you have done the research and wish to deviate from these paths, it is totally possible; your driver will take you where you want to go and when you do. Having said this, they know the area intimately, including the normal path of the crowds, so it can pay to heed their advice.


Angkor Wat Temple
I’ll deal with the main temple itself in a minute, but first I want to list some highlights that should not be missed. First is the temple of Bayon, in the centre of Angkor Thom (very close to Angkor Wat, much more spread out and less of one impressive structure). This temple, built in the 12th or 13th century is famous, for its multitude of mysterious faces looking out at you from every pillar. The size and number of them, along with the enigmatic smiles leave you feeling like it was built by some mysterious other worldly power. The picture below goes some way of showing what I mean, but it’s nothing compared to being literally surrounded by them.

The next temple of note is Ta Phrom, often referred to by the drivers as the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’. Yes, it features in the Lara Croft film ‘Tomb Raider, but it’s so much more. This was probably my favourite of them all. More so than any of the other ‘main temples’, it has a sense of being reclaimed by nature. Some of it is in ruins, but none of the sense of scale is lost, and many of the ornate carvings still remain. There are parts that are more tree than temple, and if the tree was to be removed the temple almost certainly collapse. It can get quite busy, but it’s not too hard to slip away from the crowds to find a place to sit alone and contemplate this really unique and special place.

Ta Phrom

Now seems a good time to mention the maintenance work throughout the complex. In many parts of the temples you will see maintenance work being done – machinery, scaffolding, bricks with identification numbers etc. Some people I spoke to expressed disappointment at this, but I think if you look at the information boards regarding restoration it is worth it. (I even thought seeing the ancient stone work, and the jungle both juxtaposed against the moden equipment looked kind of cool in its own way!) It is in itself a wonder in itself that in the early 20th century, archaeologists were able to reconstruct from ruins in the centre of the jungle with very little equipment and no computers. Finally, some of the carvings have been restored and are not original. At first this can be off putting as you don’t know exactly how old what you are looking at is, but after a while it becomes easy to tell. It is a difficult debate, because restoration allows you to see otherwise ruined temples in their former glory, but it loses some authenticity. All I can say to this is they seem to have struck a nice balance between leaving some temples as they were found, and some restored.

This brings me on to the last of the other temples I want to focus on – Banteay Srei. You’ll have to make a special request of your driver to get to here, as it a 30km drive through countryside to get there, but it is so worth it. If you go, go early and you may even get the place to yourself if you’re lucky. Hidden away in the middle of dense jungle, you begin to imagine being one of the original explorers who were told by the locals there were temples in the jungle ‘built by the gods’. This is one of the best temples to visit if you like the ornate carvings on the walls, as these are mostly in very good condition. Visit the museum there to learn about the restoration works.

Monks
So with my highlights out of the way – the big temple itself, Angkor Wat. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, it’s not the most ornate. What it is, is the most stunning example of what an early 12th Century civilization could do. With the central tower standing 65 metres tall, a grand walkway leading up to the central area, and a 190 metre wide moat surrounding the whole thing, it is hard to even begin to picture the amount of man-power needed to complete this wonder. It’s hard to say whether to see this first, or save it for last – we went for sunset of day 1 and it was reasonably quiet, but by then the carvings on the wall were not as jawdropping as the first ones we saw. Having said that the sheer scale, and it standing there in front of you, free from any overgrowth or collapsed wall eclipses anything you’ve seen before it. I think the best thing is to speak to your driver and see what he thinks it will be like on that day, but make sure you go at some point in your itinerary. The steps to the viewing platform close at around 5 though, so be careful (we missed it!).


