Monday 18 February 2013

And Then There Were Three


Current Location: Phnom Penh (click above on "Where We Are" for map details)
Distance Travelled: 8,345 km
Snakes Alive: 2; Snakes Dead 28
Best Fun Riding a Tandem: Phnom Penh’s rush hour traffic
Bed Bug Attacks: Once
Best Cyclists' Deodorant: Thailand’s crystal deodorants carrying brand names such as Grace and Oriental Nature. They work, are light, small, cheap and last for ages. Available at pharmacies.

Sam the Man. US$95 for the bike and he was ready
to hit the highway.

"My friends from high school
Married their high school boyfriends
Moved into houses
In the same ZIP codes where their parents live
But I, I could never follow
No I, I could never follow
I hit the highway.."

Dixie Chicks, “The Long Way Round”

It’s been a kind of homecoming – in Cambodia of all places. Sam (Mike’s 27-year-old son) has joined us with a bicycle.
The last time we spent any length of time with Sam was when he was in his mid- teens, and we took him sailing in Tonga. Five years ago he moved to Australia and we’ve seen very little of him since.

An initial setback with a flattie on the second day. Help wasn't far away.
He was doing what all young men (and probably women) need to do - getting away from their parents’ and learning to stand on their own two feet. He’s changed cities and jobs and girlfriends and saved enough money to set out on his long-held desire to travel.

He’s also grownup, and the very best part is that parents and “reconstituted families” are now ok. 

At the temples of Angkor
Until it happened, we never really believed Sam would accept our invitation to come cycling for a few days, a few weeks or whatever. As Judy said, she thought he would get a better offer as he travelled through neighbouring Thailand, probably one involving new friends and lots of late nights.

But Sam surprised us. He turned up bright as a button on the due date in Siem Reap and before we knew it he was drinking beer with us in the little restaurant attached to our guesthouse.

We spent a couple of days tracking down a bike for him, one that wasn’t too expensive but was sturdy enough to tackle the roads to Phnom Penh and beyond. He settled on a used mountain bike that appears to have been made in Japan. It has no complicated disc brakes or suspension, but does have 21 gears which are stamped with the magic word Shimano.

Roadside scene

Tree roots grow wild at
temples of Angkor.

Sam and Judy - on the road between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

Our first view of the Mekong River at
Peam Chi Kung, north of Phnom Penh.

Feet up at a charity-run
guesthouse in Baray.

So far, so good, until the next day as we toured the temples of Angkor Wat and Sam had his first flat tyre. It wasn’t a promising start but luckily a roadside cycle mechanic replaced both inner tubes for next to nothing.

Tourist checks out temple art near Angkor Wat.

            Now, 400 km later, we are in Phnom Penh. Sam’s bike - touch wood - is running well and has even been given a name, Morris. Sam is enjoying the cycling so much he is considering keeping the bike once he leaves us.
Most importantly, the three of us have been catching up properly for the first time in years. It’s felt like a celebration - a homecoming. It’s perfect.

Sam is doing his own blog: 

Phnom Penh - some of those who died in Kampuchea's
S-21 detention centre under Khmer Rouge rule.

Stonemason at work at Kakaoh.
Guesthouses come in all shapes and sizes. We rather liked
this one on Highway 6 to Phnom Penh.
Roadside drink stop.


  1. Fantastic guys! So happy that you're all together, and Sam is enjoying the riding. Special times...
    Jen x

    1. Hi Jennie, yes, they are special times. We can both be proud of him.

  2. Great read at 6am just before I started my spinning class! I don't know how you do it, I was dead after 45mins... So good to see all 3 of you; what a special time! I hope the visit of the detention centre wasn't too hard on you - it must have been terrible what those poor people had to go through... Enjoy the ride and keep us entertained :)

    1. Hi Agi, lovely to hear from you as always. The one good thing about cycling here is that there are no hills - all we have to contend with is the heat, the traffic and the potholes! The Killing Fields/S-21 Detention Centre made for a grim day, but it's one of those things people say you have to do to understand Cambodia's recent history. We were a subdued lot afterwards. Take care, and don't overdo things in that spinning class.

    2. Well, I may have climbed a few hills, burnt hundreds of calories again this morning - which certainly feels satisfying - but doing it in a dark room, with the fan blowing in my face, going nowhere; can't be compared to what you are doing pedaling away :)
      I hope you will make it to Budapest at some point in the future to see the House of Terror which might not be as brutal as the Cambodian Killing Fields history but definitely shocking and a fantastic replica of what's happened to some back in the days..
      Enjoy the sun and relaxation! Good luck with the next leg of your journey :)

  3. Hey Guys, just catching up on your exploits. Nice to hear that Sam has joined you for a stretch. You sure are moving on since you were here in Penang, it seems like yesterday.

    p.s. I have a girl working on the edit. She is being brutal but that was to be expected. Stay safe

    Steve and Akiyo

    1. Hi Steve, "The Fifth Wife" - we are still convinced you have a best seller on your hands. Please let us now when the revised edition is published as an ebook. Regards, Mike n Judy


Express a view here.