Saturday, March 16, 2013

Phnom Penh, Rules of the Road?

We were a little nervous on our final day as we returned to the bustling city of Phnom Penh.  We were unsure how we would fair in the flow of traffic as we worked our way back to Bernie's Bike Shop.  The challenge is not so much the volume of traffic, but rather our lack of familiarity with the local rules of the road.     The truth is that the only true "rule" is that one should remain highly predictable to other drivers at all times.  Maintaining a steady pace seems to help with this.  :-)

HK Airport Fashion

We are enjoying our last meal of dim sum at the restaurant near our departure gate in the Hong Kong International airport.  Our travels have taught us many things, none more important than appropriate airport fashion. ;-)

Monday, March 11, 2013

MJ Cafe at Ponte 16 Macau

Seriously,  they have a Michael Jackson museum
here inside the hotel.  Just stopped for cold one, I'm at loss for words.

And guess what,  they only play MJ.

Google it, there must be some connection. ..

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rooftop Panorama of Phnom Penh

As Paul mentioned in posts below ... we did finally make it to the Eclipse Roof Top Restaurant and Bar in Phnom Penh.  This is a short video of us wondering around the rooftop like clueless tourists.  We could spot the windows to our room at Villa Paradiso and other landmarks.  This would have been an interesting view in the evening, but we were too tuckered out after dinner to return.

Goodnight and Goodbye Cambodia

Cambodia has been a terrific experience for Steve and I.   Thanks to my friend Jason Lum for planting the seed about what great destination this could be, and how cool it is to see a nation re-inventing itself.

Cambodia is industrializing quickly,  and I'm glad we had a chance to visit before the transformation is complete. Our ride guide Vut tells us that 95% of his old trails are now private property,  or turned into roads. 

The people were very kind, helpful, and endearing.  The food was fantastic, and the weather... well it was sunny and hot every day.  I'd plan my next trip for Dec, when its a little cooler,  but I'm still glad the hot weather hasn't arrived yet!

Off to Hong Kong and Macau tomorrow morning!!

Goodnight Cambodia!

STILL WALKING Monivong Blvd...

After reaching the end of  the boulevard, with no tower,  we asked some guys working at the gas station.

One of them seemed very confident he knew where it was.  3 kms back the way we had came - on the left.   Well, this was useless because that where we started.

We started back and after a discussion with 4 Tuk Tuk drivers that should have yielded peace in the middle east with the amount of head scratching and so on - none of them knew where it was.  One of them would give us a ride for 3 bucks tho...

We kept walking..         

About three kilometers, 2 diet cokes,  2 waters,  and 2 beer later we were almost back to our start.  We could see our towers we had seen the day before in the  distance... crap...

We crossed to the right hand side of the street & stopped for a bite at Cambodia's McDonald's called BB Burger or something.   Home of the Camburger.  Meh.

Little known to us (because we're dense), across the street from us was a 22 storey building,  the only building over 4 storeys anywhere close by. 

Written on the front of the building, "Phnom Penh Tower".

Oblivious, we soldiered on in the heat of the mid day sun towards the skyscrapers in the distance...

Now that we know the punchline,  I'll be brief with the rest.

Got to the skyscrapers, found they're not the PP Tower,  called the search a failure and went back to the pool with early signs of heat exhaustion presenting themselves.   We are just penguins here!

After a cool down in the pool and a snack Steve got diligent on the Google,  found the tower, 600 meters from our doorstep.   We went up and took some pictures.  omfg!

Edit. I Have added a picture of the tower as seen from our room.  Hehe what bone heads.  

Monivong Blvd Stroll - Honda dealership

Very cool to look around the Honda dealer, they have ONLY scooters.

Off to the side of the showroom they have  Mr Lube style repair bays with the cleanliness of an operating room.  Super cool.

There's comfy stools and free wifi to pass the time while you watch the mechanics tend to your ride.

BTW, price for a new Honda Dream 125 was $1096.  It looked like an updated version of the passport 70. 

Last Day in Phnom Penh - walk Monivong Blvd

This was just a comedy of errors...

We had decided to try and find this spot called the eclipse sky bar at the Phnom Penh Tower.

Noone we asked had ever heard of it, but it is a rooftop restaurant & lounge on the 22nd floor of the PP Tower.

A quick google search came up with the sales office at 455 Monivong Blvd.

Monivong Blvd is just a few blocks away, we're on 202 street.  So the long walk down to 450th street started.

We had seen a couple huge towers on our ride back into town,  so we were "assuming" it was one of them...

We walked for was 35 Celcius very humid.  No sign of of the tower, but we did see some interesting shops.