Cycling Angkor Wat Temple
So to summarise; no trip to Asia can do without seeing these amazing sites. In fact, if you miss it on your first trip, it tends to mean you are not finished with South East Asia – you’ll be back! Nowhere else is the incredible history of this region as obvious, as magical, and as intriguing as here, made all the more unique by the collapse of the Khmer Empire and other tragic events in more recent Cambodian history. And in Siem Reap you have the perfect place to relax after a hard days exploring. Sure, it’s getting more developed and touristy by the day, but it is still so far off the situation at the pyramids you can still enjoy it without feeling like you’re on a conveyor belt, surrounded by McDonalds and tour buses. If you have not been here yet, add it to your list of future trips right now – you won’t regret it.

Recommend Cycling Angkor Temples and Kayaking Halong Bay by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA:

Highlights :

  • Beautiful cycling roads
  • Impressive Angkor temples
  • Boat trip on Tonle Sap
  • Hanoi tour
  • Halong Bay kayaking
  • Overnight on junk


Thursday, August 8, 2013

BIKING TO BENG MEALEA: HOW TO SEE MORE OF RURAL CAMBODIA

Written by Backpacker Becki

It took me over six hours to cycle to the jungle ravaged temple of Beng Mealea – a journey that would normally take an hour by public transport. Call me crazy, but there is something so wonderful about biking through the Cambodian countryside and avoiding the main, paved high-way routes.

Cycling Cambodia
My new-found love of cycling evolved once I had moved to Siem Reap, where I bought a bike as a means to ferry myself to and from work. But then I soon realised… in Cambodia a bike is your ticket to endless exploration.

This is when I started craving more of an adventure.My 20 minute bouts of exercise to and from work presented me with the same scenery and my random bike rides were becoming limited.

Countryside Cambodia

From simple countryside outings and the Angkor Wat temple circuit to tours that last days and which get you out of the city, there is something to suit everyone, whether solo or as a family. They seem a little pricey but the cost includes the bike hire, water, some food and temple entry. Sometimes paying a small price is worth not losing your head when you are lost in the middle of nowhere with limited or no Khmer language skills!
Out of all the day trips, I booked the one which looked most challenging and which would take me to a temple I had not yet visited – the 75km ride to Beng Mealea. Crazy is fun, right?

I was informed that the tour would be last approximately nine hours (from 7am – 4am). I assumed this to be a few hours of bike riding, a break for lunch and the temple visit, and then a few hours to get back. Instead we set out on a ride that would take us directly to Beng Mealea around 2pm where we would later get a tuk tuk home. It was MUCH further than I thought, but with a brand new mountain bike in my possession for the day, I was ready for the challenge.

Countryside Combodia
With a mixture of awe and agony, it was an awesome day. When using public transport to get to Beng Mealea you use a lot of main roads and pass through a village area on the approach to the temple. But when biking, you quickly turn off the first main road and begin a six hour off-the-beaten-track journey that takes you through some of the most stunning Cambodian countryside; where fisherman and ox cart farmers line the green, watery flatlands and where orange dirt tracks and luscious palm trees guide the way.

I’ve seen a whole heap of Cambodian countryside, and I spent a lot of time at work out in a local village, but this remains one of my best and most beautiful experiences yet of rural life. So much so I had to constantly stop just to take it all in and take some photos. My guide was patient and provided good insight, and for the entire journey (bar five minutes near the start) not one other tourist was in sight. Just me, my Khmer guide and the beautiful local people who waved and high-fived us throughout the journey.

I won’t lie, at times it was tough. I got tired and felt irritable. I had to pull over near the end just to down a bottle of water and a packet of crisps just to regain a little energy! I wondered why I put myself up for a Tour De Siem Reap after spending no more than an hour on my shitty Mary Poppins style bike!
But I did it. With a bike, you are the master of your own journey. You can choose when to slow down. You can choose when to stop and take hold of the scene in front of you. A tuk tuk or a car wouldn’t afford you with such an opportunity.

And the temple? Well, that was truly magnificent. It’s only been open to the public in the last few years so it’s not too ’touristy’ and ruined. Yet.

Not content with his awesome biking skills, my guide took me through a route of the temple where no one else could be found, where we climbed over toppled stones, wandered through lost corridors and swung on the branches that have weaved their way through and taken over the temple structure. We found peace at the end of a long and arduous day.

