Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cambodia on two wheels - the official video..

Here's the official 3-minute video of our ride in Siem Reap; covering Angkor Wat and Chong Khneas near Tonle Sap Lake. Enjoy! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Super-Top Secret project..

You can sneak around, but you can't hide..

Malaysia's Tern distributor has been hard at work to fill in orders for their 2016 bikes.
Among them, are the new 26" Tern Eclipse X-20/22.
Now, I heard this from a reliable source that the bike was under development some time back and it will be shown at the Eurobike 2015 show in Germany this weekend.

What to expect?

Now, having a larger wheelbase don't necessarily mean a larger frame.
From what I have been made to understand, only the wheel diameter is different.
Rather than the usual X-20 specs as most Tern enthusiasts are familiar with, the new Eclipse will incorporate road components and one of them will be a hydraulic disk brake system developed for road bikes.
On top of that, rumors had it that Shimano road components will be fitted onto the new bike. I am not sure on the series, but the Shimano Ultegra is said to be the choice components for the new 26" bike.
Okay, that covered, the stock-standard tires for the Eclipse X-20 are Schwalbe Kojaks.
To make the Eclipse as good as a road bike, without burning a hole in your pocket, Tern is seriously looking at the Schwalbe One.


On whether it will hit our shores next year, well, it's hard to tell.
There are factors that will deter the bike from landing on the shelves.
First, is the high US Dollars. 
Next, GST and excise duty for bikes - especially folding bikes.
But, it will be interesting to see the new 26" beast on our roads. At least one old-timer has expressed interest on getting this bike because he is "running out of time"..

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cambodia - Part 10

After-hours: Siem Reap

We have a night to burn and there's nothing like checking out the Pub Street in Siem Reap on a pub hopping spree! Hahahaha..
Now, if you are a beer-lover, here's an interesting take: some outlets offer happy hours beers at US50cent a mug (RM2).
As a matter of fact, a can of Angkor or Cambodia beer at the supermarket costs US65cents (RM2.60). It's literally cheaper than a bottle of mineral water.
And if you think the exchange rate is going to eat up your balls, well, there is no point traveling abroad.
Okay, we walked across the street towards the Old Market. There, I bought some Cambodian coffee to be brought home. 
We weren't really there to shop, so, after the coffee was rounded-up we went around the pubs, having a mug of beer and hopped around.
There are a lot of entertainment outlets in Siem Reap that are owned by expatriates. So, it's no surprise to me that the place had sprung up to be real happening place. In the years to come, this place will boom. To top it all up, the area in Pub Street is also pretty clean. 

A can of beer at this joint costs US$1
The streets in Siem Reap is surprisingly clean!
The Angkor night market

The drinks and service in this joint is pretty decent..
Good food: Follow your instincts..

When it comes to filling-up, I am not a fuss-pot.
I don't go for high-end makan, burning a hole in my pocket. As long as the price is decent, good quality makan is a bonus!
The only kind of food we haven't tried in Siem Reap, was the street food.
While walking across the Island Bar, we saw a crowd in front of a wooden shop.
There, the dishes were displayed and a woman is seen there roasting meat.
The thing that caught my eye was bittergourd stuffed with meat and smoked fish.
Michelle wanted to give it a try and I jumped right in..

The awesome selection of dishes

The shop's owner at work

The awesome stuffed bittergourd

Deep-fried pacu
Roasted snakeheads

The crowd, eagerly waiting for their meals
We took our seats and waited for the rice and dishes to arrive.
Behind us was a group of foreign backpackers sharing their meals.
I ordered the bittergourd, pork belly and bamboo shoots in soya sauce, minced meat in gravy and a piece of smoked salted catfish.
The food was excellent and our bill came up to US$4 (RM16). It's unbelievably cheap! Back at home, it'll be double that price.
So, that's what the locals eat and we were glad to get a taste of it..

Even better food! 

The barbecue restaurant
The awesome menu
Grilled frogs

This one made my day...
We found a restaurant called: "Damnak Deas" behind the Angkor Art Market.
The smell of barbecued meat and some exotic dishes made us curious.
So, we found a table and ordered some dishes.
Service was prompt and the food was excellent.
Noted were the grilled beef, squid and frogs. I also ordered a plate of steam cow's innards - called "inside stuffs" on the menu.
The smell was overpowering, but since I loved exotic food, this particular dish was saved by the dipping sauce. Supper came to about US$16 including beers.
After the great food, we walked over to Hard Rock Cafe and sat through three sets of music by the performing band.
Then, it was back to the hotel to catch some slumber before the journey home..

Close-calls and near-misses..

Michelle having her "Asian" breakfast..
Bacon & eggs is the way to a man's heart.. 
Proof of existence.. 