Check out the names on the signs.

Dining Room Panorama

Just ordered dinner at Villa Paradiso, last night in Cambodia. 

March8, Return to Kampot Photo Op

Vut arranged for us to meet up with Moll on the roadside after leaving Kep.  We had an ice cold orange pop and everybody took pictures.  A little girl walked by and said hello so Paul gave her one of the Canada pencils he has been carrying in his pack.

March8, Some Single Track on Way to Kep

Vut lead us down a patchwork of single track through an agricultural area next to a few small mountains on our way from Kampot to Kep.  This is fun riding, but I'm not able to do much sightseeing along the way as I concentrate on the next turn in front of me. :-)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Laundry Day at Last!

Depending on the limits of your imagination, the smell of riding clothes after nearly a week of tropical weather rates number 2 on our top 5 stankiest stinks of all time.

1. Burning Garbage
2. Steve's Riding Gear
3. Hot rotting garbage in the sun being urinated on by a bum
4. Open Sewer
5. Stray cat lit on fire

Please Keep Your Wheels Vertical!

Vut is an amazing guide who lead us through a variety of riding challenges.  I really loved this section because I felt like I was simultaneously at the beach and in the jungle at the same time.  As always, I found the intermittent and ill timed deep sand a challenge, but I loved every meter of it.  Halfway through I puckered up rather tighly as we pot committed to some very deep ruts that are deal breakers for motorcycles.  You spend every micro-second of off-road riding manipulating what you have control over to avoid a rut trapping your front this video, in a split second we are all pot committed. The punishment for such an indiscretion is normally Tee-ing your bike and playing superman over your handlebars.  This time, I avoided the unscheduled dismount from my noble steed.  :-)

National Geographic Presents - Wild Cambodia

Motoring up the Kampot River (actually an estuary), our buddy Moll points out the cashew trees and explains how bitter they are.  "You can't eat them", he explains.  I channel my inner Attenborough, a little Dr. Suzuki, and maybe a couple pints of lager, and pontificate on the noble Cashew tree!

March 8, Secret Beach Single Track

On our loop from Kampot to Kep and back, Vut took us to what he translates as "Secret Beach" in English.  My sense was that this is a quiet vacation spot for Cambodians.  The large family next to us was all together playing a card game around a table in the shade of a palm tree sharing outbursts of guts and glory as the cards fell.
 Vut's plan was for us to each enjoy a freshly cracked coconut to drink here.  As it turns out they were sold out!  Bummer, but they had Coca Cola as a backup.  That's bad for my teeth (and makes me look chubby in these videos) but I was hungry so I threw my teeth (and figure) under the bus and imbibed in the black fizzy nectar of The Man.  Oh, that sounds much worse than it was...almost.
The departure from Secret Beach is a little technical as riders say.  The difficulty is not the trees and twisting single track.  The technical challenge is actually the very rapidly changing terrain under your two wheels as you chase Vut.  Motorcycles are not well suited to riding in the sand.  Vut makes it look effortless as he rides half speed for us.  This is a long video that I thought about chopping to make it more internet friendly.  However, this section of riding is a true treat even for an intermediate rider like me.  For those gear heads out there...please imagine ripping this up at 9 tenths. :-)

Survivorman - Cambodia!

WARNING! - These are beer drinking professionals, please do not try this at home.

Chicken to Go

There's a lot of "firsts" in Cambodia, and this one was no different.  The chickens are alive and gawking around as they breeze along on their way to market.

By the time we saw our 3rd "chicken truck", it already seemed common place.  Cambodia is like that, you just go with the flow.  Like the wind through a chicken's feathers...

You Monty Python fans will like the captions.  Think, "bring out your dead!"

March 8, A Little Cray Cray and Gettin' Up in My Grill

Vut has been guiding in Cambodia for about 10 years now.  He says that many of his favourite trails have been turned into roads and/or closed off in private property.  More than once we had to re-direct to navigate around some of these obstacles as we came upon them.  On March 8, we did a loop out of Kampot over to Kep and the Gulf of Thailand.  Along the way, we stumbled into someone's backyard.  The man that "greets" me in this video is definitely a little wired, but harmless.  Apparently there really is One in every village. :-)

March 7, Lunch and Potty Talk

Vut towed Paul to our lunch spot where he was able to fix Paul's bike thanks to the impact wrench at the Goodyear tire shop across the street.  While Vut wrenched the bike, Paul visited the Water Closet behind a hanging bed sheet.  Knowing that I'm hungry for worldly knowledge (and that I'm a total juvenile), he recommended that I visit the men's room.  Behind the bed sheet I found two doors, both labelled in Khmer.  I picked the one on the right which was in fact the Ladies room.  Bad boy!!  From what Paul described, I understand that the Ladies room is much more plush than the Men's.