Even if you are not a regular bike rider, try a long haul biking adventure. See a different side of Cambodia. Go see a temple you might have thought was too far out of reach. And my one piece of advice apart from drinking lots of water and taking things at your own pace? Don’t wear a white top for your mountain bike outing. It will only come back orange.

Recommend Cycling Angkor Temples by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA:
Highlights: 

  • Beautiful cycling roads
  • Impressive Angkor temples
  • Boat trip on Tonle Sap

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cambodian Street Food

When traveling in Southeast Asia, a snack or a meal is never hard to find.  Food vendors who make a mean bowl of noodles, fried vegetables, dumplings, or sweets swarm the street corners and fill any available space in alleyways.  But, if the ubiquitous fried noodles or pad thai is starting to sound a bit boring, Cambodia is the perfect place to exercise your more adventurous taste buds. The streets of Phnom Penh boast a number of vendors who sell a variety of fried critters.

Enjoy a scoop of salty fried grasshoppers for a quick on-the-go snack.

For a meatier snack, try fried cockroaches.  Don’t think you can manage to gulp down a roach?  Just think of it as revenge for all those times they’ve scared you in the middle of the night in your hostel bathroom.

For a juicy crunch, try the fried larvae.

If you feel like something chicken-ish, try fried baby-sparrows (bottom), or fried bats (top).
For the Cambodian version of meat kebobs, try frog-on-a-stick.
For a slithery snack, try coiled snake.
Let's explore the culture of Cambodia with us: http://www.activetravel.asia/cambodia-adventure-tours-tl346.html

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Archaeologists Discover Lost City In Cambodia

Australian archaeologists using high tech equipment have discovered a lost city in Cambodia that had been swallowed up by the jungle and forgotten for more than 1200 years. The city was found using a sophisticated airborne surveillance systems called Lidar – which stands for light detection and ranging data. Mounted on a helicopter, the device uses lasers to penetrate the dense jungle canopy below, giving researchers an opportunity to discover things they wouldn't have been able to find on their own.

Archaeologists have discovered temple ruins near Angkor Wat in Cambodia
 The city, which was built during the European Middle Ages, is named Mahendraparvata and is said to pre-date the famous Angkor Wat ruins by as many as 350 years. It is believed to have been built by the Hindu-Buddhist Khmer Empire between 800 and 1400 AD. Previously there had been a few scattered ruins and artifacts discovered, but through the use of Lidar, the team behind the discovery were able to see just how massive and sprawling the Mahendraparvata complex truly is.

It is believed that the city was once surrounded by a large, open space without vegetation. In fact, deforestation may have led to the decline and fall of the city more than 1000 years ago. But without anyone to keep the jungle at bay, it was able to reclaim its lost lands over time. The jungle was so efficient in fact that it completely covered the area and made it difficult for anyone to discover the site, let alone trek to the place.

After using their high tech arial mapping techniques to determine the scope of the city, an adventurous group of explorers actually went out to see it for themselves. They've only just started to uncover the vast amount of buildings that must make up the site, but so far they've found two temples that are nearly intact as well as a cave filled with strange inscriptions and carvings.

It will of course take years to uncover the entire place and begin to see what is underneath. But I thought that this story was cool for the mere fact that I would have loved to have been amongst the team that went and visited the city on foot. Talk about a true adventure, that is something right out of an Indiana Jones movie.

Source: News

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Angkor Wat in Cambodia is such a magical place

BY NISA

What defines a magical place? For me, this is an easy answer: It’s a place with which I associate positive thoughts, calmness & strength. I’m not an esoteric person but when it comes to Angkor Wat, it almost feels like there’s some sort on energy in the air.

IMPORTANT HISTORICAL DETAILS ABOUT ANGKOR WAT.