Siem Reap's boat noodles

Another interesting find.. 
I booked my passage to the airport from the hotel's front desk staff.
One of the guys said he had confirmed our ride at US$15.
That's the price that we'll have to pay and well, since we are heading home, it's just a matter of splitting the cost.
With that in mind, we went around the Old Market and Angkor Art Market to search for a T-shirt for John, my friend in California, US.
Took me a while to track it down and we finally nailed it.
Then, we walked back to the hotel and enroute, I found a makan place selling boat noodles.
Since we are not going to have lunch, might as well fill up!
Now, here's the best part: I got back to the hotel, rolled out the bikes, and a lady at the front desk asked for the US$15 payment, which I gladly handed over.
"Sorry Sir, we don't have any transport, please wait while I call another car..," she said.
I can see the shit-storm coming and Michelle just lost her cool.
It was almost 12noon and still no sign of the car. So, we switched to plan B. Get on a tuktuk and shoot straight to the airport.
This costs about US$5 each and we were just happy to load up and leave. Spare the ninkampoops who handled our ride, the stay experience at Karavansara retreat was excellent! 

My bike, the tuktuk rider and the road to the airport..
The lead vehicle with the second tuktuk in the background
Arriving on time at the departure hall

There's a large crowd heading to Malaysia and Thailand
At the boarding area
Chilling out at the lounge 
A nice treat!
Good-bye Siem Reap... 
Aurevoir, Cambodia..

We arrived at the airport in time and checked-in our luggage. With Gold membership as a frequent flier, Michelle can check-in at the Business-class counter.
There was a wait and by the time we were done with the formalities, we headed straight to the immigration counters.
I gave an officer my passport and he gestured the "dollar" sign, asking for a handout. 
So, I gave him my official bullshit story: I blew my money on food and souvenirs. He didn't seem happy, I put on my best poker face and went ahead to get my carry-on luggage scanned.
Then, one of the security staff asked if I am the person whose name was written on a piece of paper.
"Sir, you have large luggage? Come with me..," said one of the men.
"Oh fuck! What is it this time?," I thought out aloud.
My heart was thumping, thinking that someone might have slipped in 10kgs of Heroin onto the bike's airporter. And that's it, rather than flying home, I will be spending time at a Cambodian prison.
Well, it was not that at all. The security guys wanted to see what is inside the airporter. So, I gladly opened it, one of them feeled around and pinched the bike's tire. He wanted to make sure that it was not inflated.
After the drama, we were allowed to return to the departure area again. What a relief!
Since Michelle had access to the airport's business lounge, it was a treat to chill out there.
I helped myself to the beers and some snacks while we wait to board.
It wasn't long until the boarding announcement was made and we were on our way home.
On the whole, the Cambodia trip was very affordable and interesting. We get to cycle around and experience this country's history, people and culture unlike any other tour package.
So, that said, we are making plans to bikepack to Phnom Penh in the future.


  • The country is one-hour behind Malaysia. Sunrise is at 06:30 and Sunset is around 06:45pm.
  • Cambodia's currency is the Riel, but it's not traded in Malaysia.
  • US Dollars are the preferred currency. But be warned that if you carry big notes and purchase goods, you will be given Cambodian Riels in change.
  • The wall plugs are similar to the US sockets.
  • A typical meal costs around US$3. 
  • Beers costs US65cents a can at grocery stores.
  • When buying souvenirs, bargain to the lowest possible.
  • Cars are left-hand drive in Cambodia.
  • When you cycle, its on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Amok (daging masak lemak) is a highly popular traditional Khmer dish. Must try!
  • The fastest way to get around is by tuktuk, typically a ride costs US$1. You can charter the rider for a whole day at US$20.
  • Most Cambodians understand and speak English. 
  • There are a lot of French restaurants in Siem Reap. But the cooking style is modified to suite the locals. You can also find push-cart stalls selling barguet rolls with fillings.
  • There are good roads around Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but most rural roads are laterite and earth.
  • Cambodian people are proud and polite.
  • There's good mobile data coverage in big towns and cities in Cambodia.

Cambodia - Part 9

The road to Chong Khneas..

We've had enough sleep. Breakfast was excellent and our plan for the rest of our stay in Siem Reap; was to cycle to Tonle Sap.
This is one of the largest freshwater lake system in Cambodia.
The river system here flows all the way downstream to Phnom Penh, the country's capital.
So, having roughly plotted the route, we set out after a good fill from our hotel.
The road to Tonle Sap is straight-forward.
And as Cambodia develops, roads are being improved.
The laterite road that paved Siem Reap is slowly being replaced by concrete pavements and this is transforming much of Cambodia's road system.
When I said that our choice for bikes are clear, the Jetstreams held up to the rigorous conditions around Siem Reap.
We took on the bare earth, gravel and newly cast concrete towards Chong Khneas, a small village at the edge of Tonle Sap lake.

Cambodia's rural roads are transforming..