March 7, Kirirom to Kampot - Breakdown

On our way from Kirirom to Kampot, the countershaft sprocket retaining nut on Paul's bike fell off.  (That's the nut that keeps the little sprocket in place beside the engine that pulls on the chain).  The little sprocket fell off and oil started leaking out of the crank.  I raced forward to flag our guide Vut down and let him know Paul had powered down.  I then found a bit of shade to wait while Vut went back to hook a tow strap up to Paul's bike.  I decided to take a little video of the rice fields.  Oh ... and I discovered there seems to be an obscure optical glitch with my Monkey Cam that makes me look a little chubby!  WTF??  ;-)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Natural Umbrella

This is the tree on the beach which is a perfect parasol!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Warning - do not ingest

Just tried a new beer here in Kampot, this is a strong Lager.  It's sort of like Colt45 or Wildcat Strong.

It's called "KLANG", and it's awful.  FYI and YMMV.

Delayed Post, Breakfast Voyeur

We really enjoyed our breakfasts at Villa Paradiso in Phnom Penh.  We will return there tomorrow when our ride is done and stay two nights before transiting to Macau.
Here's a video for those food voyeurs out there. :-)

Delayed video post from Phnom Penh

My video sunglasses (a.k.a. Monkey Cam) are a little fussy with connectivity so I have not been able to find a suitable upload point for a few days.  The hosts at Natural Bungalows have kindly permitted me to connect my sunglasses to the computer at their check-in counter.  Even that was not straight forward ... after altering a few security settings in their browser and circumventing a government filter on youtube we are finally uploading ... albeit at about 9600 baud!

This particular video is from the Central Market in Phnom Penh.  It was a huge building that looked like some sort of temple with hundreds of little shops inside and out.  We did a little shopping for the kids. NO, we did NOT buy TOYS Trent...sorry!

Breakfast in Kampot, Friday

We all met for breakfast on Friday morning at the Happy Bungalow on the Kampot Riverfront.  Paul showed Vut our this blog on his smartphone and he was very interested.  Vut has been taking a few pictures and video's on his iPhone and would like to post them on the interwebs like us.  This is a video of Paul helping him.

Road to Kampot continued...

We rode without a lot of stops today, we were trying to make it to Kampot by noon.

We passed through various small villages and plantations along the way, and rode lots of sandy two-track.

We paused in the shade of trees and attracted the attention of some local kids.

I'm not fond of photographing the kids, but I let them see themselves in the front camera on my phone.  A couple of them were quite surprised.  Vut says they don't see dirt bikers or foreigners out this way so we were quite the sensation.

I had brought some glow in the dark wristbands and handed then out to the kids,  with soke explanation grom Vut.

There was girl there about Aidan's age that knew a few words if English which was pretty cool considering where we were.

Steve and I know how to say "hello" and "thank you" in Khmer.   :/   So we make sure to say our 2 words to anyone that'll listen.

The Road to Kampot

We dozed in and out until almost 5:30.

I awoke around 4:30am with a case of the squirts,  but better living through modern pharmacology prevailed.   I was fine for the rest of the day.

Today we decided we would start early and finish early to avoid the afternoon heat.

We packed up our kits and were ready for our guide, Vut, at 7am.

We stopped in "town" for some breakfast and some water.  Our breakfast spot was great, and I had some eggs and fresh bread.  We watched our server disappear on her scooter and come back with fresh loaves! 

The kitchen equipment is very simple,  but good food is simple.  Fresh ingredients!

We also had our new favourite  Khmer coffee Vut introduced us to.  It's very strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk served in a 3 oz glass.  Yum!

4 breakfasts + 4 coffees = 5 bucks!

Kiriromi departure movie

Once I get some internet there eill be a video here from our morning departure of Kiriromi.  At the end of the video I get s call from a client  - doh!

Kiriromi Part 2 - night

We had noticed after our showers earlier that we had a couple tree frogs inside our room.

They were delighted that we had wet the tile down and were hopping around our luggage and such.

We didn't dare put them outside because they had a full time job eating the tiny ants, beetles, and whatever kind of bug that was Steve found under his pillow.

Time to deploy the bug nets!!!

Steve used his bedding to stem the flow of bugs entering from under the door from outsude.  For some reason he figured a particularly strong cicada would push it aside - so he put his runners ontop of the bedding.     see pic

We drifted off to sleep around 7pm, our tree frog sentries chirping their approval of extinguishing the lights.