What most people don’t know is that Angkor Wat (which literally means “City of Temple”) was actually the name of the main temple, not the entire complex. It was built in the time of King Suryavarman II in the 12th century and is the best-preserved & most visited temple at the site. The complete temple area was known only as Angkor (which is situated on the plain of present-day Siem Reap province north of the Great Lake of Tonle Sap) and it served as the seat of the Khmer Empire until the 15th century. Each king built at least one giant temple during his ruling, which led to a total size of 200km2.
 
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Second thing a lot of people don’t know: The discovery of Angkor by the french explorer Henri Mouhot is a bit of a myth. It is said that he re-discovered Angkor Wat in 1860 and that he was the first European to visit the area; both of which is not true. Angkor was never really “lost”. The Khmer knew of the existence even after the kingdom broke down. Some of the temples have been used all the time by fishermen and farmers who lived in the surroundings. In the 16th century, Portuguese missionaries reached the city and even reported about it. The interests of the colonial powers seemed to have swept this under the table…

Angkor Wat temple built for King Suryavaman II
TOURISTS AT ANGKOR WAT.

The temple area of Angkor is the most famous tourist site in Cambodia. It has become a symbol of this country, also appearing on its national flag. More than two million visitors come here every year. For the country itself this is a good thing, because there’s not that many other tourist attractions but for the complex, it’s not that convenient. Why? Well, let me try to get this straight: The average person doesn’t really look out for anyone but themselves … and that’s the truth. I could give you a million examples but for Angkor Wat in particular, I’ll give you these two:

1.) During our visit in 2010, we saw how some tourists leaned on a clearly not stable part of a less known temple … Do I don’t have to tell you how the story ended? No. Did they report it? I wouldn’t count on it. Did we report it? Yes, but the guys that we told didn’t seem to care that much.

2.) Four million feet each year (including a couple of thousand from elephants as seen in the photo below) can’t be good for these grounds. But that’s just my opinion.

Obviously I was not the only one who thought this because nowadays, you’re not able to get to all the temples as easy anymore. Some parts are even cut off completely (for example the door of Ta Prohm temple also seen below). Maybe the perfect photograph is ruined this way, but after all we want to enjoy this magical place for much longer!

This is the absolute last thing we would ever do...
Of course it’s also possible to enjoy Angkor Wat without all the tourists. Just leave the normal path and you’re in the middle of a (almost spooky) jungle. The arsenal is so huge, you could walk for hours and maybe even get lost at some point…

One of the face at Bayon temple.

THE JUNGLE IS TAKING OVER.

Not only the destruction of the temples is visible but also how the jungle is taking over the temple complex. It’s no wonder that Angkor Wat succumbed to the encroaching jungle…

The world famous Ta Prohm Temple in 2007.
Ta Prohm Temple
Above all, if temples aren’t your thing, don’t force yourself to see every last one of them. Travel is about making yourself happy.  Do what makes you happiest. 

Or you can refer the bike itinerary of one travel company: ActiveTravel Asia - one of the Indochina's leading adventure travel companies, offering Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling and family travel packages. Read more their Biking Angkor Wat itinerary at: http://www.activetravel.asia/biking-angkor-wat-t318.html

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

MOTORBIKING THROUGH CAMBODIA.


BY ULLI

The best way to explore a country is to have your own transport. Whether it’s a car, a motorbike or a bicycle.
The price for a car (especially if it’s a 4×4 truck, with which you can go off road) can often be very costly and not affordable for a single traveller. To go by bicycle is a great way to see a country but you need time to go around. So these were the thoughts when I decided to drive around Cambodia by motorbike…

GETTING A MOTORBIKE. 
As you may already know, I am female and 56 years of age.  The guys at “Lucky Motors” on Monivong Boulevard in Pnomh Penh looked a bit surprised when my sister Andrea (54) and I came in to check out their bikes ;) The decision, which bike to get, was easy: 2 Honda 125 ccm. They’re easy to handle & the locals use the same type of bikes, so in case of a breakdown they’re going to be easy to repair or to get spare parts in any village.