A farmer harvesting lotus roots and pods

Chong Khneas on Google Maps
Lotus seed pods

A Lotus flower in full-bloom

The Lotus-bud
A friendly Khmer boy waving to tourists..
The simple life..

There is a stark contrast between urban Malaysia and rural Cambodia.
Majority of the people around Chong Khneas are poor.
I see kids running around naked.
They play marbles on mud banks, have their dogs following them, and most of the time, left to do their own thing..
The kids in Kuala Lumpur throw tantrums if they don't get their smartphones, tablets, toys and a trip to Legoland. Their yuppie parents slog and whine about not earning enough, poverty is living without internet, branded goods and overseas holidays. A fact's a fact.
I see hardship everywhere in Cambodia.
It makes the people resilient and hardy. What's enough to them kept things going. And on a bicycle, you tend to see life up close and personal.

A child bathing near a public well
Enduring hardship from a tender age..
We rode past Chong Khneas and headed towards the edge of Tonle Sap Lake.
As the paved road ends, earth takes over.
Our wheels began to cake up with mud and we headed as far as the end of the path and found ourselves baking under the scorching sun.
I saw a father and his son, sorting out their catch on a cast net.
The man was removing small catfishes while his boy held up a pot.
That was probably their meal for the day.
It's a far cry from the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burgers that the Malaysian kids get for lunch and dinner.
Here in Chong Khneas, there are hardly any obese kids running around. Everyone's lean and mean.

The scenic Chong Khneas

Passenger boats ferrying tourists to Kampung Phluk and Kampung Khleang

Our bikes, survived the dirt and mud..
A view of the Tonle Sap lake..
Catching fish to feed the family
This is as far as we go..

Michelle, taking a snapshot
People of the lake..

The ferry terminal to Tonle Sap
A friendly kitten trailing our bike..
"Tventy doellar..."

From the mud trail, we rode back to the main road and detoured to a ferry terminal.
This is where tourists are taken to Kampung Phluk and Kampung Khleang at the other side of the lake.
I went to the ticketing counter and asked how much was a return fare to the floating villages.
"Tventy doellar," said one of the man who wore a uniform.
Well, that's about RM80 a pop and RM160 for the both of us. These people look rather unfriendly and I can see the dollar sign on their foreheads.
My instinct told me that we were about to get ripped off.
"Forget it!," said Michelle.
And so we did.
We bought a chilled bottle of water, hydrated and rode out towards Siem Reap.
I told Michelle that it would be cool to stay off the sun at one of the "Hammock Restaurants", which she had agreed unanimously.
We pulled over at one and were greeted by a friendly Khmer man who spoke only one world in English: "Hello!".

This little hammock can even tame a Godzilla-sized man!
Angkor beer for the soul..
Fried rice with fish cutlets
Amok with chicken meat

Worked out a good appetite..
We took off our muddy shoes as courtesy and found a nice spot to hangout.
A lady came up and gave us the menu.
The first thing in mind, was some Cambodian beers to cool off from the hot day.
We downed the beers and ordered seconds. This took some time as the restaurant had ran out of drinks.
A couple of "happy" guys who were drinking nearby had "polished" their supply. At 11:30am in the morning!
So, we waited and sat on the hammocks which was incredibly comfortable.
Soon, our food came.
We ordered fried rice and chicken Amok, a traditional "masak lemak" dish. The Cambodians are huge fans of coconut milk and this is apparent in their food where coconut gravy really tasted sweet and good.
Lunch was fantastic! Our fried rice was so large in terms of portions, Michelle and I shared it. The simple Chicken Amok dish goes down really well with the rice and since I am cycling, there's lots of calories burned and enough carbo to fuel my body. 
We had more beers and actually snoozed on the hammocks before riding back to Siem Reap.

A cockpit view of the road..
Riding on the right-hand side of the road in a left-hand drive country
Mud and dirt from two days of cycling
Cleaning up.. 

Packed-up and ready to roll..
Yeah, we're pretty much done...

Siem Reap is roughly about 8km away from Chong Khneas.
We've covered a short distance, but with the mud and bad road, it's truly an adventure.
Going back to the point of origin meant riding through the gravel and unpaved road.
I got my Sony AS-20 POV camera mounted on the cockpit to get some footages.
Traffic was kinda heavy, but with our eyes on the road, we slowly made our way back into town.
When we arrived at the hotel, one of the supervisors greeted us. I asked if he had a garden hose so that I could flush off the mud and dirt on the bikes.
They also gave us a brush which was very helpful in cleaning up the bikes before we disassemble and pack them.
Once the bikes got rolled back into our room, I worked on dismantling the Jetstream's front fork and handlebar. This is it should be packed.
In less than an hour, both bikes are snug in it's airporter luggage.
We stowed the bags aside and planned on what to do on our remaining night in Siem Reap.
So far, the simple rides were really fun and exciting!