Sorry no frog pictures...


A break from the heat

After some very very hot sections,  at least 40C, it was like riding in a furnace.  Both Steve and I were starting to show signs of heat exhaustion.

We stopped for a cold drink briefly,  here it was a little cooler, but the damage had been done.  We were both way overheated,  headache, nausea etc...

We motored on to our stopping place in Kiriromi park.

More to come.

Phnom Reap - maybe

We stopped for a little break at a hindu temple now occupied by Buddhists.

It is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and scarcely populated itself.

There were a couple of you kids visiting the temple as well, and their English was very good.  They had nice manners, and we had a little chat.  They took the pic of Steve and I.

It was now in the upper thirties celcius and rising.

Kiriromi Hillside Park Part 1

Google it.  I don't have Internet right now, so you can look it up yourselves.

We got to KHP around 4:30, and promptly collapsed and waited for our air conditioner to cool the room down.

I felt like sleeping, but we both managed a shower and the  went down to the restaurant. 

It is was a little odd for us to see cats and dogs walking in and out of the kitchen,  but I was reminded that we have a dog dish in the kitchen and our cat sleeps on the floor in the kitchen as well.

Neither of us were hungry,  because of the heat exhaustion but we ordered some chicken satay and a small pizza.

They warned us that the pizza would take awhile, which was ok - especially when we saw them putting wood into the outside pizza oven!!!

The food was great,  the sun was setting,  and Steve had got one bug bite already and although we are on malaria meds  - we called it a night.

Yes, too exhausted to drink beer - mark that one on a calendar!

Delayed post - Ride Day 1 - Lunch

We reached a village at a crossroads and met up with our support truck driver, Moll.

We were treated to some good dishes including beef and green pepper, pork with fried tomatoes,  and a lemon grass chicken soup.  The salty soup is good for water retention.

Our first toilet of rustic origin, the old two footrests on either side of a hole.  There was a bucket full of rinse water with a ladel.

I had third helpings if the food, it was great!  

I got my countershaft sprocket reinstalled quickly.  We had a coffee with condensed milk -yum!


Familiar is Good Sometimes

This is  just a short post on something Steve and I discussed today.

There's an uneasy feeling you have   when everything around you is different than what you're used to.  Different pace, food, language, climate etc... These differences  prevail  everywhere and at all times.

As a dirt biker, familiar terrain is a warm blanket of familiarity that brings tranquility to your world.

"This reminds me of Kamloops"!! You exclaim inside your helmet, and wick up the throttle accordingly! !

Steve and I both enjoyed today's ride for many reasons, but perhaps the familiarity of geography soothed our inner-bikers.

Reflecting on the ride,  we mused a couple days riding in Kamloops would blow Vut's mind!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Phnom Reap Video

The Burke Boys Ride Begins

Ride Day one started with a good breaky - eggs benny again.  Then Vibol picked us and our luggage up in his Tuk Tuk and off to Bernie's bike shop we went.

We geared up while waiting for Vut to arrive with bikes,  it was 8 am and already at least 30 degrees.

We had some challenges with Steve's Honda early on.  It kept stalling in traffic which was absolutely insane in Phnom Penh.   Vut switched bikes with Steve, and we eventually made it to the outskirts of town.

Vut installed a new battery in the Honda and adjusted the clutch.   Good as new, Steve was back on the Honda.

Things got remote in hurry as we continued to follow train tracks past shanties and small communities until  we reached some rice fields.   It's still the dry season so the fields were empty and the trails were DUSTY!

The heat was in full effect now, and we had been carefully hydrating and taking electrolytes.

We were booking it pretty good to make uo some lost time on the mechanicals.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Last shots Villa Paradiso

Eggs Benny

Did I mention the food here at Villa Paradiso has been first rate?!!

Leaving Phnom Penh

Our motorcycle tour starts this morning at about 8:00AM.  We have been advised to begin early while the temperatures are lower and the roads not as busy.  It's about 6:20AM now and Paul and I are up drinking coffee and slowly re-organizing our gear as we pack up.

Our destination today is the Kirirom Hillside Resort in the Kirirom National Park.  I believe we will cover about 130KM off-road today along small trails, gravel roads and through green rice fields.  We will try to video some of the sections along the way and take some pictures while in the mountains.  I'm not sure what time we will finish today ... hard to guess without knowing the terrain.  We hope to have time to upload our videos this evening. :-)

Tuk Tuk at night

Out for dinner at Friends Restaurant.   This is some footage of our ride over here.

Friends Restaurant Phnom Penh

Enjoying a load of dim sum, every dish is awesome!  Curries, salads...mmm!