If you book a motorbike tour at a travel agency, you will be supported by local guide and All inclusive. You won’t worry about the trips, food, drink or repair bike…You only experience the beauty of nature on the road. So, we choose ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA

The adventure starts in the capital city and we traveled on 250cc dirtbike northward through scenic villages, mysterious temples. Highlight of the tour is the amazing Angkor Wat Temples. From Angkor Wat we head east to the hidden land of Mondulkiri, the land of exotic ethnic minorities and great nature scenery.

GETTING OUT OF THE CITY.
My worries where with something else…The drive out of the city of Pnomh Penh made me quite nervous the night before we set out. Well, all of my “fears” evaporated instantly when the first meters with the bike were against the one-way system in front of the rental shop (suggested by the rental company). Anyway, off we went, still a bit cautious until we got over the bridge out of the city. There’s so much traffic, but you adjust easily.

WHAT TO BRING.
One really important thing is to bring (and then wear) is a helmet. Both of us brought one from home (and all of my friends sigdned it for good luck which was nice) but you can buy cheap helmets in Pnomh Penh as well. You should also use gloves so your hands don’t get sticky. Bring long straps for the luggage, and if you intend to go off-road, a big strong plastic bag is a must – this will keep the dust off. Be prepared to be covered in dust at the end of the day!

Now what I call "Off-road"
SLEEPING
For the worst case scenarios bring a hammock; we had to use our hammocks quite a few times, when no guesthouse was around. Sometimes set up our hammocks in peoples gardes, who allowed us to sleep there. We even camped in monasteries, where the monks permitted us to spend the night; and well, one time we slept right in the bush. Sleeping outside can be very cold, so have a blanket ready. Overall it was an interesting and positive experience.

One of our sleeping locations during our trip
FURTHER NORTH.

We drove all the way along the Mekong river up north and then turned to the road to Banlung. They told us that the road’s going to be new in some months (or years); until now it’s still the old red soil road which is very (very!) dusty. During the wet season everything’s going to be covered in mud, don’t know what’s better…Expect to make not more than 100 km distance per day, biking is tiring when driving on potholed dusty roads.


After a few days in Banlung, making daytrips north to the Laos border region and exploring the area towards Vietnam, we set out south to the track that is called “death highway”. It’s mainly a small road, that winds its way south to Sen Monorem with very few people along the way. Occasionally there’s somebody whom you could ask for direction, but they always only point south. So, for this section bring enough water, food supplies and petrol!

Andrea on her way down the "Death Highway"
During the dry season it’s a very sandy track with lots of deep rifts, so some fitness helps a lot. It’s doable though, even without using these off-road 250 or 400 ccm machines. The locals drive with the little Hondas as well, so you should be fine. During the rainy season things look a bit different; this road can turn into a nightmare and only very athletic, experienced bikers should ride this section. You will have to shift through lot of mud and traversing the full creeks will need raft building skills above average.

RESUME.



All in all, we drove about 1400 km in 14 days. We didn’t want to rough it up, so we never drove faster than 65km/h and waited every 10km if one of us was a bit behind. We also had the bike serviced twice (oil change and washing). We always filled up the tank when it was half empty, just in case. Petrol for motorbikes is widely available in Cambodia. I can really tell you, going along the small roads in Cambodia is lot of fun; up the Mekong river you get to see villages that are rarely visited by tourists…So, did we enjoy the trip? Hell yeah! Next stop will either be Laos or Sumatra…also by bike of course ;)

If you have any more questions about the route, the equipment, places to stay or anything else, send us your questions; we’d be happy to help you with your plans.

Travel Facts:
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) offers a wide selection of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling, kayaking, overland touring and family travel packages. For more information, please contact ATA for tailoring your very own tour via:

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA)
Telephone: +844 3573 8569
Fax:  +844 3573 8570
Email: info@activetravel.asia
Website: http://www.activetravel.asia/
Address: Floor 12 Building 45 Nguyen Son Street, Long Bien district, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Motorbiking Adventure Cambodia_A real exploration of Cambodia

We’ve made a real exploration Cambodia by Motorbiking – through deep sand, thick jungle and past multiple temples.

Motorbiking adventure Cambodia


Leaving Siem Reap we hit the dirt straight away as we hopped onto Cambodia’s route 66. An easy ride to start off with along some wide red dirt tracks passing through local villages and some stunning scenery full of palm trees and ride paddies.


The riding then got harder as the day went on. First, we left the wide tracks for some quite uneven ox-cart trails through the jungle – this is when the trails started to claim their first victims as our riders started to fall off in the knee deep ruts. Then we popped out of the jungle onto some wider red dirt (and very dusty!) tracks again. These had some fun little ‘woopy’ bits and we were hitting these flat out! The dust clouds suddenly got thicker and then SMASH!!

Adam got taken by surprise by a very deep ‘woopy’ bit which he hit very fast and got flung over the handlebars and tumbled along the dirt. Amazingly though he escaped this with a couple of grazed knees and bent handlebars.

Bung Mealea, Cambodia
We stopped for lunch at Bung Mealea which is the site of an ancient temple. After this, it was back on the bikes to step it up a notch once more. More tight jungle riding, and now, some deep sand. So the tumbles kept on coming. We arrived in a small village near Preah Khan temple where we be staying the night in a homestay. The guys were battered, bruised and broken, so after a few beers and chickens that had been killed and cooked for us, everyone settled for an early night.

Motorbiking Cambodia cross rivers
The next day was much the same kind of chaotic riding across varied terrain. On this day we had a fully submerged bike whilst crossing one of the many rivers, and another nasty fall which resulted in Chris having to pull out of the jungle and nurse his swollen wrists to Koh Ker on the highway with one of our guides. The rest of us battled through the jungle until we popped out on the red dirt tracks that ride into Koh Ker past multiple lost temples hidden away in the forest. We arrived at our guesthouse to find Theara and Chris applying first aid to Chris’s wounds in the form of a crate of beers (alongside the pet Meerkat which we have now named Timone).

The morning of the final day was one of changing decisions. Reno (who might I add, was previously predicted by his mates to be the slow one of the group that was supposed to fall off all the time) was keen as mustard to get back out into the jungle and fight on through back to Siem Reap, whilst the others were feeling the strain – battered, aching, and swollen wrists and ankles, they were thinking smooth tarmac might be the more sensible option. But, as me, Reno and Lar were saddling up and about to say farewell, they said ‘fuck it’, and in true Aussie style they jumped onto the bikes and came with for one final day of ‘who know’s what the fuck is going to happen to us’.

Off road

More sand meant there were more innevitable falls and our supply of clutch levers was running desperately low by this point. But sure enough, we all made it out in one piece and cruised back into Siem Reap on the tarmac – so surely if we could get through all of that crazy jungle stuff we’d be safe on the black top right? Nope, not today… as we were passing by Angkor Wat, finish line in sight, Adam managed to crash into the side of a truck, which he says cut across his path. I’m sorry to write this mate – but you were kind of on his side of the road! But again, amazingly, he escaped with no further damage to himself or the bike – one lucky son of a bitch.

To sum it up – it was a crazy days with some highs and lows – but the riding was awesome, great bunch of guys and they loved it! Well done to all you for manning up and pushing through! Bring it on!

If you’d like more info on the kind of trips we can tailor make for you then Click Here to view some example rides.


Phnom Penh - Kompong Thom - Kor Ker - Preah Vihear - Banteay Chmar - Siem Reap - Kratie - Mondulkiri - Phnom Penh
14-day trip with 11-day motorcycling
Motorcycling grade: Challenge

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Adventure charity biking tour_Cambodia with ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA

On June, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA held successfully “Windermere Adventure Challenge - Cambodia 2013” tour_ An adventure challenge in the name of charity by biking. This is their story about first day in 9 days trip, cycling Siem Riep & Angkor temples

Day 1 - Siem Reap & the Temples of Angkor
Team Itinerary Overview
- Arrive in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Temples - Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants)
- Ta Prohm
- Banteay Kdey
- Cycling distance: Approx 40km

Before starting

Something old, something new, something borrowed… and a hell of a lot of orange!
For some, the challenge component kicked in as we landed in Siem Reap with the benefit of very little sleep and then hopped straight on the bikes.
So we could tell the bikes apart, challengers were encouraged to ‘bring a bit of bling’ and they responded with a colourful array that went well beyond the normal bells and whistles.
Cath Zulian attached a row of bright yellow flowers to her bike bag, forgetting that she then had to lug the colourful array around while walking through the temples.
Graeme Moore attached a boxing kangaroo to the front of his bike, Cath Sharpe a crocodile head horn, Suellen Conway bright orange plaited hair extensions (appropriate for a hairdresser) and Krista Tomlinson had a pair of fluffy dice swinging from the handlebars. Geoff Bainbridge was more nondescript, with a cue ball tube cover doing the trick.

Our guide
We were introduced to our guides. Bobby, the owner of Active Travel, Cheak, Benrut and John Wayne – who quickly earned the nickname of Duke. 
Short Man explained that many of the friends are actually smaller than he is! A photo was quickly arranged of Short man and our own “Shorty” Brookes.
Bron explained as we came in on the bus that Siem Reap was Cambodia’s second largest city with a population of one million (second to Phnom Pehn’s four million) on the back of the tourist trade around the nearby Angkor Wat temple complex.

Bike around Siem Riep

There are very few high rise buildings  because no-one is allowed to build above the height of the temples as a mark of respect.
That respect became obvious when our tour of the temples began. At one stage Short Man made a passionate plea to take in the surroundings, because the scriptures on the walls were the documents of the country’s history.
“The many people who built these temples did not get to see them, and you are,” he said.
Angkor Wat means ‘city that is a temple’. It covers almost 500 acres and had one million Khmers within its boundaries in the 12th century. Its man-made moat provides a complex irrigation system that at one stage provided for two rice harvests
It is estimated that 166,000 candles have burned in a single ceremony.

The first stop was at the main Angkor Wat temple, then the Bayon temple of faces, where many of the group tried to pose kissing one of the stone figures, and lastly the spectacular Angkor Thom, made famous more recently when Angelina Jolie ran around it as Lara Croft in the film Tomb Raider.
Shorty Brookes and Cath Sharpe took the opportunity to go into a healing room, where you back up to a wall and beat your chest three times. The thumping noise echos and apparently cleans the soul at the same time.
The ride from the temples back into Siem Reap was spectacular. At one stage we wound single file through a bush track and then found ourselves immersed in busy Asian city traffic, where the only rule is that chaos rules.

 Highlights of the first day in Cambodia:
Suellen Conway
The last temple, with the trees all intertwined. I loved the fact that they are restoring it, that’s a lot better than seeing rubble.
Geoff Bainbridge
The afternoon was just great. The weather was beautiful and the temples got better as we went on. Everything became a bit surreal and easy. The ride home to Siem Reap was entertaining and the first beer when we arrived wasn’t bad either.
Samantha Smith
It was a real thrill riding through al those motorbikes and cars on the way back to Siem Reap, They just don’t know where they are going. The fact that we got there without being run over is a miracle.
Gaylene Howe
Finding my make-up bag, which I thought I had left at home, in my suitcase when we arrived. I had already spent $75 restocking at Singapore Airport though!

Windermere is one of the largest and oldest independent community service organisations in Melbourne. And ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA(ATA) is adventure travel agency operate with Windermere. ATA offers a wide selection of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar TRUST adventure and RESPONSIBLE tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling.

You can find ATA via http://www.activetravel.asia/ or Fanpage Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Active.Travel